Up to 25 people have given a fast-growing sport a try on the Cabrillo High School blacktop throughout the summer – a sport that looks similar to tennis and badminton but played with a paddle and a perforated plastic ball.
That sport is pickleball.
Cabrillo High varsity baseball head coach Jonathan Osborne said he first had the idea of expanding on pickleball opportunities five years ago while teaching it during one of his high school P.E. classes, with a little help from his his father, John Osborne.
“My dad has been playing pickleball for a long time. He’s 82. He told me years ago that I should start doing pickleball in my P.E. class,” the younger Osborne said. “So us sons have to listen to our dads and follow our parents’ lead. So I said, ‘We’ll give it a shot.’
"It’s now evolved with us getting some pickleball courts painted out here.”
Now, residents in the Lompoc Valley, along with a visitor from Canada, have converged onto the CHS blacktop to hit the ball past the net during the summer. Osborne has taught the class since June.
“It’s kind of a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton,” Osborne said.
Pickleball has grown in popularity on the Central Coast with classes offered in Santa Maria, Buellton, Nipomo, Santa Barbara and now the Lompoc Valley. The sport is immensely popular across the nation. According to the website www.usapa.org, pickleball has nearly 4,000 different locations to play and is offered at different community centers and YMCA facilities. Additionally, the sport has gained popularity outside of America in nations like Canada and India according to the USA Pickleball Association website.
While pickleball has similarities to the aforementioned court sports, the court is relatively shorter for games. Osborne pointed out that scoring must come from serving.
“Some of the things are similar to tennis in regards to serving. You have to serve in line and serve it into a service box. And you have to serve it cross court to the service box. Scoring is a little bit different, though, because you have to score when you’re serving and serving only,” Osborne said.
Another notable rule Osborne pointed out is that players can’t cross the non-volley zone – better known as “The Kitchen” in pickleball terms. The zone is the yellow line that provides a gap between the net and the line.
“It means exactly what it is: The non-volley zone. You cannot go inside that space and volley. Got to stay out of the kitchen,” said Osborne, who further explained how pickleball players can’t stick their foot out of the zone but can lean over to counter the ball with both feet nowhere near the non-volley zone.
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Any player who ends up crossing “The Kitchen” results in a fault.
The net is not as high as in tennis or badminton. It instead sits close to the ground. The court measures at 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. Court lines are two inches wide.
And unlike tennis, double bounces are involved in pickleball. Following the serve, each player must perform at least one ground-stroke, prior to volleying the ball (otherwise known as hitting it out of the air).
Bruce Taylor has been with Osborne’s pickleball class since it first started. He uses the sport to stay active with his fiancée.
“I’m at the stage in my life where I can’t do tennis. It’s too intense, physically,” Taylor said. “My fiancée and I are really enjoying it. We’re trying to get more people involved in it. It’s been good exercise.”
Osborne’s class also had a visitor from north of the border throughout the summer: Shirley Persson from British Columbia, who was visiting her aunt in Vandenberg Village and decided to come out and hit the ball over the net. Persson, who lives near Vancouver, says the sport has popularity in her home region.
“We have built-in pickleball courts and we play indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer,” said Persson, who adds she has traveled to Santa Maria to play. “I’m glad to have a group out here to play with. Exercise is really important. It’s a good game, mentally. I’ve gotten more addicted to pickleball.”
Osborne has a desire to continue teaching the sport and help watch its growth in the community.
“Our goal is to maybe, when this session is over, is to check with this group and see what they want to do. If they want to continue to go then by all means, we’ll continue to go. If they want to take a break, we’ll take one. But I would like to go into September and October,” Osborne said. “But we would just have to find a place where we’ll be able to play (in the fall months).”
Overall, Osborne is enjoying the sights, sounds and enthusiasm for the sport.
“It seems to me that these people are having a great time,” Osborne said.