It’s not tennis. It’s not badminton. It’s not ping pong. And, it has nothing to do with pickles. Pickleball is a hybrid of these three sports and it’s fast taking the world by storm. In fact, there’s an International Federation of Pickleball.
“What makes Pickleball popular is that it’s easier on the body than tennis,” says Nora Scrafford, who lives in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is the territory’s ambassador for Pickleball USA. “Some people discount that Pickleball isn’t a real sport. But it’s as competitive as tennis. Many people who play tennis, even pros, have converted to pickleball. If you have a tennis background, the learning curve is faster. But it’s not hard to learn. Everyone from kids to seniors can play Pickleball.”
Scrafford suggests anyone who is traveling can find places to play at Pickleball USA’s website: usapickleball.org/play/places-2-play/. A good place to meet other picklers and set up play is: www.playtimescheduler.com
The sport’s popularity has made it an attraction at some Caribbean resorts, especially all-inclusive resorts where courts are just for guests. There’s a groundswell of public courts converted to pickle play as well. It’s these where boaters, either cruising through or dropping anchor for years, can play.
Here’s a sampling of 7 places boaters can play pickleball in the Caribbean:
1. Palm Cay, Bahamas.
The first pickleball tournament in the Bahamas happened at the Palm Cay Marina and Beach Club last September. “We will absolutely have further events,” says Jak Hannaby-Cummins, managing director. Guests at the 194-slip marina, Club members, and residents of the marina homes on Palm, located 15 minutes from Nassau, are welcome to play. palmcay.com
2. Sosua, Dominican Republic.
Nine miles west of the Kitesurfing Capital of the Caribbean in Cabarete, on the north side of the island, the International Tennis Center has a covered clay pickleball court. The court is open to the public and available to rent. The starting price is $18 per hour or unlimited use with a $120 per person monthly membership. “So far, not too many people are playing pickleball here yet,” says Ilya Kislitsyn, founder and head coach. Build it and they will come may the forecast for the future here. www.internationaltenniscenter.com
3. Puerto Rico.
“We are Pickleball crazy here on the island and have several places where boaters could sink to their heart’s content,” invited Bill Daly, vice president of the Puerto Rico Pickleball Association (PRPBA). The most promising place, says Daly, is the Palmas Athletic Club (PAC), a fair walk from the Palmas Del Mar Marina in Humacao. The club is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Open play opportunities are available most mornings and evenings. Book through the Pro Shop (787) 656-3025. PAC hosts the PRPBA’s two biggest events this year. The PAC Pickleball Open happened last month, and the Puerto Rico Championships will be held October 20-22. Picklers of all skill levels are welcome. www.prpba.org
4. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Nearly walking distance from the St. Croix Yacht Club in Teague Bay, on the island’s east end, there is one court out of five brand new ones that can accommodate Pickleball at The Reef Golf Course. “I offer free first-time Pickleball lessons for beginners who would like to learn the rules, regulations, and ins and outs of the game,” explains Linda Midlikowski. Currently, lessons are Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m. Those interested can call the Golf Pro shop, located next to the well-known Duggan’s Reef restaurant, to sign up. The active Pickleball community on St. Croix usually plays mornings at 8 a.m. and afternoons at 3:30 p.m. Rental of paddles available at the Pro Shop are $10, 2-hour court fees are $10, as well as a fee for using the courts. The first Pickleball tournament was held in 2021, and the next takes place on April 1, 2023. www.reefgolfstcroixusvi.com/pickleball-tennis
5. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Four courts in Cruz Bay are within walking distance from the bay. Since these are public courts, it’s free to play. “We don’t have permanent nets, so we try to share. We can rent the use of the nets to visitors as well,” says Scrafford. In December, Scrafford organized the Love City Pickleball Tournament that attracted 11 teams from both St. John and St. Thomas. www.places2play.org/place?id=11961
6. St. Maarten.
Cruise into the Yacht Club Port de Plaisance (PDP) in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The tennis club in this complex currently has three pickleball courts, with plans to increase this number to eight. “We have been on a quest over the past few years to develop pickleball on St Maarten,” says Craig Vinje, who runs the stmaartenpickleball.com site. The PDP courts are lit at night until 9 p.m. and are open for play every day starting at 9 a.m. There is also an opportunity to rent the courts during other hours during the week. Clinics and competitions are planned for the future. “Pickleball on St. Maarten has been growing rapidly,” says Sabina Robbins, who coordinates the play at PDP. “People off the yachts, crew, and hotel guests have been popping in and enjoying great games! Word has been getting out. It is such a great place to meet new people, a great mix of locals and visitors. It’s relaxed play at different levels. At the end of the games, we head over to the Courtside Cafe or yacht club for lunch and a drink! There’s a free app available to share open play times and other pickleball information. Go to TeamReach, SXM Pickleball, and the code is SXMPB.
7. Falmouth, Antigua & Barbuda.
The excitement is building for public pickleball courts in Antigua, and Anna Marie Joseph is making that happen with her new Pickleball 268 facility that opened last month. “Located on Farrel Road in Falmouth, we have constructed three pickleball courts and intend to add another three more over the summer, for six total,” says Joseph. Those interested can follow the facility on Instagram at @Pickleballantigua. “You will see lots of videos and photos of what’s happening in terms of play pickleball in Antigua.” Pickleball 268 is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The cost is $15 per person, per hour. The rental of paddles and balls is $10.