Pickleball Magazine: Pickleball in Paradise

Pickleball Magazine: Pickleball in Paradise

Cover story for the Pickleball Magazine September/October 2021 Issue. Read the full issue HERE.

Pickleball in Paradise

By Laura Gainor

As the fastest-growing sport in the country continues to expand its footprint, vacationers are choosing travel destinations with pickleball in mind. So, if you’re looking to play pickleball in a little bit of paradise, here are just some of the amazing destinations waiting for you.

Banning Lewis Ranch

If you’re looking for a master-planned housing community to surround your growing family with breathtaking views and award-winning schools, or you’re seeking a retirement community to fulfill your desire for an active lifestyle that includes playing pickleball every day, be sure to check out Banning Lewis Ranch. Banning Lewis Ranch is the fastest-growing community in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with 75+ acres of trails and open space, community parks, water park, and community centers with amazing amenities, including 16 beautiful pickleball courts.

Banning Lewis Ranch offers leagues and regular programming-eight in Vista Park open to the entire community and eight newly opened courts exclusively available to residents of The Retreat—Colorado Springs’ first 55+ active adult, resort-style community, and private enclave within Banning Lewis Ranch.

For more details, visit BanningLewisRanch.com

Horseshoe Bay Resort

Just 45 minutes west of Austin, Texas, the Horseshoe Bay Resort is nestled next to one of the most “Instagrammed” beaches in the Texas Hill Country overlooking Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ). The upscale resort offers a unique lake resort experience, featuring eight pickleball courts, championship golf on three courses, casual and upscale dining overlooking Lake LBJ, fun family activities on the water or s’mores next to the fire, and annual entertainment and food events such as the Beer by the Bay Music Festival.

Whether you’re visiting the resort as a guest or joining The Club as a member, the resort offers daily lessons and clinics with on-site IPTPA-certified instructors Get your doubles partner and book one of the resort’s Ultimate Pickleball Weekend Camps, which includes a two-night stay, nine hours of professional instruction and supervised match play, lunch on Saturday followed by beer and wine, pickleball drills on Sunday morning paired with mimosas and Bloody Marys. A pickleball enthusiast’s dream vacation!

Visit hsbresort.com to explore the resort’s amenities and view the upcoming calendar of events.

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa saw the opportunity early on to create a pickleball getaway like no other for the avid players, as the number of pickleball players continued to increase year over year.

The 17 pickleball courts, plus an expansive center court with a 400-person capacity, offer spectacular views of the gorgeous Arizonian desert. On-site private lessons, daily clinics, group one-on-one instruction and ball machine rentals provide pickleball enthusiasts the opportunity to improve their competitive game, or simply join in on some pick-up games. With the new USA Pickleball corporate offices onsite, you never know who you’ll get the opportunity to play against!

While staying at the resort, guests can also enjoy the endless relaxation serenities at The Revive Spa, sip a cocktail inside one of the poolside cabanas, join friends on one of the two picturesque, 18-hole Championship courses and learn about the Arizona history, flora and fauna on a leisurely trail walk or bike ride.

Visit Marriott.com for details on JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.

Las Vegas Plaza Hotel & Casino

Stunning, picturesque pickleball, Las Vegas’ best tourist entertainment, and incredible city view is what the Las Vegas Plaza Hotel & Casino has to offer. It’s a stop you don’t want to miss on your pickleball vacation tour.

As a host to one of the largest pickleball tournaments of the year, the Las Vegas Pickleball Open, the Plaza Hotel has 12 permanent pickleball courts and one championship court, which is convertible to four temporary tournament level courts.

In addition to its outstanding pickleball amenities, guests can enjoy all the best that a Vegas experiences a vacation has to offer including the casino festivities, bingo, and the 70,000-sq.-ft. pool deck, giving plenty of space for relaxation and entertainment. Plus, right next to the pickleball courts!

Visit PlazaHotelCasino.com for more information and a full list of upcoming entertainment events and pickleball tournaments.

Latitude Margaritaville

With Pickleball being a major part of the brand’s DNA, Margaritaville—the global lifestyle brand inspired by the songs and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett—is the title sponsor for the USA Pickleball National Championships. In addition to Latitude Margaritaville 55-and-better-communities, developed with Minto Communities, it has courts at a few resorts including Margaritaville Lake Resort—Lake Conroe, and the soon-to-open Margaritaville Island Reserve Cap Cana.

Latitude Margaritaville communities are located in Daytona Beach, Hilton Head, and Watersound in the Florida “panhandle.” These active adult communities offer pickleball clinics and lessons, and feature 10 courts each.

Latitude Margaritaville offers an irresistible concoction of fun, food, music, and friends. Amenities include a state-of-the-art Fins Up! Fitness Center with indoor whirlpool and lap pool; Latitude Bar & Chill restaurant; lagoon-style Paradise Pool with beach-like entry and swim-up Tiki Island; and Changes in Attitude poolside bar, along with nature trails, pickleball and tennis courts, and a Barkaritaville Dog Park.

Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach residents even have their own private Beach Club on the Atlantic Ocean, with shuttle service from the community to the beach and back. Phase Two amenities open soon and include a Workin’ N’ Playin’ Center with arts & crafts and multipurpose rooms; Last Mango Theater for performances, dances, and banquets; Hangar Workshop for golf cart tune-ups; even more tennis courts, pickleball courts and bocce ball courts with lighting for night play; and a Barkaritaville Pet Spa.

For more information, visit LatitudeMargaritaville.com and MargaritavilleResorts.com.

Minto Communities / The Isles of Collier Preserve

Minto Communities has been ahead of the curve from the early emergence of pickleball to it becoming one of the nation’s most popular sports. The developers anticipated the growing popularity of pickleball based on listening to their community homeowners, and gave them what they wanted! And that was pickleball courts and a healthy lifestyle.  

Minto and Margaritaville joined forces in sponsoring the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships Powers by Margaritaville in Naples, Florida. Minto’s The Isles of Collier Preserve community is adjacent and connected by a gate to the East Naples Community Park, headquarters for the US Open, which brings hundreds of players and thousands of fans to the Naples area each year.

Minto also partners with the USOPC to present a pickleball instruction program that includes beginner lessons, private lessons, small group lessons and group clinics.

In addition to the pickleball lifestyle, the community’s luxury homes overlook miles of scenic kayak and hiking trails. Stroll along Fifth Avenue in Naples and discover a vast array of premier boutiques, art galleries, fine dining and entertainment opportunities.

All of us pickleball players also love a good beach day, so explore all that the beaches have to offer along the Paradise Coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

Visit mintousa.com for more information.


Last year, my family planned a trip to Florida to visit my sister. While there, we visited Nocatee, a nearby master-planned co-community. As pickleball enthusiasts, my husband and I were so excited to see 12 brand-new pickleball courts with an expansive on-site waterpark we thought only existed on a tropical vacation. We were so enthusiastic that upon returning home to Illinois, we sold our home and are now happy residents of Nocatee.

Just a few minutes from beach views and kayak launches, this master-planned community in Ponte Vedra, Florida (near Jacksonville), offers those 12 pickleball courts for residents as well as two waterparks for the kids that include waterslides. There are paths exclusively for golf carts that each family purchases once they move in, giving you an out-of-the-ordinary ride to a local restaurant or grocery store.

Other amenities include dog parks within each community neighborhood, some of the top-rated schools in Florida, an action-packed events calendar for residents and their guests, and holiday festivities that include golf cart parades, waterpark haunted houses and holiday light shows.

Del Webb Nocatee, a 55+ active adult community, also features its own pickleball and tennis courts within the gated community, as well as a clubhouse for resident activities and events.

Visit Nocatee.com for details.

OutDoor Resort Indio

The perfect desert oasis, OutDoor Resort Indio (ORI) is an exclusively Class A motorcoach community designed for active adults, located just minutes from Old Town La Quinta and Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and a few miles from fabulous shopping on El Paseo, Palm Desert. It offers a total of 419 individually owned lots wrapped around an 18-hole executive golf course, six permanent pickleball courts, and two tennis courts.

ORI Pickleball Association (ORIPA) has over 150 members. There is organized play most days with paddles on the fence by ability levels, round robins, scrambles and men’s/ladies’ days. Also, ORIPA provides free lessons weekly based on ability. The club regularly hosts parties throughout the season for both full-time residents and guests.

Many pickleball enthusiasts frequently return because of the hosted social events and its proximity to popular tournaments throughout the year. From the photos we’ve seen, it looks to be quite the spot for those seeking a fun, social pickleball getaway!

For more details, visit orindio.com.

Palm Creek Resort & Residences

With the motto “Because we waited for this moment, and it’s time to take full advantage of it,” if you’re 55 and over and haven’t heard of it yet, you need to check out the Palm Creek Resort & Residences. With some of the most incredible scenic views, there are 32 pickleball courts that have become popular for both athletic play and ongoing social events throughout the year.

Organized round robins begin daily at 8 a.m. on 24 courts for levels 2.0 through 5.0. The remaining eight courts are reserved for open play and challenge courts each morning starting at 8 a.m.

Other amenities on-site include billiards, yoga, swimming, dining, softball, horseshoes, tennis and plenty of activities to do with your friends—from bingo and arts & crafts to sewing and woodworking. A dream way of living an active lifestyle!

For a full list of upcoming tournaments, events and resort amenities, visit PalmCreek.com.

Palmetto Dunes

If you follow the pickleball tournament circuit, you frequently hear of the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, its amenities, and professional pickleball instruction given by on-site pro Sarah Ansboury. Palmetto Dunes is one of the top pickleball vacation destinations in the country and host of the annual APP Hilton Head Open.

Located in the heart of Hilton Head Island, incredible oceanfront views for three miles along the Atlantic Ocean beachfront provide the perfect venue for three world-class golf courses, vacation rentals, a full-service marina, and an 11-mile lagoon system.

In addition to daily offerings including round robins and clinics for players of all levels, the Palmetto Dunes Pickleball Center is now a world-class destination for professional pickleball players across the globe, with 24 dedicated pickleball courts and state-of-the-art lighting. Among the popular pickleball offerings are the Daily Round Robins, a pro supervised session with players progressing up the ladder depending on play results, the “Daily Dose” clinic that teaches skill development on techniques and strategies to help improve every area of the court, and Pickleball 101, which helps beginners to learn the basics such as rules, scoring, court positioning, etc.

For more information, visit PalmettoDunes.com for an unforgettable vacation experience for your friends and family.

Sundial Beach Resort & Spa

A highly desired beach resort in Sanibel, Florida, Sundial Beach Resort & Spa features 12 plexi-cushion courts, stadium seating, and is host to some of the most popular pickleball tournaments throughout the year, with camps and tournaments already announced through February, 2022.

Lessons and clinics are offered at the beautiful waterfront facility, and resort guests receive complimentary court access and equipment rentals. Memberships are available to the public for $350 annually for an individual, or $500 for the family—and for those of you looking for a long-term summer getaway, you are welcome to a six-month membership from May 1 through October 31 of $200 for a single membership and $350 for the family.

When not on the pickleball courts, other amenities to enjoy as you escape to paradise include enjoying award-winning on-site dining, heading out to the beach and finding unique treasures as you take advantage of the prime location for shelling, splashing around with the family at the resort waterparks, visiting with your pickleball friends at Turtle’s Tiki Bar, going on an adventure with kayaking, paddle boarding and other watersports, and so much more.

Visit SundialResort.com for details about upcoming tournaments and to book your pickleball island getaway! Be sure to reserve your rooms as soon as tournaments are announced to not miss your chance to stay at this highly-sought-after pickleball resort.

Pickleball Magazine: Fastest Female Motorcycle Racer Joins the Fastest-Growing Sport

Pickleball Magazine: Fastest Female Motorcycle Racer Joins the Fastest-Growing Sport

It was an honor to have the opportunity to work with the fastest female motorcycle racer, Valerie Thompson, on the latest cover story for Pickleball Magazine. Valerie is an inspiration to many women and I enjoyed listening to her excitement for her new-found passion for pickleball as she utilizes to sport to help prepare her to set out to reach 400mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats later in August. 

Read the full story below and check out the complete July/August 2021 Pickleball Magazine issue HERE.



By: Laura Gainor

Valerie Thompson is the world’s fastest female racer on two wheels and after playing the nation’s fastest growing sport just eight times, she has built a permanent court at her home in Scottsdale, Arizona, bringing her competitive determination and mental focus to pickleball. 

Her passion for speed led to street racing her Harley-Davidson Fatboy on nearby Scottsdale Road. Friends finally told her to take her passion for speed to the racetrack. “Organized drag racing was lot more fun and much safer than street racing, so I set a goal to “go pro.” 

In 2006, she began competing in the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) series while attending a variety of drag racing schools to hone her riding skills. After traveling 14 states she captured the Best Appearing Team award and placed 3rd in just her second year of AHDRA racing.  

While still drag racing, she seized the opportunity to race a friend’s Harley-Davidson Panhead at the famed Bonneville Salts Flats in Utah where she set an AMA National Speed record her first time on the bike. She instantly fell in love with land speed racing and has been going strong ever since.  

Today, Thompson holds 10 land speed records, is a member of several prestigious 200 mph Clubs and was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2018. The land speed motorcycle streamliner she races is named the BUB 7, designed by Denis Manning, John Jans and Team 7 Racing. 

The BUB 7 features a monocoque chassis with a one-of-a-kind 3000cc V4 engine and a three parachute braking system. Instead of a steering wheel, Valerie guides the streamliner with a yoke system. For maximum safety, her seat is custom formed to her body and the tiny cockpit she jokingly calls the “world’s fastest office.”

“Once my helmet goes on and I’m strapped into the cockpit, I can barely move, but I’m totally focused on the moment at hand,” said Valerie. “I experience a combination of anticipation, anxiety, adrenaline, and a pinch of fear. It’s a pure rush that’s hard to describe. It’s similar to how I feel when I step on the court to play a mean game of pickleball with my friends and husband, Ray. There is no greater concentration than that!” 

In March of 2018, Valerie piloted the BUB 7 streamliner at Lake Gairdner in Australia to a top speed of 328.467 mph, making her the fastest female motorcycle racer in the world. 

A few days later her team attempted to break the current world record of 376.363 mph, but Valerie crashed at more than 363 mph, sliding for over a mile before coming to a complete stop. Miraculously, she walked away with no memory of the crash at all. 

“The wind caused the crash. We don’t race that motorcycle with more than 3 mph of wind in any direction,” recalls Valerie. “Everything happened so quickly. I am trained to release the parachute, pull my arms in close to my body. It’s incredible there were only minor cuts and bruises from the crash. It’s real testament to the superior design of the BUB 7, I feel lucky I’m here to tell the story.”  

Now three years later, insert pickleball and it couldn’t be a better match with racing to help her mental and physical training as she continues her quest to capture the fastest motorcycle title.  

“Pickleball and racing go hand-in-hand,” said Valerie. “They’re very similar in some respects. It requires a good fitness regime, great concentration and quick reaction time. During a race everything seems to move in slow motion, but you have to be planning your next move and react quickly. For me, it’s the same with pickleball. I need to plan my shots, but be prepared to react quickly as the game evolves.”

It didn’t take long for Valerie to fully commit to the sport with professional lessons and her own court. Valerie was elated when she discovered her neighbor was the former USA Pickleball President, Jack Thomas. She’s taken many continued lessons with Jack and at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Scottsdale until her home court was finished. 

Since February when she began playing, Valerie has found many friends and fellow racers who also play. Just recently she had the biggest photoshoot of her career for Bentley Magazine with “photographer of the stars,” John Russo. (celebrity A-list photographer). An avid pickleball player himself, the motorsports photoshoot quickly turned into a long discussion about their mutual love of the sport. “Now I’m even more excited about the game, I hope John and I can play next time I’m in California.” 

“Valerie is a true athlete, with very quick hand-eye coordination and she moves fast on the court, so pickleball is a natural for her,” said friend and fellow player, Andy Starr. “She’s a lot of fun to play pickleball with and continues to improve her game by having the opportunity to play on her private backyard court, in which I was instrumental in convincing her and her husband, Ray, to build earlier this year.”

Pickleball and fitness training consumes a lot of Valerie’s time now having attended two LevelUp Camps in Utah, really helping excel her game.  She has a vision to host her own tournament on the Bonneville Salt Flats, creating an unreal experience of racing and playing pickleball on the world’s fastest racecourse.  

The Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, held August 28 – Sept. 2, will be the first time since her 2018 crash that Valerie has raced the BUB 7. The first priority is to execute practice runs to ensure everything performs as needed after a three-year rebuilding effort. If “break-in” runs go well and weather and track conditions allow, the team will attempt breaking the world speed record for the world’s fastest motorcycle title.

“There are a lot of eyes on me and I have to be my best when racing on the Salt. I must be 100 percent focused and ready to react to the weather, the track and most importantly, the machine. Pickleball plays a key role in helping me train to make motorsports history.” 

“Friends tell me I always go 2,000% when I set a new goal,” laughed Valerie. “Pickleball is a critical element of my racing fitness regime. It helps keep me stay fit and improves my reaction time. I may retire from racing when I go 400 mph, but I’ll be playing pickleball long after that. ”

Valerie will have a central role in the upcoming documentary film, “Rockets and Titans,” sharing her and Manning’s quest for the world’s fastest motorcycle title. Visit ValerieThompsonRacing.com for details on upcoming races, the bikes she races and the official movie trailer. 

The worldwide motorsports press nicknamed Valerie “America’s Queen of Speed.” From all appearances, the queen’s court appears to be one where you play pickleball. Godspeed Valerie, we wish you luck! 

USA Pickleball Interviews The Holderness Family following release of “The Pickleball Song” [VIDEO]

USA Pickleball Interviews The Holderness Family following release of “The Pickleball Song” [VIDEO]

Earlier in June, USA Pickleball caught a glimpse of The Holderness Family, internet famous for the creating original songs and parodies, as they were filming on a pickleball court. We were ecstatic at the thought that pickleball would be in one of their upcoming songs! We needed to know what they were up to and if we could help out, so we reached out to their producer and the info we received was that they were in fact working on a pickleball video and including pros, Michelle Esquivel, Ben Johns and Tyson McGuffin in the lyrics of their song.

We jumped in to help and the talented Steve Taylor, at Digital Spatula, provided professional pictures of these pros in action to include in the video, and we patiently waited to see what hilarious song was to come about pickleball.

“The Pickleball Song” was released on June 21st and immediately pickleball fans were sharing the video across their personal social media channels, within Facebook pickleball groups and online forums, laughing at comedic song and texting our beloved pros that they were internet famous!

Naturally, the best thing to do was to call on Michelle Esquivel, known in their song lyrics as “consistent as hell, like Michelle Esquivel,” to get on a video interview to talk pickleball and give them some pro tips on how to learn the game. What followed, was this entertaining video interview with Kim and Penn Holderness. “I didn’t choose pickleball, pickleball chose me!”

Watch the full interview featuring Kim and Penn Holderness, Michelle Esquivel and Laura Vossberg Gainor of USA Pickleball to check out what other surprises we gave to the family to help them with their pickleball game!

Soon The Holderness Family will be sporting protective eyewear from RIA Eyewear, thanks to Michelle’s safety tip.

The Holderness Family Launches “The Pickleball Song”

The Holderness Family Launches “The Pickleball Song”

The Holderness Family, known for their viral music videos, has hit the pickleball court! And, after playing once they’re hooked and ready to up their game. While creating the most epic song – “the Pickleball Song,” of course.

Check out “The Pickleball Song” and our full interview with the Holderness Family as pickleball pro, Michelle Esquivel (AKA Consistent as Hell) gives Kim and Penn some tips to up their game. 

Spikeball, Pickleball and Volleyball Battle it Out in ‘Pro vs. Pro’ Video Series

Spikeball, Pickleball and Volleyball Battle it Out in ‘Pro vs. Pro’ Video Series

By Laura Gainor – Featured in the May/June issue of Pickleball Magazine

What do you get when you have the best players in spikeball, pickleball and volleyball come together to show off their talents in their respective sports?

A “Pro vs. Pro” video series with top-ranked pickleball players Ben Johns and Kyle Yates playing pickleball and spikeball (a.k.a. roundnet) against Preston Bies, pro roundnet player, and Casey Patterson, pro beach volleyball player.

The video series on Preston Bies’ YouTube channel called “How to Roundnet” all started with Preston taking a break from spikeball to do a 50-day pickleball binge where he trained two hours a day.

Preston, 27, of Santa Barbara, California, got stoked about pickleball and wanted to play against the best. So he did a Google search for “best pickleball player in the world” and found none other than Ben Johns’ name pop up. He figured, why not message Ben on Instagram and ask if he wants to come out to California to do a pro vs. pro video series to play spikeball and pickleball, and to bring a friend with him.

So that’s exactly what happened. Ben called Kyle Yates and asked if he was up for the challenge, so both of them flew to California to learn how to play spikeball and show Preston and Casey how to excel in the game of pickleball.

“Ben and I are always up to try something new, so when we are invited to play with the world’s best at anything, of course we’re going to say yes!” says Kyle. “My favorite part about the Pro vs. Pro competition was seeing just how amazing these other pros are at their respective sports. I was in awe of some of the shots Preston was able to hit in roundnet—and it was pretty fun to show off a bit and feel comfortable on the pickleball court!”

Not only did these incredible athletes excel at each other’s respective sports, they had some fun along the way—including Ben using a slipper as a pickleball paddle to see if he could still win against the spikeball pros in a match. Spoiler alert: Ben won.

“For playing pickleball just three months, Preston is pretty good,” says Ben. When asked if he was going to try to play roundnet again in his free time, he replied, “Free time is a word I don’t use a lot these days! But if I get the chance, I’ll absolutely play again.”

According to Chris Ruder, Founder and CEO of Spikeball, Inc.—with approximately 4 million spikeball units sold—there are about 10-20 million people who have played roundnet.

Another spikeball pro competitor, Chris Hornacek, who recently hit the courts with Tyson Aposotol for an intense singles match, is also a pickleball pro-in-the-making, which proves there are many parallels between the two sports.

“I announced on Instagram that I was playing pickleball and suddenly a ton of spikeball players were sending me direct messages saying, ‘Yeah, I play!’ and telling me where I should travel to play pickleball,” says Chris. “Everyone points you in the right direction on how to improve your game.”

With millions of passionate players for a backyard game that complements pickleball nicely, we look forward to this network of athletes continuing to join us on the courts and work their way to the top of the pro circuit. See you in November at the 2021 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships!

Check out the Pro vs. Pro video by Preston Bies of “How to Roundnet” below and visit our @USAPickleball Instagram channel for more exclusive videos and photos from competition!