Pickleball’s rise came fast with a 'pwhap!'

Snohomish Senior Center member Karen Gahm of Snohomish sends the ball across the net as she was playing a game of pickleball at the Snohomish Boys and Girls Club in Snohomish in june 2022. The senior center along with the Snohomish Pickleball Club presented an exhibition of the sports during a day of fun activities.

SNOHOMISH — When the Mukilteo Everett Pickleball Club formed in 2020, it had 11 members. Since then, membership in the group has ballooned to about 340 people and is an example of how the sport has grown in Snohomish County.
“It takes a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to really get it,” said Nancy Purcell, president of the Mukilteo Everett Pickleball Club. She added that members range in age from 8 to 82 and people enjoy the social aspect of the sport. “People are hungry for it.”
The club plays Mondays at Evergreen Middle School from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at Forest Park from noon to dusk (noon to 2 p.m. is for beginners.).
Pickleball courts can be found in Everett at Garfield Park, Legion Park and Lowell Park in Everett. Purcell said she would like to see a court at Walter E. Hall Park. “Our community is so hungry for courts.”
Pickleball courts are being added to parks throughout the county.
In Monroe, work is underway to increase the number of pickleball courts from two to five at Lake Tye Park and add two new pickleball courts at Sky River Park, said Mike Farrell, the city’s parks and recreation director. He said these should be finished in the fall.
In Snohomish, Pilchuck Park, which has pickleball courts, is currently closed for a larger construction project. City spokeswoman Shari Ireton said in an email that workers are putting the finishing touches on the courts, fields and restrooms. She didn’t provide a date on when the park will re-open.
Pickleball was invented in 1968 on Bainbridge Island, according to USAPickleball.com. Most commonly played as a doubles sport, it’s played with a paddle that is larger than a ping pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racket. It’s a well-paced combination of table tennis, tennis and badminton.
“It’s a great social sport and not as hard on the body as tennis,” said Rick Bowmar, also known as “Pickleball Rick,” who is a Marysville resident and ambassador for USA Pickleball. He described the sport as playing ping pong but imagining being on the table.
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country with 36.5 million players, which ranks behind running and bicycling, said Brandon Mackie, the co-founder of Pickleheads, which is a pickleball court finding website and app.
It’s also now the state’s official sport thanks to legislation passed in 2022 and sponsored by state Sen. John Lovick.
“Pickleball is a ton of fun. The biggest thing going for it is how easy it is to learn,” Mackie said adding pickleball is “a lot more than a sport. It’s a sense of community.”
Bowmar echoed Mackie’s sentiments adding people enjoy pickleball because the court is small and there’s a lot of fun and social interaction.
“It really helps a lot of people who were inactive become active again,” Bowmar said.
The YMCA of Snohomish County offers pickleball at most of its locations.
“It’s all the rage,” said the Mukilteo Y’s director Cynthia Kelly.
At the Mukilteo Y, between 20 and 50 people are play every day, Kelly said. Groups are playing two hours a day on three courts during the summer and then will playing four hours a day when kids return to school.
She said pickleball offers less impact on the body because players are hitting a wiffleball-like ball. Players also benefit from the suspended wood that comprises the floor of the basketball courts and, during the summer months, air conditioning.
Kelly noted that players are sweating and exhausted after they complete a session of pickleball. “They absolutely love it,” she said.

Doug Ramsay photo

David Greenlaw of Monroe reaches down to return the ball over the net while participating in a pickleball session at the Monroe YMCA on Friday, Aug.11. The game can be played both indoors and outdoors.