I saw big smiles and friendly gestures everywhere I turned during the inaugural event of the Ultimate Woodsball League at SC Village in Corona, CA. The UWL brought in plenty of steep competition, but there was a greater sense of camaraderie and fellowship than you find at your traditional tournament.
UWL Commissioner Tom Cole, a veteran woodsballer who played with Bad Company for most of his professional career, realized that many players long for the days when tournaments were more about crawling than rate of fire.
As both a format and a league, the UWL is a shining star. There are a growing number of players who want to play competition paintball but are jaded or otherwise turned-off by aspects of the speedball game. The UWL represents a happy medium between recreational paintball and full-fledged, in your face tournament paintball.
Playing in the woods presents different challenges and learning situations for players of all ages and skill levels. The UWL is running an advertising campaign featuring the slogan "These players started in the woods" with pictures of Hall of Fame paintball players including Chris Lasoya, Richie Maliszeweski (Image), and Shane Pestana, Darryl Trent and Dave Youngblood of the Ironmen, among others. The UWL's other tagline is "Woods, Dirt, Camo" which any woodsball veteran can get behind.
The UWL divides teams into two divisions, Open and Skills. Equipment restrictions make the difference between the divisions; Infantry players (open division) can use any electronic marker in semi-auto, Rangers (skills division) must use non-electronic markers. Both Infantry and Rangers must use 9-volt loaders (Kingman Fasta, VL Revolution, etc.).
Teams consist of a captain, a scout, a heavy weapons man, 7 infantry / rangers and one sniper. The captain can use any electronic marker set to semi-auto and calls in the use of special weapons -- revives and "missile" strikes to strategically eliminate the other team. Scouts break out 10 seconds before their teammates to pull a flag or set up in a forward position. The heavy weapons player can use any marker in any mode with any mode. Snipers must use a pump gun or pistol and count as a +1, an eleventh player on a ten man team.
Bob Long took full advantage of the heavy weapons position, using his brand new Marq Victory in uncapped full-auto to chop up the competition. I came across Bob in a ravine and was so scared of his machine gun that I retreated to another position.
Tom Cole and the UWL team spent several days grooming SC Village's world famous woods fields for the tournament. Despite the inherent difficulties in creating even fields in the woods, the two fields in play were adequately balanced, with neither side having an inherent advantage due to a coin flip. Additionally, the team that loses the coin flip receives a handicap -- either more revives or the option to start with a flag base in their possession.
The objective-based format evened the playing field because games weren't won by eliminations, but flag possession time. Good teams worked the fields and developed strategies to control their flag stations while keeping the other team out. More experienced teams often found it difficult, and counterproductive, to steamroll opponents with no regard for pulling and defending flags.
Bob Long's Assassins took first place in the Open Division, followed by the CA Ballers in second. Playing alongside Bob Long were his son Zack Long, Tyler Harmon, Kimo and a number of the LA Hitmen.
The UWL offers an placement program for players who can't find a team to play with. The CA Ballers were a team of players assembled for the tournament by the UWL. The UWL offers this service as a way to build new teams and relationships in the sport.
The San Diego Daggers, captained by the voice of paintball, veteran Ironman Matt Marshall, took first place in the Skills division. The San Diego Daggers were a motley crew of grizzled vets and familiar faces, including Nicky Cuba (Ironmen), Todd Martinez (Dynasty), Brandon Lambertson (ex-Infamous), and Roy Richards and Cedric Roloff (ex-Avalanche & KAPP Factory).
The Daggers faced Team Gat in the final, a showdown many called the game of the tournament. Team Gat, using 7 pump guns, took the Daggers down to the final buzzer before they captured Team Gat's base flag for the win.
The event was a big success because everyone left the field feeling good about the weekend. Teams played with honor, respect and a tremendous amount of sportsmanship. Players of all ages and walks of life found common ground on the paintball field, and that has forever been what our sport is all about.
Tom Cole is doing a fine job running the UWL, the event went off without a hitch and everyone in attendance had a fun weekend. A hallmark of a good commissioner is the ability to take criticism and suggestions from their players. Tom was vigilant in pursuit of feedback from teams, constantly asking them how they were doing and what the league could do better.
Paintball photographer extraordinaire Chris Dilts was on hand to capture the events of the weekend; his photo galleries are posted at the UWL's website, www.playuwl.com
Thanks to SC Village, Giant Paintball, Chris Dilts and all of the teams, friends and families who came out to share the weekend together. Thanks to Kingman Training, DYE, JT, BT, GenX, Ultimate Paintball, Bob Long Technology, and Tippmann, the UWL's event sponsors.
The next UWL event is scheduled for May 16-17 at Badlandz in Chicago, Illinois; the UWL will return to SC Village August 1-2.
Alex Cadalso played paintball for HK and has published over 100 articles about paintball in magazines like SPLAT, PGI and Welt, among others.
I'll post photos in this thread once Dilts releases them. Thanks!