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Aruba Pro/Am 2002
September 20-21, 2002
The Aruba Pro/Am marks the third international paintball tournament on the island in as many years. Aruba is a tropical desert island located on the southern edge of the Caribbean, a mere 17 miles North of the Venezuelan coast. 2002 was the first year to see a professional division competing there.
Playing the Aruba Open is as much about enjoying the island, it's activities and nightlife as it is about competing in a paintball tournament. The official event activities started with the captain's meeting held in the Aruba Hooters restaurant with an open buffet and free pitcher of beer for each team. The tournament is unique in scheduling in that the games are all at night under stadium lights in the Elias Mansur Memorial baseball stadium. This leaves the the competitors free to enjoy the tropical paradise by day, or at least recover from late night club hopping before going to the tournament in the afternoon.
Following the Thursday night kick-off, players explored the island on Friday morning. Some enjoyed the calm waters for swimming and tanning at the beach-side Holiday Inn, the main hotel used by the tournament. Others rented mountain bikes or cars to see various sights, or took up water sports including snorkeling on shipwrecks and parasailing.
The tournament started about 45 minutes behind schedule, however the games ran so smoothly that it finished over an hour ahead of schedule. The tournaments two fields featured inflatable bunkers, one of Sup'Air and one Ultimate Airball. 20 foot high netting surrounded them, allowing staging on the field grounds. This was a contrast to the 2001 tournament where only two sides of the fields were fully netted, and goggles were required throughout the outfield area of the stadium. A third field was netted, but was not needed with the number of teams at the tournament. The entire island of Aruba is subject to strong winds day and night, but the hard coral rock base into which the steel poles and guywires were placed held the netting securely throughout the event.
Eric Zorn of EZ Paintball provided air fills for the event, bringing over one of his compressors and a number of fill stations from the US by ship. The locally obtained CO2 proved to be a problem though, and players who had been expecting to use it were often unable to get complete fills. The two referee squads for the tournament were the Florida based professional paintball teams Rage and Strange.
In the grandstands, a number of locals watched the games, including an elderly couple that Brian Hansas from Farside met on the plane over from Miami. Island radio station Cristal 101.7 FM had a live remote crew on site, and included play by play game commentary by WARPIG Technical Editor Bill Mills in their broadcasts. A DJ kept things lively with music between games. During one of the breaks the 70's classic YMCA by the village people blared out of the sound system, and four of the referees from Rage new the original moves as they danced on the field. The barbecue on site was one of the factors drawing spectators out to watching the games.
There were some openings in the schedule Friday night which were filled by practice games. Some of the South American teams got a chance to practice against teams from the US. Notable was the Jaguars game against Avalanche where the Jaguars did some damage, taking out three of the 'lanche players. lluvia Negra had a similar face-off with Ground Zero and came out winning the game. For both teams the chance not only to play against pros from the states, but to do well agsinst them was a highlight of the tournament.
2000 was their first year for a major paintball tournament in Aruba, with the Brass Eagle Road To Aruba finals being held there. That event was produced by Brass Eagle, but islander Jossy Mansur was key to making it happen. In 2001 he produced the Aruba Open. Unfortunately that tournament was 11 days after the terrorist attacks on the United States so many teams which had planned to attend were no-shows, concerned about flying internationally. For 2002 Mansur teamed up with Ed Poorman from Warped Sportz. Poorman handled promoting the tournament, while Mansur arranged things on the island to make it happen.
Saturday morning was filled with more island adventures. A contingent of paintballers including Bud Orr of Worr Game Products, Ryan and Debra Krishke of Team Effort Events, and Richmond Italia from Procaps set to sea on the Pelican Too catamaran for an afternoon of sailing and snorkeling at points on the island's West shore including the Arashi reef, and the World War Two Shipwreck of the Antilla.
Saturday afternoon, games scheduled to begin at four pm, got off to a late start, as the first teams up were the pros, and they arrived at the stadium right when they were supposed to be on field. In addition to the regular teams, there were some throw togethers just for the tournament. Also some team rosters had switchups and guest players as compared to their typical lineup.
Team Bud was a Worr Game Products team featuring the father of the Autococker Bud Orr himself, along with JJ Brookshire from SPPLAT, Kenny Chamberlain from WGP, and players from Team Maxim. The tournament was Bud's first time competing on a 5 man team, and his first tournament since 1993, when he played in a 7 man. Femmes Fatale which is normally a novice team played as amateurs with the addition of pro players Todd Martinez and Todd Adamson filling in slots on the roster. While normally only one pro is allowed in an amateur 5 man, an exception was made which brought a mixed response from some of the other amateur teams. The pro division consisted of three teams, Ground Zero, Avalanche, and Team JT which was a mishmosh of Avlanche Dynasty and Trauma players. The small number of professional teams meant that each of their games drew extra from the spetators both players and non-players alike.
Saturday's schedule underwent a number of changes. With varying feedback from the teams, plans shifted back and forth between having the amateurs play merely round robin, or have a large number go on to semifinals, or small number go on to finals. For some of the US teams, they wanted to go to small finals and shoot less paint saving their budget and giving them more time to enjoy the island. By contrast some of the Caribbean and South American teams wanted semifinals and finals to have more opportunities to compete against US teams, something they don't get to do very often.
On Friday Femmes Fatale finished their scheduled prelim games with no wins, and knowing they were out of the tournament they made plans for Saturday. Then, the tournament was rescheduled to give teams more games. With the rescheduling their absence on Saturday caused some holes in the schedule.
The tournament wrapped up Saturday night after 10:00. Ground Zero was the professional winner, based on round robin scores. The novice teams went into three divisions of semifinalists, four teams each. From there the top team in each division plus one wild card went into the finals. No Practice ended up bringing home the first place Novice trophy.
The amateur division was based solely on score totals from their round robin games. The last game ended up coming down to the top two scoring teams, Brimstone Smoke This and Bushwackers. Bushwackers had won the Road To Aruba finals in 2000, and Smoke was fresh from their win at the IAO, so it was critical game. Bushwackers got the flag pull, but Smoke ended up getting the hang, and winning the tournament by 3 points. The game was broadcast live on Cristal 101.7fm.
Stay tuned to WARPIG.com for photo galleries of the Aruba Pro Am. We would also like to extend our special thanks to Ray Olarte who has been of great assistance in facilitating our event coverage.
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