Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Daniel Gabanek


BORN:  November 8, 1963 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
PLAYS:  Right handed 

Franklin High School 
Queen Anne High School
Seattle, Washington

University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Associate in Arts Degree
Edmonds Community College
Edmonds, Washington

Dan was recognized for his dominance in the sport of pickleball from 1988 to 2014.  During this period he was ranked #1 nationally in Men’s Open Singles, earning 21 gold medals.  He was ranked #1 in Men’s Open Doubles, winning close to 60 gold medals. His record also includes over 13 Open Mixed Doubles titles.  He is also a four-time National Champion and five-time runner up.

Billy Jacobsen and Dan Gabanek - Pacific Northwest Open - June 2, 1991

International Indoor Pickleball Championships
2017                           Open Senior Men’s Doubles – Silver with Rob Thal

USAPA Nationals:  
2015                           50+ Mixed Doubles Doubles – Silver with Luba Zhekhovskaya
2014                           50+ Men’s Doubles –               Silver with Yoda Friedenberg
                                   50+ Mixed Doubles –               Gold with Luba Zhekhovskaya
2012                           35+ Men’s Doubles –               Bronze with Yoda Friedenberg
                                   35+ Mixed Doubles –               Silver with Heidi Hancock
2011                           35+ Men’s Doubles –               Silver with Don Paschal
                                   Open Men’s Doubles –            Gold with Billy Jacobsen
2010                           Open Men’s Doubles –            Silver with Billy Jacobsen
                                   35+ Men’s Doubles –               Gold with Don Paschal
2009                           35+ Men’s Doubles –               Gold with Don Paschal

2009 USAPA Nationals 35+ Men's Doubles 
L-R Brett Raymond / Tim Hatzenbeler, Dan Gabanek / Don Paschal, Dominick Greco III / Joseph Greco

Dan does not remember much of Bratislava, where he was born. The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 when Dan was four. Shortly after, Dan’s father made the decision to move his family to the United States. After several months, they arrived in Seattle, Washington.

Dan attended Seattle public schools. He played kick ball and dodge ball in elementary school. In 1974 he became a U.S. citizen. He played a lot of golf during his early teens.  It was during this time from 1976 to 1978 that Dan learned to play pickleball in PE classes at McClure Junior High School. He played on the Queen Anne High School tennis team during his sophomore and junior year.  However, Queen Anne closed and he transferred to Franklin High School for his senior year where he continued to play on their tennis team.  Other sports he enjoyed were ping pong, billiards and basketball.  In high school, Dan participated in a free throw competition and fund raiser against Ted St. Martin, the Guinness World Record holder for most consecutive free throws.  At the time, Ted’s record was 499.  The competition was to see who could do the best in 10 free throws. Ted missed on his 7th attempt, while Dan made all ten of his, earning him a brand new basketball.

Dan began playing in pickleball tournaments in January, 1986 at an event organized by Sid Williams.  With persistence, Dan worked his way to the top of the U.S.A.P.A. Nation Wide Rating and Ranking System in Men’s Open Singles and Men’s Open Doubles.  One page of this 1992 quarterly report shows Dan in the #1 position in both categories.

Dan also developed a reputation for being able to consume large quantities of hotdogs at tournaments while still maintaining his competitive edge on the courts.  His record was 12 hotdogs in one day.

When not driving a forklift at his warehousing job, Dan enjoys driving his 1963 Lincoln Continental (on sunny days) and collecting cars of all sizes.  He currently has about 160 in his collection of 1/18 scale models.  His love of cars takes him to classic car auctions all around the country.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Steve Paranto


BORN:  November 7, 1955 in Seattle, Washington 
PLAYS:  Right handed

Eatonville High School
Eatonville, Washington

Green River Community College
Auburn, Washington

Masters Degree in Education
Pacific University
Forest Grove, Oregon

Steve was one of the driving forces behind the development of the first light weight composite paddle.  As one of the very early top competitive pickleball players, Steve and his father Arlen Paranto worked together to create a better, more balanced lightweight paddle.  

At the time, Arlen worked for Boeing and was familiar with the lightweight panels used throughout Boeing aircrafts.  In 1984, he purchased some of this material from Boeing’s surplus store and fashioned the first light weight paddle.  Soon after, Arlen formed the Ultra-Lite Paddle Company and began making the Pro-Lite line of paddles to fill growing demands for this new product.  Ultra-Lite was the second company to make and sell pickleball paddles, but it was the only one with composite paddles for the next 14 years.  Within a few short years after the introduction of Pro-Lite paddles, almost all pickleball players in the Pacific Northwest were using them in competition.  By 2018, there were over 100 companies making composite paddles. Almost all mirrored the construction model of the original Pro-Lite paddles.  Steve also designed the first oversize “Magnum” paddle.
L-R Wes Gabrielsen, Arlen Paranto holding the World’s First Lightweight Paddle, Steve Paranto 

Steve promoted pickleball by teaching it as part of the curriculum during 30 years as an elementary school Physical Education teacher.  He also taught pickleball at Green River Community College and as a Certified Instructor for the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA.)   He was heavily involved in running the annual State Games of Oregon in the 1990s into the early 2000s.  In those days, it was the only pickleball tournament in the entire state of Oregon.


Men’s Singles trophy from 1975 Green River Community College Pickleball Tournament

Steve’s major tournament awards:
The World’s First Pickleball Championship
1976               Singles – silver
                       Men’s Doubles - silver

USAPA Doubles Championships
1984 or ’85     Men’s Doubles – gold

USAPA National Championships
2010               Singles – silver
2011               Men’s Doubles 50+ - gold
2011               Singles 55+ - silver
2014               Men’s Doubles 55+ - gold
2017               Singles 60+ - bronze
2017               Men’s Doubles 60+ - bronze
2019               Men's Doubles 5.0 60+ - bronze (with Bob Deller)

Huntsman World Senior Games
2012 - 2015  Singles – gold (in the highest division level in all four years)

National Senior Games
2011, 2013, 2014                
                       Open Men’s Doubles – gold (with Randy Bither all three years)

International Indoor Pickleball Championships
2016               Mixed Doubles – gold  (with Sheila Schoonover)
                       Senior Men’s Doubles – gold (in age group with Randy Bither)

Steve grew up doing many sports and activities with his dad.  Fishing, baseball, basketball, table tennis, tennis and bowling were favorite activities he enjoyed with both parents.  Steve was also an entertainer from a very young age.  His dad made him a ventriloquist figure when he was ten years old.  Steve started entertaining friends and classmates at school assemblies.  That turned into entertaining troops at Fort Lewis before the soldiers were deployed to fight in the Vietnam War.  He was the youngest entertainer, performing once a month for the Fort Lewis troops.  Steve enjoyed entertaining at home gatherings and public events throughout his adult life.

Steve taught elementary school physical education for 30 years and loved it.  He felt it was very important to get kids involved in many physical activities so that those kids could turn into healthy, active adults.  Today, he still plays pickleball with one of his early elementary school students.  His name is Marty Butler, now age 50, and he teaches at a school near where Steve had him as a student.  

Steve credits his love of sports and creativity to his dad, but his competitive nature comes from his mom.  She also loved pickleball but hated losing more than anyone.  She was known to let a few bad words pop out of her mouth even during recreational play.

Steve was first introduced to pickleball during his freshman year at Green River Community College in the fall of 1974.  He started competing in tournaments that same year.  He has been involved in many areas of the pickleball world.  Besides his contributions to the development of the first composite paddle, in 2014 he also invented “The Quiet Pickleball Pad” that made the game a lot quieter.  He was also one of the first certified pickleball instructors under IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association.)  He is a contributing writer for Pickleball Magazine and has quite a few instructional videos available on the internet.  He has produced 23 Pickleball Podcasts (Pickleball Talks with Steve Paranto.)  In addition, he helped Onix design two of their top performing paddles.

Final Doubles match of the World's First Pickleball Championships in 1976 with 
Steve on the left and his partner Dave Lester on the right.  Dave won the singles in this event.