published Monday, August 11th, 2014

Moment: Life as a target: Getting shot comes with the job in the paintball field

By Shawn Paik

Every weekend, Gabriel Riley goes into work and gets shot.

For the most part, he gets caught in the crossfire of battle, but every so often he becomes the target. But it doesn't really bother him. Gabriel Riley is the field manager at Insane Paintball & Airsoft.

It is an odd feeling to turn and see small orange balls of paint flying right at you. Much like a soccer goalie in a shootout, participants have a split second to decide in which direction to dive.

"They just shoot anything that moves," Riley said about very young players.

"We get hit every day. I have a scar here on my neck from a few weeks ago. I was actually laying down on the field watching the game, and a paintball still was able to come down and hit me right in the neck. That's just part of the job."

He has been shot roughly 1,200 times.

But that is the thrill of paintball. Whether it is in Insane's wooded, "Ambush," or urban, "Fortress," fields, players agree to shoot at the risk of being shot.

"There's something really special and gratifying about being able to shoot someone and get away with it," said Riley.

And it's easy to see that is true for many players, who may play and stay entertained for hours, or until they run out of ammo. On the field and with an adrenaline high, players may not even realize how much ammo they use. Many times, players make the decision to buy more ammo.

While he does prioritize safety, Riley reminds himself that he is an entertainer. This explains why his favorite part about the job is interacting with the customers and watching them have fun.

"Just seeing someone interacting with the equipment and experiencing a sport that not many people really understand is quite thrilling." Riley said. "If they only try it once and don't like it, then I'm totally fine with that, but our idea is to try and get them hooked and come back out here and play again. I like seeing people trying something new and scratching something off their bucket list."

But chances are they will come back. Riley said about 40 percent of the Insane paintball players and about 90 percent of the Airsoft players are familiar faces, and they always seem to have fun.

Riley, who has played for 16 years, is one of those familiar faces.

"I get a lot of kicks out of it, and I look forward to playing every chance I get."

Gabriel Riley walks through the "Ambush" field while acting as the referee for a private paintball game at Insane Paintball & Airsoft in Chattanooga.
Gabriel Riley walks through the "Ambush" field while acting as the referee for a private paintball game at Insane Paintball & Airsoft in Chattanooga.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

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