Started by a local Washington family in 1965, Pickleball’s popularity has grown 159% over three years, with an estimated 8.9 million players as of 2022.
A playful amalgamation of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, Pickleball is taking the nation by storm. Although the game has been around since the mid-60s, Pickleball saw a resurgence during Covid-19 as a socially distanced way to work out and see friends. The game’s popularity continued to pick up speed, with a 14.8% increase in players from 2021 to 2022 alone. Originally beloved by the senior community for its manageable pace, decreased court size, and simple rules, Pickleball’s anaerobic benefits and social aspect have skyrocketed the sport across the country. Everyone, from children to celebrities, seems to be joining the fun, creating unprecedented demand. Public courts are now often burdened with long wait times and overcrowding, inspiring the most passionate players to build private facilities. At-home courts not only act as a great social attraction but also add value to properties.
One of the many modern flairs of Montecito’s own 2957 East Valley Road, the new immaculately designed estate by the brilliant Becker Studios, is a cantilevered pickleball court backdropped with ocean and mountain views. And while this red-hot game might be making a name for itself in luxury real estate, Pickleball has a surprisingly simple origin story.
Pickleball was created by Congressman Joel Pritchard and his two friends, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell. As for the naming of the game, there are three popular theories. Joel’s wife, Joan, insists she named the game Pickleball because it reminded her “of the pickle boat in a crew.” Others remember the family’s dog, Pickles, inspiring the title. Bell remembers naming the game because he liked to put his opponents in a “pickle.” While the inspiration for the name might be unconfirmed, the game’s charming creation story is not.
One weekend afternoon in 1965, Pritchard and Bell returned from a round of golf to find their families sitting around the house bored. The fathers suggested a game of badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. Insistent on creating an activity with the supplies at hand, the families took to the badminton court, lowered the net, and experimented with different balls and rackets. While they initially played with ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball, they later evolved to the Cosom Fun Ball paired with a racket, now known as the “M2”, that McCallum created in his father’s workshop.
Although the equipment has changed slightly, the game’s original rules have stayed largely the same. Pickleball is played on a 20-foot by 44-foot court, the same size as a badminton court. Each side of the court is divided into three parts, a right service area, a left service area, and a non-volley zone known as “the kitchen.” Aiming for the diagonal service area, all serves are made with an underhand stroke and must avoid “the kitchen.” Different from tennis, the object of the serve is to put the ball in play. Once the ball is in play, the rally will continue until a fault – meaning a shot hits the net or lands out of bounds. During the rally, the ball must be allowed to bounce once on each side of the net before players are permitted to volley the ball in return; however, volleys can never be hit from “the kitchen.” Whether as singles or doubles, the object of the game is to reach 11 or win by two.
To learn more about rules and best practices, please visit the game’s official site:
Whether enjoyed as a workout or a hangout, there is no question that Pickleball is here to stay. Children and seniors alike can agree that it is a welcomed addition to the already vibrant, active lifestyle that comes so naturally to Santa Barbara.