Seriously? Pickleball?



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By Dan Harmic

I’m reminded of the old ad slogan of Price Pfister faucets…The “pfabulous pfaucet with the pfunny name”. Pickleball is in fact a FABULOUS game; yet after many years of being the fastest growing sport in America (and still one of the fastest growing in the world), spell-check still doesn’t recognize its name. It’s no joke, there’s serious fun and keen competition to be had on courts world-wide, even if the sport was named after the originator’s dog back in 1965. There are tons of YouTube videos with instructions, national tournaments footage, even a Wikipedia definition. Yet more often than not, (like about 8 out of 10 people!) when I mention playing pickleball, they look at me oddly, as if perhaps my Spanish lessons have really gone awry.

We’ll save you the web search for now and explain the basics of the game, which is played indoors or outdoors using wiffle balls – different ones depending on which version (due to the wind which can definitely be a factor outside). The court and net are very similar to tennis, but the racquets (paddles) are like double-sized ping-pong paddles and aren’t strung. They’re solid, made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass/graphite composites. Games are played to 11, and like tennis you must win by two points, but like volleyball you only score when serving, otherwise  it’s a “side-out” service change. Like tennis, the serve must be cross-court and land within the correct lines. After the the return of serve (which must be allowed to bounce),  volleys, lobs, drop shots, overhead slams, passing shots down the line, various spins and lots of net play all may be employed, especially as one increases their skills and shot selection arsenal. 

The La Paz Pickleball Club

Due to the popularity of the sport and therefore the lack of a sufficient number of courts, doubles is most often played in order to accommodate the most players possible at one time. But this also contributes to one of the sport’s founding principles: that good sportsmanship and fun, friendly competition should prevail. The net play can be fast-paced and furious, but there’s always a moment afterwards for a laugh or to compliment an amazing shot. Plus, with only half the court to cover and a paddle that weighs about 8 ounces, people are able to play this sport well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s! Like other sports, singles results in better exercise, and it’s possible to play “cut-throat” (3-players). Plus there are modifications that allow for 3 players per side, 3 on one side of the court and 2 on the other, or “skinny singles”, which comes in handy when the right number of players aren’t around or when you want to get more people involved versus waiting on the sideline. With games only to 11 points, waiting is only about 5-10 minutes, and that’s a time to rest/hydrate, visit with other club members and form teams for the next round. 

The La Paz Pickleball club is about to enter its fourth year, and is open to players of all ages. The mission of the current club president (who began playing pickleball around 1978 but had a long hiatus and played racquetball, tennis and squash) is to be an ambassador to the sport and expand play here in La Paz, while increasing both the player’s skill levels and overall enjoyment of the game. A few locals have joined (and we really wish we could get more of them involved!) but we’re primarily comprised of ex-pats from the two countries directly to our north, with an Australian and Italian sprinkled in for good measure 😉

Our growth has been slow but steady, expanding from only one to now three courts, and from just a handful of players to a regular group of 12-16. We’re now maxed out space-wise and may be looking for a new location and/or expanding our hours/days of play as we continue to grow. The current facility has walls on 3 sides and a good roof with decent shade and some breeze, but water from heavy rains will drain onto the courts and suspend play. That’s about the only time one won’t hear paddles on balls and lots of laughs on any given Tuesday or Friday morning. Unlike a few other clubs (there’s as seasonal one in La Ventana, one in Los Barriles and at least one in Los Cabos), we play year round, starting a bit earlier when it’s hot. Our group fosters good-natured competition while being perhaps a bit more social than some clubs, even having holiday pizza parties and beach outings once in a while. If you have decent hand-eye coordination, are in reasonably good shape and this sounds like it might be for you, come give it a try. But be forewarned, you may become subject to OPD (obsessive pickleball disorder)!

Dan is originally a Pacific NW native (Washington State…the birthplace of Pickleball). An avid fisherman, Dan has played nearly every racquet sport invented. He is also a musician  – and was a part-time professional singer (opera/classical). Now a full-time resident of this wonderful city, Dan is between a real job and retirement, operating a small B & B with his girlfriend/partner/love of his life. 

Photos courtesy of Dan Harmic.

When:

Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:30am (moves to 9am in winter). Play concludes when we’re done, usually around 11:30 – 12 noon. 

Cost:  

$50 pesos per week for unlimited play. For residents of La Paz, your first visit is FREE. 

More information: contact Dan Harmic, President, La Paz Pickleball Club at  dan.harmic@gmail.com.

Where is pickleball played in La Paz?
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