Charles Gaines’ preface in “The Official Survival Game Manual” tells one story--years later he remembered the early days slightly differently. Bob Gurnsey confirmed most of Gaines’ story but will also give you a slightly different version. To piece this story together we spoke directly to Gaines and Gurnsey, as well as Debra Dion Krischke, who was there for much of the beginnings. We also interviewed several other people that were there in the beginning.
Jupiter Island, Florida was the backdrop for probably the biggest moment in paintball history, although no one knew it then. While sipping Gin and Tonics and grilling freshly caught King Mackerel one afternoon, Charles Gaines and his life-long best friend Hayes Noel got into a debate about Survival. Noel recently returned from a hunting trip which got him thinking. He wondered if a sharp, city-dwelling businessman would stand a better chance of surviving a “stalking” game than a true outdoorsman. Was survival a matter of instinct or was it a product of environment? Noel was a very successful stock broker in a very competitive New York market and he believed this would give him an advantage. While living in New York he was once “jumped” by three men and he actually scared them off by screaming and throwing trash cans at them. He believed that his instincts to act crazier than them may have saved his life.
Gaines, from New Hampshire believed that an outdoorsman like himself would stand a better chance of “coming out alive” in a survival scenario. After all, he had hunted, fished and done everything else imaginable in the outdoors for years. Surely this would be an advantage over a city boy he thought. The two debated this for hours. A third friend, Bob Gurnsey, also from New Hampshire was brought into the debate. He too agreed that the outdoorsman would have the advantage.
A short time later the three were talking about a situation in a book written in the 1930s called The Most Dangerous Game. In the book an insane man lived on an island and invited guests to play a survival game. What the guests didn’t know was that they would become this crazy man’s prey. Later than night Gurnsey and Noel discussed doing an activity that would throw a series of adverse circumstances at the participants. They discussed several different whitewater scenarios that involved cliffs, rock climbing, and flags; they talked about having a BB gun battle; they discussed wax-tipped .22 caliber bullets and just about anything else that would help them determine what type of person would perform best in these crazy scenarios.
Months later a mutual friend named George Butler, who was privy to the conversations between Gaines, Gurnsey and Noel, saw a Nelspot marker in a farm catalog and phoned Gaines about it. Soon after being contacted by Butler, Gaines purchased several of these markers and the dream was about to become a reality. Invitations were sent out to nine men, who with the original three would make twelve players.