Bill Gates is a big fan of pickleball

Pickleball has been gaining popularity in the US

Bill Gates is apparently a big fan of pickleball.

While talking with Trevor Noah this week on the comedian’s "What Now?" podcast, the Microsoft co-founder said he plays a "mix of tennis and pickleball" in his free time as a way to unwind. While Gates described tennis as his "biggest hobby," he also told Noah he had been playing pickleball five decades.

"I love both sports, so it is funny to watch the fight over the court space and which one’s better," he said of the competition between tennis and pickleball. "They’re both amazing."

The 68-year-old billionaire also said he was "relatively better at pickleball because I’ve been playing so long compared to other people."

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Gates is worth $117 billion, according to Forbes, and made the bulk of his fortune as co-founder of Microsoft. It is not uncommon to see Gates in the stands as a tennis spectator. He attended the BNP Paribas tournament at Indian Wells, California, last spring. 

BILL gates watching tennis

Bill Gates watches the BNP Paribas Open March 19, 2023, in Indian Wells, Calif.  (Julian Finney/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Pickleball, whose origins date to the '60s, has been gaining popularity in recent years. 

Pickleball paddles

Pickleball paddles at the 2023 BioFreeze USA Pickleball National Championships at the Brookhaven Country Club Nov. 8, 2023, in Dallas, Texas.  (Bruce Yeung/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Some 8.9 million Americans took part in the sport in 2022, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) said in an press release. That represented more than an 85% increase over the 4.8 million who participated in pickleball the prior year.

The sport’s participation numbers have risen 158.6% in a three-year span, according to the SFIA.

Bill gates on stage

Bill Gates discusses his new book, "How To Prevent The Next Pandemic," onstage at 92Y May 3, 2022, in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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Last summer, Gates said he has "been a little stunned — and delighted — by the sudden popularity" of pickleball, which he called "one of my favorite pastimes." On his blog, GatesNotes, the Microsoft co-founder suggested more people are playing the sport because it's accessible to "everyone from the super young to the super old."

"I look forward to playing a pickleball game with friends and family at least once a week and more often during the summer," the self-proclaimed "pickler" said at the time.

Bill Gates speaks in Texas

Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, during the EEI 2023 event in Austin, Texas, June 12, 2023.  (Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Gates said he got his start playing pickleball after his father had a court built at the family’s house. 

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On top of growth in everyday participation in pickleball, there has been movement in the sport’s professional segment. 

Major League Pickleball and the PPA Tour said in September they would come together under a "unified and definitive professional pickleball holding company." The move came with $50 million in backing from a group that included SC Holdings and others.