It’s rare to find a new sport these days. Popular sports like football, golf, and tennis have been around for centuries. It’s hard to imagine people inventing something new when there is such a
It’s rare to find a new sport these days. Popular sports like football, golf, and tennis have been around for centuries. It’s hard to imagine people inventing something new when there is such a variety of sports already in existence. Meet padel! In comparison with most sports, this is a new creation whose history begins in 1962. Some sixty years later, it is now the world’s fastest-growing racket sport. Let’s take a look in more detail at its history.
The origins of Padel
The game was created at Las Brisas in Puerto de Acapulco, Mexico in 1960. The house owner, Enrique Corcuera decided to build a three-meter wall that faced an original wall of a fronton court. He put a net in the middle and two lower walls on either side. This new court measured 20 meters by 10 meters.
According to Corcuera, the wall was actually built to prevent the ball from bouncing into the neighboring property if it went over the defensive line. However, when the wall was built, the ball would bounce back off it and the players would just continue playing instead of stopping play. And as such, the new sport of padel was created.
Padel expands to Spain
In the 1970s, padel came to Spain. Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe, a Spanish businessman who was famous for promoting resorts of the Costa del Sol and Marbella, spent his summer in Acapulco at Corcuera’s house. After returning home to his Marbella Club Hotel, he built two padel courts.
Though Prince Alfonso did introduce a few changes to the court design (like wire fences instead of walls, he kept the main characteristics of Corcuera’s design.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Price Alfonso’s Marbella courts held famous “Pro-Am” tournaments. These tournaments became instrumental in padel’s expansion across the country and across South America too. During the tournament games, there would be a celebrity paired with a professional player. You’d often see sportsmen, politicians, aristocrats, and famous artists taking part. Notable participants included Enrique Iglesias, the Duke of Borbon, Manuel Santana, Luis Ortiz, Princess Zora of Morocco, and Patxi Andon.
After these tournaments, five courts were built in Club Puerta de Hierro, Madrid, and later on, in Madrid’s La Moraleja.
Padel expands to Argentina
For the first ten years after its inception, Padel was only known to people who frequented the Marbella Hotel Club or who visited Acapulco. But by 1982, it became a social phenomenon.
Padel’s success meant that it began spreading to other countries. Courts were developed in Argentina and Uruguay in the early 1980s. By 1987, the first official padel body APPTAS (Asociación Platense de Paddle) was formed, and in 1988 the APA (Argentinian Padel Association) was founded.
In Spain, P.A.D.E.L. was created, a clever acronym for the Spanish Padel Association which meant promoción de actividades deportivas, educativas y lúdicas. This translates in English to “promotion of sports, educational, and playful activities”.
Development of the rules and its name
There were differences in the game in Argentina and Spain. In Spain, for example, players were allowed to volley returns. The game was also slower in Spain than in Argentina because of the use of a synthetic turf. In Argentina, volleying returns weren’t allowed. Argentinian courts also had a hard surface like concrete and the game was called paddle.
Towards the end of the 20th century, it was decided that the rules needed to be unified. This decision took place in Barcelona in 1997 and the game became officially known as padel, rather than paddle. It allowed for return volleys and rules were made that wire fences were to be three meters around the entire perimeter with now sharp corners. The only thing that wasn’t in the regulation was the court surface.
Padel spreads to other countries
After being successful in Argentina and Spain, Padel began expanding to other places. Padel courts were constructed in Italy, Canada, France, Chile, Brazil, the US, and Uruguay. The game had been linked with exclusiveness and prestige in Spain and so it became attractive to many people.
The first padel World Championships took place in 1992 in Madrid and the finals were held in Seville. There were eight teams involved: Spain, Argentina, England, France, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Both the Argentinan men’s team and women’s team took the titles.
Padel statistics now
If we look at the statistics, it’s easy to see why padel is now considered the fast-growing racket sport in the world. According to Padel Academy, there are eight million padel players worldwide. They belong to 4,000 padel clubs. Each year there are around a quarter of a million new padel players and around 200 new clubs.
Currently, there are around 3,000 clubs in Spain, 200 clubs in Italy, 120 clubs in France, 23 clubs in Germany, and 16 clubs in the United Kingdom.
Padel in Thailand
Thailand is an interesting country with a rich history. Traditionally, the two main places to play padel in Thailand are Phuket and Bangkok. However, Hua Hin, a coastal town approximately 2.5hrs south of Bangkok is where Padel Of Thailand is based. It’s a very popular place with expats and Thais alike due to the thriving sports scene, relaxing beaches and varied nightlife.
In 2020, there were around 400 Thai padel players and eleven official padel courts in Thailand. Considering that padel only arrived in 2017 in Thailand, these are impressive statistics. In 2022 this number is much greater and the sport continues to grow.
Daniel Persson and Christer Larsson are the two Swedish padel enthusiasts responsible for building three of Phuket’s padel courts. The biggest problem they encountered when building the courts was not the worry about how many players there would be, but how expensive the land was for the courts. However, their efforts paid off and their courts are extremely popular.
At first, padel was seen as a game for tourists and there were very few Thai players. However, more and more, the people of Thailand are taking up the sports and Thai players now account for 15%+ of the total.
Final thoughts on Padel and its future
It’s safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of padel. We’re at a very exciting point of its existence and it’s set to take the world by storm more than it already has. Although padel is not yet an Olympic sport, it has already met nearly all of the necessary requirements. The only thing that padel now needs is to have the male padel side to reach 75 National Federations, it is currently played in 38 countries. After this figure is achieved, the sport will be given Olympic status. Watch this space!