By Wade Tomko

The fledgling sport has seen a rise in popularity amongst Kamloops’ seniors in recent years.

Of the many activities one could partake in at Riverside Park, pickleball probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Yet within the last three years, the sport, which is often considered a cross between tennis and ping-pong, has seen an explosion of growth in Kamloops.

Thor Fridriksson, president of the Kamloops Pickleball Club has said that since their club became a society in December of 2013, their membership has increased fivefold.

What started out as a club of 55 members is now just shy of 300 pickleball players.

Combining the traits of other racquet sports, such as the layout of a badminton court and the rules and net of a tennis court, pickleball was first created in Washington state in the mid 1960s.

Though the sport was relatively unknown for a number of years, it is now considered “the fastest growing sport in North America,” said Earl Thompson.

Thompson, who is often credited with bringing the sport to Kamloops, picked it up in Arizona in 2007.

“They brought the sport down into the place we were staying,” Thompson said.

“When we played I got lucky and won and when we finished they came and asked the winners if they would take the sport back to their hometown and start it.”

Though initially unsuccessful in drawing people to the sport, Thompson, with the help of at-the-time Sports Development Coordinator for the City of Kamloops, KJ Klontz, was able to draw players from other racquet sport clubs to come try out pickleball.

“From there it just moved. We got the city involved, who built us four courts and now we have a strong membership,” Thompson said.

With the addition of four more pickleball courts at Riverside park earlier this month, Fridriksson believes the sport’s popularity has nowhere to go but up.

“It’s fun, it’s social and it’s a great way to get exercise,” Fridriksson said.

“Down here at riverside it’s free. You can come in and do drop-ins. There is a lot of time available for the public to play, and of course we want the public to come and play.”