CNBC Reports: Pickleball, a paddle sport with a whimsical name, is becoming big business

By: Jessica Golden

About eight years ago, when brothers Rob Barnes, then 19, and Mike Barnes, then 21, founded a pickleball paddle-maker, they encountered a lot of skeptical glances.

“We mentioned the word ‘pickleball’ — people would say, ‘What is that?’ No one knew about the sport then, but now when we talk about pickleball almost everybody has heard of it and wants to try it,” said Mike Barnes.

The name of the sport, whimsical and nondescript, may invoke an image of a slow-moving game played by retirees in Florida. But the paddle sport — a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis — is now America’s fastest-growing sport and is attracting major interest and financial investments.

“It’s really just so easy to learn,” Rob Barnes said. “With pickleball, you can go out there with your grandparents, your parents, be at different levels, and really still enjoy the game. So we think that’s contributing to this massive growth and this addiction that people are having with this sport.”

Today, the two brothers from Idaho are co-CEOs of paddle-maker Selkirk, one of the sport’s top equipment makers. They’ve recently signed a deal with big-box retailer Costco to sell their gear across the country.

“It’s really exciting to see them invest in the sport,” Rob Barnes said.

Pickleball boasted 4.8 million players last year in the U.S., a participation growth rate of 39.3% since 2019, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2022 Topline Participation Report. And from 2020 to 2021, growth was fastest among young players; participation among 6- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 24-year-olds each surged 21%.


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