Racquetball Betting

What is Padel? And why Pickleball lovers should start playing.

There are almost too many ways to trace pickleball’s meteoric rise over the past 18 months.

Look at the 35,000 courts across the United States (double from just five years ago), or Bill Gates’ impassioned essay on sports, or the explosive growth of search on Google Trends, or the fact that Major League Pickleball appears to be adding a new high-octane investor to its 2023 ownership pool every two weeks; it currently counts the eclectic group of LeBron James, Tom Brady, Anheuser-Busch, Kim Clijsters, Mark Lusry and Gary Vaynerchuk among its investors.

However, the easiest way for me to track his progress was to simply look out the window. I live above McCarren Park in North Brooklyn, where my always-on-the-go neighbors like to congregate to run laps, let their dogs off leash, throw Frisbees, play softball, and more. There’s also a tennis court (it’s nice, even if it’s a tough place to spend time on the court, like everywhere else in the city), which has huge undeveloped tarmac next to it.

In the spring, there were two pickleball “courts” spray painted on this cement, both in the southeast corner. It was a novelty to complete a race and walk around in these games, watching friends set up their DIY nets and split into teams of two. At the end of the summer, there were lines all over the asphalt – enough for at least 15 courts. On a beautiful Saturday, it looks like there’s a traveling tournament in town. But the pings and parries now ring out every day, any time of the day. Like the rest of the country, Williamsburg has pickleball fever.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to wonder if this fever will last through the winter. Not because I think pickleball is a flash in the pan. It’s definitely here to stay. But because I walked through the McCarren in January; the tarmac is covered in black ice and the wind chill is nasty. It’s hard to imagine the locals settling there every day.

Where will many of them play instead? Well, every borough has at least one New York Recreation Center that holds indoor pickleball sessions during the colder months, but the system is still pretty rudimentary. Think taped basketball courts, available in random two-hour slots…in the middle of the workday. (Here’s my closest example.) For some, it might be time to woo their newfound addiction elsewhere and climb to the next rung on the murky racquet sports ladder: padel.

The Spaniards’ new favorite sport has made landfall in Brooklyn. We had the chance to play a game last week.

Courtesy of Padel Haus

Padel Haus opened on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg in July. For now, it’s the only padel club in town. Despite Brooklyn’s propensity for cheeky nomenclature, “padel” is not a game of “paddle”, a form of mini-tennis that has proven moderately popular in the United States and Canada over the past century. . It refers to… padel, an entirely different sport, which was first played 53 years ago, in Acapulco, Mexico. The game didn’t really take off until it made its way to Spain, where millions are now openly addicted and 12 of the World Padel Tour’s 16 annual tournaments (plus its headquarters) are currently based.

Spaniards love gambling because it’s social and affordable. Matches require four players and are played in tiny, walled-in arenas, with square footage somewhere between a tennis court and a pickleball court. The back walls extend 10 meters, the side walls 20, and it’s all (sort of) in play. You don’t want to hit your opponents back wall on the fly, for example, but an expert knows how to place the ball just in front of it, it will bounce against the wall and force them to contort and play it in the air alongside you. (If you have trouble imagining that, allow yourself to fall into a glorious well of WTP highlights.)

Retirement is difficult.  Roger Federer will make it easy.

I had the chance to play for an hour last week with three friends at Padel Haus. One of our ranks was a fantastic tennis player who made his way onto a court in New York once a week. The other two, like me, were decent athletes who had been playing racquet sports on and off since childhood. But we were all able to comfortably pick up the padel within 15 minutes of entering the electric blue mondo turf. The balls are slightly smaller than standard tennis balls (they’re also apparently “depressurized”), while the racquets are solid, perforated boards that meet balls with a satisfying feel. snapping — they’re easy to swing in space, and I couldn’t help but pump Federer after he put an exclamation mark on an early rally.

The average clientele was around 32, thin men wearing an assortment of Nike and Lululemon. Think: high-paying corporate types who live in those glass towers by the ferry, or Manhattanites so enamored with their burgeoning hobby that they’ll commute the L one night a week and travel the 10 blocks towards the Williamsburg Bridge… where the four Padel Haus courts, the juice bar, the observation deck (beers on tap!) and the bathroom equipped with a hammam await you. No matter where my fellow padel players came from, however, they clearly knew the rules: sneaky serves, tennis score and the most eccentric canon of all: you can run outside the pitch to return a volley that is thrown over the wall and down the hall.

Open since July, Padel Haus has four courts, plus a juice bar, social lounge and steam room.

Courtesy of Padel Haus

To state the obvious: this is not pickleball. Although padel involves a good amount of time at the net, it is rare to find yourself there for long. There’s a ton of space to cover with your partner (especially when people try to poke him into the back wall), and unlike pickleball, where starting a point is as easy as ping pong, it’s possible overuse, or even dink into the wire mesh on the side wall. (Not what you want.) All this to say that the heartwarming confines that have turned pickleball into a nationwide darling retirement community — and even proven low-impact for Brooklyn folks in their twenties high octane outside my window – are not t to be found in the game of padel.

But the two sports share DNA beyond balls and racquets. They are both very funny. We were discouraged when it was clear our hour was up and rushed to finish our last set. The next team was on the field warming up before we could put on our sweatshirts. While I was chatting with one of the Padel Haus employees about upcoming events (they’re starting to host ‘open play’ parties – think impromptu round robins), my friends checked out the merch hanging on the wall in the lobby. Björn Borg’s athleisure, lime green wristbands, Padel-branded sweatshirts, padel-specific rackets sold for $400 or more.

Padel Haus is a flawed posterboy for padel prospects in New York. The brand soon expands elsewhere (next Manhattan, then spacious Long Island, which makes a lot of sense), but it will inevitably take its self-aware, Williamsburg-based heraldry with it. It will take its price too – we paid $270 for an hour which works out to just over $67 per person. We could have saved on rental gear, but then…we had to go out and buy gear. As for monthly subscriptions, they are currently limited. And mostly equates to experience upgrades (booking priority, access to social rooms, etc.). You still have to pay for the land each time you want to play.

New York’s first entry into the padel sphere is therefore more Equinox than YMCA, which is quite fair. Will the different levels of installations follow? We will see. At least the popular tidal wave that accompanied the pickleball boom should have taught us never to bet against racquets again. And there is certainly room for large-scale padel growth – not just in New York, but across the country. Some estimates put the total number of padel courts in America at less than 150.

I will return to Padel Haus, albeit sparingly, as a blue moon treat. I just spent too long not to come back. There’s a line printed on the top of the location’s racquets, which succinctly sums up my feelings about the experience: “Play like your life doesn’t depend on it.” Now I know that feeling perfectly well; it’s on the faces and in the cheers or sighs of the pickleballers outside my window. Maybe they’ll move indoors in December, add another racquet to the collection. I would encourage him. But selfishly, I hope that a few passionate souls will maintain the enthusiasm on this cold asphalt, all winter long.