Everyone you know is probably playing pickleball. Why? Pickleball isn’t just popular, it’s the fastest-growing sport in North America, combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong using a paddle and plastic ball with holes.
There are more than one million players in Canada, and growing. It’s a game that appeals to players of all ages and skill levels. Rules for pickleball are simple, making it a great introductory sport. But it can also be a challenging, fast-paced and competitive game for more experienced players.
“People say that pickleball feels like playing ping-pong, but as if you were standing on the table,” says Ernie Medina, vice chair of the USA Pickleball Board.
While it might seem similar to tennis, there are some key differences. In pickleball, the serve is underhand. And with a smaller court, players don’t have to run as much or dive for shots.
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court (indoors or outdoors) with the net lowered to 34 inches at the centre. It’s played with a perforated plastic ball, much like a wiffle ball, and a solid composite paddle. Points are scored by the team that serves, and teams play to 11 points and win by two points. There’s also a zone called “the kitchen” within seven feet on both sides of the net. This is the “no-volley” zone: You can only hit a ball from this zone if it bounces first.
Like curling, pickleball is also a very social activity, and a great way to meet new people. Matches are usually set up as doubles, whether with friends, family or strangers.
Pickleball may even be good for your brain. A 2021 study found that cognition improved in people who played pickleball for six weeks. So exercise, socializing and brain power — except for the “thwack” that occasionally annoys neighbours — what’s not to like about pickleball?
Where to play, get instruction and join tournaments:
Various Victoria-area rec centres have courts and introductory courses, and there are plenty of videos online to get you started with the rules and lingo. Other resources include the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association, the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association and Pickleball Canada.