Maria Drew of St. Petersburg hits a forehand on the court during her mixed doubles pickleball match at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Feb. 17. Drew, 55, is also a tennis player who played in college at Florida A&M University.

Photos: Pickleball is the new, ‘it’ sport around Tampa Bay

The cutesy name aside, the paddle sport has a serious following.
Maria Drew of St. Petersburg hits a forehand on the court during her mixed doubles pickleball match at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Feb. 17. Drew, 55, is also a tennis player who played in college at Florida A&M University. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
The cutesy name aside, the paddle sport has a serious following.
Published Mar. 1|Updated Mar. 7

“Pickleball makes people happy!”

That’s the conclusion that Tampa Bay Times photographer Dirk Shadd came to when he hit the courts.

Shadd set out to find out what it is about this popular new sport that’s got people of all ages filling up the courts at local parks.

It’s a simple game, played in singles or doubles, with a perforated plastic ball and a paddle on opposite sides of a net. The International Federation of Pickleball details the official rules on its website, so you can learn the basics before squeezing into a court for a game.

Pickleball action was easy to capture for Shadd, the Times’ official hockey photographer, accustomed to following a whizzing puck around the hockey rink during a Tampa Bay Lightning game. The ball is large and moves across the net slower and more predictably.

Shadd set up unique compositions, offering alternate points of view, attempting to unveil the game’s appeal in visuals. In the end, though, the answer is that pickleball “is fun.”

The courts are filled as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
The courts are filled as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
Games underway, others wait for their court time.
Games underway, others wait for their court time.
Pickleballs are stored along the fence as people play.
Pickleballs are stored along the fence as people play.
Kristin Col, 58, from St. Petersburg, smiles while approaching the net as she warms up on the courts before her next pickleball match on Feb. 17.
Kristin Col, 58, from St. Petersburg, smiles while approaching the net as she warms up on the courts before her next pickleball match on Feb. 17.
The courts are seen filled from above as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Northwest Park on Feb. 22.
The courts are seen filled from above as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Northwest Park on Feb. 22.
A pickleball player prepares to hit a serve on the court at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
A pickleball player prepares to hit a serve on the court at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
Brian Walsh, 24, hits a forehand while on the court during his doubles pickleball match at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
Brian Walsh, 24, hits a forehand while on the court during his doubles pickleball match at Crescent Lake Park on Feb. 17.
The courts are filled as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Northwest Park on Feb. 22.
The courts are filled as pickleball games get underway during the City of St. Pete Parks & Rec mixed doubles recreational league at Northwest Park on Feb. 22.
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