Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paddle This

Remember the time we were really craving paddles back in the day?

Yes. That was during our senior year of high school, when we were scouring the hallways and parking lot for freshmen who could use a good licking the first week of school. Freshman Friday baby!

Well, now we have a better use for them. It's more fun, productive, and nowhere near as cruel.

All signals point to paddle rackets becoming the cornerstone of Beach Tennis competition.

If you're a hater and you don't believe me, just ask the hordes of beach folk who flocked to Long Beach, N.Y. this weekend.

They were immersed in the action, captivated by the high-stakes competition of the Beach Tennis USA National Championship.

Even amidst windy, sandstorm conditions, these patriotic fans were going hard. The decibel levels shot up as players hustled at a furious pace, diving for balls and planting them into the sand.

One major upside to paddle play is that they're tailor-made for novices and those at the grassroots tier.

Paddles have become the norm, the beach weapon of choice in high-density Beach Tennis cultures throughout scenic sandspots in Italy, Bermuda, and Aruba.

Paddles have been given the torch to carry proudly for Beach Tennis USA.

The new sand sport will utilize the paddle in every event this coming season.

During Labor Day Weekend's Paddle Battle, when the paddles were showcased before the masses, the interest level catapulted.

A major positive aspect of the paddle is it produces a more efficient workout, one emphasizing constant running and chasing.

This adds flair and intensity to the game. It also helps those cardio levels spike.

“With tennis rackets you can get away with not moving as fast,” explained 2009 national champion Phil Whitesell.

“I mean, you have to be in a lot, lot better shape. To move forward and backwards you have to be much quicker off your feet."

Amateur champion Jimmy Lorenzo Jr. officially lost his paddle virginity this summer. It occurred when his father—Beach Tennis USA president Jim Lorenzo—introduced him to one last July.

Lorenzo Jr. has since acclimatized himself to the paddle, tutoring Long Beach youth on the intricacies of the game (with paddles) throughout the summer.

What’s the overall appeal of the paddle?

“I mean, you get your whole body moving in the game,” explained Lorenzo Jr.

“It’s more of a power game, while the tennis racket is more of a finesse, touch game.”

The paddle also caters more to the workaday athlete.

“You really have to move, not only do you have to hit the ball harder but you don’t have the reach you have with a racket, because it is much shorter,” noted Lorenzo Jr.

Lorenzo Jr. added, “There’s more emphasis on dives and running around.”

Other differences are notable.

“The paddle balls are softer,” said tournament P.A. Marty “Kodiak” Salokas, who also mentioned how the ball carries differently.

Pablo, the other young emcee/P.A. and former tennis pro, shot Kodiak with a crucial question: “How does it feel to get hit in the face with one?”

“You'll have to ask Brett Johnson,” Salokas replied.

Johnson, a member of Team Rhino, took one right in the kisser during pool play down in Florida.