Dave McNeill is on the courts anywhere from five to six days a week — but he’s not playing tennis or badminton.
McNeill is part of a growing population on Vancouver Island who are picking up a paddle and playing pickleball on local courts.
Pickleball, which originated in Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965, is a raquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, in which two to four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball (similar to a wiffle ball) over a net. Pickleball players play on badminton-sized courts both indoors and outdoors.
McNeill, a 69-year-old Victoria resident, picked up a paddle six years ago when a mutual friend introduced him to the sport and he’s been addicted ever since.
Over the years, he has improved his skills, practicing five to six times a week at Tolmie Park, playing competitively and with friends for fun.
Most recently, McNeill competed in a pickleball tournament at the Pearkes Recreation Centre last month.
“It’s really good exercise. It’s really fun, we have great rallies and the friendships, that’s a big part of it,” said McNeill, adding there are many levels to pickleball ranging from recreational playing to tournaments that people can compete in.
According to McNeill, pickleball has taken off in Greater Victoria, with people young and old taking up the sport. Pickleball can be played at any level, it’s not as hard to learn and you don’t have to be as mobile as you would playing tennis, he added.
“It’s more strategic. A lot of your best shots don’t have to do with power, but placing the ball. Many people have the ability to do that where they can’t play some of the other sports as competitively as they once did,” he said, adding a few schools such as Royal Oak Middle School have introduced the sport to students as well.
“People are starting to play it more here . . . A lot of people are saying this beats going to the gym or running all the time.”
Many groups across the region are playing indoors at the James Bay Community School, at the Cedar Hill, Pearkes or Esquimalt recreation centres or outdoors at Carnarvon Park, Kings Road Park or Esquimalt High School.
However, McNeill said there needs to be more space to play pickleball, noting he hopes the City of Victoria will put in a court at Topaz Park.
Victorians can try the sport at drop-in sessions on Tuesday and Thursdays at the Victoria Curling Club (1952 Quadra St.) from 9 a.m. until noon. The cost is $5 and people who have never played can also receive instruction as well.
For more information on where to play in Greater Victoria visit victoriapickleball.org.