Pickleball is a home-grown Washington State creation. No other place on the planet has the deep-rooted connection to pickleball that we here in Washington enjoy. Washington will someday be known as the birthplace of Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Pickleball. Tourists will travel to Bainbridge Island to see the first pickleball court and visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum’s pickleball exhibit. On Monday March 28th, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a declaration making pickleball the official sport of Washington State!
You may already know the pickleball origin story: In a backyard on Bainbridge Island, three friends (Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum) invented the game during the summer of 1965.
They made up rules and introduced the game to neighbors. At the close of summer, the game jumped the Puget Sound to Seattle. From there it spread south to Tacoma and east to Spokane. Snowbirds brought it to Arizona and Southern California. It took over 55 years but pickleball is now the fastest growing sport on the planet with millions of players around the world. The International Federation of Pickleball has 68 member countries and growing! Campaigns are underway to make pickleball an Olympic sport.
But, do you know:
- The first pickleball paddles, balls, and net systems were invented in Washington State.
Barney McCallum, one of the game’s inventors, used his jigsaw to cut the first plywood paddles. As demand grew, he incorporated and created the first pickleball company, Pickleball Inc. Barney was an entrepreneur and built McCallum Envelope Company. He knew how to manufacture and sell products. Barney designated a small section of his Ballard warehouse for Pickleball Inc.’s inventory of paddles and balls, and began shipping products to pickleball customers. At first whiffle balls were used to play pickleball, but they broke easily and had a short life span, so Barney invented the “Dura Pickleball,” a durable ball that is still a leading pickleball. As interest and demand grew, consumers sought pickleball nets. Barney invented the first pickleball nets and first portable net systems.
- The world’s 1st pickleball company was in Washington State – Pickleball Inc.
- The world’s 2nd pickleball company, Ultra-Lite Paddle Company, subsequently called ProLite Sports, was in Washington State and founded by Arlen Paranto.
- The world’s 3rd pickleball company, Pickleball Stuff, was in Washington State and founded by Fran and Barney Myer.
- The world’s 4th pickleball company, S-Type Sports (later sold to ONIX Sports), was in Washington State and founded by Steve Wong.
- The world’s first pickleball tournaments were in Washington State.
- The world’s first “National” tournament was in Washington State.
- The world’s first pickleball corporate sponsors, Vlasic Foods and Budweiser Beer, were for events in Washington State.
- The world’s first pickleball governing body, The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA), was launched in Washington State. Sid Williams was the founder and first president.
- The world’s first pickleball rule sheets/booklets were created in Washington State by Washingtonians.
- The world’s first pickleball school PE program was launched in Washington State.
- The world’s first composite pickleball paddle was invented in Washington State by Arlen Paranto.
Arlen and his son Steve Paranto were frustrated by the heavy weight of wood paddles so wanted to come up with new paddle technology. Arlen purchased panels from the Boeing Surplus Store in Kent and began experimenting. The composite paddles he crafted out of those Boeing panels is essentially the same technology used in most composite pickleball paddles today – a honeycomb core sandwiched between layers of fiberglass or graphite/carbon fiber.
- Washington State currently has three pickleball manufacturing companies – OneShot Pickleball, Players Pickleball and CRTC’s Pickleball Swift Net.
- Washington State, specifically Kent, is home to the world’s largest pickleball ecommerce store, PickleballCentral.com, and the world’s largest pickleball tournament software and event planning website PickleballTournaments.com.
We are delighted and proud to have been a part of this effort. Special thanks to the unstoppable Kate Van Gent for leading the charge to make pickleball Washington’s official sport. Congratulations to all the Washington State pickleball players who voiced their passion. Way to go Washington!