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A Peck of Pamlico Pickleball Players
New Sport, New Gym at Camp Caroline
February 20, 2017
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lose your eyes and listen. It sounds like ping pong.

But a quick glance tells you the players are not at a table but at what looks like a tennis court. Only, it’s smaller….

Valerie Fryczyaski, back to camera, volleys with Jackie Mahan at the new gym at Camp Caroline.

..and in their hands they’re not wielding racquets but what look like like ping pong paddles on steroids. Then, you squint. That bright orange thing they are volleying over a 3-foot tall net… “Is that a… wiffle ball?”

What it is, is pickleball.

Said to be the fastest growing sport in America, pickleball got its start decades ago in a backyard outside Seattle. It’s now found a home in Oriental and Pamlico County, where 45 residents have joined the ranks in the past two years.

Three games going on at once at the new gym at Camp Caroline a few miles outside Oriental.

“For me,” says Deborah Bryant, “it was instant love.”

The Oriental-area resident immediately took to the game with the odd name when she was introduced to it in 2015

“My neighbor, Ann Albee, told me about this game Linda Applegate had taken her to in Havelock. She said I should try it. So Linda took me over to Havelock to learn how to play it.”

“It gave me a good workout and was fun at the same time. I decided I it was so much fun it needed to be shared here in Oriental.”

She started just a few steps from her home. In her driveway, Deborah and her husband, Ed, laid out a pickleball court. “Ann Albee and I painted the lines. We ordered a net and paddles. All we needed was players.”

Ellen Polk puts quick reflexes to work on the pickleball court..

The net and paddles arrived – and while Lee Duer had by now gotten involved, they were still short a player for that first game. “We needed one more,” says Bryant, “So we kidnapped a woman walking her dog.”

Driveway pickleball had been born in Pamlico County.

No further abductions were needed. Bryant says the word spread, as did an invite,
“‘Bring a chair and something to drink to our driveway.’” In hardly no time, we had 8 – 16 gathered in a driveway for pick-up pickleball,” Bryant says, “Our driveway became the “Field of Dreams – Build it and they will come.’”

So many now show up, mostly all the games are doubles. Deborah Bryant, left, and doubles partner Alice Petree. The first pickleball games in Pamlico County were played in Deborah Bryant’s driveway.

They did and they found a lot to like. “I love that it requires some level of strength, flexibility, balance and quick reflexes.” says Lee Duer. “Having never really played racquetball, tennis or ping-pong, which require similar skill sets, I am particularly challenged by pickleball.”

Jackie Mahan says, “Pickleball – and a healthy diet – have helped me lose almost 8 pounds in the last two months.”

More courts set up in the area that first year. Wyatt and Connis Cutler put one in their cul de sac; Oriental Plantation painted their tennis courts to accommodate pickleball. Arlington Place let Bill Gillespie tape their courts, and Bill also put in a court in his driveway.

The Town of Oriental approved adding pickleball lines to the Lupton Park tennis courts over a year ago, That project is ‘still in the works’ according to Town Hall.

Susan Dillard calls pickleball “fun for anybody’s whole family,” She and other players say the game is way too much fun to characterize it as a sport for the highly intense athlete. Still, that doesn’t preclude playing with purpose.

Just as pickleball is news to many people, the same could be said of the place where these players gather several times a week — in a brand new gym on the banks of Dawson’s Creek.

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Posted Monday February 20, 2017 by Melinda Penkava

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