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Make Fast Friends While Traveling? Try Playing Pickleball.


“One in all the explanations I really like pickleball is the community is so nice,” said Martin Michelsen, 21, a senior on the University of Florida in Gainesville who plays on the school squad (pickleball is a club sport at many colleges and universities).

In highschool, he learned pickleball at a park near his home in Westin, Fla., where local players lent him a paddle. Last spring his doubles team won an eight-school tournament held at North Carolina State University.

“Everyone starts somewhere,” he said of fiddling with less expert enthusiasts while on a recent family vacation within the Dominican Republic. “I’d like to be a component of somebody’s pickleball journey.”

Based on USA Pickleball, the national governing body of the game, there are nearly 10,000 pickleball locations nationwide. Its website, Places2Play, offers a searchable database.

Travelers say they simply need a paddle, as locals at all times have balls.

“For ease of portability, it’s a no brainer,” Ms. Jacoby, of Chicago, said, referring to the solid yet lightweight paddle. “It’s flat and suits in a carry-on, tote or backpack.”

“You do need court shoes,” cautioned Sue Baker, 75, a retired teacher and travel agent who travels seasonally from her home in Lewes, Del., to destinations equivalent to Florida and Arizona where she brings her gear. “I did fall once and broke my wrist.”

Most public courts and drop-in sessions are free or inexpensive.

“It’s more accessible than other sports,” said Laura Gainor, 40, a marketing consultant in Ponte Vedra, Fla., who discovered the game three years ago and founded Pickleball within the Sun, a travel and leisure brand that profiles pickleball resorts and sells apparel. “You’re not paying to practice like golf.”

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