A Beginner’s Guide to Pickleball in Honolulu

Yes, pickleball is cool. Just ask my 16-year-old daughter.


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Photo: Stacey Makiya



Walk by any neighborhood tennis court and chances are you’ll hear a thwack … thwack … thwack. That’s the sound of a pickleball match. Yup, our 2020 was dedicated to pickling and 2021 is all ’bout the pickleball.


I started playing because one of my friends set up a pickleball court in her driveway. Her baseball-playing boys needed a way to release energy during the pandemic, but it quickly turned into an awesome family activity. She invited a few of us to play. My daughter and I got hooked. Getting started is simple. Here is what you need to know.


The Game

If tennis, pingpong and badminton had a ménage à trois, their baby would be pickleball. Rules for the trending pastime can be found, where else, at pickleball.com. We don’t follow the norm rules, especially when we have younger (5–8-year-old) kids. So, here are our rules, made up “podagee” style. Find a tennis court. Use the inside service lanes and singles sidelines as boundaries. We play doubles and follow some tennis regulations including taking turns serving from behind the service lane and allowing just one bounce in between hits. The scoring is different from tennis: You earn one point per play and the game ends when a team reaches 11, 15 or 21.


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Photo: Stacey Makiya



The Gear

Because this sport is blowing up right now, it’s easy to find equipment that fits your goals and price. You basically need a paddle, ball, a court or driveway, and a net. The paddle is way smaller than a tennis racket and slightly bigger than a pingpong paddle. You can choose one made of wood (which is heavier but cheaper for beginners), composite or ultra-light graphite for those looking to crush it on the courts. The balls have a little heft; imagine a pingpong ball almost the size of a softball. You can hit it as hard as you want, but because it’s lighter than a softball, like a birdie in badminton, it won’t be clocking in at 120 mph. We got most of our equipment from Target and Amazon.


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Photo: Stacey Makiya



The Court

If you want to set up a net in your driveway, Amazon has portable ones (some come with rackets and balls) that are simple enough for kids to set up. My friend used painter’s tape to create the court lines—44 feet long by 20 feet wide. We’ve seen other players bring their own nets and set up on basketball courts. There are a few actual pickleball courts around the island as well. If you’d rather play on a tennis court, find one in a less crowded neighborhood (especially if you get rowdy, like us) or make friends with someone who lives in a condo, like me—they often have unused courts. Call me if you wanna play!


How We Play

We usually play doubles until 15, and do elimination rounds tournament style, because competition is the name of our games. (In our minds, we’re all Serenas.) The kids are even more savage than the adults—yeah, they proudly get it from their mommas—and they usually serve with some heat and dirty looks. We don’t mind: It’s quality family time and they’re having so much fun! With. Out. Electronics. (Insert any winning gif.) There are nights we’ve shut the courts down after playing for three hours. Granted, if there are other players waiting to use our court, we try to follow tennis etiquette: keep our noise level down, don’t walk behind another court when a set is going on and if there are “actual” tennis players waiting for the court, we wrap up within an hour.


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Pickleball once had a rep as a sport for more mature aunties and uncles; they’re next level and could draaag us around the court all day long. But as you can tell from this story, all ages are joining in on the fun. And it’s a great, outdoor option if you’re p.o.’d with the pandemic and want to smack something (not someone). We LOVE it.