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Extreme Sports & Music Festival
April 12-14, 2002
Strange - 1st
As paintball has grown, phrases like "when we become mainstream" seem to fly into conversations about what the future of the sport will be. Paintball has already become mainstream as an extreme sport, with national sports marketing figures showing more paintballers in the US than snowboarders. The next step in growth comes from getting the interest of non-players to watch the sport, and along with that event sponsorship from "mainstream" companies that are outside of the game.
The Beyond 2002 festival in Miami, Florida was an excellent glimpse into what this future can be. Shutdown Productions is a South Florida based company with experience in both motion picture and event promotion. Producer Justin Moss also has a background in paintball, having played at the pro level with Fury. Beyond 2002 completely took over Bicentennial Park, on the water's edge in Miami, Florida.
The event was a three day hip-hop/alternative festival. Five stages featured live performances through the weekend. The massive list of artists included The Plastics, DubKat, Sean Chambers, Less Than Jake, Sonic Soul Force, Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Ludacris, The Offspring, Stone Temple Pilots, Third Eye Blind, Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, Outkast, Craze, Fatboy Slim, and many others.
The Hip Hop Elements stage was home to DJ Spin-Offs and B-Boy dance battles. Greg "Red" Hastings of Redz' Comfort Gear even took to the stage during the popping competition, dancing under the name Swami Red. Sobe's 12 foot tall Half Pipe was set up for action with some of the top names in extreme sports. Skaters included Tony Hawk, Andy MacDonald, Matt Moffat, Auggie Rodriguez, and Craig Whitehead. Featured inline skaters were Bruce Dingham, Mark Inglehardt and Chad Potter. Tearing up the ramp with freestyle BMX riding were Jim Burges and Jay Miron.
Inbetween a skating exhibition and autograph session, Tony Hawk took a moment to talk to WARPIG.com and mentioned that he had played paintball in England while on tour, and loved it. "I had a blast, I don't know if I was any good, but I had fun," he said. Inline skater Bruce Dingham said he played paintball in and around his home town area of Santa Barbara and Oxnard, California and enjoyed the sport there.
Beyond 2002 shattered the myth that there is no place for Alpine sports in Florida. A 40 foot tall, 120 foot long ski jump sponsored by Sobe was set up with an inflated landing ramp. The jump's surface was covered with strips of low friction plastic bristles arranged in triangles called "meanies" because they aren't nice to fall on. The ramp was lubricated with water and dish detergent to make a slick medium that is flexible enough to let ski and snowboard edges to cut in for control. The athletes there included Lloyd Langolais, John Ross, Ricky Bowers, Matt O'Conner, Brian Lake, Todd Loveless, Todd Ossion, and Jean Marc Rozon. Rozon holds the distinction of being the first man to ever win an Olympic Gold Medal in freestyle aerial skiing.
One of the most eye catching events was the freestyle moto-x. A launch ramp sent riders flying into the sky where they posed, flipped, and twisted their motorcycles through the air. Featured riders included Kenny Bartram, Trevor Vines, Doug Parsons and Jeremy Carter. WARPIG.com had the opportunity to speak with Kenny Bartram about his paintball playing days. He said that he once got to play with Rocky Cagnoni and some of the other Avalanche guys and was schooled in the ways of balling. His two words for paintball, in light of the fact that he regularly flies 40 feet in the air, letting go of his motorcycle, were "Crazy and insane, that's what paintball is!"
Located behind the open seating area for the main stage were the event's two netted paintball fields. Twenty foot high nets set up by Danny Benura from Team Rage, protected spectators from flying paint and were assembled well so that they had no problems with billowing of lifting up with the wind. Both used Sup'Air bunkers, one for TC Paintballs, and the other for WDP. TC supplied the tournament paint with bright neon orange and green shell and a green fill. WDP's display booth faced their field, with flooring and a lounge where spectators could sit and watch the games. For many, their first look at paintball equipment was the sleek new Angel IR3 displayed in the booth. Opposite the fields was a booth for Worr Games Products set up by local field and store operator Jerry Olmstead.
Unlike a typical paintball tournament, non-players were a larger than normal concern, both for their safety, as well as the security of player's equipment. A fenced in staging area was provided, complete with an armed guard to check the wrist bands and lanyard IDs of people entering, and make sure paintguns did not leave unless they were packed in gear bags. While 24 7 man teams took to the fields for the tournaments, some 20,000 festival goers came through the event. Players were cautioned prior to the tournament start that use of foul language would result not in a penalty, but in ejection from the tournament. Purposely shooting over the field nets, or shooting outside the designated areas would result in arrest - two Miami Beach Police officers patrolled the staging and field areas for enforcement.
The paintball tournament was run by Pete Bofill of Rage, owner of Ruff n Tuff Sports of Miami. Scottie Flint of Team Fury came out from Colorado to help out with the operation of the whole show. Ruff N Tuff set up the tournament side of things with reffing, scheduling and air. Scottie, acting as an employee of Shutdown Productions handled the paintball site location, arranged for the passes, player packets, building of a secure staging area, provided free water for the players and special Sobe drinks while the Pros played. While 24 teams may not seem like a large event from a paintball standpoint, the tournament was very well sized for public exhibition. There was well more than enough time over the festival's three days to allow for all the tournament's needed games, and for special games with some of the musical artists and other athletes.
Referees consisted of players from Strange B, and an assortment of other Miami area paintballers, Bofill served as the ultimate judge.
Running a paintball tournament where the focus is as much on public exhibition as competition is a bit of a change from what most players are used to. Adam Garner of the All Americans commented, "It's a different game with all the music, when you can't hear someone 5 feet away from you. It's neat and different, both good and bad. This is just the start of the way things can go. What's more important than what I think is what all these people think that have never seen paintball before."
A number of players commented that rules limiting their on field language seemed rather hypocritical in light of some of the explicit hip-hop lyrics belted out Saturday afternoon from the main stage.
"This is the future," said Glenn Forster of Dynasty. "Not all people here got into watching paintball, but it is putting us in touch with these big outside sponsors that need to see the game. The venue couldn't be better. Me, Ed and Rocky spent the morning on the beach and then came here to play."
For Tom Cole of Bad Company, the tournament meant good connections. Cole met with with marketing staff with Sobe and the two parties are negotiating a possible sponsorship deal.
Maurice Gibb, known more for his music career than his growing track record as a tournament paint ball player with the Royal Rat Rangers found the music at Beyond 2002 to be a distraction. Gibb is excited about the possibilities of music and entertainment promotions tying in to paintball tournaments, but feels they should be arranged in such a way that one does not detract from the other. Gibb plans to follow through with his desire to see musial entertainment and paintball events with a production called the Commanders Cup that is slated to be played at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas this coming July. More information about this to follow.
Brothers Brock and Jeff Hogan are paintball players from Ft Meyers Florida who came to watch the tournament, and help the Femmes Fatale with their equipment in the staging area. While the two play and ref paintball regularly, this was the second tournament they had attended, World Cup being the first. Jeff was more interested in watching pros play than the rookie and novice teams, but Brock pointed out that there was so much else going on at Beyond 2002 that it was very exciting.
There were a couple of noteable roster irregularities. Avalanche/Dynasty was composed primarily of older players from the two teams. Two of Avalanche's players were no shows. Steve Rabakoff was hospitalized with pneumonia, and Mark Knop was hospitalized after the shuttle bus he was riding to the airport in was in an accident. We wish both of them a speedy recovery. WARPIG's webmaster Dawn Mills was offered the team's 7th position, but declined in order to have enough time for photography and reporting. The position was filled by a local player from Team Worr. Femmes Fatale was short, and had Todd Adamson playing. Pete Bofill polled the Rookie teams prior to the tournament and found no objections to the single pro player on their roster. At the end of the prelims, it was a different story, so Adamson stepped out, to be replaced by Eric Martin of Team Fallout.
Friday afternoon, Rage players danced in the dead box while Less Than Jake played. Saturday all divisions completed their prelims.
For the pros, that was the end of the line - their prelim rankings determined their placing ranks. Strange dominated the tournament, playing undefeated for the weekend, and finishing in first place, proving their move to the pro division was not to soon. Games went until after sundown on Saturday, with the last pro games being played under portable lights to the heavy beat of The Offspring on the main stage. Many players expressed their frustration at games running so far behind schedule and the reffing, while at the same time praising the venue as incredible. Several causes led to the game delays, one of the most noteable was the single compressor air system for the event which often had players waiting in line when they were expected on field.
Bad Company finished in second place, more than 400 points behind Strange. The remaining teams were neck and neck with only a 16 point spread. Avalanche/Dynasty was in third, the All Americans in fourth, and Rage in fifth place.
The top 6 Novice teams advanced to the next round. They were lead by the powerful Florida team Static. Both Nemesis Novice squads made the cut, as did Storm, the 5 man winners from the LA Open. Total Anarchy and Team Worr rounded off the group.
For the Rookies - 5 would advance. Static AKA matched their sister team by leading the Rookies in prelim points. They were followed by Femmes Fatale, Nemesis Raven B, Royal Rat Rangers, and PB R Us.
On Sunday storage tanks were added to the air fill station, a feature that is normal at most tournaments. This solved the slow filling problems that had plagued the tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Some people claimed that rap music promotes violence and if there is a connection, it was seen on Sunday. Several fights broke out between players and even referees. It was decided on Sunday morning that instead of playing only finals, both Novice and Rookie divisions would play semi-finals and then finals. This meant that the tournament went on much longer than was planned. The last novice games were played well after sunset - about 9:30 pm.
In the Rookie division, PB R Us was not slated to move on the finals. However, after several complaints about the rosters of other rookie teams and the fact that they were only 12 points behind the 4th rookie team, it was decided that they too would move on. For the rookies, the semi-finals were played to eliminate one team, the Royal Rat Rangers, while the rest of the semi-finalists moved on to finals.
The Rookie and Novice semi-finals and finals games proved to be a less than stellar exhibition of paintball to the festival attendees. They were marked with events such as a referree chasing after a player in the staging area, grabbing him and then screaming at him why his call in a previous game was correct, accusations of sister teams signaling players from the sidelines, referrees removing their goggles before games had ended and a referee physically assaulting a player and knocking his goggles off while a game was in progress, all under the watchful eyes of hundreds of spectators who were being introduced to paintball for the first time.
In the Rookie bracket Static AKA lead the day with three wins. Second, third and fourth all followed roughly 80 points behind each other. Nemesis coming in 98 points behind Static AKA, PB R Us coming in third 85 points behind them, then the Femmes in fourth.
The Novice bracket was closer in points. Storm won the day at 212 points, Nemesis with 196 and Static at 128. Team WORR took fourth for the day with 10 eliminations for the finals for a total of 30 points.
Beyond 2002 was a paradox for paintball.
In many ways it took major steps forward while at the same time stepping
back. As players, referees and people who will be seen on field,
there is a level of personal responsibility to show paintball in the best
light. That responsibility was lacking here. Regardless of
how safe a person may feel, goggles need to be worn at all times on the
field - those spectators who saw paintball for the first time at Beyond
2002 could easily be confused thinking goggles are only necessary during
heated tournament play and optional when the game is less intense.
Regardless of whether a team is signaling to a sister team, having team
members stand outside the net, on the opposing team's side, in the same
jersey, looks bad. It looked questionable enough that non-paintball
spectators commented on the practice. Players, if you don't
Praise of the venue cannot be higher for the Beyond 2002. Perhaps next year an invitational event or exhibition tournament would cast paintball into a more positive light.
Stay tuned to WARPIG.com for lots of photos from Beyond 2002.
Photo galleries will be online on Monday, April 15.