It just might be the next big winter sport, and it appears to have been played in Vernon for the first time on Christmas Day 2020.
Michael J. Botterill and Beck Hackman, founders of Vernon-based BottMan Pickleball, have been helping to grow the popular paddle sport for years in the local area.
After being challenged by a hockey player to see how well his pickleball skills hold up while on skates, Botterill agreed to a game of pickleball on the frozen surface of Mud Lake, in the Middleton Mountain area.
The results were so much fun, the two plan to hold another game at Vernon’s Okanagan Training Rink while collecting donations for the local Salvation Army Food Bank.
“It was just so much fun,” Botterill said of the game he played against some locals who happened to be out for a skate on Christmas Day at the remote lake.
Botterill only has one game under his belt, but it was enough to tell him what sorts of skills are most helpful when playing pickleball on ice – skating tops the list.
Botterill and Hackman are certified as pickleball instructors throughout the Okanagan Valley. About three years ago they started working on their company, BottMan Pickleball, and have already designed their third junior paddle. Lightweight with a smaller grip, Hackman says it’s perfect for players aged six through 16 — and it’s also manufactured locally in Kamloops.
The two also developed a junior training program through the Vernon Pickleball Association (VPA) and have been running camps at the Predator Ridge facility while the VPA facility is under construction.
So far they’ve introduced 150 beginners to the sport, and growing the sport locally is an exciting prospect for them considering Vernon’s sparkling new pickleball facility, which just had a new roof installed in November.
“Okanagan Wealth Advisors Pickleball Complex … is a stadium that will honestly be one of the best facilities in North America …” Botterill said.
Botterill hopes to get younger hockey players looking at pickleball a little differently. It could also present an option to keep practising while group sports are curtailed by restrictions related to the pandemic.
Though he’s an experienced pickleball player, Botterill said combining the sport with a slippery playing surface is another level of workout.
The two will host another session of singles play on skates at the Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7, from 12 to 2 p.m. The session will involve five players who will need to sign a waiver and wear a mask while playing, and the event will be streamed live on Michael Botterill’s Facebook page.
Online donations will be made possible through Facebook and BottMan Pickleball, with proceeds going towards the Vernon Salvation Army Food Bank.