Steamboat hosts pickleball national champion |

Steamboat hosts pickleball national champion

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Scott Moore, a 16-time national pickleball champion, stopped by the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs on Friday.

The 56-year-old, Texas-native has been traveling all over the world to spread the sport. He was preparing to host two days of clinics, split by skill level for 40 to 50 people in the area.

“I’ve been playing competitive tennis, pingpong, squash, badminton all my life. I’m a racket sport junkie, so I went and tried pickleball five and a half years ago,” Moore said. “Then, I went to nationals, and I became addicted.”

Pickleball, Moore describes, is the best all-around sport that’s ever been created. The game is played best two out of three sets to 11 points on a court about one-third the size of a tennis court. The rackets look like oversized pingpong paddles and are usually under $100.

Pickleball can be as challenging as you want it to be physically, but a good workout that’s easy on the joints, which is why it attracts people easily prone to injury or the older crowd. Moore said it’s intellectual and strategic, so not just the fastest, most powerful player wins.

“So it’s a generation equalizer, 80-year-olds are playing with 50-year-olds, 50-year-olds playing with 20-year-olds,” Moore said.

Injury is what pulled 60-year-old Jon Smalley away from tennis to start playing pickleball. He enjoys playing doubles and what’s called skinny singles, where players use half the court.

“I tore my bicep tendon playing tennis,” Smalley said. “So, I started playing pickleball left-handed and from that, I never went back to tennis.”

Smalley, originally from California, moved to Steamboat at 18 and lives there part time, spending the rest of his time as a kite surfer traveling the world “wherever the wind blows.”

As a world-traveler, Smalley finds pickleball communities wherever he goes, making friends and connections worldwide, including Moore, who he met in Jamaica.

Smalley thinks the social aspect is what makes pickleball special.

“I like to bike, like to kite, if I can get 2 to 3 hours of pickleball in the morning or even afternoon, it’s a social thing,” Smalley said. “A lot of us will go out to happy hour afterwords and enjoy each other’s company.”

Moore built on that, starting his own company, Pickleball Trips, which will host camps in Italy, Spain and Hawaii in the next few months. Although it’s recreational for most, he hopes to teach people valuable strategies for their game.

“We have the most systematic approach to teaching pickleball,” Moore said. “A lot of people just teach the technique, but we give them a foundation they can build their game on.”

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