LIHUE — Roy and Barbara Miyake were happy Monday, their paddles clicking at the perforated plastic balls at the Lihue tennis courts adjacent to the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School.
“They’re happy people,” said Aaron Uyeda of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “They come to play almost every Monday, now that we have a place in Lihue.”
Pickleball enthusiasts play from 4:30 p.m. every Monday on the recently-striped Lihue tennis courts.
“We play until the sun goes down,” Roy said. “Right now, it’s the seabird fledging season so we can’t turn on the lights so we play until no can see. We wanted more times, but the tennis court is a popular place, so we are just happy we have this.”
Lori Uyeda said a lot of the players come after work and get in play under the restricted no-light condition.
“People were saying there weren’t that many pickle ball players,” Lori said. “But there are quite a few of us, and there are facilities all over the place. We’re happy we have a place in Lihue because a lot of players come right after work. Having a place in Lihue gives us a little more playing time before the sun goes down.”
Aaron said pickleball, through the efforts of volunteer ambassador Jack Hodges, is a growing sport on the island.
“Jim and Judy Honda just came back from the Sin City tournament (held in September in Las Vegas, Nevada) with a gold medal in the 60-plus Mixed Division,” Aaron said. “Melanie Okamoto, the county’s senior activities coordinator, also went to the tournament and partnering with Judy Honda, finished with a bronze medal in the 50-59 division.”
Okamoto said her husband Chris was also among the four Kauai pickleball players entered in the tournament.
“He was playing, but because of the weather, the men’s play was suspended,” Okamoto said. “He was doing pretty good before the weather turned bad.”
Okamoto said the upside of the tournament was that a lot of the players participating were excited to hear about the pickleball tournament being hosted on Kauai later in the year.
“They like playing here,” Okamoto said. “A lot of players I spoke with are already booking their flights and accommodations for this year’s tournament. This is good because our last year’s tournament, the island’s first, attracted a lot of people from around the state and the mainland. We’ll have even more this year.”
Roy said it’s easy for people to play pickle ball because the paddles are easy to pack in luggage.
“We have a lot of people visiting who come to the pickleball sites to play,” Roy said. “They follow the sport through the pickleball Kauai website and show up to play.”
Pickleball sites on Kauai include the newly-added Lihue tennis courts, the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, the Hanapepe tennis courts, the Princeville Emmalani Park, the Kauai Christian Fellowship Center on the Poipu by pass road, and more.