Sweden was notably early on the padel ball, and it took a few more years before the other Nordic countries got paddling. Denmark opened its first padel courts in 2012, Finland welcomed its first padel club in 2016 and Norway followed in 2017. But no other Scandinavian country has experienced the same explosion in players, courts and clubs as Sweden has. How come Sweden caught the bug so badly? The short answer is celebrities. Padel got media’s attention when former tennis star Jonas Björkman and singer Måns Zelmerlöw opened their first padel club in Stockholm in 2014. Padel became a thing. Notable celebrities, influencers and sport stars were all doing the bandejas and backhands whilst playing americano style – obviously posting about it on Instagram whilst being impeccably dressed for the occasion.
“The padel fashion is highly inspired by the tennis fashion,
but with more function than flair.”
Entrepreneur and influencer Anitha Clemence found padel three years ago and has been hooked since. She spends a lot of time on the court and socializing around it.
“What you are wearing is becoming more and more important. It marks your status on the padel court and shows how many hours you are spending there. Your outfit might expose you!”
It came and it conquered – to say the least. Padel has taken over our feeds, our towns and our lives. Here’s how it happened.
A wealthy businessman called Enrique Corcuera. He’s the man to thank for the existence of padel. Or blame – if you are one of the refusers that still haven’t been bitten by the padel bug. It is estimated that over ten million people play padel around the globe – Sweden on its own has a staggering 700 000 active players. That makes it the second biggest sport after football. How did it happen and what made it the biggest talk of our towns?
Padel was born in the Mexican resort of Acapulco back in 1969. The businessman Enrique Corcuera had too much money but not enough space to put in a tennis court in his garden. Instead, he created a smaller court, surrounded by walls and divided by a net. He wrote his own rules and invited his friends to play and spread the word. It took another 30 years until the sport made it to up north, when a guy called Thommy Andersson from Båstad discovered it on his holiday in Marbella. For many years, padel stayed local to Skåne – Sweden’s first padel club opened in Helsingborg in 2010. This is where and when 44-year-old Kim Olsson fell in love with the sport. He has been an active player ever since, and he opened his own padel club back in 2014. Today he is the co-owner of Padel United that runs over 300 padel courts across Europe. He jokingly admits that it is annoying to see padel become one of the biggest trends of our time – like when you’ve been with a band since day one and all of a sudden, they’re selling out stadiums.
“Ha, yes I am torn! Go find your own sport! On the other hand, it’s my livelihood, I love it and understand why others do too. When we opened our first club, we had no players and we had to explain to people what it was. We lost so much money during the first three years.”
*Padel clubs operate on a pay-and-play basis and memberships are not required. You book the court for an hour at the time and all you really need is a pair of indoor sports shoes. The racket and balls are rented at the facilities.
*The great thing about padel is that you always play in pairs. Double is double the fun – grab a friend and get paddling!
*Sign up for a beginner’s course – there are plenty of those available. It will quickly improve your play and you will find others playing on your level.
So how would you describe the ultimate padel outfit?
“A short skirt that offers a good solution for your padel balls and has inner pants that stay in place. You need a sports bra with good support, but it should still be a nice feature under your top –everything should be color coordinated. Finally, you need the obligatory hair tie from Ia Bon.”
The corresponding fashion, the Instagram friendliness and the celebrities aside – what is it that makes padel the fastest growing sport in the world? The pandemic helped a lot. Padel was one of few indoor sports that still happened throughout 2020. The working from home-flexibility made padel the perfect lunch break activity – even Avicii Arena in Stockholm was temporary turned into 14 padel courts! But the main reason for its never-ending popularity is easily explained, says Kim Olsson:
“If you put four people on a court that have never touched a ball before, I can promise you that they will all have a great time. It’s easy to keep the ball in play and even beginners can create spectacular, showy balls.”
Also, it won’t take long until you have dramatically improved your padel skills:
“In one hour of playtime, you will get A LOT better. The development curve is extreme, you won’t find the equivalent in any other sport.
If you can hold a racket, you can play padel – and quickly get better at it.”
Kim Olsson, co-owner of Padel United