An Inside Look At A Los Angeles Tradition: Paddle Tennis

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Like Sig Alerts and obsession over See’s Sweet, paddle tennis is a kind of L.A. peculiarities solely actual Angelenos perceive fully. Tiny courts, picket paddles dotted with holes, deflated tennis balls — the sport appears like one thing out of a Wes Anderson film.
However paddle tennis is partly what satisfied me to relocate to Los Angeles so I owe it some respect. As a customer from Manhattan years in the past, I could not assist however cease and gawk in surprise on the glad individuals batting balls forwards and backwards on the enduring courts at Venice Seashore. It was February. New York was buried in snow. Nothing could possibly be finer than renting tools from the kiosk reverse Muscle Seashore and going paddle loopy.

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Then I moved right here and made the sport a part of my life. I now play with my spouse and son and with numerous foursomes of mates. However solely just lately did I uncover the story behind the sport. First, a fast primer:

Though the essential thought and scoring are the identical as tennis, paddle tennis isn’t the sport you watch Roger Federer or the Williams sisters play. The courtroom is smaller: a comfortable 20 ft extensive by 50 ft in size.  The online, at 31 inches excessive on the posts, is roughly three ft decrease than a tennis courtroom web. It’s not “paddleball” both, regardless that a paddle and a ball are each important. Seashore tennis is one thing else (it is performed on the sand, for starters). There’s additionally “platform tennis,” principally an East Coast sport performed an elevated courtroom with aspect and again partitions which are in-play.
The quintessential L.A. sport is definitely an import. Frank Peer Beal, an Episcopal minister in New York Metropolis, developed it as recreation for kids in his Greenwich Village parish within the early a part of the final century. The primary courts had been put in in Washington Sq. Park in 1915. By World Battle II, paddle tennis was performed in additional than 500 U.S. cities. Now it is nearly completely a Southern California sport.

Play begins with deflating a regulation tennis ball with a security pin (how charming is that?). And, basically, paddle tennis is a convivial, easy-to-learn, fun-for-the-whole-family exercise. But it surely’s additionally obtained its bloodthirsty warriors.
“It is a way more strenuous and cardio sport than tennis, and also you’re more likely to get hit by the ball,” says Brian Lee, a five-time paddle tennis nationwide champion, who lives in Venice. His father, Walter, developed the picket Powerpaddle that was customary for the game for many years. Brian himself has produced greater than 80,000 Powerpaddles out of his home since taking up the enterprise after his father died within the Nineteen Eighties (on the paddle tennis courtroom, sadly).
“With the smaller courtroom, you’re up nearer to your opponent,” Brian says. “It calls for super-fast reflexes since you’re on high of a decrease web. You don’t have double faults so the sport by no means stops. Fast jolts to web are a part of the enjoyable. You are all the time operating down lobs and factors are sometimes longer so it is an unimaginable exercise.”
Know-how is altering the sport. Viking Athletics, acquired by Prince Sports activities in 2008, is now the main producer of paddles for each paddle tennis and platform tennis. For a sport few individuals learn about, it will get critical consideration from engineers who lately launched strips of carbon mesh on paddle rims for stiffness, a tri-layer core contained in the paddle face and grit surfaces for “distinctive ball chunk permitting gamers to understand additional spin and management.” The Oz+ at $149 is one of the best promoting paddle of all time. I just like the top-of-the-line Viking TT Professional Elite Extremely, $179, the lightest weight paddle within the firm line. It is obtained additional holes, a more durable core, a vibration damper and a terrifying Hazmat orange floor to scare the socks off my opponents.
This is some champion-level play.

Observe me on Twitter at @letterfromLA
 

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