IT CAN BE hot out at Thigpen Sports Courts in Hamilton on a summer afternoon, very hot, but that doesn’t deter USA Pickleball Association ambassador George Silvas and his disciples. Heat, cold, wind — these athletes, from Sausalito to Marshall and every where in between, show up each week to play the game with a funny name, a game that also happens to be one of the fastest-growing sports in America. The pickleball craze that has swept he nation over the past five years has, sure enough, arrived here in Marin. Silvas, a former high school teacher
and coach who now lives in Novato, assumed he would fill his retirement with golf. A lifelong athlete and competitor, he
was a serious 5-handicap golfer, so when his wife, Maria, suggested they should try pickleball because it is an activity
they could enjoy together, he was skeptical. They dug through his old PE equipment to find racquets, headed out to the
tennis courts at San Marin High School, and before he even had time to think about what he was getting into, Silvas was
hooked. They both were.
Within the year he and Maria, who was not a lifelong competitive athlete but happened to be a pickleball natural,
were competing in a tournament in Reno, where they won a mixed doubles division. Before long, Silvas found himself
teaching Intro to Pickleball at venues across Marin County. “I’m retired, but this has become a full-time job. I don’t have
enough time each day to teach classes for everyone who wants to learn to play right now,” he says.
Although wildly popular of late, this sport, which looks like a blend of tennis and Ping-Pong, has been around for over
50 years; it was created by a group of bored friends on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965. When they couldn’t find the
shuttlecock for their badminton set, they improvised with homemade wooden paddles and a whiffle ball on a badminton
court. Now governed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), the
game is played both indoors or outdoors, still on badminton-size courts.
IN A PICKLE
This just might be the most fun you can have playing
BY KIRSTEN JONES NEFF • PHOTOS BY STEVE KEPPLE
a sport you may not have heard of.