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A Quick Review of South Coast Paintball – A Brilliant Day Out for Kids (and Big Kids)

It’s not all luxury hotels, this life of being a travel writer you know. To my horror, I had to get muddy and dirty last week, and it was all thanks to The Boy we have.

The Boy, it has to be said, leads a rather sedentary lifestyle. From bed to classroom, to gaming chair, his little heart rate barely rises above the bare minimum to sustain life.

Sure, it occasionally rises when he fights with his sister, or when I chase him around the house, but apart from that, he’s at his happiest on the sofa all snug in a blanket watching some sort of YouTube show, with his little hand down a tube of Pringles to keep him company.

This causes Mrs B a significant amount of worry. For reasons that escape me, Mrs B believes children should have a rather 1954-style childhood, where they should spend their days rosy-cheeked, scrumping for apples, wearing short trousers and generally causing havoc in the woods and fields of England.

This curious idea seems to miss the recent invention of the microchip totally, the spread of the internet and the advent of mobile data that enables children in 2024 to not only virtually scrump apples and cause havoc online but doesn’t even require children to get out of their pyjamas, never mind actually put on anything as quaint as short trousers.

The saving grace, of course, is that The Boy loves all things warfare. He will not move if the house is on actual fire but promise him a trip to the Bovington Tank Museum and he’s up and dressed like a shot. Try and move him off the sofa with the promise of a new bike and barely a flicker of interest will cross his face. However, say that you’ll take him to see a genuine Bren gun at the Wings Aviation Museum and he’ll have his coat on before you’ve even finished the sentence.

So, when the topic of his birthday treat came up, he quickly and firmly decided that he’d like to go and play Kids Paintball at South Coast Paintball.

South Coast Paintball

Paintball. Urgh. Look, cards on the table, I was not a fan of military simulation games. Things like paintball always seem to attract a rather odd clientele – the sort of strange man who owns, on a perfectly voluntary basis, camouflage clothing. The sort of man who drives a tank in their spare time. That sort of bloke.

And, lest you think I’m being a bit sexist, it is, always, men. I was not keen, and it was only the fact that this may be the only bit of exercise The Boy will get in 2024 that motivated me to get my old Army camouflage out of the loft and get him into so much-needed fresh air.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Paintball?

kids dressed up for paintball

South Coast Paintball, despite my incorrect misgivings, was actually, bloody excellent. The website was easy to use, and, recognising that a lot of their future clients may actually be excitable 9-year-old boys, have decided to offer kid-specific paintball games.

Actual paintball guns – the full-sized, gas-powered dealers of painty death, are actually bloody painful when you’re shot by them and would probably put many people off. Luckily, if you’re small – or a coward, like me – the junior paintball days offer a two-hour experience where pump action paintball guns are used, firing a low-speed, much softer projectile which negates the need to wear body armour or actually get hurt.

Sure, you do feel it when you’re hit,  but without the pain. This makes it suitable for anyone from 8 years old upwards (including 45-year-old cowards).

What Do You Need For a Kids Paintball Session?

Decent footwear. Take some snacks and drinks if you want. That’s about it. Everything else is provided, from the state-of-the-art JT Z200 Splatmaster paintball marker which fires a small .50 calibre low-impact fragile paintball, to the full head and face protection, provided in the form of a Head Shield and Goggle Set.

You’ll also be provided with some natty digital camouflage uniforms and unlike some games, all the paintballs you need are also provided free of charge. This makes it quite a bargain – for £25 a head you can entertain a group of excitable 9-year-olds as they expend all their energy as they charge through the woods.

There are toilets on the site, as well as a small area where you can buy drinks and snacks, although tap water is provided free.

What Happens at a Kid’s Paintball Session?

The short version is that chaos happens. The longer version is that once you arrive, you’ll be met by the Safety Marshall for your game. Ours was a chap called James who was brilliant with the kids (and big kids).

He helped us get measured up for our Head Shields and Goggles and helped us fit our camouflage uniforms, before giving us a really clear safety talk, explaining the dos and the don’ts of the day, with mercifully few don’ts and plenty of focus on the excitement to be had.

Best of all, even though the children may be small, they’re allowed to play in the full-sized game arenas used by the Adults Only games, which made the kids feel like they weren’t missing out in any way. The main game arenas have scenarios like aircraft crashes, bridges to be stormed and defended and missiles to be disarmed.

If that sounds complex, then factor in a load of 9-year-olds high on sugar and firearms and you’re in for a truly chaotic day.

James explained each game to us before we started, divided us into teams and then, after a check we had more than enough paintballs, let us run riot for each game, which lasted about 15 – 20 mins each but felt like the duration of World War Two. All thoughts of tactics and stealth were quickly abandoned as excited boys charged mindlessly at each other to splatter each other with as much paint as they could pump.

As I gasped for oxygen through my face mask, through a hail of suspiciously well-aimed paintballs, I began to consider becoming a lifelong pacifist. Fortunately, James was wise enough to incorporate a time-out system where, if you were hit, you could return to base for a breather and recover before charging back out to take swift revenge on whoever had the temerity to still be alive.

And just like that, 2 hours went in the blink of an eye. Before we knew it, we were walking victoriously back to the base camp to check our weapons into the armoury and the boys were excitedly swapping war stories that seemed to get embellished with every passing minute.

Every inch of me ached, which reminded me that perhaps I was not as young as my brain thought I was, and despite the low-impact paintballs, the kids had managed to hit me in the ear twice, and there were a suspiciously large number of shots aimed at my groin area.

I made a mental note that perhaps next time the no contact laser quest activity might be a better choice, but for a first-time introduction to the sport, it was excellent. The Boy was covered in mud and did actually have a healthy outdoors glow around him, which kept Mrs B happy, all the way until the moment she realised how filthy he was. He is now mad keen to go every weekend and get as muddy as he can.

Me? Well, now The Boy is going out more, I’m staying in and watching YouTube videos of paintball. Pass the Pringles.

Contact Information.

South Coast Paintball’s website can be found here and Facebook Reviews can be read here. They’re located off the A281, Henfield, BN6 9EA.

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