No more ice in Gibsons means lots more pickleball for those on the Coast enamoured with the paddle sport that combines elements of badminton and tennis.
Ice was removed from the Gibsons arena in late March and the dry floor season kicked off March 25. The Sechelt arena is expected to lose its ice in early May. For the next four Saturdays, Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association (SCPA) director Jim Pye will be overseeing round robin mini-tournaments in Gibsons, open to everyone, starting at 11 a.m.
“It’s held to put some fun into it and hopefully promote some interest and get some more people out,” said Pye of the free events. “We’re not going to slam it and we’re not crowing over our victories but we do want to play a competitive game.” The tourneys are also meant as a skills share, since advanced and novices will play together.
The sport can be played in pairs or singles, and this Saturday games will be dinks – a variation of the sport in which opponents attempt to land their ball in the seven-foot zone, known as the kitchen, in front of the 34-inch net. “It’s fun, it actually is physically demanding,” Pye said of the closer game, adding, “Dink is a game of patience. You let the opponent make the mistake.”
SCPA secretary Carol Mollerup estimates 400 people play pickleball on the upper and lower Sunshine Coast, half of whom are SCPA members. Games are played in parks, school gyms and activity centres.
Pye, a self-described snowbird, said about half the pickleballers he knows picked up the sport while overwintering in the south.
Joanie Carter, who has played for two years, learned it in Palm Desert. “It’s really fun, we get a lot of laughs,” said Carter, who plays it during the tennis offseason. “I actually prefer it to tennis,” she said. “It just seems more humorous. It’s just fun.”
The game is popular among seniors, but it’s attracting younger crowds, said Pye, Mollerup and Carter. Pye’s grandchildren play, and so do Carter’s. “It’s a huge family thing,” Carter said.
Sunshine Coast students may also soon have an opportunity to learn the game. Last year the SCPA introduced pickleball to students enrolled in the Coast’s SPIDER program, and other schools have expressed interest in demos, Mollerup said.
For Pye, the goal is growth. He wants to reach the stage where the Coast plays host to a sanctioned event. “I’d just like to see more people, I don’t care how old they are.”