Over the past three decades, the sport of paintball has grown tremendously. It grew from a recreational past time to a full blown professional contest. Paintball is serious to those who play it, and one of the key organizations in the sports circuit, Minor League Paintball, was in Panama City Beach this weekend.
"With over 10 million people in the United States alone playing the sport, whether it being recreational or tournament," said Michael Bianca, who's been playing the sport for close to 20 years. "It's being embraced more. People are understanding that it is a sport and we're not crazy, whacked out people in the woods shooting each other with BB Guns."
The woods is where it was played over thirty years ago, but the craze of the game drove Will Lumpkin to create the Minor League Paintball Series, and it's the craze for the game that brings thousands to each event he puts on.
"I started playing just like most of these people here when I was 10 years old at a friends birthday party, and it evolves into tournament, competitive style play, and this is a dream come true for me," said Will Lumpkin, the owner of MiLP.
"We call them paint markers, it's kind of politically correct," said 20 year veteran Barry Yuill. "We're trying to make it more of a sport feel to it, rather then we're just going to kill people. That's not what it's all about. It's more of a strategy. You have two teams on the field. Your objective is to capture the flag and get it on their side for points."
It's the strategy that sets apart the guys who play it for fun from the guys who mean serious business.
"These people are dedicated to their sport," said Lumpkin. "They play it just like any other sport. Football, baseball, soccer, hockey. This is their livelihood and what they like to do."
"The tournament play is going out and he's competing and focused on his drills, and getting better and improving his game," said Bianca. "The recreational player is going out there to have fun and looking to pop someone with a .68 caliber Tylenol gel cap."
"All the hard work that I put into it, it all pays back on Saturday and Sunday when I get to see my players out here having a good time and provide them with a good atmosphere and a series to play," said Lumpkin. "It all makes it worth it at the end of the day."
The MiLP hopes to bring the event, which attracted 55 teams and close to a thousand athletes, back to Panama City Beach next year.