KALAHEO — Philip Eliana, limited to just a win during last week’s Aloha State Games Senior Olympics Pickleball tournament, started his climb to medalist play when he brought a pen and notebook to the clinic Sunday at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
The clinic was prefaced with social play where pickleball enthusiasts had an opportunity to warm up before Scott Moore, the reigning national senior pickleball champion in singles, doubles and mixed doubles who hosted a clinic to talk about the growing sport.
Eliana was engrossed in taking notes as Moore spoke about paddle selections before diving into techniques used on the court during play.
“Scott is America’s best, and Kauai is lucky to have him visiting,” said Jack Hodges, the U.S. Pickleball Association Hawaii ambassador. “He does free clinics around the world and has been very instrumental in starting the game in Japan where he lived and had his kids.”
Melanie Okamoto, earning a bronze medal during the Senior Olympics tournament, and a coordinator with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said Moore was a good speaker and came here after hosting several clinics on Oahu.
“I just got back from the Kamehameha Song Festival,” Okamoto said. “Scott was there hosting several clinics, but they did not have the turnout like we did. We have about a hundred people here. I like having clinics and workshops because it teaches people about the game.”
One participant said she was glad she attended because she knew nothing about pickleball, but after hearing Moore speak was seriously considering getting a paddle.
Hodges, after introducing the All Saints’ Gym in Kapaa as the sixth pickleball venue on the island, said Kauai is now “the hub of pickleball in the state” with more players — estimated at nearly 250 resident players island-wide — actively involved than any other island.
Hodges said he’s also kept track of visitors to the island who drop in on pickleball games.
“We have been playing 10 months now,” Hodges said. “Off-island visitors now total 221 in that period of time.”
Pickleball was started in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, when Congressmen Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum returned home from a game of golf and found their kids bored and restless.
The men wanted to create a game that would engage the young people through the summer, would be challenging but still accessible.
The kids got table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball, and after lowering the net on their badminton court, created a game that both kids and adults fell in love with.