What's Pickleball (And Why Is It So Popular)?
If you’ve been to your local rec center lately or driven past a park, you may have noticed people playing a sport that has experienced a big resurgence in popularity, pickleball.
A combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, it was invented in 1965 and steadily gained steam over the years. Its prevalence stems from the fact that gameplay is easy to learn, people of all skill levels (and ages) can play, and the equipment needed is pretty minimal.
And that’s just the start…
Pickleball is played on a smaller court than tennis and uses a wiffle ball that moves a bit slower, so it’s low impact when played casually. Plus, it’s often played in doubles so that you can enjoy a game with a group of friends or your family.
Many attribute pickleball’s current popularity to the Covid-19 pandemic. After the lockdown, it became a great way to safely hang out with friends by being outdoors and safely spaced apart. In fact, according to a 2022 report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball has seen a nearly 40% rate of growth just in the past two years.
It’s no wonder that more and more courts are opening up, and you can even try out The Eatery at Blue Sport Stable in downtown Superior which combines pickleball, food, and a pub!
What Do You Need to Play Pickleball?
Along with finding a court to play at, there are three main pieces of equipment needed to get started with pickleball:
- Paddle – Making pickleball more accessible to all ages and skill levels, the paddle is smaller and lighter than a tennis racket and has a shorter handle. You can find sets of two starting around the $40 mark. Prices for fancy paddles can cost $300 or more.
- Pickleballs – Similar to a whiffle ball but slightly smaller and heavier, balls come in bright, neon colors that make them easy to see on the court. You can buy packs starting at around $15 for basic balls.
- Court Shoes – Go with a good grip and a sole that won’t mark up the court. You might get away with runners for a very leisurely game, but these shoes are designed for forward movement. So, you ideally want a tread pattern that allows for fast, lateral movement.
That's all you need to get started with pickleball and there are affordable options for beginner and casual players. As you level up, so can your equipment. It’s all up to you!
Where Can You Play Pickleball?
So, where can you go to enjoy a game of pickleball? According to this article from 5280, Denver Parks and Recreation has first-come, first-served courts at each of the following locations:
- Northfield Athletic Complex
- Martin Luther King Jr. Park
- Skyland Park
- Congress Park
- Huston Lake Park
- Bear Valley Park
- Eisenhower Park
You can also find courts at a number of rec centers around town, along with classes and one-day workshops for players ready to advance their skills.
In Boulder, there are currently outdoor courts located at the North, East, and South Boulder Recreation Centers, as well as at Chautauqua Park and Foothills Community Park. You can read up on the indoor options and local rules on Boulder’s Parks and Recreation website.
For all areas, you can also find local pickleball courts via the Pickleheads website. Search here.
How to Play Pickleball
Played on a court that's about one-third the size of a tennis court and with the net slightly lower than a tennis net, pickleball is rather straightforward.
Here’s the basic breakdown for doubles which is the most common way to play:
- Each point starts with a serve. The player on the right side of the court serves diagonally into the right or left service area. This has to be made with an underhand stroke either out of the air (volley) or by dropping the ball and then hitting it.
- The serve must clear the non-volley zone called the kitchen and the receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning. Once returned, the serving team must also let it bounce.
- Play then continues until a “fault” is committed—a shot is hit out of bounds or into the net.
- Only the serving team wins points. Both players take turns serving until their side commits a fault. Then the ball goes to the opposing team for them to serve and score.
- Games are typically played to 11 points, and the winning team must win by two points.
There’s a bit more to it, so be sure to check out this more comprehensive guide. On paper, it might sound a little complicated, but once you get going, it will all make more sense.