HANFORD — Pickleball. If you haven’t heard of this game that’s growing in popularity every day, you will.

Last month, Theresa Dias started a Hanford Pickleball page on Facebook and set up a first day meetup.She brought 16 paddles and thought not even that many people would show up.

“About 10 [minutes] to 7 p.m., five or six people showed up and then at 7 p.m., there were people walking from all over,” Dias said. “We had 80 people show up the first night.”

Pickleball was invented in the 1960s and is a combination of badminton, ping-pong and tennis.

The game can be played outdoors or indoors on a badminton-sized court with low net like in tennis. Players use paddles smaller than tennis racquets but bigger then ping-pong paddles to hit a plastic ball back and forth.

Pickleball can be played with singles or doubles. The game typically lasts 15-20 minutes and goes until one side gets 11 points.

According to the American Pickleball Association website, around 3 million people play in the U.S., with the number growing every day.

Dias said she first started playing Pickleball eight years ago in Arizona and has been playing the game in Visalia for the past four years. She said the game is played in every state and is very popular in Las Vegas and resorts all around.

Dias, who taught aerobics in Hanford for 30 years and has always been active, said she began receiving calls from people who asked if she would help bring the game to Hanford.

After she learned Hanford High School painted some Pickleball courts on their tennis courts, Dias decided to start the Facebook page.

At the first meeting, she said she and others discussed how there is no adult activity in Hanford, especially for a new age group who want to eat healthier and live a healthy lifestyle.

“There is nothing. Nothing,” Dias said.

With a limited number of courts available in Hanford, players wait on the sidelines and have to rotate in once a game is done and a spot becomes available.

Dias said most of the people who play did not know each other, but have gotten to know each other through playing the game.

“I just Love it. It’s so social,” she said. “All these people are friends now.”

Cathy Howard and Mary Mello were just two of the dozens of players out at the courts Monday night.

While Howard had played Pickleball before, Mello said she had heard of it but never played it. They said they saw the Facebook page and decided to join in.

Along with meeting new people, Howard and Mello said the game is great for moving and cardio.

“I hate to exercise, but this is fun,” Mello said. “It’s disguised exercise.”

While the game is popular with the over-55 crowd, anyone can play. Mello, whose grandkids were also out playing Monday night, said she liked this aspect of the game as well.

Howard and Mello said they definitely foresee themselves continuing to play the game.

“They’re just eating it up,” Dias said of the Hanford Pickleball group.

The response has been so resounding that Dias has made it her mission to find a place where the group can play at any time of the day, not just at night.

“I’m on the verge of building this up because we deserve our own Pickleball facility,” she said.

Dias said her first steps will be to raise some money and then go to the Hanford City Council to see what can be done. She said she knows it will cost a lot of money to find someplace to put in new courts.

Based on the interest from many people, Mello said if the group had their own Pickleball courts, they would be filled up every day.

“We are really excited that there’s a possibility that there could be Pickleball courts in Hanford, so that we can play more often,” she said.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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