A wave of changes in the world of paintball forced organizers to put on a smaller tournament in Huntington Beach last weekend.
About 200 players participated in the Surf City Paintball Open, which was reduced to one playing field and included a new format that involved fewer participants.
Despite the changes, the warm weather, cool ocean breezes and scenic view of the Pacific remained a draw for players and guests.
"It's exciting to see this because it's paintball on the beach. You can't beat it, right?" said Zac Hernandez, a player from Irvine. "I would normally play out in the desert areas, like in Corona and Riverside, so this is a big change from that."
Hernandez, 34, of Irvine, has participated in the beachside tournament since 2004, when the National Professional Paintball League was the organizer of what was then the annual Surf City USA Open.
However, the NPPL posted on its website in February that it would take a break in 2014 and use the time to restructure the organization.
Chuck Hendsch, vice president of Outdoor Events Specialists, has helped the NPPL organize the event in the past and, with the help of paintball apparel company HK Army, decided to take the reins on this year's event and rename it the Surf City Paintball Open.
"The NPPL has taken a hiatus in the sense that they've lost some of their major sponsorships and major teams, so my partner and I decided to keep the event going here in the city," he said.
In addition to the loss of corporate support, Hernandez has noticed fewer players signing up for the Huntington Beach tournament each year and has instead seen them participating in different leagues.
"There's also a European championship going on this weekend, and last weekend there was a regional event in Las Vegas," Hendsch said. "So the combination of those two things, with the lack of sponsors, has downsized this event."
Last year's Open attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of competitors to the beach over a three-day weekend. From two grandstands attendees could watch the 116 teams play on six different arenas.
Last weekend's tournament was reduced to one grandstand, one arena and about 42 registered teams.
A new playing format was also introduced at the Surf City Paintball Open. Hendsch kept the five-versus-five game play but did away with the seven-versus-seven contests.
In their place was a new two-on-two format with fewer paintballs.
Hendsch said this style of game play allows for high school and collegiate players to enter the competition as well as make it easier for those who are new to paintball to understand how the sport is played.
"It's easier to manage and to clean up," he added.
Hernandez competed in the new format.
"With two-on-two, you can watch each player and it's more exciting," he said. "You'll see more things happening, and it'll probably be a little more fast-paced, a little more crazier. It's going to make for a different kind of paintball."
On the other side of the players' pit, Demetri Ninios, 20, of Dallas was bummed about the smaller presence. As recently as 2009, 1,100 people competed, according to published reports at the time.
"I was disappointed because it was such a legendary event," he said. "It's a renowned international tournament, but I'm happy that it's still here."