Tuesday, June 18, 2024 (Court Day #676)

I flew into Las Vegas a little before 2 p.m. and paid the $15 to get from the airport to the Flamingo Hotel via a generic shuttle bus. While the hotel receptionist told me that my room was ready, they wouldn’t let me check in 90 minutes early without paying an extra $23. Forget that! So I headed to trade show area’s registration desk and they were happy to park my backpack and duffle bag behind their counter. I picked up my badge and sat in on a hands-on workshop demonstrating Swiss-made gouache paint . . . it is an art materials trade show after all.


After a stop in my room on the third floor to settle in with my things, the show host company had an opening mixer at the Sol Mexican restaurant down the street starting at 6 p.m. It was mostly a standing dinner, though there were a handful of spots to sit and eat with a plate on your lap. It was fun to catch up with people.

At about 8:10 p.m., I opted to walk the two blocks back to the hotel and see about squeezing in some pickleball.

I changed, confirmed the courts address, and made my way to the ‘taxi and ride share’ area outside. Conveniently, I’d received a Lyft coupon in my email that would expire the last day of the show. It was warm, even in shorts and a T-shirt.

The app estimated the ETA at 4 minutes, but turned in about 15 minutes as my driver passed by my street and kept going. Unfortunately, there was road construction going on and I suspect the driver just thought “no way” and bailed out. Lyft assigned me a new driver at 9:00 p.m. and the estimated 3 minutes was actually closer to 10. Court time was ticking away, so it seemed like forever!

Sunset Park

Finally, at 9:33 p.m., I was walking through the chain link gate into Sunset Park’s pickleball courts.

The view from just inside the entrance.

I’d been told by the moderator of the Las Vegas pickleball Facebook group to go to the four challenge courts on the far side—the question was, where were those exactly.

I introduced myself to some random players. One fellow asked my rating. “4.0.” He pointed down the walkway. Ah. The challenge courts.

Challenge Courts

Once there, I was chatting with a guy about the local play and he shared, “some professionals play over there,” pointing across the complex. That would not be me!

He added, “They are going to be adding more courts.” Wow. My home, Santa Cruz County, is so far behind in public courts. There are only four public permanent lighted courts in the county and the lights go off at 8:30 p.m. except Friday and Saturday when you get an extra hour. There are also four other permanent courts and fourteen dual-striped courts spread around at parks but all with no lights.

My Gearbox Pro paddle placed and waiting for my first game, behind two stacked paddles.

First Game

I played with a man named Trent against Matt and An. (Pronounced “ah-n”.) We lost 5-11. An was the best of the players that I watched tonight. 4.3? 4.5? I don’t know. Good player. When I asked my partner Trent about his background, Trent explained he is primarily a tennis player who also plays some pickleball.

So, at Sunset Park, if you win, you stay for two games, then come off if too many are waiting. It wasn’t clear to me what was “too many”.

There was a pair of guys were using two sets of paddles. They left a set of junk paddles at a court to reserve a spot but were playing elsewhere with different paddles. Then they showed up at the court and swapped those paddles with the ones they’d just been playing with. I gather this is frowned upon here, but there’s no one to police and enforce the local etiquette. It certainly annoyed me. I was waiting a good while to get back onto a court and these guys were gaming the system to double their playing time at the risk of delaying other people’s games. Others were asking around trying to find the “missing” players.

The Laughing Lion

I played with a young guy named Stan. I was told that Stan has a YouTube channel. Stan said his channel features Las Vegas and is called “The Laughing Lion”. He also said he did a video about the pickleball convention held recently here.

[I left Stan my card and he emailed me his videos…
Las Vegas youtube channel: youtube.com/@thelaughinglion
Vegas Pickleball channel: youtube.com/@vegaspickleball ]

Second Game

Stan and I played a game as teammates. In a surprise, our would-be opponents had just beat Matt and An, a strong team.

Ours would be a close game.

One opponent did hit me two or three times with the ball over the course of the game. When hit him with the ball later, Stan was pretty amused and commented on the retribution.

I was on the left side and Stan was on the right. They popped up a ball and I hit it to the sideline. The player directly across from me called ball in, and I shared that I thought it was just out. My partner thought that it was out but his partner thought it was in. This pretty amusing. In the end, we give them the benefit of the doubt and let the call stand out.

We had been up 9-6, but they came back and were leading 11-10.

They thought a rally was over. Much like my game recently with John Connors, there was a fire fight at the net where I was defending. The balls were coming down fast. Somehow, with my right hand stretched out low to the right and the backside of my hand awkwardly facing the net, I managed to get the ball back over and they couldn’t return it, so we won that rally.

Stan and I went on to win 13-11.

Later note: In Stan’s email the next day, he said, “Hey buddy, It was great to meet you last night at Sunset Park. You saved our last game with that unbelievable defensive volley and we won by a slim margin. Nice work! That was my 11th match of the night and I was so tired.”

That last game wrapped up at 10:57 p.m. The lights clicked off at 11 p.m. sharp and a uniformed official came around right then to lock up the courts and the bathrooms.

Me, An, Matt, Trent.
The opponents who Stan and I faced in that last game.

In my 90 minutes at Sunset Park, I got in just two games. That’s a whole lot of waiting.

“Home, James”

The Lyft driver told me that it’s great weather right now—in the mid to high 80s—and it’s supposed to be 108°F later is week.

The rides cost about $15 to get to the courts and about $25 to get back around 11:30 p.m.

And here’s Stan’s video of the pickleball convention held recently in Las Vegas, it’s on his main Las Vegas channel, not his pickleball channel:

Number of days on a court: 676
Number of total hours: 2,862
Number of paid coaching hours: 43.5

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