HILLSBORO, OR (KPTV) – Invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965, pickleball, “a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong,” has seen a recent growth that goes well beyond the Pacific Northwest.
FOX 12 recently visited the backyard court of a pickleball hall of famer whose father played a heavy role in how the game is played today.
From paddle innovations to national champions and hall of famers, many have a connection back to this pickleball court in the backyard of a man from Hillsboro.
“We never saw this coming where this sport was going to be a recognized sport all over the world,” said Steve Paranto.
He is on his third house with a home court advantage.
“I wouldn’t buy a house if I couldn’t fit one in the backyard,” he said.
The 64-year-old retired PE teacher grew up in Eatonville, Washington and moved to the Willamette Valley to play tennis for Pacific University in 1976. Then came the time to brine in his post-collegiate endeavors with pickleball being the No. 1 love.
“I complained about these heavy wood paddles that had a teeny little sweet spot. I weighed the paddle, they were 13 times heavier than a ball. I weighed my tennis racket and it was only seven times heavier than a tennis ball, so I knew the weight ratio was all wrong,” Paranto said.
In came his father, Arlen Paranto, an engineer in the cost-saving department at Boeing.
“Two weeks later, he had two prototypes and that turned into this company here, ProLite,” Paranto said.
For nearly a decade, ProLite was the lone company making composite pickleball paddles. Now, there are countless companies in the paddle “racket.”
“I think of being back in my dad’s garage with Dad making his own assembly line making paddles,” Paranto said. “Dad made every single part of the paddle except for the edge guards, he had that made.”
Paranto’s love of the leisure has never wavered.
“Pickleball has changed my life and if you talk to most pickleball players, they’ll tell you it’s changed their life either in a fitness way, a healthy way or a friendship way,” he said.
One of those decades-old friends is 1990 Glencoe High grad, Enrique Ruiz.
“He was like a big brother to me and still is,” Ruiz said.
It’s always good to know a good homebrewer too.
“He learned to brew his own beer from his dad. It is really good beer, so I love to come to Steve’s house because he always has good beer,” Ruiz said.
Cheers from one hall of famer to another as Ruiz and Paranto were both inducted in 2019.
“When you get that jacket on, you kind of feel like you are getting the green jacket at Augusta,” said Paranto.
His dad earned enshrinement too as a key contributor to the sport in 2017.
“Father-son in the hall of fame means a lot to me,” said Paranto. “For my dad, I think he thinks it’s the most gratifying moment of his life being inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.”
A lifelong learner and instructor, Paranto has been known to convert a few lifelong tennis players.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not going to play that game. I’m not even going to look at that game, it’s such a silly name,’” said Bonnie Williams.
Now, Williams is a multi-time pickleball national champion.
“Still have that competitive thread, I don’t know if you ever lose that if you had it,” she said.
When asked if she was still laughing at the name, Williams said, “Well, of course, but now, it needs to stay.”
“There is no barrier to entry, right? Anyone can get really good,” said 27-year-old pickleball player Spencer Laurent.
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