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Super Slam is first sanctioned island tourney

By Staff | Feb 21, 2018

Called the fastest-growing sport in America, pickleball is spreading like wildfire from community to community and islanders have an opportunity to check out an official tournament this weekend.

The First Annual CAN AM Super Slam will run from Feb. 23-25 on the courts of the Sundial Beach Resort on Sanibel. Sanctioned by both the USA Pickleball Association, the official governing board for pickleball, and the Super Senior International Pickleball Association, it will feature over 150 players.

The event is free and open to the community.

“This is the first SSIPA tournament in Southwest Florida ever,” Gary Cipriani, the organizer and tournament director, said. “It’s drawing people from all over the world.”

Open to the public, Feb. 22 will consist of a warm-up day and certified referee training.

“They can come and watch,” he said. “They can even learn how to play.”

The competition will kick off on Feb. 23 with the singles matches.

“Pickleball is traditionally a doubles game, but there are some singles players,” Cipriani said.

On Feb. 24, spectators can enjoy the men’s doubles and women’s doubles events.

The following and final day will feature mixed doubles games. Each day runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Because it is a SSIPA tournament, all of the players are 60 years of age or older.

“These players are already USAPA ranked,” he added.

Cipriani explained that the competition will feature five age categories – 60 to 64, 65 to 69, 70 to 74, 75 to 79, and 80 and plus – with each event broken down by “skill,” or the points the players have.

Based on a bracket-style type of play, every event is a double-elimination round.

A former professional racquetball player for over 20 years, Cipriani “stumbled” onto pickleball over four years ago and quickly picked up the sport, soon playing in tourneys nationwide. Approached about instructing, he next earn an International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association’s certification.

“There’s only five people in the state of Florida that have that,” he said.

Once a full-time Michigan resident, Cipriani recently spent his first winter on Fort Myers Beach. Coming to the area, he saw a need for local sanctioned events and began to get the ball rolling.

“I want to be part of making it happen here,” he said.

In talking to venues around the state, Sundial jumped at the chance to host the tournament.

“They are really excited to be a part of this,” Cipriani said. “I couldn’t have found a nicer organization to work with.”

Sean Warren, the racquet sports manager at Sundial, described it as an all-around win.

“We are very excited to have pickleball here on the island,” he said, adding that they were the first venue to boast 12 courts. “Our mission here is to really build up our pickleball program.”

Warren hopes that the tourney will help it reach the local community and beyond.

In November, the facility hosted its inaugural Sundial Beach Resort & Spa Pickleball Classic.

“It was very successful, so we were very receptive to hosting more,” he said.

“This will be our first, official USAPA-sanctioned tournament,” Warren noted of the Super Slam.

Cipriani opened up registration for the event in December.

“We were hoping to reach 80 participants,” he said.

“It’s bigger and better than we thought,” Cipriani added. “People really wanted it.”

On Feb. 22, a tournament dinner will take place starting at 5 p.m. at George and Wendy’s Seafood Grille, at 2499 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. The community is invited to come out and take part.

For more information, contact 231-676-9681 or pickleballcip@gmail.com.

The Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive.