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What you need to know to start playing beach tennis

New sport is growing across Canada

Although still in its infancy, beach tennis is becoming an increasingly popular pastime in Canada, especially in the city of Toronto where the first beach national championships were held last fall.

It all started with a local club, Toronto Beach Tennis, founded by a small group who experienced the game on the sunny beaches of Caribbean where the sport is already well-established. And it grew quickly as it provided sporting refuge for many during the pandemic.

One of the club founders, Noah Goldstein, first started playing regularly in Toronto a few years back with his friend Roman Manastyrski, who he knew from another paddle sport, ping pong. He witnessed beach tennis while on vacation in Aruba.

“We started a local not-for-profit sports club in mid-2019 and began growing the sport through our connections and a meetup group,” Goldstein says. “Beach tennis was a great refuge for team sports athletes last summer during COVID times since it’s a naturally distanced non-contact sport.”

Over the past year, the club has more than doubled its membership.

“The biggest thing is the beach atmosphere and how it’s the only racquet sport where you can dive without pain,” Goldstein says. “Diving to retrieve an almost out-of-reach shot brings that joy of a great play that just doesn’t come as often in most sports.”

Beach tennis has similarities with several other sports including volleyball, tennis, and ping pong. It’s played with a paddle racquet and an oversized tennis ball. Like volleyball, the ball cannot touch the ground. The idea is to return the shot over a net and into the opposing player(s) court in one shot. The net is 5,7” in height. The scoring system is the same as tennis.

“The biggest difference with other racquet sports is that you need to place the ball with touch more often than hitting with power,” Goldstein explains. “Instead of swinging, it is ideal to get the ball early and punch it to a spot away from your opponents. This is more easily understood if you come out and try it! One of the great attractions to beach tennis is that you can learn enough basics in a couple of minutes to have a very fun game.”

Those with racquet experience, whether tennis, squash, or even ping pong have some adaptable advantage, but other sports might offer some useful and transferable skills as well.

“Being comfortable swinging a racquet helps get to high levels, but the technique is somewhat unique and some of our best players in Toronto have a background in ultimate frisbee rather than racquet sports,” Goldstein explains. “Their experience in efficient movement and ability to problem solve at a high sports level is very helpful. Having said that, tennis, badminton, and squash backgrounds have shown to be very transferable skills at a high level.”

According to Goldstein, beach tennis is huge on the beaches of Italy where it was invented and has very large communities in Brazil, Spain, Aruba, and many other beaches around the world. In North America, the sport is the biggest in California and Florida as you may expect, but also has clubs in Montreal, Vancouver, Buffalo, and Baltimore.

In addition to tournaments, the club hosts regular opportunities to play at Woodbine Beach, where there is plenty of room amidst the hundred or so beach volleyball courts, which are also suitable for beach tennis, as well as indoors during the winter. Those interested are free to come out and try beach tennis with the club’s equipment before signing on to become members and investing in gear. 

With more than 180 members, Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver is now the home of beach tennis in Western Canada.

There is also a club in Montreal, Quebec, and a new national governing body.

According to the Canadian Beach Tennis Association, the game is played in over 74 countries and nations worldwide with tournaments held nearly every weekend.

 

What gear do you need?

Generally, people can play beach tennis sans footwear, but there are also specially designed socks such as Shocsox for playing in the sand often worn by those playing beach volleyball.

The racquets are referred to as paddles and are mostly solid with air holes and a gritty surface to add spin and touch to shots.

There aren’t a lot of stores stocking beach tennis equipment in Canada, but one is Decathlon, which has a number of outlets in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and other provinces.

Decathlon stocks a variety of beach tennis gear in addition to affordable athletic clothing. For example, for those new to the sport, there is a beach tennis court boundary lines set that come with everything needed to stake out a court.

In addition, there is a variety of paddles available from a starter set that includes two paddles and a ball for beginners. When ready, there is a variety of more advanced paddles as well ranging in price up to $160.

There are other brands of beach tennis equipment located outside of Canada that ship, as well, including Sexy and Quicksand.

As the sport is played outdoors generally in the sun, athletic clothing that is breathable and offers some UV protection is ideal. A hat or vizor is recommended as well.

To get involved head to the Toronto Beach Tennis Facebook page, or come down to Woodbine Beach on the weekend to check it out.

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