Hundreds of pickleball enthusiasts are in Kelowna this weekend to compete in the Canadian championships.
“This is the largest outdoor pickleball facility in Canada,” said Kelowna Pickleball president Bryan Jackson, at the tournament, which is being held at Parkinson Recreation Centre.
Popularity of the sport continues to grow every year, especially among baby boomers who are looking to stay in shape, said Jackson.
“It’s certainly a lot easier to play than tennis,” he said. “It’s a way of getting out for some reasonably vigorous activity, and it’s very social as well.”
The pickleball court is a quarter the size of a tennis court, and it is played with a smaller paddle and a plastic wiffle ball.
Registration for this weekend’s third annual tournament is up from last year, at 440 players from all over North America.
Of the 440 players, less than 100 of them are from the Okanagan, said Jackson.
“It’s certainly a huge tourism draw for the week before and even the week after,” he said.
Scott Moore, a national pickleball champion, came to the tournament from Colorado to play in the men’s singles category.
“I was attracted first of all by the cherries – I heard the cherries were out of this world,” he said.
Moore, 55, has been playing pickleball for five years, and has been playing competitively for the last three and a half years.
“I have a lot of Canadian friends . . . and they’re all fabulous people that keep telling me what a great tournament this is, so I told them someday I’ll come, and they held me to that, so here I am,” he said.
Moore has travelled around the world playing pickleball and said he enjoys the social, competitive and intellectually challenging parts of the game.
“It’s just the best sport that’s ever been created,” he said. “I feel like it keeps me sharp.”
Jennifer Lucore, from San Diego, has been coming to the tournament in Kelowna since its inception.
“I love it, it’s a great venue,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place, a beautiful town; I’m happy to be here.”
Lucore, 50, has been playing pickleball competitively since 2010.
This weekend she is competing in the women’s doubles category with teammate Alex Hamner.
“I have 10 Canadian national championships and I have 16 United States championships, so I’ve been around,” she said. “It’s always fun to travel and play pickleball.”
The pickleball tournament continues today and tomorrow at Parkinson Recreation Centre.