‘Pukaball’ fever sweeps Hawaii

Whoever said “getting in a pickle” is a bad thing has never played pickleball before.

Pickleball (or as it’s known in Hawaii: pukaball) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world with more than 2.5 million players.

More than 500 are in Hawaii, and as more players are discovering, this fast-paced game has no age limit.

It’s played with a plastic ball and a wooden paddle on a badminton-size court.

“You play on a smaller court. You don’t have to do as much running, and you still have all the fun,” said pickleball player John Veltri. “You meet with your friends, you still can volley, and it’s a quick sport.”

“When I started aging, I thought tennis was a little bit too rough, but when I came onto the pickleball court, it was just my game,” said player Wendy Pablo. “It was my speed. It was my strength. It was my people, and they were just so made for me.”

Pickleball started more than 52 years ago as a backyard game to entertain kids. Now, five decades later, it is dominated by players over the age of 50.

“Marty (a fellow player), 90 years old, came out and smoked me on the court, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be doing this until I’m 90! This is great!'” said Pablo.

Kupuna who play the game say the health benefits are immeasurable.

“We have so many stories of people coming to play, and they’ve lowered their blood pressure, they’ve lost weight, and they’re doing these things while having fun,” said player Jeaney Garcia.

“I think my health has improved a lot, because I play pickleball at least four times a week, and I’m here around the courts around three hours and that’s pretty good,” said player John Wong.

“You get cardio, you get flexibility, strength training, speed,” Pablo said. “It’s really great and it keeps your mind active.”

Pukaball fever is sweeping across Hawaii with many underused volleyball and tennis courts being converted to pickleball courts.

“You will sweat and the biggest thing is you will laugh, and I think we don’t laugh enough in our life,” said player Annette Cottle.

“Oh my gosh, we want everyone, at any age,” Garcia said.

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