The first time I was introduced to this game with the funny name, I was in Tucson visiting my mostly retired parents. They had fallen in love with this game called pickleball and couldn’t wait to introduce us.
At first glance, it was a lot like playing tennis but with some interesting differences: paddles, not rackets; slower-moving perforated wiffle balls instead of tennis balls, and something called a kitchen (but no cooking). We played on converted tennis courts with a dedicated pickleball net (tennis nets and courts were too large).
Before long, I was volleying it it into the back court and slicing it down the baseline.
Here's what I liked about the game: The slower pace, the doubles play, the fast rallies and the dreaded drop shots. If you’ve ever played tennis, or even hit a ball, you can play pickleball. I found it fun, fast-paced and easy to learn, but more difficult to master.
Once I returned home, I recruited a few friends and we took lessons every Wednesday evening at the QE tennis courts. We joked that we were far from the typical player age, but in reality, we are all middle-aged and looking for a recreational game that wouldn’t have us reaching for the post-game ice packs.
My family now holds annual pickleball tournaments – complete with trophies (yes, we are a bit competitive).
It’s hard to imagine another game that can be played and enjoyed by all ages ranging from ages 5 to 75.
With life staying local this summer, now is the time to gather your not-yet-retired group of friends and start a friendly game. Pickleball is a low impact, lively and inexpensive game that is easy to learn. And if you learn now, you’ll be ruling the courts in your golden years.
To start, you need a few basics:
If it is your first time picking up a pickleball paddle, I would recommend trying a few different paddles to see what feels best. R&R has a Demo Program that allows you to test drive 2 paddles for 3 days for $2. A great beginners paddle will range from $60 to $120 and vary in weight and composition. A heavier paddle gives you more power and a lighter paddle provides you more maneuverability. We find the most popular weights range from 7-8.5 oz.
Another essential to enjoy the game are, you guessed it — pickleballs. When buying pickleballs consider where you’ll be playing the majority of your games. Pickleballs are $3.75 each, range in colours. and come in indoor and outdoor forms. Outdoor balls are slightly heavier, and have smaller holes to limit the effect of wind compared to indoor balls that are lighter, softer and have larger (but fewer) holes than outdoor balls.
Unlike tennis, there are no pickleball nets accessible to the public in Vancouver. Normally, you can borrow nets from leagues or community centres. But with both currently not running, you will need to bring your own net. Rackets & Runners is one of the only local stores to sell them. However, they are selling out faster than bread flour at Safeway. Our next shipment is coming mid-July. Call or email to get on the waiting list.
If you are just starting the game, your running shoes or cross-trainers will work just fine. Once you advance and want a bit more grip on the court, it might be worth investing in some court shoes. The right shoes, properly fitted, can significantly improve your game. They will give you support, agility and minimize wear and tear on your legs.
Although you need to bring your own net, the good news is there are several public pickleball courts in Vancouver that operate on a first come, first serve basis. QE park, Kits Beach, Strathcona Park, Trout Lake (John Hendry Park), Memorial South Park and Champlain Park are few local outdoor courts that you can drop in on.