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Pickleball: A Complete Florida Guide

Naples Pickleball
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Pickleball is a growing sport in the US and internationally, but it’s especially popular in Naples, Florida. Hailed as the unofficial capital of pickleball, Naples holds the US Pickleball Open every year. 

Pickleball is a popular game in Florida because of the mild weather, which means that people can play it all year round. There are also a ton of tournaments emerging in the state that make Florida the ideal place for a pickleball enthusiast.

What Is Pickleball?

Pickleball was invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCullum in 1965 in Bainbridge near Seattle, Washington. They wanted something new to occupy their kids one summer, and while one of them had a badminton court, they didn’t have the right racquets or a shuttlecock. Instead, they used a wiffleball, ping pong paddles, and improvised the game. After a few weeks, they started to put together the rules – this is how pickleball was invented!

By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states, and in 2005, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed. This organization formalized the rules and created National Tournaments for pickleball.

How Do You Play Pickleball?

Pickleball is a mix of badminton, tennis, and ping pong. The rules are fairly simple, and the play is easier on the body than tennis or badminton – making pickleball ideal for little kids and older players.

How Do You Serve?

Serving is done underhanded and must follow pickleball’s two-bounce rule. The ball must bounce once in the opposing team’s court and bounce again upon the return of serve. Failure to double bounce is an error and will result in a point or a switch in serving.

What’s A Rally?

A rally is any back and forth between two opposing sides in pickleball. If you are able to go back and forth over the net and not commit any “faults” or errors, you are rallying!

What’s A Volley?

You can return a ball without it bouncing on the ground. This kind of return is called a volley and is legal from behind the no volley zone, commonly known as the kitchen. If you want to hit the ball inside the kitchen, you have to let it bounce before you hit it.

How Do You Score?

You score a point if the opponent makes a mistake – for example, if they step into the kitchen, don’t allow a second bounce after a serve, miss the ball, or hit it out. You can only score on your serve. If your opponent makes an error on their serve, you only win the right to serve. 

The set goes on until the winning player reaches 11 points and wins by 2. If both sides are tied at 10-10, they play until one side wins by 2 points and the winner gets the set. To win the game, they need to win 2 sets faster than their opponent.

Where Do You Play Pickleball?

You can play pickleball either outside or inside. The ball will change a little according to where you play and on what surface. 

What Equipment Do You Need?

You will need a paddle, a ball, and tennis shoes. You’ll also need a court to play on and a net that rises 30 cm from the floor. A pickleball court is very similar to a badminton court but with a lower net and a bigger no volley zone.

What To Look For In The Paddle?

The paddles come in all shapes and sizes, so you will need to find a paddle that works for you. You want a good balance of size and weight as you will be swinging this around, and you don’t want anything too heavy. You can either hold your paddle like you are shaking its hand or like a ping pong paddle in what is called a v-grip. 

Which Ball Do You Use?

The balls change depending on what surface you’re playing on, but they are always perforated plastic balls, similar to Wiffle balls. For outdoor play, the perforated ball has smaller holes, but this ball can also be used indoors on hard surface courts. The ball with large holes is usually used indoors or on a wood or plastic surface.

What Kind Of Shoes Do You Wear?

There are pickleball shoes designed specifically for the sport, but they may be difficult to find and cost too much for a casual player. Tennis shoes are the best kind of shoe to wear for those who don’t want to buy a new pair. Avoid wearing trainers or running shoes to play pickleball as they won’t provide the right type of support and can cause injuries like rolled ankles.

Can You Play Doubles Or Singles?

Pickleball can be played with both doubles or singles, and the rules change only marginally for the doubles games. The difference is in the serving – both players serve whether they committed an error or not.

What’s Pickleball Like In Florida?

Florida is an excellent place to play pickleball, as it’s warm most of the time and you can play outside. But more importantly, Florida has been investing in pickleball, putting up tournaments, and building pickleball courts for people to play on. 

Naples is unofficially the pickleball capital of the world. It’s been the host city for the US Pickleball Open since its inception in 2016. 

How Do You Get To The Pickleball US Open?

There are scattered tournaments throughout the year where you can gain prominence and find sponsors, but anyone can join the US Pickleball Open. As long as you are over 8 years old and have $100, you can join the tournament.

Are There Professional Players?

There are professional pickleball players, with many of them getting their start with other racquet sports such as tennis. Some of the 10 top pickleball players in the world hail from Florida, including Colin Johns, Leigh Waters, and Kyle Yates.

What Are Tournaments Like?

The US Open is the biggest pickleball party in the world, and it’s held in Naples, Florida at the East Naples Community Park. The tournament features hundreds of players every year and brings over a million dollars worth of economic activity to Naples. Thousands show up to watch the game and exhibition play. 

Who Gets To Play In The US Open?

The nice thing about pickleball is that it’s relatively accessible still – anyone who pays the entrance fee and wants to be a part of it can join. It’s a growing sport, so the barriers to entry are still low and learning the sport doesn’t take long.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball is a relatively new sport, but it’s growing in popularity because of the accessibility of the play and relatively low bar of entry. With a much gentler learning curve than tennis or badminton, play is less strenuous and happens on a more level playing field. 

If you have fallen in love with the sport, then the place to be is Naples, Florida in April for the US Pickleball Open. All the best players will be there, and you don’t want to miss out! Head over to Naples and see the best of the best of the sport compete.


***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She was the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization. She is currently the Publisher of OutCoast.com and Producer of the OutCoast TV YouTube Channel, both of which highlight LGBTQ welcoming destinations in Florida.


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