Fuller Lake hosts Island pickleball tournament

The sudden growth of the sport of pickleball hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Municipality of North Cowichan.

The sudden growth of the sport of pickleball hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Municipality of North Cowichan.

Last year, the muni converted two old tennis courts at Fuller Lake Park into six outdoor pickleball courts, and residents have been quick to take to the sport. The six courts are among just eight dedicated pickleball surfaces on Vancouver Island — along with two on a former tennis court at Beban Park in Nanaimo — and next month, they will play host to the Vancouver Island Pickleball Championships.

Pickleball has been around for about half a century, but it has surged in popularity in the last few years.

“Pickleball is easy to learn but it can become a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players,” said Ken Holman, president of the Vancouver Island Pickleball Association. “It is a highly social game, bringing players into an environment where contact with others is a requisite part of the sport. Its benefits for exercise and as a social experience are unparallelled.”

The sport is a hybrid of tennis, badminton and table tennis. The court is the size of a badminton court, with a net similar to the one used in tennis and paddles slightly larger than those from table tennis. The ball is a plastic one with holes in it that travels about half the speed of a tennis ball.

“And therein lies the appeal to Boomers who have embraced the game big-time,” Holman said. “Less court to cover compared to tennis, so easier on the ageing joints; slower moving ball, so easier to see and hit.”

According to Holman, communities throughout North America, especially in retirement hot spots like California, Arizona and Florida, are trying to keep up with demand by replacing underused tennis courts with pickleball courts. A full-size tennis court can be turned into four pickleball courts.

Holman anticipates even bigger things for the sport.

“Look out,” he said. “When this sport gets introduced to the schools it will really take off”.

The Vancouver Island Pickleball Championships will take place at Fuller Lake Park on Aug. 8 and 9, and spectators are welcome. For more information visit the Vancouver Island Pickleball Association’s website at vipa.ca