Carson, California — In a groundbreaking moment for the fastest growing sport in the U.S., pickleball soared to unprecedented heights, quite literally, aboard the iconic Goodyear Blimp. This week witnessed a historic match taking place inside the blimp as it gracefully floated over Carson, California. The game featured renowned professionals, including Anna Leigh Waters, Catherine Parenteau, and Jay Devilliers.
As the blimp set a new milestone in its storied history, it is now making history of a different kind by providing aerial coverage for the first time to the Professional Pickleball Association Tour Finals in San Clemente, California, scheduled for Sunday. This marks a remarkable turn for a blimp that has a legacy deeply rooted in diverse endeavors, from supporting the U.S. Navy in World War II to broadcasting emergency signals during natural disasters.
“We basically invented aerial broadcasting of sports,” proudly declared Taylor Deen, a seasoned Goodyear Blimp pilot with 12 years of experience. The blimp, having witnessed monumental moments like Amelia Earhart’s flights and Sally Ride’s achievements, had its breakthrough in 1955 by becoming the first aerial platform to live broadcast an event for television.
This new venture into the world of pickleball further solidifies the blimp’s presence as a fixture at the grandest events, including Super Bowls, NASCAR, World Cups, Stanley Cups, and NBA Finals.
“I’ve always been like, all right, your sport’s kind of made it if the Goodyear Blimp comes to it. So I guess pickleball’s made it now,” remarked 16-year-old Anna Leigh Waters, the reigning No. 1 pickleball player in the world.
The sport’s meteoric rise, particularly since the pandemic, has seen a surge in popularity, with a staggering 8.9 million people playing across the U.S. in 2022, according to a report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
“It just kind of exploded,” shared Waters. “So I was really glad to be a part of it, because when I started playing, I was 10. And now I’m 16. So I’ve kind of grown with the sport.”
As pioneers from both the court and the sky unite, they are undeniably propelling pickleball to “blimp-worthy” status, capturing the essence of a sport that has truly taken flight.