Student embraces paintball, neurobiology


When 21-year-old Pima Community College student Saul Perea-Garayzer isn’t attending neurobiology classes, he may be at a paintball field engaged in all-out battle.

Perea-Garayzer volunteers as a referee at Disruptive Paintball Field in Marana. 

He often shows up 60 to 90 minutes before the field opens, to assemble paint guns, clean the grounds and complete any other preparations needed before groups of all ages show up.

When it’s time to open, Perea-Garayzer slips on his referee jersey. His boss will assign him to a specific group, either public or private.

“I usually really like the private ones, ‘cause that’s when you get the 12-year-old kids, 13-year-old kids, that are out there playing for their first time,” he said. “It’s a good time.”

Perea-Garayzer is responsible for up to 14 people at a time, making sure they’re all playing safely and having fun. While doing that, he must steer clear of paintballs that are flying inches from his face.

“Yeah, it hurts when you get hit,” he said. “I’ve gotten bruises on just about every single inch of my body.”

He’s used to the bruises, though, and said he enjoys helping out. “It’s what I love.”

Perea-Garayzer said he earns big tips from the groups he works with. He also scores free paint pellets, which are an expensive part of a paintballer’s life.

His little brother, David Perea-Garayzer, has also taken a liking to paintball after seeing Saul’s passion for so many years.

“It’s crazy, man, it’s fast-paced,” David Perea-Garayzer said. “I love everything about it, even the scars. Chicks dig scars.”

He said he might one day referee with his older brother, but until then he’s happy shooting the “bad guys.”

Saul Perea-Garayzer said that while paintball remains his first passion, neurobiology is quickly catching up.

He accidentally discovered his new passion while attending summer school at Harvard University for two months in 2011. “Neurophysics was cancelled that summer, so I took neurobiology,” he said.

It has been a long journey to get where he is today.

Before starting at Pima in the fall of 2010, Perea-Garayzer attended the University of Arizona for two semesters. He said he wasn’t ready for a university at age 18.

Two semesters in, Perea-Garayzer didn’t have a high enough GPA to stay. “It was hard taking my Gen Ed’s there,” he said. “I just really didn’t care enough.”

After getting booted from UA, Perea-Garayzer took the summer school classes in Boston. “If it wasn’t for that summer, I really have no idea what I’d be doing.”

Perea-Garayzer is currently wrapping up his life in Arizona to start anew at Harvard.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I love it back there. When was the last time you saw it snow in Tucson?”

While he may be moving away from his friends and family, he said his old and new cities share common elements.

“The owners at Disruptive Paintball Field already got me hooked up with some guy in Boston who runs a field,” he said. “I’m basically just moving, and starting over again. Should be fun.”

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