With a swift swipe of her paddle, Shelly Hanna sent an orange plastic ball soaring over a portable net at Paso Robles’ temporary pickleball court Friday.
“The biggest thing about this game is anyone can have fun. No matter what your (skill) level, it’s immediately fun,” said player Dick Beiden, a retired PE teacher who taught his middle school students to play years ago.
Players say the paddle-type game is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, uses a ball similar to a Wiffle ball and has its own scoring. Its court is one-third the size of a traditional tennis court.
“I’m a tennis pro,” Hanna said. “But I like pickleball. It’s faster. The court is so much smaller, you have to react much quicker. There’s also a lot more laughing in pickleball than there is in tennis.”
The people who play in Paso Robles range from 20 to 70 years old. Players say it’s the atmosphere that draws them in.
“The game is very social, loads of fun, and, can be very competitive,” player Jack Hodges said in an email while he was on vacation. “We all say it beats going to the gym.”
Pickleball beginners also come with a question — why such a funny-sounding name for the sport?
“The founder had a dog named Pickle that would chase after the ball when they played this game. That is the urban legend. We say that sounds just as good as anything,” player Richard Le Vine said with a laugh.
Friday’s players were all members of the Paso Robles Pickleball Club, a group that’s gearing up to open the first permanent pickleball courts in San Luis Obispo County.
While other local communities such as Cambria and Atascadero offer pickleball, club members say none has dedicated courts for the up-and-coming sport.
That’s about to change. The club recently got the go ahead from city leaders in Paso Robles to lay asphalt over an existing roller rink area at Centennial Park and set up their nets for good on a permanent, dedicated, five-court pickleball facility. It’s set to open by the end of the month.
For several months, the group has raising money for the project, which is expected to cost $18,000. No city money will be used, players said. The club has a few thousand dollars left to go and plans to host a silent auction and appetizer event with a no-host bar at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom from 5:30 to 8 p.m. May 13. The fundraiser is open to the public and free to attend.
Hodges led the effort. As the Central Coast Ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association, he hosts pickleball demonstrations countywide and works with local schools to incorporate it into outdoor play.
He brought the game to Paso Robles in 2012 with the help of the city’s recreation department. He bought his own equipment — portable nets, balls and paddles — and set up at Centennial Park on a largely unused area where skaters would sometimes practice.
“We used masking tape, and those were our (court) lines until we got the OK to paint,” player Pete Gomez said.
The group now uses five courts — which they set up and take down each time — and averages 25 players daily and about 75 players overall on its club list, Hodges said.
For more information, visit the Paso Robles Pickleball Club’s website at https://pickleballpasorobles.shutterfly.com/.