Meet the Pickleball Pros – Enrique Ruiz

In this segment of “Meet the Pros”, I had the pleasure of chatting with Enrique Ruiz. Ruiz is well-known in the pickleball community, and is passionate about this sport!  To watch Enrique in action, take a look at our video page that features Enrique Ruiz at the 2012 USA Pickleball Association’s National tournament.
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PC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

  • ER: Dennis Forbes Memorial Open- Gold
    2014 Grand Canyon Games Mixed Age & Open Gold
    2014 Tournament of Champions Mixed Doubles Gold
    2013 Mixed Doubles- SeaTac Open Gold
    2013 San Diego/Melba- Gold in Men’s Age & Open Doubles
    2013 Seatac Open Singles Gold
    2012 & 2013 Open Singles National Champion
    2010 & 2012 Men’s Open Doubles National Champion

PC: What paddle do you play with and why?
ER: I play with a Pro-Lite Blaster. I play with it because it feels right and works for me! Also, here’s a shout out to my sponsor who has always taken good care of me and all my pickleball needs: Pro-Lite Sports!

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PC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
ER: I learned from the late Harry W. He first introduced me to pickleball at an Elementary school in Hillsboro, Oregon, where we learned our basics from Larry Seekins. He’s now out of Billings, Montana.

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PC: What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
ER: I am an indoors player. I only play outdoors 2 or 3 times per year at tournaments, and I do not like it. I enjoy major competition which is why I enter in these outdoor tournaments, but I do not like it!

PC: Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
ER: I enjoy mixed doubles, singles and men’s doubles all the same. I view them as all different and I enjoy the challenge to try to figure them out.

PC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
ER: My favorite place to play is indoors at my friend’s court in Hillsboro, Oregon.

PC: What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
ER: I don’t think I have a secret sauce! However, over time, I have learned to focus on placement and control and not so much on power. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to face the top players in this sport and for me, control has always given me better results than playing a power game. I must point out that I don’t consider myself a “pro” and nobody will ever hear me say that I’m the best. I just get lucky from time to time.
However if I had to give out some advice. . . Listen to the more experienced players but only apply what fits to your playing style and ignore the rest, and always go out there respecting the game and your opponents. Lastly, I personally learn more from the close matches that I lose than from the ones that I win. This of course is how I view it and it’s simply my humble opinion.

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PC: What’s your day job?
ER: I am a private contractor which allows me flexibility to travel to the biggest tournaments throughout the country.

PC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
ER: I struggle to make time to play. It’s a difficult task to manage a full time job and to balance family time and the activities/hobbies that we all love. Often I don’t get to play at all but for now, if I end up playing one time per week then I am a happy camper.

PC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
ER: Nope, I don’t have any. Over the years playing versus the top players in pickleball, I’ve realized that you either have it or you don’t! Luck will only take one so far.

PC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
ER: My goal is to maintain my level of competitiveness while playing in fewer tournaments. With the birth of our baby, I plan to travel less and to focus more on my family.

Family Photo

PC: Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?
ER: I am from Portland, Oregon and am known by all my friends & partners as ” El Condor” [“The Condor”]. This well-suited nickname was given to me because of my amazing ability to switch hands, and my wingspan which allows me to cover a lot of space on the pickleball court.

PC: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
ER: Over the years I have been lucky enough to have played in some highly competitive matches, both winning some and losing some. However, I am extremely thankful to the Lord up above, because pickleball has brought me some lifelong friends and to me that’s priceless!

Thanks, Enrique!

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Matt and Brian Staub

Pickleball talent runs in the blood of this pickleball playing father and son duo.  Brian and his wife moved to the pickleball hub of The Villages in Florida and their son Matt followed. Matt and Brian Staub both achieved a 5.0 player ranking.  The Staub’s offer pickleball lessons, clinics, and video analysis through their website, PoachPB.com.  The Staub’s were kind enough to answer some questions for us.

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PBC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

  • Brian: USAPA Nationals 35+ Doubles Gold 2012, 2013
  • USAPA Nationals Open Doubles Gold 2013
  • USAPA Nationals Singles 50+ Gold 2012
  • Tournament of Champions Doubles Silver 2014
  • Atlantic South Doubles Gold 2014
  • Matt: USAPA Nationals Singles 19+ Bronze
  • Tournament of Champions Doubles 5th 2014
  • Atlantic South Doubles Gold 2014
  • Atlantic South Singles Gold 2014

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?

Staub’s: Champion Aluminum We like the soft feel that gets even softer as you play with it.

 

 

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

Staub’s: My parents (Ralph and Delores Staub) moved down to the Villages about 12 years ago and we first saw it on a visit one year, we have been hooked ever since.

PBC: What’s your preference — playing indoor or outdoor?

Staub’s:   This is the Sunshine State, we don’t use indoor courts.

PBC: Do you like singles or double better? Why?

Staub’s:   Doubles because there are so many interesting matchups and patterns you can use, it really is a constant chess match.

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PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Staub’s: We really enjoyed our first trip to Ogden this year. It’s amazing to see the mountains since we don’t have anything like that in Florida. It’s also nice to get out of the humidity and only use one shirt per day.

PBC: What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Staub’s: I don’t think it’s much of a secret that we both like using our backhands; an easy tip to help your backhand is start using the continental grip.

PBC: What’s your day job?

Brian: I’m retired from UPS with 28 years of service.

Matt: I am a pharmacist.      

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

Staub’s: We try to get 6 hours a week, mostly drilling. There is ALWAYS time for exercise.

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PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Brian: Drinking mustard (standard yellow).

Matt: I wear my lucky orange socks.

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

Brian: Win tournament of Champions

Matt: Win USAPA National Championship

PBC: Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?  

Brian: I am married to my wife, Patty, and we have 2 sons – Matt and Chase. I played college tennis, and Patty was a college gymnast.

Matt: I’m single until Caroline Wozniacki comes to her senses. I played baseball in college.

Thanks Brian and Matt for sharing your passion for pickleball with us!

Want to see this father/son duo playing? Click here!

by Miranda

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Wes Gabrielsen

Wesley Gabrielsen is a pickleball pro from McMinnville, Oregon. Wes, as he’s more commonly called, has found what works for him, and it’s paying off! From the paddle he plays with to his pre-game breakfast, Wes knows exactly what will make him successful.

Pickleball Champion Wes Gabrielsen at the net with a Magnum Graphite Stealth pickleball paddle

PBC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

  • WG: 2013 Nationals Gold Medal 19+ Men’s Doubles
  • 2013 Nationals Gold Medal 19+ Mixed Doubles
  • 2013 Nationals Gold Medal 19+ Men’s Singles
  • 2013 Nationals Silver Medal Open Men’s Singles
  • 2014 So Cal Classic Gold Medal Men’s Open Doubles
  • 2014 So Cal Classic Gold Medal Mixed Open Doubles

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?

WG: I play with Pro-Lite’s Magnum Graphite Stealth. It was the first non-wooden paddle I ever used, and I love the weight, overall feel and touch it provides me. I’m more of a touch player rather than a power player so it fits my style of play well.

Magnum Graphite Stealth pickleball Paddle purple with yellow burst

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

WG: I played pickleball in high school P.E. classes but back then I played “boom-ball.” It was a great cross-training activity for my tennis game. I also audited a pickleball class back in college, but was first introduced to competitive, dinking-based pickleball by my current mixed doubles partner Christine Barksdale (former mixed doubles partner in tennis). We played on a USTA Mixed Doubles Team together in 2010 and by January of 2011 she got me back into pickleball and I have been hooked ever since!

PBC: What’s your preference — playing indoor or outdoor?

WG: I prefer playing outdoors as it is more like tennis for me. I feel that I can shape and spin the ball more effectively outdoors and look for any chance I have to play outdoors rain or shine. Living in the northwest, however, we play indoors from October-April and I do enjoy playing inside as well.

PBC: Do you like singles or double better? Why?

WG: For the longest time I preferred singles much more than any other event. It was more like tennis for me, although you couldn’t pay me a million bucks to play singles in tennis right now! Singles in pickleball reminds me of net play in the doubles game of tennis, so I preferred it. Now, however, I would have to say mixed doubles is right up there with singles for me in terms of my favorite method of play.

Wes Gabrielsen with female pickleball partner on the court  arm and arm holding MGS pickleball paddles

PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

WG: In the northwest we are blessed with many places to play, and I prefer a few. The “Paranto Palace” (fellow player Steve Paranto’s backyard court) is one of my favorite places to play. It’s a great, relaxed setting for good play and friendship. I also enjoy playing at our community park several times a week with my pickleball workout partner Tim Gardner.

PBC: What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

WG: Preparing for each tournament. I am of the philosophy that drilling and keeping up on your skills is vital to one’s success in a tournament. Practice matches are vital to one’s success in tournament play, but drilling and skill development are what keep me fresh before tournaments. Before nationals or another big tournament, I make sure to workout 3-4 days a week by mostly conducting skill and fitness drills.

Wes Gabrielsen on the metal podium at National Pickleball Tournament holding the Oregon state flag

PBC: What’s your day job?

WG: I currently have two jobs. I am a high school history teacher at McMinnville High School (7th year of teaching overall), and am the Associate Head Coach for the Women’s Tennis Team at Linfield College.

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

WG: During our offseason from tennis I play 4-5 days a week, for a total of 12-15 hours. During tennis season, I play one day a week for 3-4 hours.

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

WG: My go-to breakfast the morning of a tournament: Greek Yogurt and Granola with Honey. It gives me the right energy to compete well during the days play. In terms of rituals, I just make sure to get into the proper mindset pre-match and get a good long warm up in the night before and morning of competition. Something I use to instruct the tennis players I coach (and use myself when I compete) is that I expect to win every match I play. This is a mindset of confidence, not being cocky, and allows a player to settle in and just play their game. Having this mentality allows me to focus on my shots and strategy, and nothing else.

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

WG: I think I speak for all tournament players when I say I’d like to win every event I enter! But that’s not realistic. I always focus on playing my best one match at a time. My goals for the upcoming months are to get in good court shape before competing in nationals in November. Six events in a week is a lot of play!

Wes Gabrielsen at the net involved in a pickleball game

PBC: Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?

WG: I am single and have no kids. That’s why I have all of my free time to play 8-10 tournaments during the summer!

PBC: Do you have any final words about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

WG: I honestly don’t like to categorize myself as there are so many great players across the country. My goal is to go out, compete with good sportsmanship and class during each match, and to hopefully come out on top. Pickleball is such a great sport and there are so many exceptional players out there. I hope to continue to be successful in the coming years as I continue to play this great game!

Thanks, Wes!

Click here to see videos of Wes Gabrielsen!

by Miranda

The Pickleball Palace – A Private Indoor Pickleball Court

While searching for the most beautiful pickleball courts in Washington State, we received a call from Terri Ross in Port Ludlow.  She confessed about her addiction to pickleball, and, she told us that she had built her own indoor pickleball court and christened it the “Pickleball Palace!”  Can you be any more of a fan of pickleball than Terri Ross?  Terri loves to play pickleball.  She played with her mother 30 years ago.  As pickleball has grown in popularity, the Port Ludlow Resort built some beautiful outdoor pickleball courts.  Since Terri and her husband built an indoor tennis court for resort members to keep playing tennis in the winter, they were asked, once again, if they might consider building an indoor pickleball court as well.  This request was what spurred their imagination to consider building an indoor pickleball court.  They had land next to their house, so they scraped off the existing building and began to plan.

 

Pickleball Palace Port Ludlow,WA

“My husband is an engineer, so, we really had no problems in the design and construction of our ‘Pickleball Palace’.” They applied for a building permit.  They chose Sound Building Systems in Port Ludlow, WA to design and build the building. The metal building guy couldn’t envision what they wanted at first.  He had never heard of pickleball!  Together they mapped out what was needed for the space around the court.

They took into consideration that the biggest complaint around the outdoor courts was that there wasn’t enough room.  The building dimensions, not including the viewing room and restrooms, is 65’ X 30’.   They began by talking with players to get an idea of how high the building had to be.  The roof ended up being 25 feet over the net, with beams 22-25 feet over the net.  The beams needed to go length-wise instead of crosswise and had to be longer to create an arch over the net.

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The building is insulated, but not heated and there is no air-conditioning. There are 2 big doors to open for ventilation and a door to the viewing room.  The playing surface is a gravel base with asphalt on top.  Then it was painted with the Trucourt tennis court paint in green and red, similar to the finish on their indoor tennis court. The lighting is 1000 watt, ballast bulbs on a slow-start transformer. The lighting is PERFECT.  Some say you might even need to wear sunglasses when playing inside.  It took 4 weeks for the installation of the Pickleball Palace.  Terri and her husband have nothing but good things to say about Sound Building Systems.

Pickleball Palace Cake

Over 60 folks are playing pickleball these days in Port Ludlow.  Terri has added a refrigerator, a popcorn machine and a jukebox in the viewing room of their Pickleball Palace.  They expect to be pretty busy playing pickleball this winter.  They have folks who are new to the game playing Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the more serious men’s group, with a gal or two, playing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Pickleball backyard indoor court waiting area

 

 

 

Pickleball Palace lounge area

 

By Eliza

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Carolyn Ebbinghaus

We’re featuring Carolyn Ebbinghaus today as we continue on in our “Meet the Pros” series. Carolyn eats, sleeps, and breathes pickleball and has found success at making her life revolve around our favorite sport!

Pickleball Pro Carolyn Ebbinhaus of Traverse City, Michigan with a yellow pickleball paddle in her hand

PBC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

* Won the Gold in Women’s singles at the Nationals 2012, in my age group 50+

* Won silver, in Women’s doubles, age 50+, Nationals 2012.

* Won two bronze medals, Nationals 2013, one in singles- age, and one in mixed doubles- age 50+

* Won 5.0 mixed doubles open, 2014, at the Meijer State games

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?

CE: I use the “Legacy” (the Legacy paddle by Pickleball Inc.). It gives me the extra power I need for put away shots.

Legacy composite pickleball paddle yellow paddle with blue accent color and edge guard

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

CE: I began playing pickleball at our local YMCA in Traverse City about 7 years ago. Only about 5 or 6 men played, and it looked very tough. I began playing every chance I could, and loved everything about the game.

PBC: What’s your preference — playing indoor or outdoor?

CE: I love outdoor play. Here in Michigan, we get about a three month window of good weather, so I get outside and play every chance I get.

PBC: Do you like singles or double better? Why?

CE: I like doubles, singles wears you out faster.

PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

CE: I like playing locally, at the new courts we just had put in at the old YMCA!

PBC: What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

CE: Out dink your opponent, let them make the mistake.

Carolyn Ebbinghaus on the metals platform at National Pickleball Tournament

PBC: What’s your day job?

CE: I teach Pickleball lessons and sell paddles and supplies at Pickleball Outfitters, where I am President.

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

CE: I play out three hours a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I do most of my business work in the morning, and then work around lessons and playing. I have a great job!

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

CE: I wear two different color socks. Always white, but the top band colors do not match, and I do that for luck.

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

CE: My goal is to try to win another gold medal at the Nationals. The competition is tough, so any medal, is a goal.

PBC: Do you mind sharing about your personal life? Are you single? Married? Kids?

CE: I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I have a terrific 22 year old daughter. Both of them enjoy the game. I have a great, supportive family.

PBC: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

CE: I have met wonderful friends in pickleball, all of which would give me a really hard time if I truly believed this last question. They do know,

however, that I have gone out and given it my best try, and hope to keep playing to the best of my ability, to be one of the best in my age group.

Thanks again, Carolyn!

by Miranda

Baby Boomers Return to College for Pickleball! The Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

When you think of a “typical college kid”, what do you picture? An 18-year old walking around with an oversized backpack and a pile of books? Perhaps a young adult with a look of pure excitement on her face, walking across the stage on her graduation day?

Would you picture a 68-year old married woman, with two kids and 7 grandchildren, with a degree she received over 40 years ago?

This is just an example of a typical student you’d meet at the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, or WILL. According to their website, “WILL offers a lifetime adventure for continued intellectual discovery in a supportive, expansive, and informal learning environment – for eager learners of any age”. The idea for this sort of program stemmed directly from the local townspeople, who had seen similar ideas in other communities.

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Offering 70 courses this fall, ranging from a one day hike to a semester long program, WILL is a unique opportunity for students who may not fall into the “traditional” age group. For only $75 per semester, students can take as many classes or activities as they want. Held at Western New Mexico University, inside the city limits of Silver City, the program is a convenient way to have both an active mind and an active body.

June Decker, the facilitator of the pickleball course, is thrilled that pickleball has caught on in her community. In 1979, Decker was teaching at a university in Vegas, where a coworker introduced her to pickleball. For years, they joked that they were the only two in New Mexico who knew how to play! After moving to Silver City from Vegas, Decker was determined to start pickleball as a part of the New Mexico Senior Olympics. Once they started playing at the state level, the cities wanted to join in on the fun as well. Decker had the skillset and the drive – all she needed was a facility. That’s when the WILL program came along. The Western New Mexico University already had good pickleball paddles and indoor pickleball balls, giving her a great opportunity to share pickleball.

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Once pickleball was introduced, the community caught the pickleball craze! Decker jokes that she “never would have believed I would create a community of addicts”.

Pickleball is one of the most popular classes at WILL. When pickleball was first offered as a course in the fall of 2013, registration for the 18-person class was full within minutes of opening. There were so many people on the waiting list that the decision was made to create a second class section. This year, in addition to the beginner’s class, there is also an ‘Intermediate’ class offered for those who took the class the previous year. Each class lasts for about an hour, and there are thirteen sessions per semester (once per week).

Thanks to the large number of pickleball fans, Western New Mexico State now offers community play two days per week. There’s always enough space, thanks to the 6 outdoor courts and the 4 indoor courts in the university gym. Decker said, “I am very glad we have a pickleball community here so I have people to play with, and I’m glad that people enjoy this great sport.”

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Decker keeps her advice for new players simple: “See the ball, hit the ball. If you think too much, you tend to over-teach, and then the [new student’s] heads are spinning!”

As the conversation ended, Decker started laughing while she joked, “We’re keeping senior citizens off the streets!”

Thanks for sharing your story with us, June!

Photos courtesy of http://www.will-learning.com/

by Miranda

Pickleball Referee Shortage? Huntsman Forgoes USAPA Sanctioning

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The Huntsman World Senior Games is considered one of the leading pickleball tournaments, second only to the USA Pickleball Association’s National Tournament. This year the Huntsman Directors made a choice not to be a USA Pickleball Association sanctioned tournament.  It’s pretty shocking news for one of the largest pickleball tournaments in the country to forgo sanctioning by the sport’s governing body. But, the change hasn’t impact registration numbers. Registration is full and has been closed for several months; many of the world’s top senior players will be competing.
Why did the Huntsman Directors choose to forgo USAPA sanctioning this year?   Here’s the response I received from tournament director, Ken Schoonover:
I can confirm that the 2014 HWSG is not going to be a USAPA sanctioned event this year. There are several reasons, and it’s related primarily to the referee requirement but it would be an oversimplification to say “not enough referees”. 
- The requirement that every match have a referee for such a large tournament (we’ll have well over 1,300 matches) is generally doable but taxes the volunteer staff that is already responsible for executing the many, many other functions that are necessary to successfully execute a well-run, week-long event.
- Refereeing that many matches necessitates reliance on players to volunteer to referee. In our experience, players are becoming less and less interested and willing to step up and referee matches. So yes, at times it throughout the week, there can be a shortage of available referees. The worst case scenario is having to delay playing matches until someone steps up to referee. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it significantly disrupts the flow of the tournament. The more regular effect is that it overburdens those few individuals who go way over and above expectations and referee many more matches than one should have to.
- Many players would prefer not having a referee. The volunteer ref system means that the quality of refereeing skills varies greatly … from excellent to frankly very poor. An inexperienced referee can hamper the natural flow of a match compared to what players are accustomed to. Many players have been heard to admit that having no referee is preferable to having a bad referee. 
Having said all that, it is important to note the following, which I hope you will emphasize in your piece:
1. We will run the tournament in all other respects as though it were a sanctioned tournament.
2. We will plan on providing a referee for every match. Choosing not to sanction will give us the flexibility to a) go ahead and play a match without delaying the tournament, should we have a temporary shortage of refs, and b) allow a match to be played without a ref if all players in the match request no referee. As an alternative, we can provide a non-volley zone judge whose only duty will be to watch for kitchen line foot faults.
3. We fully expect to provide a quality, enjoyable tournament experience that will meet players expectations.
4. The HWSG will evaluate the results of 2014 tournament in deciding the future direction of the tournament going forward.
Thanks Ken for such a well reasoned response.
We wonder, will no USAPA sanctioning have an impact? Will other big tournament follow the Huntsman’s lead? It will be interesting to see.
The 2014 Huntsman World Senior Games Pickleball Event  is scheduled for October 13 – 17, 2014 in St. George, Utah.