SCV sees rise in nontraditional pastimes

Mike Bigelow of Castaic tosses his disc around a tree towards the sixth hole basket while playing 18 holes of disc golf at Central Park in Saugus. Disc golf is one of several growing nontraditional pastimes in the Santa Clarita Valley. Dan Watson
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With 11,000 acres of preserved open space and more than 30 parks across the Santa Clarita Valley, it’s no rarity to find cyclists down bikeways or little leagues running bases at Central Park. 

Squeaky sneakers making layups at the Sports Complex gym and butterfly strokes from swim meets at the Aquatics Center are common, too. But beyond the popular in practice are several less traditional sports Santa Claritans engage in daily.

Whether you’re looking to try something out of your comfort zone or find a new sport to play socially with friends and family, these three non-traditional sports are happening around the SCV and are constantly seeking new players to join.

Disc golf

There are more than 8,000 disc golf courses worldwide, and among them is the 18-hole course at Central Park, located at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road.

The sport, designed for people of all ages, is played much like golf but rather than using a ball and clubs, players use a flying disc with the objective to complete each hole in the fewest throws.

Disc golf is considered one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association, which has 40,000 recreational and professional members. With a multitude of sports and variations of traditional sports offered by the city of Santa Clarita, disc golf is no exception.

“We started with a nine-hole course about 10 years ago and from community requests, we added another nine holes,” said Lance O’Keefe, recreation and community services manager with the city of Santa Clarita. “It’s hard to put a true number (on how many people play) because you just go up and play, but our tournaments are growing each time they’re hosted.”

The Santa Clarita Disc Golf Club’s Facebook page alone has more than 300 followers who share all-things disc golf news and coordinate events, including Canyon Country resident Dan Camarada, who founded the social media page, and has played the sport for the past 10 years.

“(Disc golf) lets you get outside for an inexpensive activity,” he said. “Heck, going to the beach these days can cost you $50 just to park your car. Disc golf is like going for a short hike with something to do along the way.”

Many local residents and players from surrounding areas play weekly and monthly at Central Park, said Camarada.

Valencia residents Bruce Rubin and Ted Norris earned gold medals earlier this year in Northern California pickleball competition. Courtesy of Ted Norris

Pickleball

This uniquely-named sport will make you break a sweat but you won’t necessarily need to dive and flail around a racket such as in tennis. Pickleball is known for being social and particularly popular among older adults, as it is often played as doubles and does not require players to run around a tennis court.

All you need is a paddle and a plastic ball with holes and is played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net.

“Pickleball has grown tremendously in this valley,” said O’Keefe. “It started out at our gymnasium, and we have about 20 to 50 people a day that play. It’s a great way to be active but not it’s not high impact It builds a sense of community and a sense of comradery for seniors.”

Resident and competitive player Ted Norris has been playing at Bouquet Canyon Park in Saugus for more than two years and is the only Pickleball instructor for the city. He said, “Pickleball is very huge around the U.S. and it’s growing out here now. It’s a great game that has a couple of quirky rules, which make it very easy to make it competitive.”

The Gymnasium started with two courts and has now increased by four, as well as additional outdoor courts at Bouquet Canyon Park. Players can also find courts The Paseo Club in Valencia and temporary courts at the Newhall Community Center.

Ultimate

Ultimate, once called Ultimate Frisbee, is a non-contact team sport played with a flying disc that has also “taken off in Santa Clarita,” said O’Keefe. 

Similar to football, as he described, the sport’s objective is to have a player catch the flying disc in the opposing team’s end zone. Ultimate has grown over the years worldwide since its development in the late 60s, according to USA Ultimate, and is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, but not as an Olympic sport.

In Santa Clarita, a group of about 16-plus residents meets weekly to play at Central Park, including Lance Iliev, who is known among avid players for coordinating local events.

“We currently have (three) official games during the week: Saturday morning (at) 7 a.m., Sunday afternoon, start time is season pending, and our largest game is on Wednesday nights,” he said. “Currently our Wednesday night game meets at 8 p.m. at Central Park and it’s a game that we are working with the city to have guaranteed field space and lights for a small fee per player.”

The city’s Youth Sports Department, which has a drop-in ultimate program, has teams that play across Southern California and may soon have an official league if attendance continues to increase, said O’Keefe. 

Other less traditional sports growing in popularity in the SCV include archery, underwater hockey, synchronized swimming and mountain biking. Residents have the chance to offer feedback on all things parks and recreation, including sports offered by the city, via a survey featured on the city’s website (santa-clarita.com), said O’Keefe.

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