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Pickleball Craze Hits Riverbank
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Chuck Adams puts more English on his pickleball serve than a BBC television drama.

The Hughson resident and activities director for Sons In Retirement (SIR) spends his Saturday mornings bending high-velocity serves just centimeters over the net at the tail-end of a wicked dipping motion.

Adams is a slightly more distinguished Roger Federer who has brought the tennis/ping-pong hybrid game of pickleball to the Riverbank courts.

He's joined by a collection five SIR members who welcome players from the surrounding communities to join their pickleball festivities at Zerillo Park.

"We are open to the public and we would welcome anyone to come play or learn the game using our available equipment," Adams said during a break in action on Saturday. "We started it as a social activity and it has grown into something we do every Saturday in Riverbank."

The game sounds like something you would avoid at the buffet line like the Ebola virus, but pickleball is a fast-paced thrill that mixes the mechanics of ping pong with game dimensions similar to tennis, played on a shortened tennis court.

"I like it because it's not as strenuous as tennis," Riverbank resident and SIR Treasurer John Gasper said. "I compare it to ping pong on a tennis court. "Since I enjoy playing ping pong it became real natural for me."

The game has a special blend of rules, including a zone near the net called the 'kitchen'. It's a territory players can't venture into unless an opposing return drops into it. It makes pickleball the only sport where the phrase "get out of my kitchen" isn't trash talk.

The SIR members learned the rules of the game from a pickleball club in Discovery Bay and quickly developed an aptitude for the scoring and serving regulations. You have to serve to score in pickleball and the initial return of serves requires a bounce before it can be vaulted back over the net.

The game is played on graphite, composite or wood paddles with heavy plastic balls that seem like whiffle balls on steroids.

There is a USA Pickleball Association that plays annual National tournaments, but the Riverbank version is a relaxed and friendly one.

Adams said interested participants should attend their weekly sessions (9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Zerillo Park), where rackets and coffee are provided. He said the group may have to modify the format if the court gets particularly crowded, but the group interacts well with Riverbank Parks and Recreation and welcomes the possibility of growth.