OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is now home to the first North County courts designed for padel, an increasingly popular racquet sport with Southern California roots that is growing in popularity worldwide.
Earlier this year, the Oceanside City Council approved the installation of two padel courts at 222 S. Coast Hwy. in a 9,500-square-foot site that was previously a used car lot.
Padel is played on small enclosed courts using carbon fiber or fiberglass rackets. The games are played in doubles — four players per court — and the games typically consist of three sets. Players serve the ball underhand and may use the walls surrounding the court to keep the ball in play.
Amir Palmen, chief executive officer of Padel California, the company behind the new Oceanside courts, said the sport is a mix of tennis, racquetball and ping-pong. The balls are similar to a tennis ball but slightly smaller in size.
The two padel courts in Oceanside have 10-foot plexiglass walls surrounding them, with an additional 6 feet of netting on top. The glass not only provides another surface for players to use during a game but also provides protection from flying balls and blocks out sound.
While the courts have been completed and open to the public and members for the last six weeks, renovation of the site’s formerly dilapidated trailer is nearing completion and will serve as an office and pro shop for the courts.
Hours of operation will be between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days per week.
Padel was first invented in 1969 in Acapulco, Mexico, by Enrique Corcuera. The sport was introduced in Spain a few years later and began to spread throughout Latin America.
While the game is popular in Latin American and European countries, its presence in the United States is still new but growing in popularity.
Palmen said the sport has grown exponentially in his home country of Finland over the past five years. The Padel California CEO was originally skeptical of the sport when he first heard about it from his fellow former semi-pro hockey players who had started playing the sport.
“They convinced me to try it and I kind of fell in love with the sport,” he said.
For Palmen, the sense of community and comradery of sports teams are what drew him into padel.
And while padel is easy to learn for beginners, it takes some time to master the sport.
“I’ve been playing five years now, and if I played another five years, I would still have a learning curve,” Palmen said.
Since erecting the courts, the company has seen dozens of people daily who walk up and inquire about the sport. The club now boasts approximately 60 official members, many of whom started with little-to-no tennis or racquet experience.
“We were riding around on our scooters one day, looked in the gate and figured they were pickleball courts,” said nearby Oceanside resident Brad Malecha. “Then we looked a little closer and realized it wasn’t pickleball, but something completely different. We grabbed a few rackets and within 15 minutes, we were addicted.”
The Malechas have played nearly every day since they became members.
“You can get some really good cardio; it’s challenging and it’s fun,” Brad Malecha said. “We also like the people and the vibe, and the culture is very welcoming. We found pickleball a little intimidating.”
Though anyone can test out and play on the courts, Padel California is encouraging new players to sign up for a club membership to earn more perks and to help build the local padel community.
Palmen said this club likes to keep membership costs reasonable compared to other private clubs across the country.
“We try to be accessible,” he said. “We have very reasonable prices compared to the private clubs in Miami and New York.”
San Diego County currently only has two locations, with only one in North County. Palmen’s goal is to plant and grow more clubs throughout the region to further spread the sport and create opportunities for club vs. club tournaments.
To learn more about padel and to purchase a membership, visit www.padelcalifornia.us.