HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — It's an easy game to play — but don't be fooled — it's a difficult game to master. That's what keeps Surf City Pickleball Society members like Dr. Mark De Dubovay coming back for more. 

What You Need To Know

  • Surf City Pickleball Society is a nonprofit organization

  • The society has expanded the sport into middle and high school P.E. curriculums and helped to make pickleball part of the community

  • The society's annual tournament is in August. Visit for more information:

"Old tennis players never die. They just become pickleball players," De Dubovay said.

A former country club tennis player and avid surfer, De Dubovay has been battling Parkinson's for 10 years. After an accident in the water left him with over 100 stitches on his face, he picked up a pickleball paddle two years ago.

The sport has become his therapy and society like a second family to him.

"Because of the movement, it's like my medicine, and I look forward to it every day, and I feel better when I play it," De Dubovay said.

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball grew to 4.2 million players in the U.S. in 2020, a smashing 21% rise from 2019.

And the sport has people like Society President and Founder Diana Abruscato to thank.

A lifelong SoCal resident, Abruscato's a former competitive player and has been playing for eight years. She was one of just 24 people playing in Huntington Beach in 2013. Today over 2,500 people play in the city, which installed four dedicated courts in 2017.

She created the nonprofit society, and it's her team of volunteers' mission to give back to the community through the sport by getting pickleball into middle and high school P.E. curriculums and donating nets, paddles and balls. They even paint court lines for venues that want to add pickleball.

"It's just about at this point about community and giving back and welcoming and hosting people as a destination city," Abruscato said.

Her persistence is a big part of why the city has been on board and is riding the wave.

Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize got hooked as a city official and a player.

"I think when you have some kind of event that brings out people that they can support something, they can play something, they make the community better," Delgleize said.

Pickleball's most exciting shots might be the ones taken by the next generation.

Society Youth Advocate and Huntington Beach High School senior Samantha Starks has been playing for four years and watched her sisters play softball for a decade. But she wanted a sport that was easier to learn and that she could play with her mom Mille, who's become her partner.

Now, she's part of the 44% of players between ages 6 and 34, growing the game locally.  

"I think for it to continue to grow and be an important sport in the future, younger kids have to be interested in it because that's the only way we can continue to have interest in the sport," Starks said.

And as the society prepares for their annual tournament coming up later this summer, the focus might turn to the pros, but the heart is really here where the society plays, even on temporary courts at times.

"It's given me new life and new hope. And as long as I can hold a pickleball paddle and play... life is good," De Dubovay said.