Padel is the talk of the town in South Africa these days. So, we get a lot of interest and questions about this popular sport.
We chatted with Elian Wiener, one of the founders of Virgin Active Padel Club and a Padel enthusiast, to understand where all the hype is coming from. Elian represented South Africa in the Africa Padel Cup Championships in Egypt last year. In short, he’s a self-confessed Padel addict.
What is Padel?
Padel is a racquet sport often described as a cross between tennis and squash.
It is played with a Padel racket – a beach bat on steroids. The racket is often made with a combination of fibreglass and carbon fibre.
Padel balls look like tennis balls but are slightly softer and travel somewhat slower.
It’s essential that you play with the correct shoes to prevent injuries, because you play Padel on synthetic turf, which is astro turf with sand. There are specific Padel shoes, or you can play with clay-court tennis shoes. We have rackets, balls and shoes available at all our Virgin Active Padel Clubs.
Padel is played on a court that looks similar to a tennis court except that it’s slightly smaller and is surrounded by glass walls. The ball can bounce off these glass walls and stay in play. In that way, it’s similar to squash, but the setup is very similar to tennis with a net in the middle and two players on each side of the net. Padel is scored in the same way as Tennis, with points, sets and games.
The glass walls bring a different dimension to the sport. Power isn’t as important as it is in tennis. The ball can go past you, bounce off the wall and still be in play. The glass walls even out the playing field, allowing older players to compete against younger players.
Why is Padel so popular now?
I think the sport has tapped into the changing ways people want to exercise and socialise.
It’s accessible to more people because it’s easier than Tennis, but still gives you an excellent workout. A game of Padel can also burn many calories and it’s quicker to get to a level of play where it’s fun.
It’s a very social game, with 4 people on a court. The court is relatively small, so it’s easy to have fun social interactions while you play. Each Padel Club is also set up so you can have refreshments or something to eat before or after your games.
Padel ticks many boxes for people, which is why it has captured the imaginations of millions of people globally, who now play it as one of their primary sports.
Lastly, it is effortless to find and book games. The universal Playtomic App allows you to find and book a court on the date and at the time most convenient to you. It also allows you to post a link to your game so that your friends can join simply by clicking the link.
Virgin Active Padel Club also has WhatsApp groups at all of our clubs, with about 700 people in a WhatsApp group, so you really are part of a community.
Why join Virgin Active Padel Club?
The unique benefit of the Virgin Active Padel Club is if you are a member of Virgin Active, you automatically qualify as a member of the Virgin Active Padel Club. And it’s free. Membership entitles you to discounts on court bookings, discounts on merchandise, preferential court bookings and many other benefits. You can register as a Virgin Active Padel Club member by going to the Virgin Active website’s Padel Club page.
Non-Virgin Active members can still play at Virgin Active Padel Clubs. You just don’t get the discounted rate that members get.
We also believe we offer the best service and Padel courts in South Africa.
Our focus is on building amazing communities at our clubs, so people can make friends and socialise while having fun and getting fit. We place a lot of emphasis on our socials and events, so that people can come together and play Padel as a community.
Is Padel expensive? How much does it cost to play Padel in South Africa?
Padel is quite reasonably priced, when you compare it to other exercise classes you might go do. The prices vary between clubs and at different times. You have off-peak and on-peak times.
A game will cost you R400 an hour on average at a club. The Padel booking system lets players pay for just their portion of the game, which is what happens in most cases. So, it ends up costing about R100 per person per game. All Padel clubs offer a bat rental service too.”
Where can you play Padel in South Africa?
New Padel clubs are opening continuously. There are clubs across all major areas of South Africa now. Most Padel courts are in Johannesburg and Cape Town. There are also Padel clubs in Pretoria, Durban, Knysna, George, Plettenberg Bay, and PE – all major metros.
Virgin Active Padel Club currently has 4 clubs: Huddle Park in Johannesburg and Epicentre, The Glen and Pinehurst in Cape Town.
We’re building new Padel Clubs in Johannesburg at Randpark Golf Course and in Groenkloof, Pretoria. We have a pipeline of about 10 to 20 clubs nationwide that we will roll out over the next 18 months. Most new Padel Clubs will be at Virgin Active gyms. We will announce the dates of these closer to the time of launch.
Do you need training to learn to play Padel?
The beauty of Padel is that almost anyone can pick up a bat, and once they understand the rules, and be comfortable enough to play games. This is much faster compared to a sport like tennis or squash. It’s easy to hit the ball over the net with the bat.
Nevertheless, getting some coaching is helpful because players develop the correct technique right from the beginning. Virgin Active Padel Clubs offer coaching, and you can book single or group lessons with a coach.
Should I use more of my wrist or arm when playing Padel?
Definitely your arm. The critical thing about Padel is it isn’t all about power. The team that generally wins is the team that makes the fewest mistakes. It isn’t about how hard you can hit the ball.
Padel is very much about control. It’s about hitting the ball flat or with a bit of a slice. It’s key to maintain control and not to make errors.
What is an illegal serve in Padel?
In Padel, the serve is underhand, unlike tennis, where you serve overhand. You bounce the ball, and you have to strike the ball below the level of your waist when you serve. The ball must bounce first before you serve. So, a serve will be illegal if this approach isn’t followed.
You can also learn more about Padel rules here.
Why are Padel courts blue?
Not all Padel courts aren’t all blue. The AstroTurf that is used to cover the court comes in all colours, including blue, green, orange, red and even grey or black. The most popular Padel court colours are blue and green.
Can you play Padel on a tennis court?
No, it is a different surface, size and doesn’t have glass walls. So, it wouldn’t be Padel.
Where was Padel invented?
It was invented in Mexico in the late 1960s. Then spread across the world in roughly the last ten years.
Can two people play Padel?
Yes, you get a singles Padel court. We have singles courts at Epicentre and Huddle Park. These Padel courts are slightly narrower than your standard doubles court.
Does Padel burn fat?
Definitely. It’s an excellent workout. I’ve seen people burn 100’s or 1000’s of calories during a match. Padel is a fantastic cardio workout. It’s also good for your legs, and quads, which need to work extremely hard. Your core gets a good workout due to the twisting motion of the shots.
How can I practice Padel alone?
We offer practice times at Virgin Active Padel Club generally between 10am and 3pm. You can book a court just to practise on your own. You can hit the ball against the glass. It’s easy to practise independently because of the glass walls.
How do I book a game?
All bookings can be made via the Playtomic booking app. Just download the app and register. Then just search for the club that you want to play at and book your game or spot.
We enjoyed chatting with Elian and are keen to hit a Padel court soon. Do you still have questions? Feel free to get in touch and join a Virgin Active near you. We hope to see you on a Virgin Active Padel court soon.