Louden Nelson hosts a pickleball demonstration Friday July 27. Photo from usapa.org.

Santa Cruz is trying a new sport with a silly name on for size. The Louden Nelson Community Center is hosting a demonstration of pickleball on Friday, July 27, from 10am to 2pm.

“It’s like ping pong and tennis combined,” says Louden Nelson supervisor Rachel Kaufman. She hopes the game will be a hit with seniors.

Pickleball, which will be played on one half of the Laurel Park basketball court, is played with a plastic whiffle ball and oversize paddles and has rules similar to doubles tennis. Teams of two square off in an area about the size of badminton court. The small court size and slow-moving plastic ball make it easy for young and elderly people to keep up with the pace.

Kaufman knows people who already play pickleball in Texas and says the sport is sweeping the South. The sport has also gained followings in Utah, British Columbia and other pockets of North America. It began in the Washington State backyard of US Congressman Joel Pritchard, who was looking for a game to play with his family.

The Louden Nelson Center already offers a variety of games for seniors like yoga and ping pong, and Kaufman hopes pickleball will join that list of events. (If it really takes off, Kaufman says new painted court lines might become a permanent addition at the park.)

“Our hope is that we launch this new sport in Santa Cruz,” Kaufman says. “When we advertised this event, we got calls from people around here that do play in tournaments other places.”

Friday’s demonstration is being done in conjunction with the city’s re-branding of July as Parks and Recreation Month. Kauffman says pickleball is for all ages, but the morning time slot was set up with elders in mind.

It remains to be seen how the hoops-shooting crowd that typically dominates the Laurel basketball court will adjust to a new sport on their turf, especially if the game turns into a weekly event as Kaufman hopes it will.

If a pickleball trial run last Friday is any indication, though, the curious athletes might be game for a new activity.

“It was funny because there were guys who were playing basketball,” Kaufman says. “But they put down their basketballs down and came down and played pickleball.”