Norm Kowalchuk has been gaining attention across North America for his pickleball skills, after winning a number of tournaments last season, the St. Paul man signed with Manta World Sport Pro. Norm, who is also the President of the St. Paul Pickleball Club, says it’s the love of the game that keeps him active.
“I’m having a blast,” laughs Norm, “it’s a great social game, the doubles play and interaction. And the exercise and getting out.” Norm spends a month of his winter in Arizona and a few years ago started playing the game, which is huge there. He made many friends and now travels the circuit, entering many tournaments in the States. It was one of those tournaments that had him get noticed by Manta World Sport Pro. “I was in the Fall Brawl, in St. George, Utah, in October,” Norm had met the Manta representatives previously when they came to St. Paul and Bonnyville to teach a clinic; but it was at the Fall Brawl that he was able to sit down with the major equipment manufacturer. “They’re a Canadian company, out of Kamloops, which is another reason I was interested in joining up with them.” Manta specializes in paddle sports; along with Pickleball they make paddleboards and squash rackets. “I was able to try out their paddles and equipment; they make really good stuff. It’s competitive equipment.”
After winning two gold medals (Men’s Singles, Men’s 50+ Doubles) and a silver (Men’s Doubles all ages) in the Fall Brawl and two weeks later Norm won two more gold medals at the Huntsman World Seniors’ Games, also held in St. George, Utah. Norm has different partners depending on which tournament and where the location is, for these tournaments he double with Mike Kozak, from Indiana, Illinois. Norm has plans to partner with Mike again in January and at the US Open in April. Norm another partner in California in the late winter and one from Flagstaff, Arizona. Along, with the people he plays with locally from the St. Paul Pickleball club. Norm has routed out his winter-spring with tournaments in Arizona, Florida, California, and Mexico.
With the success he’s been having in tournaments, Norm is rated as a 4.0 player. That is one of the highest rating a player can receive.
In Alberta, Pickleball is the fastest growing sport with over 2,500 members in just a few years. As the sport continues to grow, so do the facilities, Red Deer was just approved for a $10 million outdoor facility. Locally, the St. Paul club plays at the old Racette School gym in the winter and on the tennis courts in the summer. The club will look at converting the courts, permanently, sometime in the future, explains Norm. As for other Lakeland areas, there is a club in Elk Point, that was approved for new outdoor courts and Cold Lake has two new Pickleball courts. Bonnyville’s club has been lobbying for Pickleball courts and uses the Centennial Centre in the winter and the tennis courts in the summer.
The 80 member club in St. Paul, play both the mornings and afternoons on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays during the winter. For more information on joining the club, you can contact Norm at 780-290-0216 or drop in anytime.