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A Brief History of Pickleball

Pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island in the US state of Washington by Joel Pritchard, a man who later became a US congressman, senator and lieutenant governor, and two of his friends, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell.

Joel Pritchard, co-inventor of pickleball
Joel Pritchard became US Senator two years after co-inventing pickleball.

One day in 1965, their kids wanted to play badminton. They had a court with a net in their yard, but no one had a shuttlecock. The men suggested the kids make up their own game that would not require a shuttlecock. The net was lowered to resemble a tennis net, and ping pong paddles were used as tennis rackets. For a ball, they found a wiffle ball, a hollow plastic ball with holes, which is used as a substitute for a baseball for children and when playing in a small field. Shortly after, the ping pong paddles were replaced with slightly larger wooden paddles made from plywood on a home workshop band saw.

The game gathered momentum in the neighborhood, then in the state of Washington, and in the state of Hawaii, where it was called ‘pukaball.’ Puka means “hole” in Hawaiian.

There is some confusion about how the name ‘pickleball’ came about. Many claim the game was named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles. However, Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, said the dog wasn’t even born when Pickleball was created. Instead, the dog was named after the game. She claims pickleball was named after the pickle boat in the sport of crew, a rowboat in which the least competitive crew rides.

Three years after the invention in the Pritchard’s back yard, the game had caught on to the point where Joel Pritchard and Barney McCallum’s son David along with two others formed Pickle Ball, Inc. to sell pickleball equipment. In 2016, Pickle Ball Inc. was purchased by Olla LLC, which operates the online store PickleballCentral.com

The sport continued to grow and is now regarded as the fastest growing sport in the United States if not the world.

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