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Huntington Beach NPPL
Feb 7-9, 2003
Huntington Beach, CA

Dynasty - 1st Place Pro
Evil Factory Team - 1st Place Amateur
Vicious - 1st Place Novice
Team RM - 1st Place Rookie

Thursday

The NPPL, Inc. Huntington Beach tournament has been the subject of untold amounts of discussion and speculation over the tournament paintball season's winter break.  The event marked the first for WDP's newly formed tournament production company Pure Promotions, the first event of the new Super 7 Series, and a new direction for the league, NPPL, Inc. to focus on exposing professional level tournament paintball to the public.

The plans were ambitious - to hold an NPPL tournament literally on the beach in Huntington Beach, California, a site that has been host to various extreme sports competitions.  The developed beach front area typically sees tens of thousands of people each weekend walking, running, skating, jogging, relaxing, swimming, surfing, fishing, or just eating in one of the open area cafes.

A multi-tiered parking lot and park area made room for a full trade show with display trailers and semis all directly on the Pacific Coast Highway which winds its way along California's coast past beaches, cliffs and through redwood forest.  Down on the sand, the tournament's 5 Sup'Air ball fields were set up fully surrounded by dual density netting.  The 20 foot tall nets were suspended from fiberglass drill casings.  Although Huntington Beach has an abundance of oil wells, these poles were prepped and shipped to site by a team working under blizzard conditions in Kansas.  The casings  proved to be very strong, but unlike steel or wood poles typically used, a single well casing can be carried by one person.  Steel cable on the tops and bottom kept the netting tight, while thin nylon rope at 3 feet off the ground acted as an aid against billowing and spectators.  Two of the tournaments fields could also be easily viewed from the Huntington Beach pier.  The pier, which has been a shooting location for numerous television shows and movies, was augmented with additional netting near the fields as a second level of protection for spectators, since it was above the height of the field netting.

Taking a cue from other sports competitions, the event was set up with a center court concept.  One of the five fields was set up for television crew access, and with a grandstand overlooking the inland sideline.  This field would be used not only through the prelims, but for key games in the quarterfinals and semifinals, and then for all of the finals games.

The tournament itself could not have happened without the cooperation of the City of Huntington Beach.  The city, being proud of their beach was also concerned for its beauty.  In order to leave a clean beach behind, Pure Promotions actually brought sand to the beach.  They buried tarps with imported sand around the base of each bunker.  Thus when the tournament was over, the imported sand with most of the event's broken paintballs could be bundled and removed from the site.

Through the day on Thursday as site construction was being finalized, teams began checking in, getting 2003 league ID cards and walking fields.  Another important task for the day was learning the rules.  For 2003, in addition to following Europe's lead and switching to 7 man format, the NPPL has adopted portions of the Millennium series rules set, allowing the use of more universal rules in the two leagues.  Also new in rules enforcement was the addition of the league scrutineer.  Dave Zinkham has been tasked with inspecting equipment to ensure that it is compliant with the tournament rules.  As a precursor to this duty he met with various equipment manufacturers and the league rules committee to clarify definitions of trigger bounce and what features would and would not be allowed on electronically triggered paintguns.  Zinkham will also make rulings on clothing, paint fills, and other equipment.

Teams walked fields all day on Thursday, mapping out the locations of bunkers and plotting moves.  One striking note on each field was the smaller bunkers on each field's back lane.  The fields were designed this way to help keep balls from bouncing off of the rear bunker and over the netting.  The decreased cover would provide an increased challenge for back players.

Thursday night team captains and press were taken by bus from the beach to the Huntington Beach Library Theater, a few miles distance across town.  There, the rules committee, Magued Idris, and the league scrutineer briefed the captain on the year's changes to the rules, and how the tournament was to be run.  NPPL President Chuck Hendsch opened the meeting, with a multimedia presentation projected on the theater's screen showing time lapse videos of the site construction.  As the presentation ran Hendsch thanked the Super 7's platinum sponsors, and gave a short eulogy for Maurice Gibb in who's honor the tournament was dedicated. 

He again thanked the city of Huntington Beach for all of their support, and commented that a member of the city council told him that due to the number of players competing the tournament was the largest sporting event ever held in the city.  Due to the expected foot traffic the tournament would generate, the city planned to close the Pacific Coast Highway to northbound traffic during portions of the day.  The city council had even gone so far as to change a city gun ordinance ordinance to allow the use of paintguns on the beach.  Hendsch stated that it was imperative that the players return the respect to the city.  Intentionally shooting at poles, up at the boardwalk, or any other area than the chronograph stations or on field would result in ejection from the event.  Additionally unpacked paintguns would not be prohibited anywhere other than the secured staging and field compound which featured 50 team staging tents, tech area, the chronographs, and massage therapists to work on the players courtesy of Paintballgear.com.  Pacifica Orthopedics also set a tent up next to the on site Emergency Medical Technicians.  TJ VanDusen was amongst the chiropractors treating and adjusting athletes.  The chrono tent was lined up for the players to shoot into large construction site trash bins to keep paint and splatter contained.  Rather than providing tech support in their trade how booth, paintgun manufacturers were to provide tech support in the player compound.

Hendsch also announced that alcohol was not permitted on site in any place other than the VIP tent.  Both Huntington Beach Police officers and lifeguards would have the right to inspect coolers and containers for alcohol.

Many of the restaurants in the beach area offered discounts for tournament competitors who needed only to show their player ID badge.

Glenn Forster then went over the rule changes, and reffing followed by an open question and answer session.  Idris was introduced as he would share ultimate judge duties with the league's ultimate Phil Dominguez.  For Huntington Beach, the games were reffed by Joy Division from Sweden, and independently hired referees.  Rather than segregate refs as had been done the previous season, the fields were staffed by a mixture, each head referee coming from Joy Division so that rule enforcement would be consistent across the event's 5 fields.

With 91 teams and 5 fields, the tournament had a very tight schedule - 10 minutes of play, and 2 minute breaks between teams, meaning the field staff had to be efficient at having teams ready to go on after each game, and teams needed to move fast.  In addition to filling their tanks at the air fill station, low pressure blower hoses were on hand, so players could clean beach sand from their guns before filling.  Additionally, a supply of complimentary nipple covers was to be supplied next to the fill stations so that players who lost theirs could protect their air fill nipples from sand.

The game scoring was changed to match the Millennium Series scoring - and flag pull points were changed.  In the past, the first team to pull a flag would get points for first pull.  Under the new system, pulling the opposing flag resulted in points, regardless of whether the other team had pulled first. 

Scoring would now be recorded on duplicate score sheets, with a copy staying at the field, and a copy taken to the score table by field staff.  This new model increased security to minimize the risk of tampering and score sheets would not be accepted with crossed out numbers - if a mistake was made the head referee would fill out a new sheet.  Additionally, aside from mathematical errors, the scores would be finalized when the sheets were signed by the team captains.  This change would avoid situations like the heartache Aftershock felt at the 2001 World Cup when their win against Dynasty was reversed after the sheet had been signed, but before it was posted on the scoreboard.  If a team refused to sign their sheet, it could still be approved and posted by the Ultimate Judge.

Additional rules changed included more strict limits on pads and padded clothing.  Sweatshirts would no longer be permitted.  Also pads sewn into jerseys by the manufacturer would be allowed under rule 6.24, but restricted to elbows and knees.  Since not all manufacturers were yet in compliance with this changed rule, it would not be enforced until a later date.

If teams were given a bye because a team forfeited a match, their score would come not from an average of their games a it had in the past, but from an average of their games against other teams in the classification they were to play, or 95 points, whichever is higher.

Also a new classification of penalty was introduced.  The Extreme Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty would result in the player being pulled and suspended for a period of between 1 game and one year.  Extremely unsportsmanlike actions were listed to include overshooting with the intent to injure, fighting, and shooting onto the field from the dead box, or a position off of the field.

The Thursday morning edition of the Orange County Recorder, a major regional newspaper reported on the coming event.  The article talked about plans for the tournament, and the focus on general public promotion of the sport that is being taken by NPPL, Inc., turning a rather critical eye to the concept of paintball as an extreme sport.  The article quoted Harvey Lauer, president of American Sport Data who said, "The sport is seeking respectability and an escape from the camouflage image, the redneck government-hating lunatic, you know, who drives a pickup ... No one has ever bragged about being a snotty, aggressive little surfer.  Here's the first example of someone aspiring to that level from a lower level." 

The article's author, Jim Hinch cited concerns that the city of Huntington Beach was trying to distance itself from extreme sports.  "For one thing, the city is in the midst of its own gawky teen transformation, trying desperately to shed the surf-rat image Hendsch covets," wrote Hinch.  By the outpouring of support from the City of Huntington Beach and beach front businesses, it was very evident that not all would agree with Hinch's assessment.

FRIDAY

The prelims started Friday morning, nearly in time with the 8:00 clock chimes from the clock tower facing the pier.

"The organization and the fast air fills are a bonus.  The tournament stayed to schedule we never had to wait at a field more than one game.  The only con is the sand.  It's not perfectly level and gets in your gear."
Josh Gastelun - Team Nasty

As the day approached the scheduled lunch break, most fields were within 5 minutes of the schedule, keeping a pace that was very important with the early winter sunsets.  The fields proved challenging for some of the teams with the back bunkers being smaller.  Typical runs and moves were stymied by not having a back player shooting their lane and many front players felt the brunt of that change in design.  In the game of Voodoo versus Team Cypress a Cypress player was tucked into the big JT pyramid  when the final Voodoo player ran for the flag thinking that the field was clear.  He was shot going for the hang and Cypress won the game with one player live.

The soft beach sand changed playing styles as well.  Slides just didn't work, but dives were soft and safe without needing pads.  "We should play them all on sand," said Bad Company Captain, Tom Cole.  "It slows everyone else down to my speed.  This just wears the fast guys out."

The new Millennium style 7 man scoring took some getting used to by the teams.  Previously, NPPL 10 man was scored with 50 points for a flag hang, 20 for first flag pull, 2 for each eliminated player, and 1 for each live player.  The new structure placed 40 points for the hang, 32 for a pull, 3 for each eliminated player and 1 for each live player.

A new feature for the NPPL was the addition of netted break tents on the fields.  Because the tournament was structured to be viewed by a lot of spectators who had never seen paintball before, proper examples of goggle safety were very important.  The break tents gave the referees a place to stop, eat, drink and rest with their masks off.  Also between games, cleaner crews tried to keep the loose paint to a minimum, and wiped splatter from the bunkers and dead boxes.

SATURDAY

As soon as the sun fell on Friday night, portable work lights illuminated the field while clean-up crews washed down the bunkers thoroughly, to give the fields a like new look on the second day.  Their work was aided by late night and early morning rainfall which left a half inch layer of damp sand but no standing water by the time games started under nearly clear skies at 8:00 am.

By mid-day as beachgoers and tourists filtered through the beach area, the grandstand for the central NPPL field, designed to hold 1,500 people was more than two thirds full.  The event staff consisted of an unusually high number of clean up workers.  Not only was trash kept clear from the staging areas, but the sidewalks and roadways were swept free of sand and any tracked or dropped paint washed away.  Cleaners also were sent around downtown storefronts, cleaning any paint that had been thrown by players or children who had found paintballs on the site.

Through the day Saturday teams were looking to achieve their best possible rank to go into the quarterfinals.  The finals system, new to NPPL, Inc., for 2003 would adopt a new method for playing finals.  Under the previous NPPL guideline the top eight teams in a classification, or top 16 if there were 32 or more teams in that class, would advance to round robin semifinals, and then the top 4 in each class would move into round robin final.

Under the new system, the top eight teams, ranked by total score advance into the quarterfinal rounds on Sunday morning, with 16 novice teams moving on.  The top four quarterfinalists in each classification, ranked by score then advance into the semifinals where the first ranked team plays the fourth, and the second plays the third.  The semifinal games are played not just one game, but in a best two out of three format.  The 4 semifinalist teams are then re-ranked and the first seat plays the second seat - winner of two out of three games is the first place winner, and the loser takes second place.  The same is done between the third and fourth seated teams to determine third and fourth place.

"The tournament stayed to the schedule because of the refs.  Joy Division is one of the best groups of referees out there."
Brian Ravenel - STP

An Adrenaline Impulse black back to green fade in front with tear drop Freak barrel with green insert,  15 Degree ASA adapter, DYE tank cover, 68/4500 Max Flo with black polished cap, serial Number 29 gun and a smoke Viewloader Revy was stolen out of the parking lot on Saturday morning - probably most notable would be the Grey/Blue High Sierra duffel bag it was in.  Anyone with information please contact WARPIG.com.

Saturday afternoon the preliminary rounds finished and the teams were ranked to advance to the quarter finals games.  Team RM topped the 8 advancing rookie teams followed by Ballerz, Inc., G&C Electric and Strikeforce.  The break was kinder for the novice teams who were competing for 16 quarter final positions.  Boston Paintball Factory and ACI Factory finished undefeated with tied scores.  Tiebreaker criteria ranked Boston first.  They were followed by the Twisted Factory Team and TCP Xtreme.

Amongst the Amateurs, Team Maxim, its new 7 man roster consisting mainly of player from Shocktech, Keely Watson and Chris Phoenix from Maxim Magazine ranked in first.  Their finish was 13 points ahead of Boston Paintball Factory Team.  These were followed by the Evil Factory Team and Sharp Shooters Black.

Avalanche ranked first amongst the pros, undefeated in the prelims.  They were followed by the Naughty Dogs who were making their professional debut, moving up from being one of the world's strongest amateur teams.  Dynasty finished third and like the Dogs posted a single loss in the prelims - in both team's cases the lost was against a pro.  Ton Ton Flingeurs ranked fourth, the change to 7 man format matching what they usually play in Europe. 

The evening rocked with free concerts open to the public in the beach plaza.  Pure Promotions brought DJs in from England and linked up with Wreched 7 to bring in bands.

SUNDAY

The quarterfinals rounds began at 8:00 am under clear skies with a brisk chill in the air.  The quarterfinals functioned exactly as the semifinals had in previous seasons.  Each classification would be whittled down for the next round.  Each team played 3 games against the other teams in their division.  For the pros, amateurs, and rookies, the top two team in each division would advance to the semifinals and be guaranteed entry into the finals.  For the novice teams the cut would be more harsh, the top team in each of the four divisions would the advancing teams.

Site security at the tournament was stronger than any previous US tournament.  The fenced compound surrounding the scoring and registration area, air fill stations and fields had two entry points manned by security guards.  Access passes were required for entry, and were even issued for separate time periods.  Media field access passes were readily available to print and electronic journalists and reporters from large scale paintball web sites during the first two days.  Sunday access required all new badges with only the quarterfinalists receiving access, and media access to fields becoming progressively limited during the day, to prevent a disruptive excess of photographers on the fields during the finals games.

Team RM and Strikeforce topped their rookie quarterfinal division to grab the first and third position in the semis, in the second division R2 Ballerz Inc., and Ephect grabbed the second and fourth seats respectively.  Old School Hustle grabbed the top novice spot, Team Vicious second, Team Platinum third and Boston Paintball Factory fourth.  In the first amateur division KAPP grabbed the first seat, and PaintballGateway.com the fourth.  In the second Am division STP grabbed the second semifinals position and Evil Factory the third.

The first pro quarterfinal division had surprising results for many.  Both Avalanche and the newly formed Redz Factory Team (with former Ground Zero players and Rocky Cagnoni, a former Avalanche player) got knocked out in this round by the Ton Ton Flingeurs who took the P3 slot in the semis and Bushwackers International who took the fourth seat.  For the Ton Tons, who have not had a strong track record at US events, being in the final four is a great finish, the same also for the Bushwackers who have just pushed up from amateur.  Dynasty was the only team to play the pro quarterfinals undefeated, and in doing so grabbed the top position.  Naughty Dogs closed the round on their heels into number two, also a strong pro debut.

The semifinals went fast with most pairings needing to play only two of their three games to determine a winner.  The only fight that went to three games was Dynaty versus Buhwackers International - the Huntington Beach based Bushwackers took the first game, Dynasty took the second, and then the third to win the round.  Teams were re-ranked based on their win/loss record.

The finals rounds were started with a grand introduction, including music and the UC Irvine cheerleaders who had been on hand riling up the crowd on the central NPPL field.  This field was also packed with video cameras on towers, a central platform and a swinging boom.  Pure Promotion assembled a video crew to document and produce their own television show of the event.

After the singing of the national anthem, doves were released as the event was publicly dedicated to the memory of Maurice Gibb.

Team RM posted the first win in the finals against Ballerz Inc.  Boston Paintball Factory 2 beat Vicious, and Strikeforce beat Ephect.  The next win went to the Evil Factory Team over KAPP Factory.  Old School Hustle beat Team Platinum and PaintballGateway.com beat STP.  The first pro match of the finals was won by the Ton Tons over Dynasty.  Naughty Dogs took down Bushwackers International in their first match.

In the second finals round Strikeforce earned a 3rd place finish by beating Ephect for the second time, putting them in fourth place.  Team RM took a second victory over Ballerz Inc., taking the first place title, and giving the Ballerz a second place finish.  Old School Hustle posted a second round win taking third place novice over fourth place Team Platinum.  Vicious beat Boston Paintball Factory 2, meaning the two teams would face off again for a third deciding game.  Evil Factory defeated KAPP Factory to clinch first place amateur and put KAPP in second.  STP beat PaintballGateway.com sending the two team into the third round.  Dynasty posted a win over theTon Tons putting the two teams in a climatic third round, and the Naughty Dogs defeated Bushwackers International taking third place.  These were strong finishes for the two pro teams being fresh from the amateur ranks.

The third round games saw Vicious winning over Boston Paintball Factory team to finish first place novice.  PaintballGateway.com won over STP to take third place amateur with fourth going to STP.  The final game turned out to be the most exciting of the event.  The hometown crowd was rooting for Dynasty, and they defeated Ton Ton Flingeurs taking home the first place trophy, and putting the Ton Tons in second.

The event wound down with an awards ceremony on the site's main stage.  Trophies, cash and prizes went to the top four finishers in each division (cash to pros and ams prizes to novice and rookies) and plaques to fifth through eighth.  First place rookie, Team RM,  won a 1963 Chevy Caprice Classic convertable.  Team Vicious won 48" wide screen televisions, Evil Factory won 20" LCD flat screen televisions and the other prize packages of third through fourth place teams included stereo speakers, Intel webcams and other products.  The professional first place prize was a check for $20,000, a new hallmark for the sport.  Full prize list will come this week.

The Huntington Beach event marked a major change in direction for the NPPL, and set a new standard for the way paintball tournaments can look in the US.  While the switch from concurrent 5 and 10 man competitions to just 7 man play meant that less teams overall attended, the event stepped up the quality of the presentation of the tournament.  With 10 people full time promoting and making sponsorship arrangements and a prime public location, the tournament made a tremendous positive impact exposing new people to tournament paintball, and providing a quality experience to the competitors. 
 


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