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Pickle what? Pickleball, now taking place at com. center

6/5/14 | By Josh Davis, Staff Writer

OCEAN PINES– Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in America, is also enjoying a boom at the beach.

The sport recently became an official amenity at the Ocean Pines Community Center, offering indoor drop-in play three days a week, as well as unlimited play on six outdoor courts.

Invented in Washington state in 1965 by future U.S. House of Representatives member Joel Pritchard, Pickleball uses the dimensions and layout of a badminton court as four players hit a whiffle ball with wooden paddles. Rules are similar to tennis.

Frank Creamer and Julie Woulfe direct the Pickleball program at the OPCC.

“It’s a lot like ping pong, it’s a lot like tennis, it’s a lot like badminton – it’s a cross between all of them” said Woulfe. “It’s the fastest-growing sport in America. There are Pickleball tournaments held all across the country that are pretty competitive, and we draw people from this area as well as people in nearby Delaware that drive down 113 to play.”

Woulfe said the sport is popular with seniors because of the smaller court size.

“Pickleball is played 75 percent of the time by retirees,” she said. “Retirees have the time to organize tournaments, spread the word, really make a huge effort to grow the sport, and that’s why it’s growing so fast right now. What’s interesting now is that we also have people in their teens and 20s playing it now as well.”

Ocean Pines began hosting Pickleball games six years ago.

“It started off real slow,” Creamer said. “There were maybe 10 of us and now there are 160 people that play on a regular basis.”

The move in Ocean Pines to becoming an amenity means players can sign up for an annual membership and enjoy unlimited play. Drop-in games have also become popular with traveling visitors.  

Janet Hoover, a Harrisburg, Pa. resident, recently dropped in to play while on vacation in Fenwick.

“This is very similar to home,” she said. “We have a space about this big, three nets and probably about the same number of people, so it’s pretty much like home in a different location.”

Creamer and Woulfe are also helping to organize the Delmarva Dills Beach Blast Pickleball Tournament, held June 7-8 at Indian River High School.

“We’ve got people coming from six different states to play,” Creamer said. “We will have 12 courts set up and we’ll have 100 players coming in to play.”

For information on the tournament email rvfulltimers06@yahoo.com.

For the more casual player, Ocean Pines hosts daily Pickleball games throughout the summer.

“There are people in this country that are very serious about their Pickleball, but here in Ocean Pines the sport is mainly fun and social,” Woulfe said. “It’s an extremely easy sport to learn to play and if you’ve ever picked up any kind of racket I could have you playing a game here in 10 minutes. That’s the best thing about it is it’s so easy to play, and we’ve never taught anybody who didn’t love it.”

For more information e-mail frkcreamer@aol.com or visit www.oceanpines.org/amenities/racquet-sports/pickleball.

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