Pickleball players vary in abilities

Paddle sport enthusiasts travel to Washougal

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Walt Pisarczyk (left) and Mike Hoxie (right) are among the individuals who enjoy the sport of pickleball, despite their physical ailments. Pisarczyk has drop foot, and Hoxie was born without a lower left arm. Hoxie is president of the Columbia River Pickleball Club, based in Washougal.

Individuals with a variety of health issues and physical abilities are enjoying the sport of pickleball in the local area.

Rosalie Knutsen, of Camas, has enjoyed playing the paddle sport for three years.

Her health issues include having impaired balance and being deaf in one ear, as the result of being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1990.

Knutsen, 76, and her husband, Richard, first became aware of pickleball while visiting RV parks in Arizona and California.

During the summer, she enjoys playing pickleball on the former tennis courts near Hathaway Park, in Washougal.

During inclement weather, Knutsen plays on indoor courts at Club Green Meadows or the Firstenburg Community Center, in Vancouver.

She said playing pickleball has improved her life.

“Meeting so many friendly people who love the game, one doesn’t have time to whine,” she said. “It’s a game for all ages, and the Columbia River Pickleball Club has a great bunch of people.”

Mike Hoxie, president of the local pickleball club, was born without a lower left arm.

Hoxie, 43, started playing pickleball in 2010, in Beaverton, Ore.

He first heard about the sport three years earlier, when his ex-wife played pickleball with her parents at Firstenburg.

Hoxie, an Aloha, Ore., resident, plays pickleball on a regular basis in Vancouver and Washougal.

“With only my right arm, many people try to go to my ‘backhand,'” he said. “I do ‘cheat’ over a little, but I surprise many with my reach and speed to react.”

Hoxie is enjoying the social aspect of playing pickleball, and he has participated in tournaments.

Dee St. Laurent is a breast cancer survivor.

She is in her fourth year of playing pickleball, after taking a Washougal Community Education and Recreation class taught by Mike Wolfe, at Jemtegaard Middle School, in 2011.

St. Laurent, 76, first heard about pickleball while she was walking on the second floor at Firstenburg, and the sport was being played on the first floor.

“I put down my knitting needles and replaced them with a paddle,” she said.

St. Laurent, of Vancouver, plays pickleball a minimum of three times a week. “Women in their 80’s, they are an inspiration to me,” she said. “There’s always a tournament somewhere.

“I have not played in an age-related one yet,” St. Laurent added. “Sometimes I have a real young partner, but it always works out.”

St. Laurent used to love to play tennis until she tore her rotator cuff. With pickleball, she serves underhanded.

St. Laurent has volunteered to teach the sport to area schoolchildren. She encourages other people to play pickleball.

“Don’t think about it, just do it,” she said. “There’s always someone there to help. We help all beginners, because we’ve all been there.”

Walt Pisarczyk, of Ridgefield, has drop foot, caused by nerve damage.

From his left ankle down, he has almost no control of the foot or the toes.

Pisarczyk, 66, has had two open heart surgeries and a back surgery.

Playing pickleball has provided him with the opportunity to play a competitive sport instead of sitting around at home.

He encourages other people to try playing pickleball.

“When you’re dead, you have a lot of time to rest,” Pisarczyk said. “Drag yourself out, and get some exercise. It’s a good way to meet people.”

He is hoping pickleball courts will be built in North Clark County.

“Washougal and Camas are on the forefront of the fastest growing sport in the U.S.,” Pisarczyk said.

Pisarczyk and his wife have been playing pickleball on the courts in Washougal, since September.

“You just show up, and you are welcome to play,” Pisarczyk said. “You don’t have to have a partner. We were accepted as part of the family.”

For more information about the Columbia River Pickleball Club, contact Hoxie at (503) 997-2844 or or visit