At a party last year in early May where many were preoccupied watching “The Fight of the Century,” a professional boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, Bellingham resident Andy Gallent’s attention was somewhere else.
Gallent, 26, recalls four Western Washington University students actively moving around a yellow device on the lawn. Included was a circular net lifted off the ground that was similar to a miniature trampoline and a yellow, rubbery ball sized to fit in a person’s palm.
“That was the exact moment I was introduced to Spikeball,” Gallent said. “I was instantly interested.”
Like what Gallent saw in his first encounter, Spikeball is played with four people divided into two teams. To start, one player on Team A serves the ball to the Team B player across the net. To serve, you must toss the yellow orb up in the air and swat it onto the net, where it may bounce only once.
The two players on Team B then return the ball to Team A by hitting it back off the net. Each team has the opportunity to return the ball in three touches. These touches may be from any part of the body, however, the partners must alternate who touches the ball and get it bouncing off the net by the third touch.
If a player fails to return the ball, the other team receives a point. A point is also awarded if the ball mistakenly hits the rim of the net.
At 11 points, teams switch sides. The objective of the game is to earn 21 points first.
Another detail is the “pocket.” This happens when the ball is hit by a player and slightly embeds in the space between the net and the rim, causing the ball to awkwardly bounce off the net. Players on either team can call a pocket whenever necessary, meaning the play is disregarded and starts over.
Lastly, “hinder” is when a player gets in the way of another player during the game. This also prompts a redo.
Yet, beyond these basic directions, Spikeball proves to be an entertaining and lively pastime for anyone as the summer days draw even more people than usual outside in Whatcom County.
In fact, Gallent spends much of his summer introducing and playing Spikeball with friends and strangers around town.
Justin Spencer, 23, friend to Gallent, hadn’t played a single game of Spikeball until he and Gallent became roommates this past year.
“Spikeball is easy to learn, but when you first play it feels awkward,” said Spencer. “It’s going to take a little bit of practice, but it’s seriously so fun.”
Though they have varying styles of play — Spencer more laid back and Gallent somewhat competitive — these guys can’t stop raving about the game.
Both agree that Spikeball is similar to volleyball with an easier setup, though there are elements of handball and four square in there, too.
Therefore, they have no problem taking advantage of Spikeball’s simple setup by engaging in matches throughout Bellingham’s many parks and beaches, like Boulevard’s sandy areas or Fairhaven Park’s grassy field.
“The game is lightweight, you can travel with it anywhere, and you don’t need too much room to play,” Gallent said.
Spencer added that you don’t even need all four friends with you for a match to take place. Since most onlookers around Bellingham find interest in the game, they are happy to stand in and give it a go themselves.
“Spikeball is a hybrid sport that people love,” said Gallent.
“And it isn’t just another backyard game,” Spencer added.
They couldn’t have said it better. Beyond beaches, yards and parks, Spikeball also has another local home at WWU. As of two years ago, the University began to offer Spikeball as an intramural sport.
Bob Hofstetter, Associate Director of Facilities and Operations of WWU’s Campus Recreation Services, said that Western is happy to have Spikeball featured as a league and tournament during certain quarters throughout the school year.
Hofstetter believes Spikeball is growing in popularity and claims that various students — athletic or not — enthusiastically play the game. Spikeball is even brought out at WWU’s kids’ camps, where children — pre-teen ages and younger — enjoy the sport.
Hofstetter recently received his own Spikeball set for Father’s Day. He appreciates the competitive aspect Spikeball brings out, while still having a great time.
“My family is pretty diverse in athletic ability, yet we all enjoy to play Spikeball,” he said.
Athletic or inactive. Hand-eye or foot-eye coordinated. Petite or large physic. Vying or just playing for the laughs. You may be truly surprised at just how fit of a contender you are for Spikeball.