By Katie Terou

SYV Star Intern

The Santa Ynez Valley’s pickleball club has been playing at a public gym for nearly three years, but increased interest in the sport has locals pushing for the construction of community courts.

The group’s members vary in age, gender and ability. David Gay, a club representative, said that the club is open to people with any amount of experience with the sport. 

“No matter what your level is, you can go and play,” Gay said.

Pickleball is a paddle sport for all ages and skill levels that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It is played as doubles or singles, both indoors or outdoors, on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net, paddles and a plastic ball with holes.

The local club meets twice a week at Jonata gym in Buellton. They play for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. Beginners are also welcomed, and members are eager to introduce newcomers to the sport. 

“It is a little intimidating when you go there and everyone else is hitting the ball all over the place and you don’t even know how to keep score, so we try to be aware of that and work with them one-on-one,” Gay explained.  

Pickleball has become increasingly popular in the valley. Not only is it a good form of exercise for all age groups, but it provides opportunities to socialize with people who also enjoy the sport, he added. Joan Reden, another pickleball club representative, described the light-heartedness of the game and the pickleball community.

“You play for points and you play to win, but there is so much laughing and so much camaraderie, and it’s just fun,” she said. 

However, the Jonata gym has limited availability, and nearby cities have already built community courts. Gay noted that Santa Barbara has eight dedicated pickleball courts that are very popular. 

“I’ll go there and there will be, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, 30 to 40 people playing and maybe no one playing tennis,” Gay said.

Building community courts would be beneficial for the community but expensive. The best way to get the funding, according to Gay and Reden, is to work with the Solvang Parks and Recreation Department to include it in their budget. 

Gays says that the public needs to express interest in the project so the city can see that the courts would be enjoyed by the community. He encourages people to attend City Council meetings to show their support. 

“If they built the pickleball courts, they would get used a lot,” Gay said. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the local pickleball club can visit the Santa Ynez Valley Pickleball Facebook page.