Pickleball popularity picks up in Surrey (with video)

Editor’s note: Summer is here and it’s time to get out and enjoy this special time of the year. In this series, the Now offers you some unique sporting ways to experience summer without leaving town.

SOUTH SURREY — What would you get if you created a sport like table tennis on a badminton or tennis court? That’s exactly what you’ll find if you play pickleball.

The sport was invented by a senator who lived on Bainbridge Island, WA, who was playing tennis with his grandchildren when he noticed the court was too big. They found there was too much ground to cover and they spent more time getting the ball than playing the game.

By making the court six to eight times smaller and lowering the net to three feet, the senator created a game that doesn’t restrict players on age, height or gender.

Chuck LeFaive, founding director of the B.C. Pickleball Association, said it is a very fast game that requires quick thinking and movement.

"Pickleball is a very active, fast-paced game…. You are able to hit the ball back and forth with tremendous pace. You have to have very fast reflexes to return it," he said.

(Scroll to bottom to view a pickleball instructional video posted to Youtube)

Pickleball is a good sport for people looking to maintain or lose weight, he said, because it has equal or better calorie burn than similar sports, such as badminton or squash.

The sport is played with an oversized table tennis paddle attached to the handle of a tennis racquet. Also, instead of using a tennis ball, pickleball is played with a wiffle ball.

Similar to tennis, you also use a number of techniques to hit the ball into an area where your opponent is not.

"The emphasis is on the rally," said LeFaive. "You use forehands and backhands and you use overhead slams and you use lobs and you use all sorts of different moves so you can confound your opposition."

The founding director of the association also said that seniors have taken strongly to the game, and that it doesn’t have limitations to people who suffer from certain illnesses.

"Some of them have medical issues, like Parkinson’s and whatnot. They come and play and they play well. They don’t have Parkinson’s when they’re hitting the ball," LeFaive said. "We’ve had people with early Alzheimer’s come and play. It’s a very good sport for them if they’ve had some background."

Games generally take around 15 minutes to play, depending if players are playing up to 11, 15 or 21. There is also a win by two points rule.

British Columbia has about 60 pickleball tournaments every year, while there are 10 times as many events in the United States.


The Gear

LeFaive said athletic clothing isn’t necessary to play pickleball and that people could play in trousers if they wanted.

He did say running shoes are needed if playing inside a gymnasium.

The key tool to play pickleball is the racquet. They can be signed out from the registration desk at rec centres, or purchased online or at Docksteader Source for Sports in South Surrey. The cheapest racquets will cost around $80.

Official pickleball wiffle balls can be bought online or at Canadian Tire for $1.50 per ball.

Where to go

Every recreation centre in Surrey except Chuck Bailey has a pickleball program. The largest facility is South Surrey Recreation Centre, where drop-in players can play in the gym or on the outside courts.

Cloverdale and Guildford rec centres also have large pickleball programs.

For more information, see Surrey.ca for program listings or visit Bcpickleball.com.



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