Surf City Pickleball Society works to expand the sport
Talk with Diana Abruscato, president and founder of the all-volunteer Surf City Pickleball Society of Huntington Beach for any length of time, and it’s obvious how much she loves the sport and wants to be an ambassador.
Abruscato has been involved with pickleball since about 2013. In that time, she’s seen the sport’s popularity grow exponentially.
It’s accessible for all ages, and fairly cheap to play. There always seems to be action at the four pickleball courts that the city installed at Worthy Park, located at 17th and Main Street, in 2017.
“The sport started in Huntington Beach with four players, and 24 players were playing in 2007,” Abruscato said. “Now we’ve seen over 2,000-plus players come through our courts just in the last five or six years.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Abruscato has used the extra time to her advantage. She installed a board of directors for the nonprofit Surf City Pickleball Society last June. The group’s website, surfcitypickleballsociety.com, also was recently launched.
That should help the society cater to a younger audience, as will the school programs that Abruscato has helped coordinate in Surf City.
“We offer youth camps through the city of Huntington Beach, so youth involvement is becoming more and more,” she said. “Since my involvement in 2013, I’ve been able to get it into all our grade schools, middle schools, high schools and at Golden West College. As far as who can play, it’s basically for all ages and all skills. It’s for everyone, and that’s the beauty of it.”
She added it’s not uncommon to see a grandparent playing with a visiting grandchild on one of the courts around the city.
On Friday morning, Abruscato and a few other Surf City Pickleball Society volunteers painted lines and donated a net for a court at Coast High School. She said eight dual-use pickleball and tennis courts were also launched at Edison High in 2019.
Surf City Pickleball Society treasurer Cat Navetta got involved with pickleball at about the same as Abruscato.
“We started out carrying our pickleball nets to these painted lines on the basketball courts,” Navetta said.
“We loved it so much. Over the years we’ve dedicated time to help teach new people how to play pickleball, provide them paddles before they bought their own, welcome them and help them figure it out. We put a paddle in their hand and let them start going at it. Those people come back week after week until they grow and find other places to play as well, but they all love the sport.”
Abruscato said she’s aware that more public courts are in high demand in the city, adding that she appreciates the city’s support of pickleball so far.
“You know, Rome isn’t built in a day,” she said. “The city’s working on it. I’m just out there teaching and expanding pickleball in Huntington.”
The annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament, which is run by the society and debuted in 2016, is scheduled to return at Murdy Park from Aug. 6-8. Abruscato said an event called Pickleball on Fire, in which firemen and pickleball players will play together to benefit the Huntington Beach Fire Outreach Foundation, also is in the works.
The reason for all of the time and effort invested is simple to Surf City Pickleball Society secretary Brenda Patterson.
“There’s a lot of interest, a lot of socialization,” Patterson said. “Pickleball is just a great sport.”
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