Port Orange citizens flocked to the Adult Center for a morning of competitive pickleball.
If Saturday’s inaugural tournament was any indication, pickleball is becoming a Port Orange phenomenon.
Seven men's, six women's and six mixed teams enjoyed a day-long event that celebrated the town’s beloved new sport — which can be described as a hybrid between tennis and badminton. It's played with paddles and wiffle balls, making it relatively affordable.
After realizing tennis courts at the Port Orange Adult Center weren’t being used often, residents clamored for city council to refurbish them into pickleball courts instead.
$15,000 later, it became a reality.
“Our number one goal in life is to introduce pickleball to different communities,” - Harold Wheeler, USA Pickleball ambassador and Port Orange resident
Wheeler is one of about 1,000 USAPA ambassadors across the country. He knows a lot about the history of the sport, noting its inception in the 1960’s in Bremerton, Washington and the sport’s most recent achievement: the 2017 USA Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida having over 20,000 people in attendance.
It was a more modest turnout on Saturday, but the refurbished courts and the players on them have a lot of personality. There’s a sign that notes “Pickleball play only, NO rollerblades or skateboards,” and the team of Jay Phillips and Scott Furman wore bright green shirts with slogans like “size matters” and “state of mind.”
“Harold [Wheeler] came up to us about a year or so ago because he wanted pickleball in Port Orange,” said Jennifer Sisk, athletics superintendent for Port Orange parks and recreation. “Pickleball is coming from up north and it’s getting more popular down here. [City] council got on board and helped us build these pickleball courts, and so we decided to put this on for them.”
Pickleball has over six million players nationwide, and based on the words of those who played on Saturday, that number will just keep growing.
“Pickleball is really a great sport and Port Orange is a great little town,” Phillips said. “I’m glad we were able to come out because you make so many good friends and it’s such a great community.”