This startup is turning pickleball into America’s new favorite pastime

It may have a silly name, but pickleball is a serious sport.

The game of paddleball – similar to badminton but played with a perforated plastic ball – enjoyed huge popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, sparking a continued demand for court access and sporting recognition. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association reported that approximately 4.8 million people worldwide now play pickleball, and it is the fastest-growing sport in America.

Regional pickleball headlines are almost as ravishing as the name of the sport: “81-year-old duo win national pickleball championship” and “Greenwich pickleball fans are ‘crying’ for more space: ‘We don’t have enough jobs.’” But the spike in interest is more than just a passing fad or a headline writer’s dream. Washington state governor Jay Inslee declared pickleball the official state sport this week. (While making the announcement, he expanded the “certain inalienable rights” of the Declaration of Independence to include “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of pickleball.”) Resorts and developers, meanwhile, are scrambling to rebuild old courts on demand. And top players and organizers would aim for demonstration sport inclusion in the 2028 Olympics.

Something of a love child between tennis and ping pong, the game is played with lowered nets over a 20 x 44 foot field – the same size as a double court for badminton – and requires special lightweight wooden or composite paddles to tap the plastic ball into single-sided play. or doubles. These guidelines all became somewhat flexible during the pandemic as home players pitched nets in their driveways and dug out Wiffle balls and old paddles to get their game going.

Recession co-founders Maggie Brown (left) and Grace Moore [Photo: courtesy Recess]According to co-founder and CEO Maggie Brown, the idea of ​​Recess Pickleball came about because it was fun to play a casual (yet competitive) game outdoors — in the fresh air and at a safe distance during the pandemic. “We set up a pickleball job with my mom [house], and it’s changed our family dynamics in the best way,” she says. “When we went online to find paddles, there was nothing. You could get paddles that looked like they were from 2002, so we saw an opportunity to approach the top-of-funnel player.

Brown and co-founder and CMO Grace Moore started their brand of well-designed pickleball paddles as what Brown calls a “quarantine company.” And it has grown alongside the sport. Their $74 composite paddles come in retro shades and look straight out of a Wes Anderson prop box. They named their first collection after locations in their hometown of Austin and started product launch in May 2021. Fellow Austinites from athleisure brand Outdoor Voices took notice and teamed up for a paddle collab within the first two months. “It helped validate the brand and put us on the map,” says Brown.

[Photo: courtesy Recess]The company now carries two collections of paddles — Out West, which launched last week, features desert-inspired designs (the original Austin collection delivers more of the Royal Tenenbaums vibe) — along with white and green pickles, $48 paddles for children and grip tape that maintains the appearance of the handle as if it were wrapped in patinated leather. Limited edition paddle artist collaborations are poised for launch, with “pickleball fashion” potentially being the pike. “Two or three years later, we want to be the next preeminent pickleball lifestyle brand,” says Brown.

And while the idea that pickleball is a lifestyle may seem far-fetched, Brown says she sees the benefits of a rising interest in her sport. “We are fascinated by the commercial development that is taking place. I think it’s because people in clubs and tennis courts are starting to see the economy of [the sport],” she said. “You can have four people on a job. Or you can have 16.” In other words, if you are a real estate developer, you can get more (punched ball) bang for your buck from a pickleball job.

[Photo: courtesy Recess]In addition to more established names like Paddletek and Franklin, Recess is also an official sponsor of Major League Pickleball, the Austin-based players’ league that brought the sport to CBS Sports Network last November. While Paddletek and Franklin’s paddles focus on performance – with features such as UV-coated fiberglass said to improve spin control and durability – Brown anticipates her brand’s product roadmap as “growing with the player”, while also developing the standard for the beginners who are just picking the sport up.

“We want to be everyone’s first pickleball paddle,” she says.

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