Get in on the Pickleball craze

Fun, social and active sport takes SLO County by storm

Pickleball was once called “the fastest growing sport in the country you’ve never heard of.”  Not anymore. This very fun, very social, very ‘active’ game has grown exponentially since it was first introduced in 1965.

Developed by Washington State representative and eventual Lt. Governor, Joel Pritchard, the name of the sport originated, according to urban legend, in honor of Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who would chase any errant balls and return them...most of the time.  

Okay – so what is this fun game with the funny name?  

Played with a composite/graphite paddle and a baseball-sized wiffle ball, Pickleball is very similar to tennis, but is played on a smaller court. It is not, however, paddle tennis. The court is the same size as a badminton court – 20x44 feet, or one-third the size of a tennis court – and the net, on the ground, is two inches lower than the standard 36” tennis net.  

It first appealed to the over-50 tennis crowd, many of whom that loved their sport of tennis but could not run around on the much-larger tennis court anymore. Pickleball enthusiasts agree – new participants will be “playing in 15 minutes and laughing in 20.”  

But don’t be misled – most describe the game as “kinder on the body, but still a great workout.” 

One former tennis player of 40+ years said, “I used muscles in this game I never knew I had. It felt great.”  

Another plus: because of the smaller court size, the game is more intimate and friendly. Some common quotes from those who are playing regularly include, “People are always laughing, always complimenting, always socializing,” and “We’re literally closer together…we can’t help but smile and interact.”

In addition, several participants have attested to losing 10-20 pounds since they began playing Pickleball. One player said she doesn’t go to her indoor gym as often and added, “I love the exercise and I am having fun.” 

Is Pickleball only popular with the more ‘mature’ crowd?  

Not at all – last spring, 100 eighth graders from Lewis Middle School attended a free Pickleball Clinic at Centennial Park in Paso Robles. The game is now a regular part of the school’s Physical Education curriculum.  

A little over a year ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a Pickleball game being played anywhere on the Central Coast. Today, there are four venues playing Pickleball three or four times each week – Paso Robles Pickleball Club, Cambria Pickleball, Heritage Ranch Pickleball, and Pismo Beach Athletic Club Pickleball – and two or three more Central Coast locations are interested in starting the game.  

The United States Pickleball Association ( indicates that 40 new venues each month are springing up across the country and predict 500 new venues in 2014; California, Arizona, Florida and Utah lead the way. In fact, at the 2012 World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, the largest contingent of participants in an individual sport – almost 600 – were Pickleballers. The Games featured 19 countries, 27 different sports and 10,000 athletes. The 10,000 participants represented a slightly larger contingent than this past summer’s London Olympic Games. St. George, a city about the size of our Central Coast cities of Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero combined, has over 100 Pickleball courts. 

Google the above mentioned local venues on the Central Coast for more information. A note of caution – if you show up to play, you may very well become addicted to Pickleball!

Jack Hodges - is the USAPA Ambassador for the California Central Coast, Paso Robles. Give him a call at (949) 547-2251 and check out more photos at or