Thursday, 09 July 2020


Pickleball is coming to Mercury Bay

A new activity may soon be on offer in Whitianga as work to bring pickleball to the town’s sporting menu gains momentum.

Rachel and Brook Johnstone recently started the Mercury Bay Pickleball Club with13 attendees turning up to the first official club meeting and another 14 apologies from people keen to get involved.

An overseas trip gave the pair their first introduction to the game which was first started in America over 50 years ago, but only recently hit the international stage in a serious way. Thames-Coromandel District Council is supporting the club, offering the use of the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park tennis courts as a base, and Rachel is optimistic that demo sessions for interested players could be up and running by next month.

The sport of pickleball is described as a cross between badminton, tennis and table tennis. It was reportedly invented in the US in 1965 by a group of tired golfers on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle, Washington, when they came home from their game to face a group of very bored and rowdy children. The men set about putting together a makeshift game, lowering the net on a badminton court and using table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball - a hollow plastic ball used in a simplified version of baseball.

Over their holiday, the game became addictive for the children and parents alike and, as they played, the rules evolved. News of the fun new game spread through word of mouth and soon people were designing and making their own wooden pickleball paddles which were wider and more suited to the wiffle balls and court sizes. Pickleball Inc was formed in the US in 1972 to govern the sport, which boasts more than two million people playing in the US alone.

In 2015, the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was launched with four inaugural members - USA, Canada, Spain and India. According to their website, IFP now has over 18 member countries across the world. Rotorua was the first community to adopt the sport in New Zealand and there is now a New Zealand Pickleball Association, see, with new clubs popping up all over the country. Rotorua will host the first national pickleball competition in October.

Rachel says part of the appeal of the sport is that it is suitable and fun for all ages and frequently whole families can be involved in playing together. While excited to be able to get the club up and running at the Mercury Bay Multisport Park, the Rachel says the ultimate goal would be a designated indoor space. “For all-weather play, inside courts in a hall or gymnasium would be more practical, so we are putting it out to the community to see if anyone has a suitable space we could use,” she says. Over the longer term, the club would love to fundraise and get sponsors for establishing a more permanent all-weather facility.   

Anyone wanting more information, can phone Rachel directly on (021) 709 970 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The club also has a Facebook page, Pickleball Whitianga. 

Pictured: Local pickleball enthusiasts have formed a club to establish the sport in Mercury Bay. From the left - Caron Clinning, Brook Johnstone, Debbie Cragg and Rachel Johnstone.


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