Pickleball is a relatively new sport in the US — but it's become increasingly popular due to the health benefits and low impact on the joints of its players. But why do people love this game so much?  Read on to find out more about when and how pickleball started and its history in this comprehensive timeline.

What is Pickleball?

For starters, pickleball is played with two paddles, one for each player. The object of the game is to hit the ball back over the opponent’s net using the paddle.  In a way, pickleball can be characterized as a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, as it combines some characteristics of each game.

1965 - How did Pickleball start? 

When did pickleball start? What state was pickleball invented in? The history of pickleball dates back to 1965. It was when former Washington congressman Joel Pritchard and successful businessman Bill Bell improvised a game at the former's home on Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, Washington, United States. As the story goes: Pritchard's children wanted to play badminton but were unable to due to a lack of adequate equipment. That was when the two gentlemen came up with an improvised game to help the kids cope with boredom. 

Instead of using badminton rackets to hit the balls, they settled with table tennis paddles. They also employed a plastic ball instead of a tennis ball or the standard shuttlecock. In addition to the standard badminton net height, they utilized a standard badminton court to play this improvised game. But it didn't end there.  

As the adults regularly played the game, they discovered that its playability became better when using an asphalt surface. Additionally, they found that dropping the net from 60 inches to 36 inches made the game much more enjoyable. A few days after Pritchard and Bell came up with the improvised game, Barney McCallum joined the duo and contributed to crafting the rules of pickleball.

1967 - The First Pickleball Court

Two years after Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum discovered pickleball, the first permanent court was built in the backyard of Pritchard's neighbor, Bob O'Brian.    

1972 - The Pickleball Corporation

What's a good sport without a governing body?  That's why a corporation dedicated to pickleball was formed in 1972 to protect the sport.

1975 - 1976 - America's Newest Racquet Sport

There's no doubt that tennis and badminton are two of America's most popular racket sports. But one thing that makes pickleball unique and fun is that it's a combination of two or more racket sports!  Think tennis and badminton, and add a little table tennis to the mix. 

No wonder the National Observer was quick to feature pickleball for the first time in 1975!  What’s more, Tennis magazine even published an article referring to pickleball as the newest racquet sport.

1976 - The First Ever Pickleball Tournament

With pickleball gaining popularity, tennis players were intrigued by how pickleball was played.  So when the first pickleball tournament was launched in 1976 at the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington, the majority of the players were tennis players who knew nothing about the game. Several participants were seen practicing with pickleball paddles before the actual tournament.  

1978 - 1984 - More Published Works About Pickleball 

Pickleball continues to gain popularity as more and more publications write about the sport. A 1978 book entitled "The Other Racquet Sports" featured pickleball.  In 1984, the first version of the pickleball rulebook was finally published. It was written by the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA), whose mission was to "perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level."

1984 - The First Composite Pickleball Paddle Came to Fruition 

With more and more people looking for ways to improve their game, composite paddles became the next big step forward.  In 1984, the first composite paddle made its debut, thanks to the Boeing Industrial Engineer Arlen Paranto. Arlen's paddle was primarily fiberglass and specialized materials made for airplane flooring and framing.  After making a thousand of these composite paddles, Arlen eventually sold his company. 

 1990 - The United States and Pickleball 

By this time, pickleball is already gaining popularity at an exponential rate!  Enthusiasts are clamoring for information on the right paddles, balls, and other equipment, and with every passing month, more and more people are becoming aware of the game's existence. By the end of the year 1990, all states in the USA are now playing pickleball.

1997 - Death of One of the Beloved Founders of Pickleball

One of the beloved founders of pickleball, and the former Lieutenant Governor of Washington, Joel Pritchard, passed away on October 9, 1997, at the age of 72. He was diagnosed with lymphoma or cancer of the blood. His death had a profound impact on the entire pickleball community.  Prior to Pritchard’s death, pickleball co-founder and friend Barney McCallum established Pickle-Ball, Inc., an in-house manufacturer of pickleballs.  

1999 - The First PickleBall Website was Launched

In 1999, the first pickleball website came to fruition. A pickleball enthusiast created it by the name of Fran Trinder. The said website contained valuable information about pickleball, its equipment, and its rules.

2001 - PickleBall's Largest Event 

After months of lobbying, pickleball was finally added to the Arizona Senior Olympics – thanks to Earl Hill, USAPA Charter Board Member and Founder of the USAPA Ambassador Program.  The said tournament was first played in Surprise, Arizona, where over a hundred players participated. It was the largest pickleball event since the sport was introduced to the public. In the following years, the numbers tripled.   

Pickleball at Present

Pickleball has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the world today. In fact, there are approximately 4.8 million pickleball enthusiasts in the US alone, and we're confident this number will continue to grow exponentially.  

So, what do you think? Will the numbers grow even more? Let us know in the comments below!  Want to learn more about how you can get involved in pickleball? 

At Pickleball Court Supply, we've got great resources to help you jumpstart your pickleball journey. Follow this link to learn more.  Or, if you're looking for the best pickleball equipment and supplies, visit our online shop. 

Pickleball Court Supply is a hub for pickleball, rackets, court nets & posts, storage supplies, accessories, and everything you need to play a fantastic game.  We hope you enjoy learning about the history of pickleball as much as we do. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us! 

 Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates!