Tell Hawke's Bay pickleball player Jill Norman her sport reminds one of their padder tennis days at primary school and you will get a quick response.

"In pickleball the ball doesn't bounce like a tennis ball. That's why it is much better ... a lot more fun."

One of seven Hawke's Bay players who will compete in the inaugural New Zealand Pickleball Nationals in Rotorua this weekend, Norman said pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the United States, is growing in popularity in Hawke's Bay.

"It is the sport for those who don't play sport. But it can also be very competitive."


"It is so addictive. You just want to keep playing ... we played for seven and a half hours one day when we were in Aussie and you can't do that if it is hard-out physical," Norman explained.

Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball similar to a wiffle ball over a net. Indoor or outdoor courts, similar in dimension to a badminton court are used but the net is placed at a similar height to a tennis net.

The sport started in the United States in 1965. It has been in New Zealand since July 2015 and Hawke's Bay since December last year.

A former B grader at squash, Norman is tipped to do the best of the Bay contingent in Rotorua with her Rotorua doubles and mixed doubles partners. With 60 players entered for the nationals, only open events will be played but Norman expects age groups to be introduced in the future.

Her husband, 68-year-old Steve Norman, will be the oldest of the Bay contingent and one of the oldest players at the nationals.

"My main sporting interest since leaving school has been watching motorsport on television. In the nine months I have been playing pickleball I've lost eight kilograms ... I've got a more balanced life," Steve explained.

"While I'm not as addicted as Jill, who can play up to four days a week, or competitive I like the fun aspect. Although indoor courts are easier on the body I enjoy the outdoor courts more. Because I'm a bit older the eyesight isn't as good indoors under the artificial light," he added.

The youngest of the Bay contingent, 14-year-old Karamu High School Year 9 student Janine De Wit, was introduced to pickleball by her aunty during a trip to Canada last year.


"I liked it so much I chased it up when I returned to New Zealand. I used to play netball and I used to do swimming but now pickleball is my No 1 and only sport," De Wit said.

She enjoys the family aspect and will play with her mother Amanda in the doubles at the nationals. De Wit will play with Steve Norman in the mixed doubles.

"I'm going to nationals for the experience. It would be nice to get a placing but I just want to see how it goes. If I enjoy the experience I will go back again," De Wit added.

Other Bay players who will be in action at the nationals are Phil Fendall, Kim Alves and Norm Hard.

One of pickleball's key variations to tennis and padder tennis is the non-volley zone close to the net on either side. A player may enter the non-volley zone to play a ball which bounces and may stay there to play balls that bounce.

The player must exit the non-volley zone before playing a volley.

Free open days for those wanting to give pickleball a go will be staged at Taradale's Pettigrew-Green Arena on October 11 and October 13 from 10am to 12noon. Court shoes are required and everything else is supplied.