LBI Pickleballers Make Presence Known in Florida

Also Preparing Summer Tourney for Beach Haven
Mar 21, 2018

When observing and participating in pickleball activities on Florida’s West Coast over the winter, Karl Lombel and Andrea “Andy” Jones hope Long Beach Island can one day reach that level of interest. Lombel and Jones, who have summer homes in Long Beach Township, have been the driving forces behind the sport’s rising popularity on the Island. Last summer, they coordinated Long Beach Island’s first pickleball tournament in Beach Haven; they are planning for another one this year.

Jones said the racket game, which combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, is currently one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. On LBI, pickleball began drawing interest in 2013.

“It is played on a court about half the size of a tennis court, and the net is a little lower than a tennis court net,” she said. “It is also played with a Wiffleball, so it won’t bounce very far.”

Lombel serves as the U.S. Pickleball Association’s “ambassador” for LBI, while Jones holds the same title in Orefield, Pa.

“The ambassador’s job is to promote pickleball in a specific community,” she said.

Recently, Lombel and Jones won their first medal together – mixed doubles, ages 60 and up – in the Southern Tropics Pickleball Tournament held in Naples, Fla.

“It was a three-day event with 562 players,” said Jones, who has a winter home in nearby Bonita Springs.

Jones also won a bronze medal in women’s doubles (ages 50 and up) with partner Liz Howard.

Lombel, whose off-season home is in Naples, plays at a facility featuring 48 courts.

“It is extremely popular here,” he said. “It goes strong seven days a week.”

Naples will also be the site of next month’s U.S. Open Pickleball Association Championships, expected to draw more than 2,000 athletes, representing each state and 15 foreign countries. Lombel is in charge of the referees.

“We need to look forward to this summer’s tournament, and growth of this sporting activity that attracts players of all ages, from teenagers to senior citizens,” said Beach Haven Councilman Donald Kakstis. “The level of competition exhibited by Karl and Andy is indicative of the quality of play available on LBI, and is a step toward making Beach Haven and LBI as the center for pickleball excellence in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic states.”

— Eric Englund

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