Paintball had an interesting beginning and has grown to become a popular sport. Trevor has been at the forefront of its development in Australia and locally.
> How long have you been in business with Skirmish Down Under?
We started developing our first fields in 1992 in Mount Gambier in SA, but didn’t operate our first public game until 1993, when the gun laws in SA were amended to legalise the sport. Paintball was, at this stage, still very new in Australia, so we had a huge task to educate people about the sport and to silence the critics.
In our early years it was just a weekend thing – until November 1996, when I bit the bullet, giving up my career to pursue Skirmish Down Under full time.
With the extra time to commit to marketing and further developing our facilities, the whole business prospered, and in 2000 we developed our second site in Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula of SA.
A motorcycling holiday to the Mid North Coast in the summer of 04/05 got me a bit excited about a climate and lifestyle change, and we purchased our Port Macquarie field (formerly known as Sharkies). Since then we have upgraded all of the equipment and field set up to come into line with our operating standards.
> What is Paintball?
A paintball consists of a vegetable oil fill with a thin gelatin skin. When the ball hits its target, the skin breaks, leaving a PAINT mark. The player with the paint mark has been tagged and is out of the game; or, as often is the case, serves some kind of penalty and rejoins the game from their base. The paintball is propelled from a paintball marker, which is powered by CO2, at up to 300 feet per second. At 300 fps the paintball is accurate to around 40 metres. We set the guns to 285 fps – which brings the accuracy back to 25-30 metres, but is much friendlier at close range. Although we discourage shooting up close, it can happen. For us it’s all about having fun, not hurting people. In over 15 years of operation we have never had a gun related injury, so I figure we’ve got that right.
For players who wish to take the sport to the next level, there is a competition which is played at full speed.
> What is the object of the game?
With an infinite number of game scenarios and field layouts, you also get many different objectives. Typically, two opposing teams are battling to achieve whatever our Games Director has set as the objective. This may be to capture a flag, storm the opposition’s fort, eliminate their General, or whatever.
In order to achieve the objective though, players need to eliminate their opposition by tagging them with a Paintball. Normally it is impossible to win a game without shooting the majority of your opponents.
> Is Skirmish Down Under for everyone?
Yes. The gun has the power, not the player. Size or strength of a player has no bearing on their ability to compete. It’s a more mentally challenging game than it is physical. We have had many players over the years well into their 80s. Women compete equally with men – and young with old.
I think that’s one of the things I like most about the sport. The little guy who might not make the footy or basketball team can be a champion with us. The big fella who thinks he’s pretty good often gets a lesson in humility.
We have Laser Tag for the little ones played on the same fields as paintball, but obviously with no impact to the player when hit. The laser thing used to be pretty popular, but pales these days with Paintball as competition.
> Why do you think Paintball is such a popular sport?
Well over and above the equality of it all, I guess the fact that it is non contact, which makes it a very safe sport. When you say that, people look at you like: “You’ve got to be kidding! You’re shooting each other” and, “I’ve seen the bruises.” Yes, if you are shot at close range you will wear a small bruise for a few days as a reminder. But no-one is ever injured, because your opponent is generally 20 metres away, not crashing into you. Largely now our lives are very safe. We do things like sky diving or motor sport to get a rush. Paintball is the only one of these adrenaline sports that doesn’t significantly put you at risk of injury or worse.
> What attracts people to it?
I think because it’s just great fun. It’s always good to get one on your mate or sibling. It challenges our most primitive instincts as a hunter. It’s all the good things about hunting or shooting, if you like, without any of the bad stuff. I can’t kill anything, and I’m sure there are a lot of other people that are like that. I’m not stupid about it. I love meat and know ferals need culling.
I’m not against any of that, or any other gun sport. It’s just not me. People who like Paintball love the chase, but also get the buzz out of knowing that someone is hunting them. This makes it different to any other sport.
> Describe the programs you offer at SDU?
As well as catering for the usual sports teams, social groups or buck’s shows, as the others do, we are able to cater for individuals, as we almost always have a socially matched group to marry them to. I cater specifically for women, with extra protection and support for new players. They are always a bit nervous at the start, but are revelling in it after a couple of games. In life before paintball I was in the corporate training area, so I’d like to think that is my speciality.
We don’t do as much in this area as I would like, but as our airport upgrade happens and we become more competitive with Newcastle and Coffs, that will change. The whole town should boom, as geographically we’re positioned pretty well for conferences. Obviously the Glasshouse will help as well.
> What sort of outcomes are achieved through your team building programs?
Paintball is the most popular team building activity world wide these days. The reason is companies now, more than ever, value their staff as a team and are prepared to spend money developing that team mentality. Paintball is about having a strategy and then applying that on field. Situation appraisal, communication and decision making is what makes you a winner if you can work as a team.
Analysis and review are other good learning tools after the game. Corporates will often identify leaders within the group from their observations of their people in this sort of environment.
> Do you have any aspirations for Skirmish Down Under?
Jury is still out on that one. I would possibly look at the challenge of another field further up the coast one day, but you need to do it well or not at all, so that would mean relocating. I’m not keen at this stage to even think about that. Our set up here in Port is great and I like it here, so just developing this into the best it can be is it for now.
> Thank you Trev. For more information about Skirmish, call 0408 873 122.