Dean Matt's Pickleball Adventure

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Pictured: Dean Matt and his Cessna airplane. Photo courtesy of Dean Matt.

On May 1st, Dean Matt set out to do something that has never been done before: play 48 matches of pickleball, in 48 states in under 48 days. So he packed up his single engine Cessna turbo 206H with pickleball gear, took a deep breath, and set off to break a world record.

Matt, recently retired from a career in finance, moved to Sarasota in 2021 by way of Chicago. An avid pilot, Matt was used to flying with his golf clubs and thought life on the Gulf Coast would be much of the same–that is, until he began playing pickleball just over a year ago. “I’ve been a pilot since high school and have owned airplanes since 1998,” says Matt. “My wife and I would fly around the country and golf–I’ve always wanted to try some type of golf world record such as flying across the country and playing in every state in a set amount of time, but when I got to Sarasota, it became pretty evident that pickleball was going to be my new hobby. It wasn’t long after we moved here that we were spending four to five days a week at the courts.”

Armed with support from sponsors like the pickleball outfitter Selkirk, Matt departed from SRQ Airport on May 1st with the goal of returning to Sarasota on May 26th after playing a match in each of the lower 48 states. The route itself took around six months to conceive–not only did Matt have to play matches in each state, most days hitting two to three states at a time, but he had to coordinate with local sports commissions to set up his matches and housing accommodations when needed.

The venues and Matt’s opponents were as varied as each state. Matt played in country clubs, local parks, private residences and even an airport tarmac. He played with professional pickleball players, fellow enthusiasts and senior citizens. Although inclement weather in Salt Lake City caused Matt to miss out on four states–Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska–he still managed to play in 44 in just 26 days, ending with his final match at his home court in University Park. “The world record attempt was just the hook to get the media to come out. It was really about telling 48 different stories,” says Matt.

Pictured: Dean Matt and his Cessna airplane. Photo courtesy of Dean Matt.

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