More than 210 competitors from around the country came to Camano this past weekend for four days of pickleball.
The Camano Cup tournament, hosted by Camano Pickleball Club, was held from Aug. 19-22, with medals and trophies awarded in several categories and divisions.
“It’s great to see this community of players growing,” said Gordy Holmes, a Camano Pickleball Club member.
The event is likely the largest tournament north of Seattle, he said. Participants came from as far away as Florida.
Interest in the tournament wasn’t a surprise.
Pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in America for several years. In the past five years, pickleball participation grew by more than 7%, according to the Sport & Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball was invented by Washington congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell in 1965 at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island and has since spread worldwide.
Players said the sport, which employs elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, is increasingly popular largely because it is easy to learn, affordable and very social. The sport uses a low net, paddles and wiffleball-like ball, and can be played at most ages.
“It doesn’t cost a lot to get started, just a $39 paddle and a good pair of shoes,” said Barbara Parobec, Camano Pickleball Club and the tournament director.
In 2017, a small group of about a dozen regular pickleball players started offering clinics on Camano to introduce more people to the sport. The effort has since grown into the Camano Pickleball Club, which boasts more than 200 members.
“The growth in the sport here has been a little shocking,” Holmes said. “We average about six or seven new players each week.”
The club uses the tennis and pickleball courts next to the Camano Multi Purpose Center and Island County offices at 141 N. East Camano Drive. Information: camanopickleball.com.
“People love the sport because it’s not all about competition; it’s about community,” Holmes said. “When you play against someone, by the end of a match you know them. It’s a social thing.”
Parobec and her husband Maurice Parobec, the Camano Pickleball Club pro and an instructor, have been playing for about 12 years in Washington and in Arizona. The Stanwood couple help lead introductory classes for beginners and anyone interested in learning about pickleball.
“It’s the perfect sport for retired people, but we’re seeing more and more young people playing, which is great," Barbara Parobec said.
The club members said starting a local youth pickleball program may be the next step, in addition to working with area governments to build more courts.
“It’s a sport that has something for everyone,” Barbara Parobec said. “It keeps you fit, you meet people, it’s competitive and it’s just fun.”