Where Did Pickleball Originate?

Pickleball originated in Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the summer of 1965, thanks to Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Soon after its creation, the game started attracting people of all ages and even became the official state sport of Washington.

The History Of Pickleball

The History Of Pickleball

When And Where Did Pickleball Originate?

The birth of pickleball can be traced back to Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the summer of 1965.

What started as a fun backyard game soon became a widely recognized sport with a continuously growing popularity. In 2022, Washington adopted pickleball as its official state sport.

The game draws influence from other racket sports. For instance, it is played on a doubles badminton court with the net lowered to resemble that of a tennis court. Instead of cord rackets, players hold paddles similar to table tennis paddles.

Comparable to all these sports, pickleball can be played in both singles and doubles, though the latter is more popular.

How Was Pickleball Invented?

The story of pickleball began with two friends, congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell, returning from a golf course to Joel’s home in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The two went to play badminton on Joel’s family’s backyard badminton court, except they couldn’t find the game’s equipment. This didn’t stop them; they found a pair of ping pong paddles and a Wiffle ball and started playing.

They found the height of the net at the old badminton court to be inconvenient, so they lowered it.

The following week, they were joined by their friend Barney McCallum. Soon, the three crafted the rules of the new game.

As they played, the table tennis paddles broke easily and needed to be replaced. They went to Joel’s father’s garage workshop and crafted a pair of more solid and compact, albeit odd-looking, paddles.

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During this time, the new game started to emerge.

Why Was It Called Pickleball?

Having played the game for a while, it was about time they figured out a name for it. Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan suggested naming the game ‘pickleball’ in reference to the “pickle boat” in crew race competitions.

The idea behind the not-so-obvious reference was that the game reminded Joan of a pickle boat which was the last boat to finish in the local pickle boat races. The game combined elements from other racket sports and is the last to join the club, so to speak. That’s how the game came to be called pickleball.

Two-Story Name Debate

As the game attracted more attention in the following years, the origin of its name became contested.

A newspaper reporter interviewed Joel and wanted a more catchy story behind the name. He suggested that the game was named after Joel’s family dog ‘Pickles.’

Joel’s cute dog story was clearly wrong and didn’t please other Bainbridge pickleball locals who know exactly the story behind the name. They talked with the reporter, who responded by saying that it was just a funny story that would never stick.

Since then, the Pritchard family has made it clear on several occasions that the dog ‘Pickles’ came along years after pickleball was created and was in fact named after the game.

Despite the controversy, it is now uncontested that the credit for the game’s name goes to Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan. USA Pickleball Association confirmed that the dog was born after the game got its name.

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Pickleball Court Vs. Badminton Court

Pickleball Court Vs. Badminton Court

Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum started to play pickleball on Joel’s backyard badminton court. To this day, the official pickleball court is similar in size to that of a doubles badminton court: 20 by 44 feet.

The pickleball net is much lower and is now 36 inches high at the sidelines as opposed to the 5’1″ height of the badminton net. Pickleball’s non-volley zone is at 7 feet from the net, while badminton’s no-service line is at 6.5 feet.

Pickleball Paddles Vs. Table Tennis Paddles

Pickleball was first played using table tennis paddles but not for long.

The unique pickleball paddle is slightly larger and squarer.

First Permanent Pickleball Court

First Permanent Pickleball Court

The first permanent pickleball court dates back to 1967. It was constructed in the backyard of Bob O’brian, a friend and neighbor of Joel’s.

Today, there are over 38,000 known pickleball courts in the United States, according to USA Pickleball Association.

Pickle Ball, Inc

The fast-growing popularity of pickleball following its creation led Joel Pritchard and his friend’s son David McCallum to found Pickle Ball, Inc to protect the game and trademark its name.

Pickleball filed its first annual report in 1972 and soon began to manufacture pickleball equipment.

Pickleball’s Popularity

Mass Media

Pickleball featured in ABC’s Good Morning America in 2008, was the sport’s first mass media exposure. However, pickleball had gained influence long before.

In 1975 and 1976, respectively, the National Observer and Tennis Magazine published articles about America’s newest racquet sport.

By 1990, the pickleball community spread across the country, and matches were held in all 50 states.

Governing Body

The first pickleball rulebook was published by the United States Pickleball Amateur Association (USAPA) in 1984. This was the main pickleball organization for many years. The first quasi-official pickleball website was launched in the 1990s and was called Pickleball Stuff.

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It wasn’t until 2005 that a new professional governing body, USA Pickleball Association, was created. The USAPA rules committee drafted the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook three years later. Soon after, pickleball was recognized by the National Senior Games Association.

In 2010, the International Federation of Pickleball was founded by the USAPA and is now the official world governing body of the sport.


The first pickleball tournament traces back to 1976 and took place in South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.

A prominent figure, Sid Williams, began playing pickleball in 1982. He has organized tournaments in Washington ever since and played a key role in helping the game grow.

The sport was featured in the Arizona Senior Olympics in 1991. This was the biggest pickleball event up to that point.

The first official USAPA national tournament followed the rulebook published by the USAPA rules committee. In 2016, the first US Open Pickleball Championships took place in Naples, Florida, and aired on CBS Sports.

Today, the USA Pickleball Association counts over 50,000 members. Pickleball Professional Association (PPA) tours are being held every year, and the sport’s popularity is steadily increasing.

Final Thoughts

Back in 1965, Few would’ve seen the eventual, incredible rise of pickleball. Born as a hybrid of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, pickleball became a well-established sport, played and broadcast all across the U.S.

In the past decade, pickleball witnessed significant growth due to the USAPA efforts. The sport’s rising popularity certainly doesn’t seem to be fading away.