Meet my favorite sport: Padel (or Paddle, as it is sometimes referred to in the English-speaking community).
My Padel Story
Until 2015, I’d been a football (soccer) fan all my life and I used to enjoy practicing this sport on a weekly basis with my friends back in Malta. It was my favorite sport by far. However, once I started playing padel it immediately replaced football’s place in my life. I became thoroughly addicted to this sport and many years later I still can’t get enough of it.
Before trying padel, I’d played a few racket sports sporadically, mostly tennis and table tennis, and I enjoyed both of them.
In 2015, while holidaying in Seville, I saw some people playing padel and I was captivated. I made a promise to myself to try out this strange sport whenever I had the chance. I had no idea what it was called back then.
I later learned that it was called padel and that it is very popular all around Spain. One of the first things I did upon my arrival in Barcelona was to attend a padel meetup. Thus I fulfilled my earlier promise. I was hooked from the very first match I played. Soon enough I was trying out different rackets and reading all the material I could get my hands onto.
I took the sport very seriously and continue to enjoy watching and playing it. You can read about my full padel journey here.
So What is Padel?
Padel is a very social sport. It is always played in doubles format, unlike tennis where the main focus is on the singles matches. It is also very easy to learn compared to tennis, so you don’t even need lessons to start playing with your friends. This is especially true if you have played other racket sports in the past. Here in Barcelona, one can find various tournaments called Americanas which mean that everyone plays against everyone, changing partners for every match. As you can imagine you can get to know a lot of people during such tournaments. They’re the perfect place for expats to make new friends especially if you want to make some local friends.
The sport is essentially a combination of tennis and squash and is great for players of all ages and skills. The court is one-third the size of a tennis court and is enclosed with wire mesh and glass walls which you can play off when you need to. Rules are a mixture of squash and tennis, and use the same scoring system as tennis. Compared to tennis it is less focused on strength and more on tactics and psychology.
Padel in its current form was invented by Mexican millionaire Enrique Corcuera in the 1960s, although we can trace back its origins to 1890 when it was played by British sailors in the lower levels of their navy ships. The first padel courts in Spain were built in 1974, in Marbella. Spain counts with nearly 10,000 padel courts (about the same number as Argentina where the game was developed earlier), approximately 4 million regular players, and the number of registered players is continuously increasing. Sales of paddle rackets in Spain are nearly four times that of tennis rackets.
Padel is very popular in Spain and Argentina as it’s been played in these countries for decades, however, many other countries are experiencing a padel boom and are catching up. We might in fact be entering the golden age of Padel as it is currently the fastest-growing racket sport in the world.
With Spain being a very popular tourist destination, many tourists are getting introduced to Padel there and then taking their new-found hobby back to their countries. This is currently one of the main drivers behind Padel’s growth in Europe. World Padel Tour and Premier Padel, the biggest worldwide competitions, also help create interest outside of Spain.
Building padel courts is also a great investment opportunity since courts are smaller than tennis and the rental is paid by four people, therefore maximizing revenues. It is, therefore, more feasible to build padel courts versus tennis courts, especially in densely populated areas where the cost of land is very high.
Essential Padel Equipment
If you’re interested in trying padel, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Padel racket: Padel rackets are solid, perforated, and stringless. They are usually made of composite materials, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass, and are lighter than tennis rackets. When choosing a padel racket, consider factors such as weight, balance, and shape to find the one that best suits your playing style and skill level.
- Padel balls: Padel balls are similar to tennis balls but with slightly less pressure. Make sure to purchase balls specifically designed for padel, as using tennis balls can affect the gameplay and damage your racket.
- Court shoes: Proper footwear is crucial for playing padel, as it provides the necessary grip and support for the quick movements and changes of direction typical of the sport. Look for court shoes with padel-specific soles, good cushioning, and lateral support.
- Comfortable sportswear: Wear comfortable, breathable sportswear that allows for freedom of movement during the game. Padel-specific clothing is available, but any sportswear suitable for tennis or other racket sports will work just as well.
At a professional level, both men’s and women’s matches are very exciting to watch. However, I’d say the women’s matches are better if you are watching to learn new techniques.
The men’s matches are more exciting as the points tend to be longer and crowd-pleasers such as smashes and out-of-court play are more common. However, since they are played at breakneck speed it’s hard to follow the particular movements of the players and hence harder to learn from. Of course you can always grab a recording and play it in slow motion to learn how your favorite player hits the ball. It’s just very hard to do so when you’re watching live games.
Padel tournaments are not only for the pros. Any padel player can also join amateur tournaments that are held in many cities in Spain. We are now seeing international amateur padel tournaments start to take place, as it’s becoming a profitable niche in the sports tourism sector.
If you’re in Barcelona you can join our Barcelona padel community on Facebook.
Have you ever played padel or seen it being played? I’d love to hear from padel players from all around the world!