Rod Dahlen and Bill Sones battle it out in the Nakusp squash court (did you know we even had one?).

‘Jet-propelled chess’ available in arena

During the 90s, the Nakusp Squash Club had over 100 members, with some players at the top of the game in B.C.

The faded pink flamingo clock in 80s art deco style tells the right time twice a day: five minutes to eight. The clock is a reminder of the faded heyday of racketball (back before squash got big) and the opening of the Nakusp squash court.

Rod Dahlen remembers those days. He was one of directors on the board who built the new arena, and he remembers it was Dick Chambers that encouraged the building of a squash court. The decision was made in 1983, and the court was built by Gary Grout, among others. Like many others in town, Grout was soon stuck on squash as a sport of choice.

The surge in squash’s popularity (and the decline of racketball) synergistically dovetailed with the new court, and during the 90s, the Nakusp Squash Club had over 100 members, with some players at the top of the game in B.C. The last tournament the club held was three or four years ago.

Now, however, numbers have dropped to under 20 in the club. Why the drastic change?

“There are no young people taking up the sport,” said former long-time squash club president Dahlen. Current club president Bill Sones pointed out that of the 18 or 19 members, only seven were under 40 years of age.

It’s a bit of a mystery why the court isn’t used more. It’s possible that people don’t know that there is a local court and club with 24-hour access, but Dahlen said it just hasn’t stuck with kids. At one point there was a school program, but because the students never came back to play, the program was abandoned.

Squash used to be “the” sport, back in the day. The classic 1984 movie “Splash” features a scene with Tom Hanks playing the game against his cigarette-smoking brother John Candy. It was the thing to do, smoking or not, if only to wear those cool head and wristbands.

The allure of the little black rubber ball is not completely lost nowadays, though.

Getting out on the court in my non-marking shoes with Bill Sones to try hitting the ball, Sones explained that the ball has to hit the front wall, making the play last longer than it does in racketball. Score one for squash.

The squash ball is a little black semi-deflated looking thing like a grape part way through its transition into raisin. The ball gets bouncier the more it gets warm, and the more it’s hit, the warmer it gets. Beginners like me can use a slightly tauter ball that is bouncier and easier to chase, and one that can handle the cool down from missed hits and general fumbling.

After the serve, the only requirement is that the ball hit the front wall at some point, so experienced players can ricochet it off the back onto the front or move it from side to front (a “boast”). Keeping the ball in the corner is a notoriously good play, one that gets rackets gummed into corners. I learn much of this in my short lesson and watching Sones and Dahlen play a game. By the end of the nine-point match, there is much heavy breathing and sweating; I can see how those headbands are actually useful.

For some good basic info about the sport of “jet-propelled chess” also known as squash, check out the Wikipedia article. For more info about Nakusp Squash Club membership ($125 gets you a year of 24-hour access), call Bill Sones at 250-265-4542.


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