An unusual sport is slowly paddling its way to popularity in Sooke: pickleball.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Teams of two or four players use paddles, similar to a ping-pong paddle but larger, to hit a wiffleball back and forth over a tennis net.
The game is played on a tennis court but with smaller boundaries, usually to a score of 11 or 21.
Sooke resident and pickleball enthusiast Marilyn Erickson decided she wanted to bring the sport after seeing it played around the Island.
The first time Erickson saw pickleball in action was at a park in Saanich that is dedicated to her son, who died when he was 14 years old.
Years later, Erickson came across the sport again while on a trip to Alberta visiting her daughter, and decided to give it a go.
“It was the most fun we’ve ever had together. We both had such a blast,” said Erickson. “And the nice thing about pickleball is that you don’t age out of it, it’s not as strenuous as tennis or badminton.”
When Erickson arrived home, she decided to reach out on social media and see if anyone else in Sooke was interested in the sport. She got a few responses and decided to form a group called Sooke Tennis and Pickleball, which now has around 65 members.
The group found that the Sooke tennis courts were in rough shape, so in April they got together and tidied them up. They also received a grant from Sooke council to buy new tennis nets and poles, and to paint new lines on the courts.
“We are holding off on the new paint and equipment for the time being, because we are now also looking to get the asphalt resurfaced,” said Erickson. “It is 30 years old so it’s pretty worn out.”
The new asphalt would cost approximately $30,000, which Erickson hopes the group can receive through community partnerships and grants.
“We think if we build it, people will come. Even after we just cleaned up the court I’ve already noticed a lot more people out using it for tennis,” said Erickson.
Before repainting the court, Erickson also wants the community’s feedback on how the courts should look.
“We could have one dedicated tennis court, and three pickle ball courts, or we could make two tennis courts and just combine them with the pickleball courts,” said Erickson. “We would just love to embrace a wider audience and see what the community thinks.”
On June 24, the group is hosting a drop-in crash course on pickleball and tennis, where anyone is welcome to come and learn about either sport. A professional pickleball player will be in attendance to teach people how to play.
“This sport is growing rapidly all across the Island from what I can see, and I think if we expose people in Sooke to it, they will love it,” said Erickson, adding that the event is free, equipment will be available to use, and everyone is welcome to join in on the fun.
The session will take place from 1-4 at the tennis courts on Throup Road.
“We have hiking, the ocean, and trails, but not a lot of options in between for outdoor recreation for seniors,” said Erickson. “It’s something different for seniors to stay healthy and fit, and if they bring their grandkids, I know they will love it too. pickleball is a sport for everyone.”
SEAPARC is also offering drop-in pickleball at Journey Middle School this summer from July 9 to August 20.
The drop-in sessions cost $6 each time, and will be available on Monday’s and Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Equipment is supplied.