A pair of South Whidbey High School alumni and siblings who have made pickleball their full-time job saw their efforts pay off recently at a national tournament held earlier this month.
Riley and Lindsey Newman took first place in the mixed pro doubles division at the USA Pickleball National Championships, which ran Dec. 6-14 in Palm Springs, Calif.
It’s an honor they’ve been striving for since first picking up a pickleball paddle in 2017.
From a young age, the Newman siblings taught themselves how to play tennis, a sport which has helped them adapt to pickleball.
With a total of seven kids in the family, tennis lessons were hard to afford and out of the question.
“It was basically me and Lindsey going onto the courts,” Riley, a 2011 grad, said. His big sister Lindsey graduated in 2009.
After playing tennis throughout high school and college, the siblings made the switch to pickleball and the rest is history.
The Newmans play in an average of 20 pickleball tournaments per year, but the USA Pickleball National Championships is “the granddaddy of them all,” Riley said.
The siblings placed second in their division in 2019. Because of the pandemic, the tournament did not happen in 2020 but did return this year.
The siblings won their final match with a score of 15-9.
“To be able to win with my sister was the coolest moment of my pickleball career by far,” Riley said.
Lindsey competed while six and a half months pregnant, a feat which Riley said was inspiring to everyone watching in the stands.
In addition to their first-place win, Riley also placed first in the men’s pro doubles division alongside Tyson McGuffin, his pickleball doubles partner from Idaho.
Achieving double gold medals has been a goal of Riley’s for a while. He is ranked no. 2 in the world, according to rankings from the Pro Pickleball Association.
He and Lindsey both live in Arizona, where the pickleball scene – and the weather – is the hottest. The majority of their other siblings also live within the area.
Over the past few years, pickleball has become their full-time jobs. In addition to traveling around the country for tournaments, Riley and Lindsey also teach pickleball camps in a variety of locations.
The prize money doesn’t hurt, either. Riley said the payouts at tournaments have been increasing since they started playing. The siblings are leaps and bounds away from the $330 they earned in cash prizes in 2017.
In 2022, they have plans to play tournaments in Canada.
The Newmans will be releasing their own signature pickleball paddles on Christmas Day. Riley said his is inspired by the colors of the Seattle Kraken and Lindsey’s is inspired by the colors of an Arizona sunset.