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Brass Eagle Road To Aruba Championships
by Bill Mills
Paintball on a tropical beach in paradise. What could be better? The Road to Aruba started in the spring of 2000 with feeder tournaments scattered throughout the world. The premise was straighforward. For a $100 entry fee, three man teams could enter and compete in the field paint only feeder tournaments. The winning team from each feeder tournament received free entry to their regional tournament. Other teams could enter the regionals as well.
The eight teams who finished first in the regional tournaments received travel from Miami, FL, accomodations, entry and paint for the series championships played on the beach of the Holiday Inn resort on the island of Aruba in the Dutch West Indies.
In addition to the winners from the 10 regions which included Europe and South America, four contingency teams earned their place on the beach as well. The contingency teams were drawn at random from teams who had competed in the regional tournaments using only Brass Eagle equipment.
The event was organized by Brass Eagle's Vice President of Marketing, Charles Prhudome, and staffmembers Lisa Goebel and Nathan Greenman. While Brass Eagle's position as major sponsor and organizer of the tournament was key, additional sponsors in Aruba came together to create an event to remember.
The main industry in Aruba, which lies roughly 17 miles north of Venezuela, is tourism which generates over 700 million in gross intome annually. As an tropical desert island in the Caribbean, peak tourism season is in the winter. Looking to expand their summer business, the Aruba Ministry of Tourism has been seeking extreme sports events to draw visitors during the off season.
Jossy Mansur is a business owner on the island, and an active paintball player. His team, Aruba Madness has been playing various tournaments in the NPPL in the 2K and 99 seasons. Mansur saw paintball and Aruba as a perfect match. After pitching the idea of an Aruba tournament to several major companies in paintball, Brass Eagle returned Jossy's call with interest. After a few meetings, the Ministry of Tourism was behind the project, as well as several Aruban businesses, including Holiday Inn of Aruba Beach Resort and Casino, Benihana's of Aruba, De Palm Tours, Pellican Cruises, and the local Coca Cola bottler. Design Travel, Inc. of Rodgers, AR also pitched in, providing travel arrangements for the staff and teams.
Flight delays from Miami to Aruba brought the teams to the island later than expected on Friday night. The Shadow Men, delayed even longer en-route to Miami unfortunately could not arrive until Saturday night, after the tournament. At the captains meeting the teams were given the choice to take the Shadow Men games as a bye, or to allow Aruba Madness to fill their slot in the schedule. The vote brought Aruba Madness into the tournament.
The games were played on the beach, a mere 10 yards from the blue-green shore. While it has been put to use for the past several years during Spring Break in Panama Beach, Florida, Brass Eagle's inflatable pursuit park hasn't been seen by many tournament paintball players. The structure looks like three carnival "bounce houses" placed end to end, with inflatable bunkers inside. The screened windows and full roof allow spectators to watch the games from all sides of the field, with no threat of stray paintballs hitting the crowd. The interior has no floor, leaving Aruba's soft white coral sand as the playing surface. The choice for many players was to go barefoot. The yellow roof gave a yellow cast to the lighting inside which tended to make spotting yellow paint hits a bit more difficult.
While all of the teams agreed to wear Brass Eagle goggles, jerseys, pants, and harnesses, many quickly modified their gear to suit their tastes. Some jerseys became colarless and cuffless for more comfort in the humid 85 degree weather, and the pants became knee length shorts with a few cuts.
While the field dimensions were tight, they proved workable for 3 on 3 games. Serving as referees were the professional players "Opie" Thomas from Image, Chris Cole from Ground Zero, and Pete Bofill of Rage. The fourth judge Chris LaSoya from Avalanche was a no-show, and rumors abounded as to whether he was held up with flight problems, or simply found an Aruban beach too comfortable to leave.
As Melanie McGarath, who plays "Nikki" in Brass Eagle's commercials and safety video called out teams on field and on-deck, the preliminary game scores accumulated on a scoreboard tacked up to a palm thatch hut, which sheltered the "Coco Loco" ocean front bar.
As division one rolled into action, the Sharp Shooters from Colorado had a strong start, while the Donkey Punchers from Texas and Bushwackers from California held close ground. In Division 2, it was Ballbreakers and High Velocity that were the early favorites.
Games went reasonably close to schedule, with the lunchbreak being called about an hour later than initially planned. For the most part, tempers and attitudes were more calm and easygoing than the typical tournament. "Just being here is prize enough," said one player.
At the end of the preliminaries, it was the strong starters who ended up being the strong finishers. Sharpshooters, Bushwackers, Ball Breakers and High Velocity went on. The first games saw wins for Bushwackers and Ball Breakers. The second for the Wackers and Sharp Shooters. The third round also posted wins for the Shooters and Bushwackers, putting the Wackers in first with 297 points followed by Sharp Shooters at 201, then Ball Breakers with 87 and High Velocity with 27.
This win was another feather in the Bushwacker's cap for a strong 2000 seaon. All of the teams received Brass Eagle gear including the new eVLution loader and VLocity personal chronograph, as well as gear bags to carry it in.
The tournament was followed by a day
of enjoying the island. Sunday night the players gathered for a catamaran
cruise to a pair of dive locations, a beach for snorkeling, and a WWII
shipwreck for both snorkeling and SCUBA. The cruise returned moments
after sunset giving everyone just enought time to clean up for the awards
banquet. The dinner, provided by the Aruba Ministry of Tourism featured
a full buffet backed by local record label owners and brothers Lee and
Nico Connor on the steel drums. Awards were given for the regional,
and the Championship winners, followed by a thank you and welcome to future
tournaments by the Ministry of Tourism.
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