Although it isn’t an official designation, it’s easy to understand why Kelowna is often referred to as the Pickleball Capital of Canada.
With around 400 member players, 12 fully dedicated pickleball courts, and home to the 2015 and 2016 national championships, the B.C. Interior’s largest city comes by the moniker honestly.
This weekend, from Friday through Sunday, 440 competitors from across North America will converge on the Parkinson Rec Centre courts for the Pickleball Canada National Tournament.
With entrants ranging in age from 12 to the 83, Pickleball Kelowna president Bryan Jackson said the sport is truly accessible to all ages.
“The games are short, the learning curve is short and you can play it well into your senior years,” said Jackson. “It’s not hard on the knees and shoulders, there’s not a lot of running involved, but it is a great means of exercise. It’s a very social sport, too.
“We’re finding there’s a bigger turn out the last couple of years in people 35 to 45,” he added, “so people from all ages are playing.”
Pickleball is a paddle sport—a sort of hybrid between tennis, table tennis and badminton—and is played with a whiffle ball.
The courts are hard-surfaced and are 1/4 the size of a regulation tennis court.
With a $10,000 donation from Pickleball Kelowna, two of the tennis courts beside Parkinson were permanently converted into what Jackson calls “…twelve of the best courts in Canada.”
Pickleball’s origins in Kelowna date back to about 2000 and the sport has grown swiftly and steadily ever since.
“We’re the largest organized club in Canada,” Jackson said. “The sport is very popular in B.C. and Quebec, and it’s just huge in the U.S. It continues to grow.”
Each game is played to 11 and may last between 15 and 20 minutes. More than 800 matches will be played at nationals over three days on 28 courts, all near the Parkinson Rec Centre.
There will be singles and doubles competition in men’s, women’s and mixed divisions, encompassing six levels of skill—3.0, 3.5, 4.0. 4.5, 5.0 and Open.
Kelowna mayor Colin Basran will be on hand to officiate the opening ceremony, which is set for 7:30 a.m. Friday at Parkinson.
For more information, visit pickleballkelowna.com.
Origins of pickleball
Pickleball started during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island in Washington, at the home of then-State Representative Joel Pritchard. He and two friends returned from golf and found their families bored one Saturday afternoon. They attempted to set up badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. They improvised with a wiffle ball, lowered the badminton net, and fabricated paddles of plywood from a nearby shed.
Although some sources claim that the name ‘Pickleball’ was derived from the Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles, other sources state that the name actually came from the term ‘pickle boat’, referring to the last boat to return with its catch.
According to Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard’s wife, the name came “after I said it reminded me of the pickle boat crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.
‘Somehow the idea the name came from our dog Pickles was attached to the naming of the game, but Pickles wasn’t on the scene for two more years. The dog was named for the game.”