SAN DIEGO — Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports since the pandemic, turned one North County Neighborhood All-Star into a traveling professional in the sport in just two years. 

“People watch me play and they ask me – what’s your tennis background? I say, ‘I don’t have a tennis background. I was cool in high school,” 24-year-old Kyle Whatnall said.

Whatnall, like many, never played pickleball before the pandemic.

“I started coming out to local clubs here, getting my butt kicked by people above me in age and that’s when I decided to grind and figure out how to play,” he said. 

That plan worked, helping the La Costa Canyon alum land a deal with ProKennex, a local racket company out of Encinitas.

“I’d like to get to the top, who doesn’t want to get to the top,” Whatnall continued. “I think with a little bit of grind and this opportunity with ProKennex here giving me the perfect platform to chase this dream and make it to the top of the sport.” 

Kyle spends roughly two hours a day training at the Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle in Encinitas, honing in on his skill at pickleball.

“Usually I like to do an hour of drilling, just practicing shot selection and the repetition of shots over and over, and then I like to get in an hour of weightlifting or recovery,” Whatnall said. 

For now, he is enjoying being an ambassador of the sport, hoping to inspire others to pick up a paddle.

“My best advice: get outside and play. You’ll get bit by the bug and get addicted after that,” Whatnall concluded.