Who’s Up For Pickleball?

It’s not as stupid as it sounds

Pickleball is a silly name for a fairly serious sport. Well, it’s only as serious as you want to make it, how serious can you get about something with a name like that? Turns out pretty serious.

20151116_223051_resized.jpgIt is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and Canada with more than 200,000 pickleballers pickling away, and the USA Pickleball Association saw its membership jump 84% in just over two years.

Pickleball started some 50 years ago when two dads living on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, were trying to entertain a bunch of bored kids. Lacking the equipment to play one entire sport, they made up the game using a combination of ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball. Pickleball is now gaining a foothold in Europe, notably Spain, Holland, the UK and, bien sûr, France.

We will try to explain it:

Imagine ping-pong played on a badminton court or tennis played on a smaller court, or ping pong played while you’re standing on the ping pong table that’s smaller than a tennis court. Players use oversized ping pong paddles instead of string racquets and the ball is a big wiffle ball that’s actually pretty dead. It moves only about a third the speed of a tennis ball. The game is easy to learn well enough to step right in, but requires lots of effort to play at the competitive level.

 Usually played in doubles, its close-to-the-net rallies are fast-paced and exciting although you can simply play a more classic tennis-style game from the baseline. Watch a game live or on video, and you’ll see what it’s all about. For that go to www.pickleballchannel.com or visit YouTube and search pickleball.

The net is about a yard high, which is lower than a tennis net, (maybe you can actually jump over this one without maiming yourself). The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a seven foot non volley zone in front of the net (referred to as the kitchen). Courts can be constructed specifically for pickleball or they can be converted using existing tennis courts with the pickle lines temporaily drawn with chalk, as they do in San Jose.

Here in southern Baja there are three pickleball venues, and none of them are seriously competitive. Here it’s all about the camaraderie on and off the court, and meeting new people. The learning curve is short here, since most of these folks are not super competitive. The games are short so there is lots of mixing it up with everyone who shows up. Also, there is lots of sitting on lawn chairs brought by the players for when they’re waiting their time to rotate in again.

Another reason it’s popular with our expats is most are of a certain age, and this is good exercise without being too demanding. Way less than Tennis, and in fact many of our local pickleballers are former tennis players who have racked up too many injuries to continue with that nonsense.

But, as with any sport, you need to have a certain amount of mobility and good balance. You’re in motion a lot of the time, which still gives your cardio a workout without being exhausting or difficult. As with any racquet sport, there are techniques and strategies to learn if you’re inclined to be competitive.

The rules are simple. A game is played to 11 points (but you must win by a two-point spread) and, like tennis, points are scored when an opponent is unable to return a shot or hits the ball out of bounds. Unlike tennis, however, the serve must be underhand. It’s a patty cake serve, not meant to knock the shorts off the opponent.

Here in Baja it seems to be mostly Canadians who play it, with only a smattering of Gringos, maybe because it’s so cheap to play? Oooh boy, we’re going to get some mail over that crack. That might be the end of our pickleball career right there.

Here is the contact info for each of the pickleball courts. they usually start about 8:30 or 9 am and end by noon, and cost is only the cost of the court rental, 50 or 100 pesos for the entire morning. There are always extra paddles to borrow, just show up in tennis shoes for traction.

Here is the contact info for each of the pickleball courts

San Lucas - cathymeade@icloud.com

Los Barilles - steveherter@gmail.com

San Jose - rondumbarton@gmail.com

If you don’t believe there really is a game called pickleball,. go to www.pickleballchannel.com to get the official run down on it.