14 October 2023

In a pickle about how to get off the couch? Try the most popular sport you've never heard of

| Zoe Cartwright
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four women in selfie

Batemans Bay pickleball players Marianne Bandur, Lyn Cheney, Sue Novak and Georgie Rowley can testify to the physical and social benefits of the sport. Photo: Supplied.

The fastest-growing sport in the US has landed in the Eurobodalla – and anyone can play.

Pickleball is best described as a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It’s played on a badminton-sized court with paddles, and the softball-sized ball has holes, making it bounce a little more slowly than a tennis ball.

Malua Bay resident Sue Novak has fallen in love with the sport.

“Normally I’d be going to the gym but now I play five two-hour sessions of pickleball each week,” she said.

“It started as a social group, but I’ve got a competitive nature, and it’s so good for your health.

“It’s keeping your brain and body active, using hand-eye coordination, and you just laugh the whole time.”

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The growing sport has also caught the eye of elite athletes – Nick Kyrgios and Naomi Osaka are co-owners of the Miami Pickleball Club.

You don’t have to be a tennis champion to give it a crack, though.

Mrs Novak said anyone “with the slightest bit of hand-eye coordination” had what it took to play pickleball.

As players progress, they are matched up with other players of similar ability, so matches can be as competitive or as social as you like.

Most players are in their 50s or 60s, but the sport attracts people of all ages.

“We get people as young as 15 turn up, and our oldest lady is 80,” Mrs Novak said.

“There’s less running than tennis, but there is running.

“Sometimes we come in and ask each other, ‘Are we going to have a mean girls’ day?’ and just smash it back and forth and be very competitive.

“But I can play a game and whether I’ve won or lost I enjoy it, and by the end of the afternoon I’ve just had a great time and I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve won or lost.”

Although it’s a young club, Batemans Bay pickleball players are so enthusiastic that six have travelled to Adelaide to compete in the Australian Masters Games this week.

Mrs Novak, along with Marianne Bandur, Lyn Cheney, Georgie Rowley, Mario Kefalas and David Mayhew, decided to test their skills at the festival of sport.

For five of the group, it’s their first competitive experience.

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“I’ve never participated in anything like this before,” Mrs Novak said.

“But we have such a good time playing, we thought well, why not?”

She said that sense of fun and ease of learning were what brought new players in.

Many members at the Batemans Bay club have never played any sport before, but it hasn’t stopped them from having a good time.

Anyone who wants to have a hit is encouraged to turn up.

Session times can be found on the Batemans Bay Pickleball Facebook page.

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