There's no question, Pickleball is HOT right now. Named by NBC as the fastest growing sportin the country from 2019 to 2021, this sport is not only hot but very cool. A mix of other sports (like pingpong and tennis), pickleball is "a racquet sport played on a smaller tennis-like court." In our opinion, there's nothing more fun than pickleball right now and sports aficionados around the country (and the world) agree!
So, now, enter Erik Rosner, Zensah Ambassador and multi-disciplinary designer who just happens to also be a pro pickleball player. Rosner honed his pickleball prowess from a collegiate tennis career and now has set his sights on pickleball. He also likes to make art, travel, watch Liverpool FC, soccer in general and is left-handed!
We took a look into Erik's world so he could give us a view on his journey with pickleball, his creativity, and what's next for this pro pickleball powerhouse.
ZS: What is one thing you want people to know about you?
ER: The more I grow my creative self, the more dynamic I’ve found my pickleball game (and overall athleticism) becomes.
ZS: How did you get into pickleball? Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional player.
ER: My first time playing pickleball was with a former college teammate on a visit to Santa Cruz where we went to school. He was a casual-but-still-regular pickleball player and he totally smoked me in a few games of singles. Despite all of that, I liked the game for being similar enough to tennis where I didn’t feel like I was starting totally from scratch. But also still different and challenging enough that I felt like I was taking on something new and exciting.
So a month or so later on New Years Day 2019 when my parents suggested we try pickleball at the local club (yep, those exist) I was more open than I probably otherwise would have been to check it out. That club ended up being Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle, which I later discovered is literary world famous for being one of the original and best places to get a game. The great thing about pickleball culture is this concept called “open play” where anyone can just show up, lay a paddle down in line and challenge onto a court to play the winners from the previous match. All in a social, welcoming but still competitive setting (typically). Some evenings at Bobby Riggs I remember having over 100 people for open play, so even then it was incredibly popular in San Diego.
As for my pro pickleball journey… my first amateur event was in January 2020, a 4.5 rated mixed doubles tournament a friend asked me to play in. We won 7 rounds and eventually the gold medal after facing multiple match points and the prospect of getting unceremoniously dumped out in the first round. Talk about a sliding doors moment. My first pro event was in June later that year. In 2021 I played a hybrid of pro and amateur 5.0 events, with 2022 now being all pro pickleball calendar.
ZS: What are some highs and lows in your pickleball career thus far?
ER: The high’s have have been winning gold medals at pretty much every amateur event I’ve entered, as well as also breaking through and winning some of my first matches at the pro level. I’ve always believed in my ability and some of the uniqueness about my lefty, creative game. To have it validated in competitive play and done so by winning some big pressure moments along the way is especially rewarding. All in a career after tennis I never imagined I would have.
The low’s have come when trying to break through to higher levels at top pro events. That includes streaks of tournaments losing in tight 2-out-of-3 set matches to high profile and highly-rated players. The margins between winning and losing pro matches are razor thin, and despite the success I’ve had so far and how grateful I am to even be on those stages, it doesn’t make losing matches sting any less. I’d argue sometimes it hurts even more to lose those when you balance all that you’ve put in to being there. But with the low’s again come the high’s, and if you apply the lessons learned in the hard losses to work put in on the practice court, the wins that follow taste even sweeter than before.
ZS: What are you looking forward to this year for your pickleball career (tournaments, games, travel)?
ER: This year I’m looking forward to all the travel I’ll get to do because of my tournament schedule. This includes California, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Ohio, Utah… to name only a few. My goal is to also break into the podium spots for a few of the top APP and PPA events later this year.
ZS: What does your training regimen look like?
ER: I have a core group of other pros I train with where I live in Portland, Oregon. Probably at the moment I have a 2:1 ratio of 1-on-1 drilling versus practice play. Drilling is how my game improves the fastest because when done right you a get wide range of touches at the kitchen line as well as repeated reps at resets and transitions in the mid court. I also strength train on the side, and believe that having strong and flexible legs is just as important as your ability to hit the ball.
ER: I always play in my Zensah Compression Arm Sleeves or Sun Sleeves. They’re obviously great when the sun is beaming down in the summer months in places like Arizona and Florida. However, I’ve found in the Pacific Northwest winters the Sun Sleeves are also great for staying warm while not being too heavily layered. I even wear them when playing indoors!
I’m also really liking the Grit 2.0 Performance Socks. I battle with Plantar Fasciitis from time to time, so these have been genuine life savers during long days of competition.
ZS: What is one quote you live by? Or a personal mantra?
ER: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” A quote that resonated with me in my first semester at design school and is one that I still reflect on often. From 20th century French poet, journalist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
ZS: What is your favorite place you’ve ever played pickleball?
ER: That would have to be in Lake Arrowhead, California at a friend’s sprawling lake house. Her family was one of the first to build around the lake, so they have a picturesque boathouse and slip right on the water with a pickleball court nestled just behind. A day of sunshine, boats, beers, friends, games and of course pickleball is pretty tough to beat.
ZS: We heard pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the USA right now. Why do you think that is and what advice do you have for those who want to get into the sport?
ER: Pickleball has exploded because it is equal parts social, competitive, quick, exercise-inducing, and most of all… fun! It is approachable to all levels and ages. I know seniors in their 70’s and 80’s who play 6-7 times a week. At the same time, kids are currently learning to play in their school PE classes.
A LOT of those who come from a tennis background like myself try it once and don’t look back. Why? Because it is simply more fun. And as you progress up the levels the gameplay and strategy gets more and more complex, even compared to that of tennis in my opinion.
For those who want to get started, it’s not just former tennis players who have an advantage. Off the top of my head I can think of high level players with backgrounds in not just racket/paddle sports like ping pong, badminton, racketball and squash, but also volleyball, baseball, ultimate frisbee… Each sport has their own movements and instincts that can be adapted and add a distinct flavor to your pickleball game.
But if you don’t have any sporting background it’s not the end of the world. In some ways you’re also lucky to not have all of the bad habits from a previous sporting life to overcome and retrain. There are pickleball clubs, public parks and communities all across the country. Even in places you would never think of finding one. Again, the culture is open and welcoming. So if you’re interested do a quick search in your local area and I’m sure there will be open play you can drop into somewhere close by.
ZS: What other hobbies do you love (in addition to pickleball of course):
ER: I like to make art in my spare time. Painting, print making, photography. As a designer I’m always hit up by friends and connections for fun, personal projects like logos, t-shirts, posters, etc. Living in the PNW I also enjoy doing outdoorsy things like hiking, camping and skiing in the wintertime.
ZS: Where can people find you? (on social media and at upcoming games!)
ER: Check out erikrosner.comand I’m @erikrosneron all the major social networks. You can also occasionally catch me on the APP and PPA tour broadcasts on Youtube, Facebook Live, CBS Sports and ESPN+ when I happen to grace the center court.
ZS: Zensah’s motto is #withoutlimitz meaning we want you to feel limitless in everything you do. What does limitless look like for you?
ER: My limitless looks like… traveling the world playing the sport I love. Why? I’ve gotten to and will get to see places I never otherwise would have and I get to do it for the most fun of all reasons.