Leah Morgan sends the wiffle ball over the net during a friendly pickleball match at the Tofino Village Green Tennis Courts on Sept. 12. Visitors and new players are welcome to join the fun and all equipment is provided free of charge. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino pickleball club welcomes new players

Free drop-in activity runs three days a week and all the needed equipment is provided.

Tofino has a pickleball club, and they’re no fickle flock.

The baby boomer crew meet three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., for good exercise, loads of laughs, and simply because they all just really love to play the game that was supposedly named after an American’s pet dog ‘Pickles’.

If it’s nice out, you’ll find them on the Village Green tennis courts. If it’s rainy, they’ll be in the Tofino Community Hall.

Most recently, two star players of the group, Daniel Audet and Gurmail Aujla, won gold for 3.5 Mens Doubles in the Nanaimo Indoor Open Pickleball tournament back in June.

“Usually 4.5 and 5.0 are your top levels. We decided to go one level lower than what we are because Dan was coming off his second knee replacement in two years,” said Aujla.

“First we played six teams in a round-robin. We lost one game and came in second. Then after that they set us into a knock out play. We played four games and won all of them. The last one we were behind 9-7 and we came back.”

A pickleball game is played to 11 points and a win must be by two points.

The relatively new sport is much like tennis, but with a few modifications: the court is much smaller and players use solid racquets to smash featherweight wiffle balls.

“It’s like playing ping pong, but you get to stand on the table,” describes Steve Thicke, an avid Tofino pickleball player of about four years.

“People can learn it really easily. The learning curve is not steep.”

Retired local Phyllis Banks has been enjoying the easy-going sport with her husband Doug ever since it started up in the town.

“It’s a great bunch of people we play with. And, we get tourists that come here and bring their bats and come and play,” said Banks, adding that she likes to play in Courtenay when she visits her friend.

With good humour, Judy Michaud calls herself an “international pickleball player,” having played in Arizona and Hawaii.

“You’re always welcome in other cities to play. I’ll go visit my daughter in Campbell River and bring my racquet,” she said.

Leah Morgan joined the club a couple years ago after seeing how much fun her friends were having.

“It drew me in,” said Morgan. “It took me a couple times to actually play. I’d come to the court but I wouldn’t play because I was too shy. But, they made it easy to come in.”

While the majority of people that play pickleball are in their 50s and 60s, Gurmail notes that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America.

“I think this is a game that’s meant for everyone. More and more we’re starting to see young people play,” he said. “Come out and try it. It’s a fun game and you really meet a lot of nice people.”

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