Wow! What an incredible experience for us first-timers at the 2014 USAPA Nationals VI Tournament in Sun City Festival, Buckeye, AZ. Just wanted to offer some of the highlights of the week and insights into our experiences while everything was still fresh in our minds for those of you who weren't able to make it to Buckeye.
We truly did not know what to expect when we arrived the Saturday before the tournament began in order to let our very own Rob Barnes practice before the start on Sunday. Our main goal was to introduce a new brand called Selkirk Sport, to the best in the Pickleball World, and show off a growing selection of some of the finest hand-crafted and best-looking pickleball paddles in the world.
While we definitely felt like the n00bs that we were and felt a little bit of an apprehension from some of our vendor-tent neighbors at first (other paddle manufacturers to be specific), the ice was quickly broken and we were able to meet not only some of the other fantastic vendors like Rodney "Rocket" Grubbs and his great family manning the Pickleball Rocks tables behind us but some of our other competitors as well.
In addition to meeting some of the other newcomers to the Pickleball world like Viking Athletics and Harrow Sports we got a chance to meet and chat with Tom Wheeler of Pickleball Now, Brooke Siver of Manta World Sport and had a good time talking to Curtis and Cody Smith of Paddletek. We were able to also get a quick chance to meet and chat with Heidi Wong of Onix Sports (unfortunately Steve was busy beating Rob in Men's Doubles and unavailable to chat) as well as Neil Freidenberg of Pro-Lite Sports. All great guys (and gals). And all of whom have coincidently given solemn blood vows to squish us like the bugs we are (added for melodramatic emphasis and underdog empathy).
Our devastating secret weapon in this land of pickleball giants was a small little tyke named Riley Barnes. He quickly countered any potentially intimidating competitive evil-eye with a soul-melting smile that could pierce the hardest warrior—he also sold a boatload of paddles—so he's definitely earning his keep. He also has a love for pickleball paddles that while currently manifests itself in inserting it into his mouth, we're confident that some day in the not-too-distant future, he'll be collecting all his pickleball tournament championship winnings in order to pay for the therapy that he'll need to recover from living his whole life surrounded by pickleballs and pickleball drills.
Honestly, while we know there is definitely a competitive spirit amongst paddle manufacturers, we were amazed at the overall friendly nature and even friendly advice we were met with by everyone and for that we were very thankful. This is truly a unique market to be in.
The next thing we came to see was the best pickleball players in the world and we were not disappointed. It was a great experience to be able to sit up close to these hard-fought battles and watch the intensity and sheer impossible athleticism displayed by the likes of Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, who successfully defended their Women's Doubles Gold Title in Open Competition for an incredible 4th year in a row!, Christina Barksdale, Joy Leising and Lydia Willis as well as legends like Enrique Ruiz, Brian Staub and Steve Wong to some of the relative newcomers like Philip Bagley, Daniel Moore, Wesley Gabrielsen, Will Willson and Kyle Yates and so many more that I'm running out of space and time to list them all (my apologies to the many I missed).
Suffice it to say, we would have paid good money just to watch some of these individual matches by themselves. And some of the best matches weren't even the final medal matches! All in all, it was an amazing display of raw talent and speed and sheer athletic ability that was both inspiring and energizing to witness. What a sport!
The third thing we came to do was to introduce our new 200P Composite Series with Polymer Honeycomb Core to players looking for power and control in their choice of paddles. It also provided our most colorful paddle lineup to date and was definitely a crowd-stopper at our table. We've been very pleased with it's reception and are looking forward to seeing it out there in the hands of more and more players as word gets out.
While this year our paddles were lost in a sea of Paddleteks and Pro-Lites, we were very gratified to see a small handful of our paddles in players' hands before we even got to selling our paddles from the table. By the end of the tournament, we were even more gratified and encouraged (and humbled!) to see our paddles leave in the hands of some of the best players in the world.
To be sure, we're holding our collective breaths for their feedback and input which we plan on quickly incorporating into our future product pipeline (yes, we have a pipeline)! We're also optimistic that by this time next year, you will see more than a few Selkirk Sport paddles on the victory stands.
To finish up, we had an awesome experience for our first Nationals and are looking forward to using this experience to launch into this next year with even more new products and surprises up our sleeves. In the meantime, we've returned to slightly "cooler" temperatures in Coeur d'Alene and are gearing up for some exciting times ahead.
We'll be grooming Riley for continuing feats of cuteness and mapping out our schedule for next year's must-attend tournaments which we'll be posting by the end of December. Be sure to keep an eye on us and if you get a chance, come out and say "Hi!" at a tournament nearest you. And we'll be back for Nationals VII next year in Casa Grande!