You don't step "into the kitchen" and there's a "divorce line" but, rest assured, you don't have to draw any lines outside this court of contention any time soon.

That's because you're entering the fun-filled domain of pickleball.

"I like to call it through the middle, solves the riddle," says a grinning Jeremy Pearson of a code that combines facets of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

"Pickleball is fantastic and it's addictive," says Pearson. "It's cheap to get a paddle so it's cost of entry is low, it's social and it's engaging."

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The Havelock North accountant is among a rampant Hawke's Bay contingent of players who will compete at a tournament in Rotorua on October 5-6.

"I like it because it's a sport for all ages so it's inter-generational. You have people in their 70s mingling with people of my age and I've got three kids — 12, 10 and 8," says the 45-year-old.

Pickleball Hawke's Bay has invited one of only two qualified coaches in New Zealand, Paul Cubitt, of Kerikeri, to conduct workshops for 24 enthusiasts at the HB Regional Sports Park this Saturday.

The indoor/outdoor code isn't bogged down with pedantic and complicated rules. While it's easy for beginners to grasp it can easily evolve into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players on a badminton-sized court with a moderately modified tennis net.

Doubles and singles players paddle a perforated plastic ball from one end to another.

Jeremy Pearson says the G forces from playing pickleball is considerably lower in intensity than that of lawn tennis. Photo / Warren Buckland
Jeremy Pearson says the G forces from playing pickleball is considerably lower in intensity than that of lawn tennis. Photo / Warren Buckland

According to internet literature, it was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington, in the United States.

Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum conjured the concept to help their children fend off boredom during summer. It spread like a virus, crossing the American boundary to Canada and Pearson reckons 3 million play it in the US alone. It's catching on in the European and Asian continents.

Jill and Steve Norman, of Hastings, who are on a pickleball tour of the US, gave the code a lifeline here two years ago. It's finding traction with families and the plan is to spread the love through schools.

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"It's something you want to push your kids into because they'll want to do it themselves," says Pearson, hoping to have a family night once a week. "It's much easier to get your kids to do this then, say, piano lessons, if they hate it."

The games are played at myriad venues, including the old Sylvan Rd netball courts in Hastings, the Meeanee Indoor Centre and in Waipukurau.

So why call it pickleball?

One story lends credence to Pritchard's wife, Joan, who had found "the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats".

McCallum believes the game was officially named after the Pritchards' dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.

An avid lawn tennis player, Pearson says it became too much for his body so the lower impact aspect of pickleball had struck a chord with him, enabling him to pick a ball that travelled about one-third the speed of one in lawn tennis.

"Like playing tennis, the G forces on your body can be 10 times your weight and, maybe, pickleball's half that," he says, revealing his orthopaedic surgeon feels lawn tennis is too much.

"Why I love it is because I get 90 per cent of tennis without the stress on my body."

However, his preoccupation is with children to become more active rather than massaging the buttons of some digital device indoors.

"Rather than being addicted to a screen for four hours a day I'd like to get them outside."

Pearson says the nature of pickleball allows players to pick the trajectory of a ball easily with less co-ordination.

"I can take someone with pickleball and, within an hour, cover the basics but I couldn't do that with [lawn] tennis because it's so complicated."

In the US, he says pickleball is so popular that resthome residents often pick an establishment based on whether it provides the code's facilities.

In Rotorua, he and Angela Brady will be mixed doubles partners — after he's had a cortisone injection in his hip this week — at a tourney that'll beckon more than 100 players.

Jeremy Pearson (left) with Katrina Fowler, Graeme Fowler and Jacqui Blakemore after their mixed doubles spoils in Albany in April. Photo / Supplied
Jeremy Pearson (left) with Katrina Fowler, Graeme Fowler and Jacqui Blakemore after their mixed doubles spoils in Albany in April. Photo / Supplied

Pearson says coaching helps with technique. Brady adds the professionals will say they train as much as they play.

"People think they just get better by attrition but you know when you want to get good at golf you practise around the tee, your chipping and, as Ange put it, actually doing drills," he says, alluding to the "third-shot drop" that allows players enough time to scramble to the "kitchen" area on either side of the net where players can't volley.

"I say, 'I've spent my whole life staying out of the kitchen and now I'm just getting into the kitchen all the time'."

Brady and Pearson are on the board of the code's national body.

They consider themselves privileged to have played against American over-70s champions Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg when they were here for their 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.

"He is a 5.0 player," he says, revealing the rating starts at 3.0 and increases incrementally by 0.5 so anything above 5.0 makes one potentially a semi-professional, if not professional.

The Bay body isn't registered yet but those interested can go to the Pickleball Hawke's Bay Facebook site to find out what the 140 enthusiasts get up to.

Brady says the equipment can be found on the TradeMe site but it cannot be bought in New Zealand sports outlets.

They haven't staged a national tourney but Pickleball New Zealand plans to have one next year.

Brady has no racquet-ball background and wasn't sporty as a youngster but was a ballerina for 13 years. She took up pickleball only 12 months ago and loves it.

"For me it's fun and exercising without even realising you're exercising," she says. "Walking on a treadmill just bores me so this is social and I've met some great friends."

The Presbyterian Support East Coast employee relishes travelling around the country to expose others to the sport and hopes when she visits the US they'll reciprocate.

Jeremy Pearson and Angela Brady are looking forward to the coaching clinic before stamping Hawke's Bay's ascendancy in Rotorua next month. Photo / Warren Buckland
Jeremy Pearson and Angela Brady are looking forward to the coaching clinic before stamping Hawke's Bay's ascendancy in Rotorua next month. Photo / Warren Buckland