Janice Hunt and Clive Jones partner up for a game of pickleball earlier this month at the courts at Beban Park. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Pickleball is really picking up

Nanaimo club flourishing, more courts coming, competitive opportunities abound

The growth of pickleball can’t be contained on just a few courts.

Nanaimo’s pickleball players are anticipating the opening of new courts on Chelsea Crescent this summer as the sport continues to gain popularity locally.

“It suits today’s demographics,” said Clive Jones, a competitive pickleball player from Nanaimo. “A lot of people that have been very good sportspeople in their own right – high-level racquetball, badminton, squash – they age and they get injuries … This is a more forgiving game.”

For those and other reasons, the sport continues to grow here and elsewhere. It’s hugely popular in snowbird communities in the southern U.S.; Jones said he knows of a facility in Florida with 104 courts.

In the Harbour City, the Nanaimo Pickleball Club numbers more than 160 people who play whenever and wherever there’s court space, outdoors or indoors. Jones said most players happily play indoors or outdoors; the game is almost the same, though a softer ball is used indoors.

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court. Each point starts with an underhand serve and a rally needs to be established before points can be won. Games generally go to 11 points. There is an area close to the net called the ‘kitchen’ that is out-of-bounds.

“It’s a really simple game to learn,” Jones said. “For the average person, if they’re not that super fit but they want a little outdoor [activity], it’s a very sociable game.”

For those who are a little more competitive with their pickleball, there are more and more opportunities to play in tournaments.

Jones travelled around to various events in Washington state and Arizona this past spring and won several competitions with mixed doubles partner Brenda Stewart. The sport has also become a staple of the B.C. 55-Plus Games every summer.

Nanaimo Pickleball Club members can take advantage of instruction opportunities, round-robin play and dedicated club play times. Jones said he and others have put a lot of time and energy into teaching and growing the game.

“We popularized it and now, of course, it’s by word of mouth. People are hearing about pickleball, they come and see it and they like to play,” he said.

For information, pick up the City of Nanaimo parks and rec activity guide or visit www.nanaimopickleball.org.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com