Pickleball passion

KOLOA — The gentle mist that blanketed the Anne Knudsen Park tennis courts did not affect the plastic wiffle ball, so the pickleball game proceeded.

Pickleball made its appearance on Kauai when Jack Hodges, volunteer Kauai Ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association, made his home here in January.

“This is the first time I’ve played outdoors,” said Brian Yamasaki, vacationing from Vancouver, British Columbia, who has been playing pickleball for four years. “I didn’t pack my racquet, but when I saw the pickleball bumper sticker, I had to find out where we could play. In Vancouver, I’ve always played indoors. Playing outdoors is a great experience. I love it.”

The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a free pickleball clinic at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center gym from 10 a.m. to noon April 1, where Hodges will talk about what has been described as “a new sport which currently has 250,000 people playing across the United States.”

“We are progressing,” Hodges said. “We played with visitors from Reno, Nevada; Truckee, California; Seattle and New Jersey. I get a lot of emails from people planning to visit and want to know where they can play.”

Hodges, whose mother lived in Waimea, said pickleball is family friendly, fun, provides great exercise and is very social. He moved here after retiring after more than 40 years ago as a teacher and coach in Southern California.

The game is played like tennis but on a smaller court, and it is easier to learn, he said, adding that it is low impact while providing great exercise.

“It’s kind of like playing ping-pong,” Hodges said. “Except you can stand on the table.”

Hodges said the game can be played anywhere — empty tennis courts (using the tennis nets), driveways, low-traffic cul-de-sacs — pretty much any hard surface where a 20- by 40-foot court, the same size as badminton, can be set up.

“I’ve found several places which offer courts, but all of them are private establishments with fees attached,” Hodges said. “We want to be able to have pickleball played so everyone can have fun without having to pay fees.”

Melanie Okamoto of the Parks and Recreation said there will be loaner equipment available. Participants should wear court or tennis shoes and bring their own water.

Hodges said pickleball is played a lot in Kona on the Big Island and Honolulu on Oahu, and getting started on Maui.

Info: 634-4049

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