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Tuesday Chat with Team Strava: The Rise of Pickleball

Moderator Moderator

Now that summer is here, it's time to put the nets up & bring the paddles out! Pickleball has been one of the fastest growing sports in the last few years. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport, Pickleball is a racket sport that combines the elements of ping pong, tennis, and badminton.


Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited with creating pickleball right from Joel’s backyard in 1965. Their intention was to create a game that the entire family could play. It's safe to say their idea has become a reality. By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed, and in 1972, the first corporation was formed to protect the creation of the sport. 

During the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. David Lester was crowned the first champion of the Men’s Singles tournament.

So how does this sport name become Pickleball of all things? Joel Prichards wife, Joan, says the name came from the term “pickle boat.” A pickle boat is the last boat to finish a race. In rowing, the pickle boat is usually made up of leftover oarsmen from other teams. Joan remarked how pickleball was made up of the leftovers of other sports. Gradually the inventors started calling the game “pickle ball” and the name stuck. 


Fast forward to today, the sport has seen an astronomical growth rate. There are 36.5 million pickleball players in the United States according to data released in January 2023 by the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP). Pickleball participation has grown an average of 158.6% over the last 3 years according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).

Now that you’ve read about the history & growth of the sport, I’m sure you’re ready to play. All you need is a paddle, ball, and a court. The flat paddle comes in various sizes & thickness to accommodate the style of the player however the paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches.


The ball used in pickleball is plastic and perforated with anywhere from 26 to 40 holes, similar to a wiffle ball. The holes create more drag and are a lot lighter and easier to hit than tennis balls. They’re also responsible for the slightly slower pace of the game. As far as where to play, you can go here and add in the location you would like to play.

I've never played the sport myself, but when learning about the game it made me want to pick up a paddle and give it a swing. I hope this read has made you feel the same.

I also encourage you to record your time playing on the Strava App. Pickleball is now a Supported Sports Type on Strava! You’ll be able to track your time played, heart rate while playing, and more! If you’re looking for friends to play with we have pickleball clubs that’ve been created but you’re always welcome to start your own club for pickleball as well! 

Thanks for reading!




STRAVA | Community Hub Team


Mt. Kenya

Please give your attention to the #Padel community in Europe too. Thanks

Mt. Kenya

Not to be 'the crank' on this, but this seems like a problem in search of a solution. Is there really a community of Pickleballers that have been looking for a way to track their activites? The line between recreation and sport continues to blurr to the point of obscurity (and, yes, I probably should have prefaced this with 'in my humble opinion')


What about Padel? There are more people playing/watching Padel than pickleball worldwide... How does prioritization work on your roadmap for adding sports? Easy implementation/developing? For sure not popularity, what a shame...

Is Padel and Pickleball actually the same? I totally get confused.

Thank you. But agree to you. Heard of paddle way before, but marketing hype machine made Pickleball much "louder" in media as a trend.