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Paddle tennis!
Paddle tennis was conceived around the turn of the twentieth century in Michigan, but it thrives on Venice Beach, CA, a wind sprint from Goldís Gym and several blocks from the workshop of Brian Lee, five-time national champion and Powerpaddle manufacturer.
Courting Success
by Wade Vance


Paddle tennis was conceived around the turn of the twentieth century in Michigan, but it thrives on Venice Beach, CA, a wind sprint from Goldís Gym and several blocks from the workshop of Brian Lee, five-time national champion and Powerpaddle manufacturer.

Before proceeding, it should be made clear that you will not find paddle tennis competitors doing battle in Elkís Clubs, frat houses, or musty basements. The playing surface does not stand on legs; it can not be wheeled about or collapsed to permit convenient storage, and beer bottles are seldom incorporated into the action. In short, paddle tennis is not ping pong.
It is much like tennis, with slight rulebook variations, smaller court dimensions, a deflated ball, and solid paddles instead of stringed rackets.

Leeís been producing his signature Powerpaddles (the last wooden paddles on the market) for three decades. The process has remained the same while the sportís evolved. Most of the machinery installed in 1977 is utilized to this day. Apparatus irregularities may occur from time to time requiring shims, screws, or staples, but the final product remains constant.
Essentially, itís a one-man operation. Lee ensures quality by being involved from the first cut to the final signature. Roy Hobbs has nothing on him.

At one point, the top five ranked players in the world gripped Powerpaddles. Now, modern lines designed to increase velocity are muscling for shelf space. Paddle tennis is renowned for its emphasis on finesse though; underhand serves and rapid net play places a premium on quick hands rather than rippling arms. As a result, many remain faithful to Brian Lee model paddles, while new generations continue to discover and experiment with them. Old-schoolís hardly a new concept, after all. In Venice, retro isnít simply a marketing ploy, itís a lifestyle. Tie dyes, hemp, and acoustic guitars are just as prominent as nylon/Lycra blends, coconut and horn, and MP3 players. In a sense, itís still the nineteen-seventies and wood is sustainable.

Today, Powerpaddles can be found in sports chains and beachfront shops throughout Venice and are used all over the world. The business flourishes based on word of mouth and reputation. Leeís never officially advertised his product, but he has been featured in Los Angeles area publications and on local, national, and international television. His celebrity status along the boardwalk is rivaled solely by the roller skating, electric guitar playing, robed eccentric.

It is worthy to note, if only for theatrical reasons, that Brianís father, Walter Lee, started the business in order to produce a paddle that befit his love of the game, and that Walter in fact suffered a fatal heart attack on the court after hitting the winning shot.

Brian has produced 55,000 paddles since carrying on his fatherís business. Although injuries have all but prevented Brian from playing competitively, he remains a driving force in the promotion and expansion of the family sport.
Paddle tennis seems poised to assume its place among Americaís sports consciousness. Plans are underway to increase the number of tournaments, the purses, sponsorship, and media coverage.
Keep your knees bent, arm straight, and stay tuned.

Frank P. Beal created paddle tennis in 1898 as a way of teaching tennis to children in Albion, Michigan. Beal, who was a youngster himself, simply cut the dimensions of the tennis court in half, replacing the tennis ball with a sponge rubber ball and the tennis racket with a wooden paddle.
The game was confined to Albion until 1921, when Beal became a minister in New York City, where paddle tennis quickly became popular among children, who played informal games in the streets as well as on the special courts that were set up in playgrounds.

A city-wide tournament was held in 1922 and the American Paddle Tennis Association (now the U. S. Paddle Tennis Association) was founded the following year to supervise the sport.
More and more adults began playing paddle tennis during the 1930s. As a result, in 1937 the size of the court was increased from 39 by 18 feet to 44 by 20 feet for grown-ups, though the older dimensions were retained for children.
In 1959, a punctured tennis ball replaced the sponge rubber ball, the overhead serve was banned, and the size of the court was increased to 50 by 20 feet for adults. The same size was adopted for children's play in 1963.
Paddle tennis was popular only in the New York metropolitan area until after World War II, when it spread to California. A second governing body, the Western U. S. Paddle Tennis Association, was organized to govern the sport there.
The two organizations feuded over rules for many years, but they merged in 1970. The first national championships were played in 1978.
Although the sport is still concentrated in New York and California, there are also clubs in Florida, South Carolina, and Minnesota.

How It's Played
The paddle tennis court is now 50 by 20 feet for adults and children. There are four service areas, each 22 by 10, so the baselines are only 3 feet behind the service lines.
The striking surface of the paddle has to be made of wood, but metal is allowed on the edging, grip, and throat. Maximum size is 17 1/2 inches long and 8 1/2 inches wide. The surface may be solid or perforated, but most players use a perforated paddle, since it imparts greater spin.
The rules of paddle tennis are essentially same as those of lawn tennis, except for a few special provisions related to the serve:
Only one serve is allowed (younger children are sometimes allowed two serves).
A serve must be struck at a point no higher than 31 inches above the court surface.
The server must not hit the return of service until it has bounced. (This prevents rushing the net immediately after the serve.)
The server may toss the ball or bounce it once before striking it. But, once a method of service has been adopted, it must be used for the entire set.

The tennis scoring system is used and court lines are only considered during the serve. Points are lost to the opposing team when the ball:
bounces twice on your side
hits you or your partner
lands on the court and bounces over the walls or mesh and out of play
is double hit, scooped or carried
is hit by both players before going over the net
does not cross the net
hits the mesh, walls or anything else before landing on the court.
The ball can be played off the back walls or the solid side walls before going over the net.
More information... www.powerpaddle-brianlee.com


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