How to Make Fast Friends While Traveling? Try Playing Pickleball.
“One of the reasons I love pickleball is the community is so nice,” said Martin Michelsen, 21, a senior at the University of Florida in Gainesville who plays on the college squad (pickleball is a club sport at many colleges and universities).
In high school, he learned pickleball at a park near his home in Westin, Fla., where local players lent him a paddle. Last spring his doubles team won an eight-school tournament held at North Carolina State University.
“Everyone starts somewhere,” he said of playing with less skilled enthusiasts while on a recent family vacation in the Dominican Republic. “I would love to be a part of someone’s pickleball journey.”
Portable and affordable
According to USA Pickleball, the national governing body of the sport, there are nearly 10,000 pickleball locations nationwide. Its website, Places2Play, offers a searchable database.
Travelers say they just need a paddle, as locals always have balls.
“For ease of portability, it’s a no-brainer,” Ms. Jacoby, of Chicago, said, referring to the solid yet lightweight paddle. “It’s flat and fits in a carry-on, tote or backpack.”
“You do need court shoes,” cautioned Sue Baker, 75, a retired teacher and travel agent who travels seasonally from her home in Lewes, Del., to destinations such as Florida and Arizona where she brings her gear. “I did fall once and broke my wrist.”
Most public courts and drop-in sessions are free or inexpensive.
“It’s more accessible than other sports,” said Laura Gainor, 40, a marketing consultant in Ponte Vedra, Fla., who discovered the sport three years ago and founded Pickleball in the Sun, a travel and leisure brand that profiles pickleball resorts and sells apparel. “You’re not paying to practice like golf.”