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Paulik picks pickle play

New Zealand’s fastest-growing racket sport has made its debut in Wairarapa.

Last Wednesday, 22 people attended the first session of the region’s new social pickleball league – held at the badminton courts at the Masterton War Memorial Stadium on Dixon St, Masterton.

Though several attendees had no prior sporting experience, they picked up the rules of the game – a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong – almost right away: and excitedly signed up for the next session.

Though pickleball is new to Wairarapa, it has exploded in popularity throughout the world in the last few years – with 4.8 million players in the US alone.

Originally devised in the 1960s to help suburban families relieve holiday boredom, the sport is commonly played with paddles, a perforated plastic ball and a 3ft [0.9m] net – and has been embraced as a more accessible alternative to other racket sports.

In New Zealand, pickleball has become a highly popular social passtime and is estimated to be the fastest expanding racket sport: With 48 clubs nationwide [stretching from Kerikeri to Gore] and its own governing body, the Pickleball New Zealand Association.

The new Wairarapa league was set up by long-time tennis coach Cilla Paulik and Trust House Recreation Centre venue manager Nikki Roud: Who became inspired after attending the inaugural Wairarapa Senior Regional Games in March.

At the games, Pickleball was offered as one of the “taster” sports for attendees to try out – and received an enthusiastic response.

The two women had a meeting “just before the school holidays” – and, within two weeks, had booked the space, hired gear from Pickleball Wellington, and organised radio and social media advertising.

“We decided just to go for it. We jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly!” Roud said.

“Pickleball is played at other Belgravia Leisure venues around the country, and it does really well. There’s a huge buzz about pickleball in New Zealand, and we thought it would be a great fit in Wairarapa.

“It’s a fun, low-impact sport, which appeals to a wide variety of people.”

The invention of pickleball is credited to Americans Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, who challenged their families, bored during their summer holiday, to create a new game to entertain themselves – using ping pong paddles, a wiffle ball, and a badminton net.

Several theories exist as to the origin of the name – including that the sport was named for Pickles, the Pritchards’ family dog.

Rules were eventually established: All serves are underarm, the ball must bounce once on each side of the court before being returned, you cannot volley while standing in the “kitchen zone” [7ft from the net], and you can only win points on your turn to serve. The first player or team to score 11 points wins.

Paulik said pickleball is suitable for all ages and abilities – and is less demanding than tennis, which can be “quite technical” and requires a high level of athletic ability.

“You don’t need to have played a racket sport before to pick it up. It’s played on a smaller court, and the ball doesn’t bounce as high, and the rules are easy to get your head around.

“You can go at a slower pace at first – but the game gets pretty fast the more advanced you get.”

New Wairarapa league player Samantha Sharif, originally a member of the “extremely popular” Kapiti club, said pickleball was a “very social game” – with plenty of opportunities to connect with players elsewhere in the country.

“Pickleball New Zealand has been good at organising friendly tournaments between clubs – so there are a lot of opportunities for people to play competitively and get involved.

“Eventually, we’re hoping to meet up with the clubs in Manawatu and Central Hawke’s Bay and have some games.”

    The Wairarapa league meets each Wednesday from 9.30am to 11.30am. Entry is $5 per person.


  1. Pickleball is addictive… After the first hit, you’re thinking ‘i can do this,??!!!.. Hahaha,..you are now hooked line and sinker. No turning back now.

  2. Fantastic to see, I’d love to join in , Playing in HB as often as I can.
    Brilliant game

Comments are closed.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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