I’m playing reporter today. Alongside some of my latest sports portraits, I decided to give this posting a little bit more depth and personality. I won’t be doing this all of the time, unless of course, you want me to.
If at any point in the past few years you’ve been around the sport of paintball, then you’re surely to have heard her name. She no longer plays, but not long ago, everyone in the industry recognized Kimberley Ma. Not just because she was a female playing paintball, but because she was also good at it.
Kim shot her first marker in 2004 and by 2008, she was a regular on the scene, playing in tournaments all over North America. She joined the Team Destiny roster in 2008, has been photographed by top paintball photographers Gary Baum and Meagan Foster with photos making regular appearances in numerous magazines, including the 2009 Special Photo Issue of Paintball X3, and she even has a player profile in the Xbox video game Greg Hastings Paintball 2.
On March 26, 2008, Kim and the rest of Team Destiny were guests on a popular audio broadcast called Paintball Live. Hosted by Don “Sentinel” Saavedra and Ryan The Mighty, Kim jokingly stated, “We actually have our own workout routine that was mandatory for all of the girls to learn… the Cupid Shuffle. And if the girls came, flew in today, and didn’t know how to do it, they weren’t gonna play.” And always remember, “It’s called pop, not soda!”, says Kim.
Even though the days of media appearances are over, Kim thinks about her past life on the field on a daily basis. After photographing Kim, we sat down and talked about some of her favorite moments playing paintball.
Ian Harding Photography (IHP): This is my first interview, so please be gentle. Let’s get this ball rolling by having you telling me about your most memorable moment playing paintball.
Kimberley Ma (Kim): Like, on the field? This is the most horrible memory possible to be telling anybody, but I will never forget… bunkering no one at the 50 dorito on the NPPL center court. It was when I was playing with Team Destiny in 2008 and it was in front of everybody. Center court is where the grandstands were and it was being broadcast live online.
*sigh* Me, running down the field shooting no one. It was pretty horrible. I made it all way to the other end too. Like, to the other team’s carwash. Not getting shot was pretty epic unto itself as well. I remember thinking, “WTF! There was no one there, what am I doing?”… and then I got bunkered.
I was so mad I wanted to throw my gun. Somewhere in the world there is a picture of me covered in yellow paint and I’m just, like, throwing up my hands. I remember very specifically that after I got bunkered, I stood up and I turned around and threw up my hands and was all, “What the f***”, to my back player who had told me that there was somebody in the 50 dorito. I remember being in the carwash and calling back to my teammate, “Are you sure there’s a 50 dorito?” My teammate was like, “Yeah I’m sure, go get him!”, “Alright, this is a make or break.” I thought. Which means, if there is someone in the 50 dorito, we need to get rid of them.
So I ran, and I ran past the dorito, and there was no one there. I was like, “Oh. My. God.” and so I kept running. I slid into the carwash where they had two players. Their corner didn’t shoot me and their cross field didn’t shoot me either. I sat there and, I don’t even know, I blanked. I can’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I could have done more than just sit there, could have helped do something to help us win that game. There’s a video of it somewhere where you see me going and then not knowing what to do. Then somebody comes around and bunkers me. For the 15 to 20 seconds that I was in that bunker not doing anything… in such shock that there was no one there and that I had made it all the way… I was so upset. I had trusted my back player and had listened to them tell me there was someone there. I was so mad. Like, so livid about it. But then I thought, “You know what? I did my job”. That is what I’m supposed to do as a front player. I’m supposed to trust my team and I’m supposed to trust what they’re telling me. I trusted them and unfortunately they were wrong, but that’s okay.
I remember walking off the field and sitting in the dead box and just shaking my head, upset. When my teammate came back she said, “I’m so sorry. I thought there was somebody there.” I never lost my head on her though. I remember having that conversation with her and being like, “You know what, that’s what we do, we’re supposed to trust each other and I did. Sometimes sh*t happens!” It just happened to be one of those situations where it was like, “Why? WHY in front of EVERYONE?”.
I remember another time that I tripped and fell on my face, in front of everybody, and then I got shot in the pack.
Update: Video of Kim’s memorable moment has come to light. Watch it here.
IHP: Sounds like it was a pretty embarrassing moment, but we all know those can be frequent when playing team sports. They always seem to be the most memorable too.
What about nicknames? Everyone has some. Did you have any?
Kim: Yeah. Kimbo Slice and Tiny Anger.
IHP: Kimbo Slice and Tiny Anger. They’re cool, but, I hear you also had the nickname “Cancer Hands”. What’s up that that?
Kim: Ha! It’s because everything I touch turns to cancer.
IHP: What do you mean, “turns to cancer”?
Kim: Well, with every gun that I’ve ever picked up, something goes wrong with it. Uh, that’s a lie. Ok, so… Cancer Hands came about because I have more gun problems than anybody else in the entire world. Funny enough, when I was playing on Team Destiny and I had my own Etek, it worked fairly well for me. But before that, it happened to anything I picked up. I borrowed stuff and things would break, or they wouldn’t work, and somebody else would pick it up and it would work fine. I was like, “Why? Why? Why doesn’t it work for me? What’s wrong with me?”
The first gun that I bought is now sitting at my brother’s. It rarely worked for me, but when it did work, it worked amazing. Sometimes when I touched it, it would just stop working and we could never figure out why. For years we couldn’t get it fixed or anything. Then he sorta fixed it and was saying, “It’s amazing! It works like brand new, like nothing’s wrong with it.” It needs new hoses now, but every time I touch it, it just, blows up. Things blow up. It’s not good. The same thing happens to me at work.”
IHP: That’s an unfortunate gift you have. Remind me never to let you touch my camera.
So you’ve played a lot of paintball with a lot of people. Who would you say is your favorite person to play with?
Kim: To play with?
IHP: Yeah, like, on the field.
Kim: Oh. That’s a hard one. Oh dear. Um…
IHP: You can talk about multiple people if there isn’t just one.
Kim: Well, it depends on the perspective. Like, all of the guys from Big 6 and the Hitmen are always great to play with because they’re so chill about stuff. It’s fun. Like, there’s certain people I play with for fun and then there’s other individuals. Sorry to all those people that I note as the “fun people” and not so much as the competitive people. But, if I had to pick one person, it would be Justin. On the field, he’s my favorite player.
IHP: Justin who?
Kim: Justin Cornell. “Corn-wallace”. “Squidget”. Roommate. Friend. He’s amazing. I will never forget having the opportunity to train with him before going to try out for Team Destiny. Not because I knew I was going to or anything, but I had wanted to get better. I was dating his best friend at the time and we were all basically living together as roommates. He knew I was into paintball and he’s always been supportive of me, as much as he makes fun of me. Playing with him, against him, anything… it’s great. He shows me a lot of stuff and he pushes me to do better. For eample, I’ll be tired and almost out of paint and air, and he’ll say “No, again! Do it again!” I’ll wanna shoot him and I try to shoot him, but I can’t because he’s too good. Heh. It’s great playing with him.
I remember playing with him and a few of the other Impact guys on the All Star team in CXBL back in 2007. That was probably one of the most fun times I’ve ever had playing with somebody competitively. I know I can trust him. I know he knows what he’s doing and I know he’s got my back. It was the same for the other guys that were playing on that team. When you play with people who are above you, you learn so much and you feel so much more confident. When you feel more confident, you can do more. So yeah, I would probably have to say him.
IHP: Before I get to my next question, I have to ask you to clarify something for me. Should I be saying “gun” or “marker” when referring to, um, the gun? The marker? In my previous post about the Eclipse Ego 11, I refer to it as a marker. Help?
Kim: Well…it depends, I guess. Do you want to be politically correct and not offend anyone? Say marker if that’s the case. But if you play the sport and talk to people who do, we honestly normally call it a gun. Or “gat”. Which is a little more old school and I’m not even sure if people say that anymore. But yeah. Marker, gun, gat, strap. Whatever. Depends who you’re talking to I suppose. Trying to sell parents on the sport and using the term marker is obviously a little more “P.C.” and acceptable. But when you’re talking to someone like me, saying gun is fine.
IHP: Thanks for clarifying that for me. My next question is; When did you first pick up a gun and start playing?
Kim: 2003. No wait, I lied! 2004. Ha ha ha!
IHP: Nice. And how did you get involved? What was it that made you go, “I’m gonna play paintball”?
Kim: Well, I first started because of my ex boyfriend. He had played paintball since junior high. I remember that we started dating in 2003 when we we were both 18 and I remember when he first started to play paintball. My brother, Alex, would always try to get me to play before. He would go out with friends for birthday parties and stuff when we were younger. “You should come play, you should come play!” he would ask, but I never really had any interest in it.
Later on, I found out about tournament paintball and the sport side of it from my ex. I was never really interested in the woods ball side of it. I went to Nationals in 2004 and it was my first time seeing an event. I remember going to walk fields and seeing everybody, and not really knowing anything. The other girlfriends, wives, and fiancés that were in the crowd would try to help me out and would explain the rules and stuff, so over time I got into it. It’s pretty intense when you know somebody and care about somebody who’s doing something like that. You’re more invested into it. So, I became interested in it that way.
His team at the time had set up practices that run like tournaments. There would be a schedule of who’s gonna show up and who was gonna play who. They were awesome. I went to one and he convinced to play. He lent me his gear, pants and a jersey. Um, I wore just basic runners, knee pads… rollerblading knee pads… goggles, and I got to shoot an Angel, which was one of the highest end guns you could get at the time. They were pretty good back in the day. Ever since then, I’ve really enjoyed it. I miss it a lot. Let’s not talk about paintball anymore. It makes me sad.
IHP: Aww. Ok, just a couple more questions. Once you got started playing and you were thinking, “I really like doing this!”, how did you get to a level of playing competitively?
Kim: I didn’t do anything but play competitively. I never started with woods ball. I’m a competitive individual and I’ve always liked sports and stuff like that. I guess you could say non-competitive was like me going to practices and just playing, picking up a gun, and trying to get better.
IHP: Are you saying that woods ball isn’t competitive?
Kim:Oh no not at all! I’m sure a lot of woods ballers out there would slap me silly if they thought I thought that. It’s just not for me. It’s more strategy, of a different kind. I never really got into it. I like the structure of that side of the sport better than the recreation woods ball side of it. And I’m a girl. Dirt is gross. Ha ha, just kidding. But seriously. Dirt I can handle, bugs are gross. I guess I just find the formats for sport paintball more competitive, at least for me. It’s all personal preference. I kind of fell into playing tournaments because I went to one out in Red Deer when they still had, um, I think it was called Paintball Busters? I don’t remember now, I’m getting old. Anyway, there was a field out in Red Deer and they had one of the MR tournaments. It was one of the first tournaments of the year and I went with my ex boyfriend because he was playing. There was a team called PBR Street Gang and they needed another player, so somebody that knew me, I can’t remember who, told them that I played and that they should ask me to play for them. When they asked me, I remember being a little nervous, saying, “I’ve never played a tournament before, I’ve never done anything before. Why do you want me to play?” They said, “We just need another body who can hold a gun on the field.” “I don’t have any gear, I don’t own anything”, I said. But they rallied around and everybody there, even people that weren’t on their team, were supportive and lent us pants, goggles, guns, masks, and jerseys.
And that’s how I started. I played some tournaments and really liked it. From there, local people would just find me. I can’t really remember seeking out people to play with because there was always somebody that wanted me to play. They were really supportive and wanted to help me along and keep me playing because there aren’t very many girls in paintball.
IHP: Sounds like you really enjoyed playing. Why don’t you play anymore?
Kim: Because I’m poor. Ha! That and, life gets in the way. We have a saying in paintball; “Paintball ruined my life!” I believe there are a few stickers out there of that. If those things are even popular anymore, stickers I mean. I don’t even know. I’ve been out of it for so long.
IHP:That sucks a lot. Not being able to do something that you love, simply because of not having enough money to afford doing it? Totally sucks!.
Kim:Yeah, a lot of it was the cost of playing, but another part of it is was the politics. There’s drama in paintball.
IHP: Yeah, but there’s drama everywhere, in every sport.
Kim: I know that. There are people that you like, people that you dislike, people that you have to suffer with and it’s just like anything else in life. You don’t have to love everybody but they’re still part of the community. Sometimes that gets to be a little bit too much for a person to deal with, on top of the financial burden. Those things add up, you become overwhelmed, and it just stops being fun. You miss all of the good stuff and you miss all of the good people.
I miss the competitiveness of it. There’s a certain degree of competitiveness and how far you want to take it as an individual, and that might not necessarily match up with the people you’re playing with. There’s a lot of opportunity out there but at the same time, the market for being as good as you want to be is hard to get into. I was lucky to be able to go down to the United States and play like I did because I had the sponsorship and I was on a team that could facilitate some of the costs. But I can’t do that anymore. I can’t find a team that’s like that. It would be really difficult. So, mostly it’s cost, but a lot of it is drama too. And, well, life just kinda gets in the way and sometimes other things start honing in on your interest… like modeling. Ha ha!
IHP:That’s too bad that you had to stop playing because of money, but modeling could turn into a new passion if it hasn’t already. You’re very good at it, from what I can tell.
Thanks a lot for the interview Kim. The photos look awesome and it was a pleasure chatting with you. Hopefully someday you’ll get to play some paintball again and relive some of your memories.
Kim: Thanks. I hope so too.