Move over pickleball, here comes padel: Calgary's new favourite racket sport

Padel is a mix between tennis and squash.

'I think when you try it, you realize how fun it is,' says local padel player

Calgarians play padel at Aforza, a recreational and competitive tennis club in Calgary, which recently added three padel courts to its facility. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

A racket sport that's growing in popularity across the world is making waves in Calgary. 

It's called padel. Jeff Spiers, executive director and co-owner of Aforza, a recreational and competitive tennis club in southwest Calgary, describes the sport as a mix between tennis and squash.

"It's got all the tennis skills — overheads, volleys, ground strokes — but if that ball gets by you, you can now play it off the wall like you do in squash." 

Spiers added three padel courts in September to Aforza's indoor facility. He converted two tennis courts to accommodate the necessary walls and fencing.

Like Spiers, some compare padel to pickleball, another racket sport that's growing in popularity across Canada.

"Pickleball is a great sport, and I think that padel is quite similar to pickleball in that, you know, it's a smaller court and it's very exciting to play," said Spiers. 

Members of a pickleball team square off in a doubles match just outside of Edmonton, Alta. Pickleball is similar to padel, but its courts are not surrounded by walls. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

In pickleball, players have rackets made of wood that they use to hit a perforated ball over a net, similar to tennis. But with padel, there are walls around the court that players can hit the ball against, just like in squash.

The padel racket frame is made of carbon fibre, while the core is made of a foam or soft rubber with holes for aerodynamics. It's also smaller than a tennis racket, so easier to handle, according to Spiers. 

Spiers said padel goes back to the late 1960s in Mexico and is popular in central and South America, and Europe.

Switching to padel

Calgarian Erin Roberts started playing padel last summer and even competed in a pro event in Italy this fall. She's played squash since she was 11 but said switching to padel has been a nice transition.

"I got to kind of a point [with squash] where I'd like plateaued, and I trained hard and I wouldn't get any better. So this was really fun for me to be able to start playing and see the improvements quite quickly."

I think when you try it, you realize how fun it is.- Erin Roberts, padel player

Roberts said she hopes more people will try padel and learn about the sport. 

"I'll tell people I play padel and it's just like a blank look, like no clue what I'm talking about," she said. 

"I think when you try it, you realize how fun it is."

A sport for everyone

In addition to the three courts at Aforza, there are two outdoor padel clubs in Calgary.

Spiers said visitors to his facility have been curious about the new courts and excited to play padel.

"We've been offering a lot of free clinics and introducing it to people and they all come off the court loving and saying, 'Oh, this is fantastic,'" said Spiers.

Jeff Spiers, executive director and co-owner of Aforza, says padel has been catching on like wildfire. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"The tennis people that have been introduced to it so far this fall have all come back saying, 'Wow, this is awesome and we love it just as much as tennis.'"

Spiers said he's seen people of all ages and abilities playing padel and enjoying the sport.

"It's a very easy sport to pick up so you can be relatively new and within the first hour, you're probably playing a game of padel."

With files from Terri Trembath


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