woman about to hit ball on padel court
Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash

Did you know that padel, a sport little known in the U.S. until recently, has seen a 50 percent increase in players over the last two years?

There are currently 40,000 padel courts in the United States, and that number is projected to explode to 85,000 in the upcoming two years.

And while our directory isn’t flooded with padel options yet you’ll certainly find several places to play–more being added regularly.

But what is padel anyway? Quite popular in Europe, padel is a social game that uniquely blends tennis and squash. You play on a small court, typically in doubles, and at a fast pace.

Now, with celebrities like David Beckham and Dwyane Wade endorsing this exciting sport, it’s set to challenge pickleball’s popularity.

What’s sparking this sudden interest, and how might it reshape America’s sports scene?

The answers might surprise you.

Unpacking the Padel Phenomenon

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So what’s driving the padel phenomenon that’s been sweeping across the globe and capturing America’s attention?

If you’re a tennis purist who’s avoided pickleball because you think it’s where tennis players go to die, or you don’t play it because its pace isn’t fast enough for you, padel might have more allure. People are drawn to the faster pace and the fact that padel still captures the social aspect of sport.

Padel strategy requires a mix of tactical thinking and physical agility. The smaller court, compared to traditional tennis courts, demands precise ball control and quick reflexes. The addition of walls also adds a unique twist to the game that’s both challenging and exciting. You’re not just hitting the ball; you’re calculating angles, anticipating your opponent’s moves, and adjusting your position.

Plus, if you’re looking for a fantastic calorie burn, you’ll get that with this quickly growing sport. It burns roughly 600-800 calories per hour (in comparison to pickleball at 400-600 calories per hour).

Padel Vs. Pickleball: A Comparison

four padels and a bunch of yellow balls lying on court
Photo by Sergio Contreras on Unsplash

While both padel and pickleball are seeing a surge in their popularity stateside, they each offer a distinct gameplay experience that caters to different preferences and skill levels. If you’re looking to pick up a new sport, it’s worth understanding the key differences.

Here’s a quick comparison:

Aspect Padel Pickleball
Skill differences Requires a blend of precision and power Relies more on accuracy and placement
Court size 50 feet long x 20 feet (traditional size), with walls 44 feet long x 20 feet wide, no walls
Equipment comparison Uses a padel/paddle and depressurized tennis ball Uses a paddle and plastic ball
Strategy differences Walls provide strategic play options No walls limit angles and shots
close up of net and blue padel court with walls
Photo by Oskar Hagberg on Unsplash

The learning curve for both padel and pickleball is relatively short, making them accessible for beginners. Padel, with its walls, may present more of a challenge initially, but it introduces a further level of excitement and strategy. Pickleball, on the other hand, can be picked up quickly and is a great choice if you’re looking for a game that requires less running but still offers a good workout. Both sports offer social and competitive opportunities, making them a great choice for players of all ages and skill levels.

Is Padel The Same As Paddle Tennis?

While very similar, there is a difference between padel and paddle tennis. You might hear the two terms used interchangeably, but they are not the same sport.

The key equipment differences are in the padel/paddle and the ball. You play paddle tennis with a thinner paddle and more of a spongy ball than in padel.

There are also differences in the court design and, of course, the rules. This blog gives an excellent breakdown of the differences.

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Rules of The Game

Understanding the rules of padel will obviously help you plan the sport, so here are some key points:

  • Player Format: Padel is primarily a doubles game, with two players on each team.
  • Serve: The serve must be hit underhand after the ball bounces once on the server’s side. The serve must go into the diagonally opposite service box.
  • Two Attempts: Like in tennis, the server has two attempts to get a valid serve in play.
  • No Second Bounce: The ball must be returned before it bounces a second time on one’s own side.
  • Walls: Players can use their own court’s walls to play the ball, but the ball must not hit the wall on the opponent’s side directly; it must first bounce on the opponent’s ground.
  • Volleys: Players can volley the ball without letting it bounce, except on the serve.
  • Winning Points: Teams win points when the ball bounces twice on the opponent’s side, goes out of bounds, or if the opposing team fails to return the ball in a valid manner.
  • Scoring: Padel’s scoring system mirrors that of tennis, with games, sets, and matches. You win game points after each volley or serve. The first team that wins six games wins a set. The best of three sets wins the match.

Celebrity Influence on Padel Popularity

wall with "padel" and an arrow painted on it pointing right
Photo by Federico Panaiotti on Unsplash

Celebrities and professional athletes are influencing the rise of padel’s popularity. Padel is attracting tennis pros like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal to soccer phenoms like Lionel Messi and the aforementioned Beckham, as well as actors like George Clooney and Eva Longoria. The sport is catching on like wildfire.

These celebrity endorsements have given padel a significant boost, highlighting its appeal as a mainstream recreational activity. With many celebrities flooding their social media accounts with images of padel it’s sparking curiosity into this new American trend.

Padel’s Growth in American Sports Culture

Padel, a sport born in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1969, is most popular in American states like Florida, California, and New York. But that popularity is spreading quickly to states like Texas and Arizona–and others as well.

Expect to see this once little-known sport at a location near you soon–if it isn’t already.

The Future of Padel in America

For adult athletes looking to expand their social game, padel is a great sport to try, regardless of skill level. The doubles format inherently encourages social engagement.

Coaching programs are becoming more prevalent across the nation as well. These programs help new players grasp the fundamentals and offer advanced strategies for the more experienced. It’s this inclusive nature, catering to all skill levels, that’s making padel an attractive option for many Americans.

In addition, padel tournaments are cropping up across the country, further boosting the sport’s visibility.

Now What?

So, you’re ready to ditch the pickleball paddle for the thrill of padel? Or maybe just add it into the mix? The best way to keep informed is by subscribing to the Adults Play Sports newsletter so you don’t miss any updates, or bookmark the sports directory. You can even save your search so you’ll get notifications of any new sports listings in your area right into your inbox.

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