Monday, February 17th, 2014
Within just 8 short days South Africa quickly became one of my favorite places and Cape Town now sits at the top of my list of favorite cities. I was contacted by Paul Grobler of the SARPL about a month ago to come out and do a few clinics which I of course, jumped on the opportunity seeing as its a place I haven’t been and an entire community I haven’t had the chance to tap into yet. We set the plans and he booked my ticket. I landed in Johannesburg last Wednesday, the 5th, and had an early night. I was exhausted from the 28 hour travel day it took me to get there so I needed a night to rest. The next day was awesome though; I got to interact with lions, leopards and cheetahs which has been a dream of mine ever since I first watched the Lion King back when I was 5 years old. We ended the adventure by going to a game restaurant, for those who don’t know they serve fresh caught animals. Ranging from Zebra to Crocodile, to wildebeest. They brought them out one at a time and I indulged in everything trying one thing after another. I figure why not right?
The next day was miserable. I was puking all day and couldn’t figure out if it was some weird animal I had tried or the ice I had in my drink. Either way my stomach was not happy and I spent the entire day trying to recover so I could go on with my traveling. Plus my first clinic was set for Saturday so I didn’t have time to be sick.
Saturday morning came early. I woke up feeling much better than the day before and was excited to meet all the South African players. As we rolled up to Paintball City, Johannesburg, I was impressed by the perfectly kept grass and pristine bunkers that composed the field we would be playing on. We got the day started with a warm up and introductions and I immediately knew it was going to be one of the better clinics I’ve done. Everyone was extremely welcoming and had a great sense of humor which always makes the day that much better. There is something about the paintball community that just brings everyone together. No discrimination and no judgment. Everyone just has a mutual understanding for the love of the game and it really is special. It is one of the reasons I love paintball most; I believe it brings people together from all over the world. I ran through all sorts of drills with the guys and even introduced them to a team drill we use to start the Ironmen practices called RedZone.. I can’t explain all the details because its pretty exclusive but just know this may have been the highlight of the day!
I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends but I had to wrap things up and catch a flight to Cape Town where my next clinic / adventure would begin. Landing in Cape Town was unreal. Much like San Diego, I knew this little laid back beach town was going to be amazing but I didn’t realize it was going to make its way to the top of my favorite places list. I got in around 9am Sunday morning and headed straight to the field. Occupied by beautiful scenery along the way I was anxious to see what kind of group would be at Speedball Aim seeing as they had a lot to live up to from the day before. Granted, they absolutely did live up to the Johannesburg group and were another great group of people. I came to the conclusion that South Africa paintball players are awesome and I want to do everything I can to help the sport grow down there. I was hugely thankful for the opportunity to spend two full days growing the sport in SA and helping the paintball community gain in every aspect of the game. After another long day of what we call work, it was time to enjoy the rest of my trip and see what Cape Town had to offer.
After showering and getting all cleaned up, Paul took us (me and Rob Daniels, PSP div 1 head ref) to Table Mountain where I basically got to see the entire city from the clouds. It was absolutely breath taking. As I stood on the top of a boulder that was leaning off the edge of the mountain I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with love for paintball. I was yet again slapped in the face with the humbling hand realizing that all of this was only possible because of paintball. Its moments like that that make me continue to strive to be the best. Not only to be the best player but also the best role model. I want people to see what paintball can do for them and how it can genuinely change your life for the better. The places I have gone and seen because of this sport are not comparable to anything else. I will forever devote myself to the growth of this game and as I stood out on that rock I again, realized this is what I am supposed to be doing. I was right where I was supposed to be.
Enough of the sappiness.. Now to the good stuff! The next day was a big day for me. I would be cage diving with Great White sharks, you know, the viscous man eaters? Yea it was something that I had to check off my bucket list so I told myself I was going to set fear aside, dive in head first and hope for the best! It was an early morning with a 3 hour drive to get to the port where we would be departing from. Once we arrived I was surprised at how calm I was. I actually wasn’t frightened at all and couldn’t wait to get in the water with the sharks. It took us about 30 minutes of cruising on the boat to get to the shark infested waters where they dropped the cage in and had us hop in. I was the first to go, ready for adventure I jumped in with my gopro ready for some action. I was hoping to get a shark that was trying to attack us but that didn’t happen. Some huge sharks definitely came up to the cage and opened their mouths but not as aggressively as I had hoped. I guess part of my photographer instinct was willing to risk some safety for that one special Instagram picture. Nonetheless the day was absolutely amazing and one I will remember forever. I mean how many people get to say they have been less than a foot away from a Great White shark in South Africa? Yea I was pumped and sad to see the trip coming to an end but I still had another day of full adventure before I would be heading home.
My last day in Cape Town was by far one of the coolest days in my recent life. My new friend, that attended my clinic, Julian, took me to Boulders Beach, which was a stunning drive with an astonishing destination. We got there and settled in to a sandy little private cove that looked like something out of a movie. The view was great as the ocean produced no waves in this tiny bay like area. There were giant boulders surrounding the waters separating one private beach from another. You could see the ripples in the clear water where fish would pass by. After hours of swimming around from beach to beach, playing with penguins that called this place their home and getting sun kissed by the earths favorite star I knew my trip was coming to a finish and what better way for it to end than watching the sunset; no electrical buzz, no phones, no material items… It was just me, my friends and mother nature. The sky was a vibrant yet calming tangerine color as the final minutes of sunlight were taken in. South Africa had officially earned a special place in my heart and had reassured me that everything I had been doing and working for was well worth it. From the beautiful views to the amazing people to the adventurous foods to the passionate paintball players I had felt like my trip was complete. It was great to have an impact on the SA players and set a higher standard for them to live up to on the playing field. They know I will be back and I can’t wait to see how much everyone has improved. A huge thanks goes out to everyone that accommodated me throughout the trip, especially Paul Grobler for making it all possible! Until next time my friends!