Over 40 pickleball players attended the grand opening of six newly refurbished courts at San Juan School on Aug. 11.
“You’ll find that pickleballers will always be supporting other pickleballers,” Pacific Grove resident Ken Riddleberger said.
Riddleberger said the location will allow children to be introduced to the growing sport at an early age. He began playing pickleball 10 months ago when a friend introduced him to it and invited him to play.
“He got me going and once I played one time it was too addicting to stop,” Riddleberger said.
A member of the Monterey Bay Pickleball Club, Riddleberger said the only permanent courts in the tri-county area are in Santa Cruz and now San Juan Bautista.
“I don’t think any pickleballer minds sharing courts with tennis players, but then you just avoid that sort of conflict because you have only pickleball here,” Riddleberger said.
San Juan-Aromas Tennis & Fitness was awarded $5,000 from the San Juan Bautista City Council on July 17 to replace the two tennis courts with the pickleball courts.
For others, like San Juan Bautista resident Planning Commission chairwoman Darlene Boyd, it was their first time playing the sport. Boyd said she attended because she knows a lot of people who are involved in it, it was in town, and her husband, Vice Mayor John Freeman, talked her into attending.
“I think this is going to be a good thing for the community,” Boyd said. “Anything that we can bring here to stimulate people to get up and exercise and have fun is a good thing.”
Newcomers were walked through of the rules and the process of play, while the more experienced attendees began playing each other.
Chris Yoder, ambassador for the San Juan Bautista Pickleball Club, said pickleball is a mixture of ping pong, tennis, and badminton. The paddles are bigger than those used in ping pong, but smaller than tennis racquets. Pickleball paddles can be made from wood or lightweight composite materials like aluminum and graphite. The ball is plastic with several holes in it, similar to a wiffle ball, so it doesn’t travel too fast.
The courts are 40 feet long by 20 feet wide with the same design as a tennis court.
“It’s really user-friendly,” Yoder said. “It’s easy to learn the sport. I can teach you in five minutes.”
Players signed a waiver and were asked for a $2 donation for court maintenance.
Refreshments and snacks were also on hand, and the grand opening culminated in a raffle with a portable net system as the prize.
Yoder said there will be scheduled playdates where he and his wife, Jennifer Watsho-Yoder, will facilitate play and lead drills. They ask for $2 donations at the events.
Some paddles will be available for use, but Yoder advises new players to invest in their own. He said the paddles range from $20 to over $100.
“We’re really excited to have the place open and have players come out and find out about it and meet some new people,” Yoder said.