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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Coffey

Pickleball in Puerto Rico

I’m quite embarrassed to confess that we knew very little about this US Territory before coming. But I’m only a little ashamed that the first info I sought out was the answer to the very important question, “Do they play pickleball in Puerto Rico?” I now know so much more about Puerto Rico, and I could share it with you, but I’m guessing that all you might be interested in right now is, “Do they play pickleball there?” The answer happily is, yes they do!!

While staying at our fabulous month of pickleball paradise in Melbourne, FL, we were looking for our next destination. Puerto Rico presented itself as an option and we booked our flights way in advance (about a month before going). We started looking around immediately for interesting and fun things to do.

After arriving in PR, we found out about an upcoming pickleball tournament, and quickly worked to get signed up for it. The tournament director, Daniel Desa, had planned to have the tournament in Mayaguez, a university town on the west side of the island. It was to be at a tennis facility. Unfortunately, just a little over a week before the scheduled date, the facility informed him that they were not going to be able to hold the event there due to concerns that the tennis courts could be damaged. Bah humbug!

Fortunately about half an hour south in the small coastal town of Joyuda, pickleball has been growing extremely quickly. There is a country club called Club Deportivo del Oeste. It has a golf course, tennis courts and lots of other amenities. Daniel was able to relocate the tournament there. I’ve heard tournament directors’ tales of difficulties when last minute changes happen to teams and players, which screw up the brackets, but this was a whole other level!

We were literally minutes away from booking an Airbnb when I received a message from Daniel letting us know about the change. We quickly switched locations for our lodging. We found a nice little unit only 10 minutes from the venue in the middle of a sweet little town, Cabo Rojo. It was also only about 10 minutes away from one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, and a one minute walk to an amazing ice cream shop.. Bonus!

We showed up to register at the tournament, and about 10 minutes later a short rain burst happened, dousing the courts. With great forethought, there were plenty of shade structures and places for players to stay out of the rain. The tournament was only delayed by about an hour, which is pretty amazing.

A look around at the players revealed something very unexpected. Ky and I were by far the oldest contestants save a handful of other seniors. Everyone around us was young, and I mean 17 - 25 years young! The top bracket only went to 4.0+, open age. We had 6 teams in our bracket and 3 of the teams combined were younger than the two of us! The other two teams were only in their 40’s and one in her early 50’s.

All young and cute and smartly dressed!

We proceeded to get beaten by every team. There were several factors besides age that contributed to our losses, but young legs definitely played a part. Winds exceeding 15 mph were with us/against us the entire tournament. Most of the players had strong tennis backgrounds. Their strong top spin ground strokes were difficult to defend and our short games were really lousy in the wind. The two more mature teams had 4.5+ and 5.0 players, so overall, everyone was just better than us. Heat of >90°, humidity in excess of 70% just sounds like an excuse. To our credit, we were never pickled. Did I mention that we felt really OLD?!

It is truly exciting to see what is happening with the growth of pickleball in Puerto Rico. It is a young person's sport overall here. From what we’ve been able to see so far, there are not many seniors playing pickleball. The vast majority of all the growth is young adults. Most of the play is also at private courts which are tennis facilities, or gated communities that are converting some tennis courts to pickleball. Until there are less expensive or free options, seniors may not be coming to the sport the way it has on the mainland US. If our perspective on this changes over the next couple of weeks, I’ll let you know. Stay tuned for more Puerto Rico pickleball info.

Thanks so much to Daniel Desa and all of the volunteers who did an incredible job pulling off a 300+ person tournament which was well run despite all of their major obstacles. We had fun and learned that we just need to figure out how to get younger lol!

Stay tuned for more pickleball news from Puerto Rico.

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