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PICKLEBALL IS SHINING BRIGHT IN THE ALOHA STATE

With the popularity of the sport of pickleball continually on the rise, it’s no surprise our nation’s 50th state, Hawaii, is embracing the game and participation is growing. In April 2017, USAPA Ambassador Donna Ching founded the Oahu Pickleball Association (OPA) and is currently its president. “We all know the benefits in helping individuals grow and connect with each other, as with the many volunteers who help run this nonprofit organization,” said Donna. “Their love for community and pickleball brought these generous-hearted and talented people together.” At OPA’s core is the spirit of Aloha and community development when helping people play and learn pickleball—also known to locals as “pukaball” (puka in Hawaiian means “hole”). They strive to give back to the community through a variety of pickleball programs and activities for all ages to strengthen the people of Hawaii in a healthy and fun way. Hawaii has more than 800 adult pickleball players, 21 USAPA Ambassadors and, to their credit, the city and county of Honolulu constructed 81 pickleball courts on outdoor volleyball and tennis courts at 49 Parks & Recreation sites. OPA does everything it can to extend its reach into the community. Recently, the members launched a Juniors program, “Pukaball Hawaii,” offering afterschool, recreational club and competitive pickleball for kids. They plan to sponsor young players from Hawaii to compete in a USAPA tournament in 2020. On the horizon are opportunities to build dedicated pickleball courts in Hawaii. “We absolutely need them given the growth we have experienced over the past couple of years,” added Donna.

Hawaii’s Children and Youth Day, which drew 50,000+ attendees to the state capital, saw endless lines of youngsters and their parents wanting to play pickleball. And, OPA’s community building doesn’t stop there. It also hosts open play at both indoor and outdoor locations at public parks, setting up nets for day and nighttime competition throughout the week. Through her involvement at Parks & Recreation as a PPR and IPTPA instructor, Donna and her Pukaball Hawaii pros teach pickleball to adults and kids at several of the public park courts. From May 15-17, 2020, Oahu Pickleball Association will host the first-ever Hawaii State Championship, for those 18-49 years old, and the State Senior Games Pickleball Qualifier for those 50+, which should attract 200+ players. Rounding out the prestigious schedule will be the Pacific Rim Pickleball Cup Tournament, scheduled for July 9-12, where 500+ players are expected. For event and registration details, visit www.pickleballtournaments.com. For additional information on pukaball in Hawaii, visit oahupickleballassociation.org.

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