The Pacific Northwest Classic kicked off in Bend Wednesday with hundreds of players — pro and amateur — competing this week. The sport’s popularity is becoming so huge, sometimes just breaking into the game is tough.
Justin Rose, a professional pickleball player and Central Oregon-area coach, says the sport has become an excellent way for people of all ages to be socially and physically active.
“Absolutely exploding because of how social and how fun it is. Anybody can play. You can be an 80-year-old grandpa and grandma or you can be six years old and still get on the same court and have a lot of fun together,” Rose said.
That explosion of new players means it’s become difficult for some to join Central Oregon clubs and find consistent places to play. Bend Pickleball Club has a waiting list of more than 370 players.
Simon Davidson has been playing Pickleball in the Bend area for two years and says availability becomes much easier once someone is accepted in a local club.
“It can be tricky, but if you can become a member of one of the clubs, then you do have this ability to book your courts a little bit earlier than some of the people that just have passes that play occasionally,” Davidson said.
Rory O’Brien plays every day and says she loves the challenge of facing new players, bringing their unique styles to the court.
“It’s fun to play with different people because they have different shots,” O’Brien said. “You have to learn their game to be able to play them, and it’s it makes it a little bit more challenging and it’s just fun.”
Tournament co-director Ian McPherson has watched the annual event grow year after year. Many casual players are getting hooked, and training more seriously to improve their game.
“Once they’ve had that sensation of enjoyment, it’s very easy to get hooked on the sport,” McPherson said.
For a lucky few, it can even be akin to a profession.
“You know, it is the fastest growing sport in the world and it’s perfect in retirement. It’s my new job.”
The Pacific Northwest Classic will continue at Pine Nursery Park through the weekend. But the Pickleball fever is here to stay.