Commentary: In a Pickle

As per usual, we were the last to get the news. Yes, only recently did my wife and I discover Pickleball. Now we’ve started to bat the ball back in forth at the local make-shift court. There was no question that at our 70+ ages the sport appealed to our sensibilities — trying to stay agile and active, and yet not fall. It seemed an ideal complement to our other physical activities, and it is fun. Also, it had the benefit of our equally being rank novices. 


We thought about the possibility of putting a Pickleball court in our backyard. More realistically, we wondered if the City might designate and dedicate a public court to Pickleball. After all, with the demographics of Del Mar, such a senior friendly and socially engaging sport should be encouraged. Who knew that we were among the million or so other folks in the Pickleball universe? Nor were we aware of the “Pickleball wars.” 


Once we had discovered Pickleball and began to explore its fundamentals, we started noticing more and more references to it and became aware of its popularity and culture. (By now you have rightly surmised that neither my wife nor I are social networkers.) We also became aware of Pickleball’s darkside – Noise. Neighbors don’t like it. As reported in the LA Times, the sound of a pickleball bouncing off a pickleball paddle can be as high as 85db within 50 feet. That level, compared to tennis which is 20db less, is considered loud. While the regular “pop” of paddle hitting ball won’t cause hearing loss, it can be annoying to anyone within clear earshot who isn’t a Pickleballer.

Photo Illustration by Art Olson

So, that’s the pickle we’re in. How to support an activity that we enjoy and is both healthy and low risk for seniors, without angering our neighbors. There may be some technical solutions that involve sound absorbing surrounds or, even more drastically, material modifications of the paddles or balls. However, the easiest would be community agreement in support of suitable public locations.


My thought was to consider the City’s Shores Park site. (Full disclosure – I’m a member of the currently moribund Del Mar Shores Park Citizens Advisory Committee, but do not represent it here.) While it doesn’t look like the Shores Park development will begin any time soon, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some intermediate modification or new use on this City owned site. Since Pickleball is a growing sport among seniors, and there is unpaved flat space just south of the Del Mar Community Building, this might be a good location. The fact that the senior serving DMCC is located in the building, makes it even more appealing. It would take grading and surfacing of the court space and perhaps fencing, and I believe that funds could be raised from the community if need be. A Pickle worth preserving.