Pickleball in Austin: Here’s What You Need to Know
How the pandemic birthed our city’s favorite new pastime
By Meher Qazilbash
Photos by Grace Moore
Pickleball is suddenly all the rage right now. The sport that we all vaguely remember from childhood is now the number one growing sport in the U.S., with major celebrities like the Kardashians, Bill Gates and George and Amal Clooney participating in the game. For those who aren’t entirely familiar, pickleball is an amalgamation of tennis and ping-pong. It’s played with a wiffle ball and a lightweight plastic paddle on a court that’s slightly smaller than a tennis court. When it comes to the skills necessary to play, no extensive training is required. The trick is to master placement and pace.
It’s not exactly revolutionary, so what’s the explanation for pickleball’s sudden popularity? Perhaps the friendliness of it. When the pandemic struck we were all starved for a sense of community as well as the ability to make memories. Physical and mental health was also at an all time low, increasing our search for hobbies that encouraged us to get moving and involve ourselves in a communal experience. Voila! Pickleball offered it all in an outdoor, socially distanced setting.
Opportunities for your own perfect pickleball experience are emerging more and more right here in Austin. One must-see destination for players is Dreamland, the huge outdoor playground in Dripping Springs. Along with its many other fun features, Dreamland offers pickleball courts, equipment and lessons from professional players. They also recently launched Major League Pickleball (MLP), a four-day pickleball festival featuring amateur tournaments for all skill levels, professional clinics and a team competition where 32 of the top male and female professionals in the world have been drafted into eight teams of four players (two men and two women) to compete in a round-robin event against one another.
“The league has full gender equity with the same court time and same prize money,” says Dreamland Creative Director Gareth Maguire.
Another exciting venue is Austin Pickle Ranch, an estate that will feature over 30 pickleball courts and additional spaces for other outdoor amusements like sand volleyball, pilates and yoga. Austinites can expect to see Austin Pickle Ranch and all it has to offer in 2022.
Equally important as it is to find wonderful establishments to play in, Austinites need brands that help them play in style. Recess Pickleball is a women-owned local company that’s adding more playfulness to the pickleball world by offering paddles with unique patterns and pastel colors. A response to the seriousness that typically is associated with sports and sport equipment, founders Maggie Brown and Grace Moore decided to approach the sport from a recreational standpoint. With its lighthearted athletic accessories, Recess shares the message that pickleball is meant for everyone to enjoy.
“We say it takes about five minutes to get a hang of hitting the ball and 15 minutes to really love the sport,” says Brown on the accessibility of the game.
It makes a lot of sense that pickleball is so ardently loved here in Austin. A game that’s centered around community, amusement and the outdoors is the perfect activity for the people of our city.