Table tennis anyone? The sport's growing and Paddle Palace is a popular spot to play it

Table tennis is a growing sport and the Paddle Palace in Tigard is a popular spot to play it. (KATU Photo)

It’s a typical weekday night at the Paddle Palace in Tigard, and there’s not an empty table in the place.

“You know, Portland has an amazing table tennis community, and it’s really grown rapidly,” says Cory Johnson, club director at Paddle Palace. “There’s a whole spectrum of players of all shapes and sizes. We have a Junior team. We have people as old as 95 -- every ethnicity on the planet, you name it, they’re here.”

They’re getting exercise and having a blast doing it.

“Oh my goodness, I enjoy it so much,” says Tarek Katbi, a table tennis player. “It’s such an uplifting, more changing sport that I’ve been playing for the last six years, and it has helped me tremendously. It’s so much fun because you can learn a lot from the sport from a lot of different style of players; plus, you get to make a lot of good friends.”

So what does it take to be a good table tennis player? Sean O’Neill knows. He is a two-time Olympian, five-time National Champ and one of the coaches at Paddle Palace.

“It’s funny,” says O’Neill, “everyone thinks you have to have great reflexes for table tennis. The ball’s flying. But as you play more and more, it’s actually patience, because the ball’s coming so fast, you have to start waiting for it, because you are so eager to make a quick stroke. It’s a little bit like chess. You can’t just hit it over and hope that you’ve gone to the right location. You have to figure out where they are and then play their weakness. Hopefully, stay away from their strengths.”

Paddle Palace opened a year ago and now has 150 members. And it’s growing.

“It’s really a fun place,” says O’Neill, “both for the young kids, and we’ve got a lot of families. A lot of dad’s playing with their sons and daughters, so it’s a real nice Friday night place to spend some time.”

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