Paintball skirmish, probably the closest thing to armed combat a civilian can experience, has long been a pastime for Sydneysiders. Yet many, myself included, have lacked the organisation or motivation to free up the day and head to the city’s outer suburbs to play. Enter Spitfire Paintball, a 3000-square metre warehouse in Concord that’s open till late seven days a week – and best of all, it’s only a 15 minute drive from the CBD.
Time Out’s crew of twelve arrived after work one evening and the Spitfire staff kitted us out with camouflage jumpsuits, an ammunition belt, team-coloured protective masks and, of course, our guns. Breastplates are complimentary for the ladies, but there is a $10 charge for male “protection”, so us boys went commando – a decision that only one regretted. And after my favourite Hawaiian shirt’s success in the dating battleground for Time Out’s Speed Dating feature a few months back, the editorial team encouraged me to sport the garment on my latest mission.
We opted for the $50 deal, which gets you 200 paintballs each, but you can step it to 600 ($100) or even 1000 ($150). The good news is that weekday players receive an extra 200 paintballs each on the house, and 400 each proved plenty for nearly two hours of play across the three arenas.
Spitfire’s super friendly staff do a great job of mixing up gameplay and keeping the mood joyous, and the cheesy-but-awesome tracks they crank add to the fun, too. But make no mistake about it: paintballs sting! I became familiar with the sensation on the inflatable wonderland known as the Sup’Air Tournament field, when a dozen paintballs struck my ego at 200 feet per second on a failed mission to capture the flag. The Hawaiian shirt made me stand out like a hipster at the cricket and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been set up by my colleagues – fooled by promises of a literary totem.
Next it was time to Beat the Bank Robbers – a chaotic siege shootout not for the faint-hearted – before moving onto the largest and most impressive arena, the Urban Warfare Field. Old cars, sandbags, tires, garbage bins and small wooden rooms are scattered around to create an apocalyptic (but kind of cute) aesthetic. Here, tact is worth more than trigger-happiness, particularly as ammo starts to run low and fatigue sets in.
Determined to be the last man standing in the final elimination round, I lingered around the dark corners of the field and timed my footsteps with the blaring beat of ‘I Love the Nightlife’ concealing my movements. Holding my breath, I carefully peered out through a window frame toward the opposition and... BAM! A splatter of purple paint covered my mask.
My night was over. And in all honesty, I needed a breather.
Paintball is a sweaty, intense and occasionally brutal experience, but this is by no means an activity only for wannabe macho-men. There are more laughs than screams, and as for the bruises, they look worse than they feel and lend some cred to the tall tales you will spin for the next week. A word of warning though, whilst the honour rule states that a retreating player cannot be shot, unless your crew is more ethical than mine, expect some welts on your back.
Our only criticism of Spitfire is that the masks tend to fog up quite quickly, leading to, or creating a good excuse for, some friendly fire. The staff, however, assured us some new, more fog-resistant masks are on their way. And we look forward to that nearly as much as Glow in the Dark Paintball, also coming soon.