Justin Samra isn’t your typical pickleballer.
The 18-year-old is about 45 years younger than most active pickleball athletes in Saanich, but he’s quickly learned that age is just a number when it comes to playing a competitive sport with mostly seniors.
“You can’t underestimate them. A lot of them are still better than me. I’ve got the young legs on them – other than that they’ve got all the skill,” Samra says. “A lot of the older players play the game way smarter – they get me running pretty good.”
Pickleball – if you’ve never heard of it – amalgamates elements and rules of tennis, badminton, ping pong and squash into a fun and easy sport to learn and play, with a focus on co-ordination, control and patience.
“Essentially the sport started, from what I understand on Bainbridge Island. It was started by a family that wanted a new game to play so they set up a badminton net in the backyard, grabbed ping pong paddles and a whiffle ball, took a bunch of different rules and they came up with this sport,” says Sadeep Keram, recreation programmer at Pearkes Recreation Centre.
Players on either side of a net, which hangs low to the ground, use oversized paddles to volley a whiffle ball back and forth on a badminton-sized court. The first side to score 11 points wins.
“It’s a little bit slower paced than tennis, but you’ve still got to be quick with your reactions,” Samra says.
Keram says that while it’s mostly seniors who’ve pick up the sport that Saanich has offered for a number of years, it’s played regularly during parks and rec kids camps because it’s such a hit. “They enjoy it immensely,” he says.
Pearkes arena this weekend (June 9 and 10) hosts the third annual Pickleball Tournament. Some 150 players from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and Washington State will congregate in Saanich to compete in the recreational event.
While registration is full, both days’ events are free and open to the public to get a taste of pickleball. There are also free workshops both days of the tournament at 12:20 p.m. for newbies to try out the sport.
Keram says the amateur pickleballers hope to attract a national level tournament to Victoria.
“Our goal is to really promote this sport here in Victoria, because we think that there’s a fairly good population base here that would be interested in a sport like this,” he says.
For information on where you can play drop-in pickleball in Greater Victoria or for more on the pickleball tournament, visit victoriapickleball.blogspot.ca.