February 6, 2019

Islamorada winter resident Vera Hagen returns a shot against husband John during a pickleball game at Founders Park.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Islamorada winter resident Vera Hagen returns a shot against husband John during a pickleball game at Founders Park.

ISLAMORADA — Drop in a dink, follow with a volley and finish with a smash.

Those are among skills to be explained Saturday, Feb. 9, at “Pickleball for All!” — a free Islamorada Parks and Recreation Department event.

“It’s just a fun sport,” said Islamorada winter resident John Hagen after unsuccessfully trying to return wife Vera’s shot at one of three Founders Park pickleball courts.

“Even if you don’t win, you’re still happy,” Hagen said. “It’s great exercise that really gets your heart pumping. I used to walk three or four miles every day. Now when we’re here, we play pickleball.”

Added Vera, “I’m a golfer but now there’s no course that’s not a far drive from here.”

The Hagens, from Northwood, Iowa, toured several retirement communities and discovered “pickleball is the No. 1 thing,” Hagen said.

The “Pickleball for All!” clinic runs from 9 to 11 a.m. at Founders Park, at mile marker 87 on Plantation Key. There is no cost or residency requirement for the introductory event.

“It’s an event to promote pickleball and our program,” said Maria Bagiotti, Founders Park director. “We now have three courts, and equipment to loan.”

Those attending will learn about “equipment, rules of the game, see a demonstration and be put through a few drills.” Open play will follow the introduction, with refreshments available.

Since the first pickleball court went in at Founders Park about four years ago, the number of Islamorada players has increased by at least 50 percent, Bagiotti estimated.

In late 2018, the park’s basketball court was relined for dual use so it could offer two additional pickleball courts, open from sunrise to noon daily. Removable nets allow basketball from noon to sunset.

“I actually played pickleball for the first time the other day,” said Bagiotti, an avid tennis player. “It was a little bit of an adjustment, but you can tell it’s a good sport that anyone can easily learn.”

For more information, call the Founders Park office at 305-853-1685.

Pickleball (named for the sport inventor’s dog) is played on a court that resembles a one-third version of a tennis court. Singles or doubles players use paddleball-type racquets to volley a type of Wiffle ball. Some Central Florida adult communities have more than 100 pickleball courts.

Key Colony Beach currently is expanding its pickleball offerings with four newly dedicated pickleball courts and two dual-use courts that also convert to a tennis court.

“On a good day, we’ll about 45 people out here from 7:30 to 11 a.m.,” said Ted Fischer, chairman of the Key Colony Beach Recreation Board and a pickleball organizer.

The popularity of the sport means morning sessions are intended for Key Colony Beach players who have achieved a certain level of proficiency, with open play starting at midday.

A dedication ceremony for the new Key Colony Beach complex tentatively is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. March 6.

Hans Kostler will be recognized as spearheading Key Colony Beach’s pickleball program.

“Hans basically taught everybody here how to play, starting in 2007,” Fischer said.

For information, see the Key Colony Beach Pickleball page on Facebook.