Those of you who have been following my writing and/or this here blog for any length of time will remember my days of being a tennis head. At the peak of my tennis career in New Zealand I was playing on 3 teams and became very active in the tennis scene. In New Zealand tennis is cheap, accessible and affordable. But not so here. It wasn’t easy to find people to play with in my new country. When we moved to Barcelona 9 years ago I kept tennis up for a few years, despite the fact that unlike New Zealand, there were no teams for me to join here, nor any social tennis clubs. In fact, the clubs that do exist are very pricey, which would be okay if they offered a social scene where one could meet other tennis players.
For awhile I played socially with a gay group called “Las Panteras” that met on Saturday afternoons, but that scene wore a bit thin when I realized all those boys were more than half my age and would probably rather play with other boys. I developed a wilier game though, just in time to enroll myself in an organized women’s match at the club where I played with Las Panteras. I was not hoping or expecting to win, but to just to have a few fun, competitive games and get my ya ya’s off.
No one was more surprised than me when I won the match! There were 16 girls, most of them literally half my age. I was just hoping to put in an honest performance, would be happy just to win a game or 2. But for some reason, the tennis gods were with me that day back in 2008, and I won a trophy! Pretty cool! I was chuffed at the time, and realized I would never win another tennis trophy in this lifetime. I didn’t make a big fuss about it, I just put my 5 tennis rackets and cumbersome tennis paraphenalia in the back of the closet.
Here’s my tennis trophy:
I’ve done a fairly good job of blogging about the perks and dives of being an immigrant here in Spain, of the exciting and rich experiences this country has to offer. I spent years riding around and photographing the intriguing architecture, recording unique sounds, getting to know the hills of Montjuic and Tibidabo, while absorbing Catalan culture. I even learned to speak conversational Catalán, which is a real ice breaker at pharmacies, super markets, dog parks, bank lines, street life. Having been raised bi-lingual, I’ve always had a good ear for music and for language, which is lucky considering the life I’ve chosen to live.
Now, almost 8 years later, I’ve finally found a sport to replace tennis with in my life. The game is called Padel and there are courts at the gym literally across the plaza from our home on the beach. Our gym, Club Nataçion de Barcelona is a *real* club with lots of activities to jump into. Mark goes there to work out and I go to swim. They have dancing, yoga, tai chi, aerobics, spinning etc. but we haven’t gotten that ambitious yet.
Until we moved to this cool new pad with the amazing views we lived in an apartment only a half a block away (yet worlds way) with 88 stairs to climb to get home. I have lots of happy memories, blogs, photos and well documented stories from those years, but there was a major drawback to joining a health club; the stairs. It was a workout to do those damn stairs every day just to take the dog down, do errands etc. To get involved in any regular exercise regime . Just idea of taking a class was too much. They say you get used to stairs, but I can honestly tell you this is not true. Instead, after climbing the horrid stairs to our tranquil abode, I found myself smoking a lot of pot, and being ¨creative¨, unwilling to venture out again unless it was for guaranteed fun. I’d still go on bike excursions, but always combined them with taking my dog Quixote down to pee. I rarely ventured out for the joy of movement, exercise, possible new friends…
But life in our new reality, began last July. The splendid move to beachfront apartment with sea views afforded me the luxury of not just joining but participating in club sports. Mark has become addicted to the weigh lifting machines and recently I’ve taken up a new sport; PADEL, to which I immediately became addicted.
Padel is the perfect game for me. It combines two sports I’m good at; tennis and ping pong. Its fast and reflexive like ping pong, but more physical, like tennis. And it is proving to be the perfect game for me; Its way easier to play than tennis, yet it involves the same set of skills.
It’s an outdoors doubles game and is extremely social. Its very popular here in Spain in all age groups, and has been catching on throughout Europe. The courts are smaller than tennis and have glass walls which are also part of the game. The same scoring system is used as in tennis, and the game follows many of the same rules, only the wall is part of the game. I enrolled in a few lessons at the club and was put in an intermediate group of “what’s app” (text) padel players who play at the club. Its fantastic! I get texts every day asking if I want to play, by members of the padel what’s app group from the club. So I’ve jumped right in and now play 2 to 3 times a week.
Incorporating the wall into my game has been the only challenge, but I’m quickly learning the tricks. I love the wacky part of this game; lots of silly corner shots, crazy bounces, and lots of running around. If you’re a net player like me, there’s also lots of jumping. Its fast paced, fun, and a good workout. Padel has provided the one missing ingredient to my otherwise happy, fulfilling and successful life so far; its like tennis only easier, and perfect for my age and motivation. Being an ex tennis player gives me automatic court cred here, and my ability to consistently whack a ball has other players starting to notice. I’ve only been at it a couple months, but all those years of tennis (and ping pong) has enabled me to easily transition into my newfound padel career, heh heh heh.
This is what “professional padel” looks like:
According to the AB Sport Club – self-styled Home of Padel in USA:
WHAT IS PADEL?
Padel is a racquet sport played extensively in Spain, Europe and Latin America. It is considered a tennis-squash hybrid.
The game of Padel is always played in doubles on an enclosed court. The balls used and the scoring is the same as normal tennis, with a key difference which is the underhand serve. The rules of the game allow for the use of the back wall and sidewalls resulting in longer rallies.
Padel is a great sport for players of all ages and skills, as it is both quick and easy to pick up, and it is less physically demanding than similar sports like Tennis. Most players get the grasp of it within the first 20 minutes of playing and find it easy to achieve a level of proficiency so that they can enjoy it because the game is not as dominated by strength, technique and serve as it is in Tennis. It is considered a family game and a very social sport. Men, women and youth can compete together without physical strength being key to win. Padel has gained tremendous popularity due to its simplicity and similarities to already existing racquet sports.
I’ve only been playing for 2 months, yet I’m getting better and better at it. I’m trying to befriend the wall, with some success. Hitting a ball as hard as I can against a wall in order for it to rebound onto the other side of the court is not something that comes instinctively. My coach gave me some technique but hitting it against the wall with all my strength is counter intuitive. I’m learning though. Padel is a gratifying sport because I see noticeable improvement in my game every time I play.
I’ll have to take a selfie with some of the kooky characters I play with – having a fun personality is a big plus, so I’m using my Californian charm to make new friends. It great to be involved in something other than my projects, dog walks and bike rides. Most padel players are Catalan, so I’m now learning how to not just keep score in Catalan. but to make silly exclamations in Catalan as well; good fun.
Padel is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court a third the size of a tennis court. Scoring is the same as normal tennis and the balls used are similar but with a little less pressure, the main differences are that the court has walls and the balls can be played off them in a similar way as in the game of squash and that solid, stringless racquets are used. The height of the ball being served must be at or below the waist level. The sport was invented in Acapulco, Mexico, by Enrique Corcuera in 1969. It is currently most popular in Hispanic American countries such as Argentina and Mexico as well as in Spain, although it is now beginning to spread rapidly across Europe and other continents.
According to PADEL INTERNATIONAL
click on the following link to learn why Padel is set to become the sport of the 3rd Millenium.
Padel is very convivial. The distances between all the players are a lot smaller than with tennis, which means that it is easier to communicate between rallies, even with the opponents. Compare it to squash, but with 4 players. No wonder it is very popular to practice the sport with business partners or colleagues.
Padel is also cheaper than tennis. The courts are considerably smaller than tennis courts, which means less space is required to build the courts. Prices to rent a court are generally the same as renting a tennis court. As padel is always played in doubles the cost per player is lower.
I haven’t been at it long enough to have anything more to say on the subject, other than that I highly recommend it! I’m hoping to find players in L.A. when we go next month, because I’ve found some courts there. However I have no idea if the padel scene is happening in L.A. yet or if any of my artsy music friends are up for trying the sport of the 3rd Millenium...