Pickleball gaining local popularity in Seal Beach

Four pickleball courts can fit in the space of one tennis court. Pictured above are pickleball players at the Seal Beach Tennis Center on Tuesday morning, Nov. 3. Courtesy photo

If you close your eyes, the sound of a racket striking a plastic pickleball sounds rather like the impact of a racket striking a tennis ball.

District Three City Councilman Michael Varipapa—who suggested this subject for an article—compared pickleball to ping-pong during a Monday, Oct. 23, tour of the Seal Beach Tennis Center.

Pickleball appears to be gaining a following in Seal Beach, particularly at the Tennis Center. Three tennis courts have been converted to 12 pickleball courts. A single tennis court can be easily converted into four pickleball courts, according to Seal Beach Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey.

In a Nov. 2 email to the Sun, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos wrote that tennis club membership had tripled since the pandemic hit.

Pickleball membership—$45 for pickleball players—includes access to the gym, according to a Tennis Center flyer. Kelsey later said gym access currently allows two people at a time with reservations.

Pickleball courts were recently added to Marina Drive park.

“I am very excited to see that Seal Beach converted one tennis court at Marina Community Park,” wrote Anne Coyne in a recent email to the Sun.

“This is very beneficial for the community as this will be a social hub for pickleball on the weekends. It will help people connect and get to know their neighbors, esp. in times of Covid,” wrote Anne Coyne in a recent email to the Sun.

During a recent tour of the Tennis Center, Councilman Varipapa said pickleball allowed people to socialize while practicing social distancing.

The center isn’t the only place to play in Seal Beach—in addition to the Aim Center and Marina Park, there are pickleball courts in Leisure World. (The Sun reported their installation in 2018.)

Brenda Danielson, the SBTC’s tennis professional, confirmed that the sport is popular with seniors. According to Danielson, knee and shoulder issues aren’t a problem for pickleball players. (For one thing, underhand serves are allowed in pickleball.)

Danielson said tennis players sometimes move to pickleball as they get older. “Pickleball is a racquet sport and tennis players adapt to the game quickly. As we all get older, many tennis players knees and shoulders begin to hurt,” Danielson wrote in a recent email.

“Pickleball requires less movement as the pickleball court is 20’ wide compared to a tennis court that is 36’ wide for doubles. Pickleball brings the same environment of exercise and socializing as tennis does which is a wonderful aspect of the game,” she wrote.

According to Danielson, there are currently 92 pickleball members at the Tennis Center. There are 68 tennis members at the center.

She reported there are 600-800 pickleball players at the Tennis Center each month. “That can be one person playing 3-5 days per week,” she wrote.

“We had a National Sanctioned Pickleball tournament scheduled for November 13-15 this year but we just made the decision to cancel it due to covid-19,” Danielson wrote.

“It’s unfortunate but we look forward to having it in November 2021. Once the state directives loosen we [will] often have Pickleburger Round Robins at the SBTC about 6 times per year,” Danielson wrote.

“I planned to start a league at the SBTC this Fall, but again, due to covid-19 we had to postpone starting it. Hopefully we will have it running in Spring/Summer 2021,” she wrote.

For many players, the primary attraction of the game is that it’s simply fun. It is also inexpensive.

“I started playing PB because it looked like a fun sport as I used to play tennis,” wrote Seal Beach resident Coyne.

“I discovered it is not only fun, it is also very social and is easy to play if you just show up,” Coyne wrote. 

“I took some basic lessons and then I found the Aim Sports Group and would drop in and play,” Coyne wrote.

The Aim Sports Group is a Seal Beach business.

“Each game lasts about 20 minutes and I am fine after playing 3 games. It makes it very accessible and easy to get some exercise, have fun and meet new players. One of the gifts of pickleball is that people take their racquets when they travel. It is easy to look up courts in the area you are visiting and drop in and find a group to play with. If one uses Meet-up or Googles the local town they will be visiting there usually are drop in groups you can join,” Coyne wrote.

“Case in point, I went out to practice my serves yesterday and these 3 friendly women said, ‘Hey, our fourth person didn’t show up, can you play with us?’ After an afternoon of fun, friendly play I left feeling much more connected to my community and that I just made 3 new friends,” Coyne wrote.

Sports enthusiasts: Let us know how you’re having fun and staying active. Email editor@sunnews.org.