Gypsum hosted Battle for the Paddle on its pickleball courts Sept. 29 and 30 | VailDaily.com

Gypsum hosted Battle for the Paddle on its pickleball courts Sept. 29 and 30

GYPSUM — If time is fun, and it should be, that tick/tock in Gypsum this weekend was the sound of a good time.

The third annual Battle of the Paddle pickleball tournament was in Gypsum through Sunday, Sept. 30.

The local tournament was a United States of America Pickleball Association sanctioned event, James Main, tournament director said. The USAPA sanctions local, regional and national events.

Millions and millions served

Robin and Jerry Santoro started playing four years ago. They're now USAPA ambassadors and are happy to see their sport grow.

"It's about getting healthy and staying healthy," Jerry said.

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Pickleball is one of the world's fastest growing sports, with 2.3 million players in the U.S. and millions more around the world. In Gypsum, 150 players competed in countless games. Many are from this region — between Denver and Utah — a couple dozen ware local. Others traveled from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Local restaurants and pubs were happy to welcome them, and are offering all kinds of discounts for players.

Like many sports, pickleball players are ranked by ability, Jerry explained. Players can move up or down in those rankings depending on how they do in sanctioned events.

If there's a rap on pickleball, it's that it's for old people. That's simply not true. In Gypsum's Battle for the Paddle you found a couple former college tennis players, athletes successful in other sports and myriad other competitors.

Mostly, though, you found good friends getting together to have fun, Jerry said.

For example, Darren Sisson played in Thursday's men's singles and played doubles with a partner from Pennsylvania. They had yet to meet before the tournament. Like so many matches these days, they found each other online.

Sisson learned squash in his native England. He started playing pickleball four years ago, working it around his golf, other sports and his business, a catering company serving private jets at the Vail Valley Jet Center.

He put down his golf clubs to play more pickleball, which helped his golf game when he picked up his clubs again.

"It helps you overall when you're moving around and playing," Sisson said.

If you build it, they will come

What you won't find in Gypsum are the tirades launched in Vail when Vail's town council was considering pickleball in that town. A few Vail residents carried on like the tick/tock of pickleball paddles was the countdown to communism.

Gypsum built theirs the way Gypsum does most things — quietly.

When the town bought the Gypsum Creek Golf Club a few years back, they got a few really nice clay tennis courts in the deal. No one ever played tennis there and the courts were soon abandoned.

Gypsum and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District surveyed their residents, who listed pickleball as their top choice for new recreation facilities.

So, two years ago Gypsum converted the clay tennis courts to pickleball courts. Players showed up. Lots and lots of players.

Not long after Gypsum's pickleball courts opened across the street from the golf course's clubhouse and Gypsum Creek Grill, word went out that there would be the pickleball equivalent of golfers' 9 and dine. Play nine holes of golf and go to dinner with your friends.

"Fifty people showed up," Jerry said. "There's a real community of players here."

Gypsum pickleball players are a respectful lot. No one plays before 8 a.m., or after 8 p.m., not even for the Battle of the Paddle.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.