Padel has been growing exponentially all over Europe, and the Algarve is no exception
Despite not being a new sport — the first padel court in Portugal dates back to the 1990s — padel gained considerable popularity during the pandemic, with many people adding it to their exercise routine.
According to 2021 data from Air Courts, the leading national online platform for sports clubs, it is estimated that there are more than 200,000 padel players in the country and almost 1,000 courts. In fact, the sport has experienced a 300% growth throughout Europe.
But what has influenced its popularity? According to Paulo Pinto, the only representative in Portugal of Padel Hispania, one of the biggest names in the installation of courts in the Iberian Peninsula, there are several factors to take into account.
The first may actually be related to the recent lockdowns. “Team sports were banned, but padel, despite being played in pairs, is considered an individual sport. Everyone was looking for a reason to stay active. Even those who had never picked up a racket started to look at the sport as an opportunity,” he points out. Paulo Pinto also believes that this trend is associated with the “social” nature of the sport.
“Padel is typically played between four people, a number that creates a very interesting balance; a mix between individual and team sport. It is likely that padel has found its place in today’s society for its capacity to bring people together to play a sport that is easy to learn,” he says. Furthermore, because it is considered a simple sport, anyone, regardless of age and physical condition, can play it.
“There is hardly anyone who has not played with beach rackets. That same simplicity comes across on the court. Fun, recreational padel is very easy to pick up. It is that interaction that attracts people to this sport,” he says. Proof of this is the way padel is able to attract female players like no other sport. This is something Paulo Pinto cannot explain, but “there is a female population density playing padel that isn’t seen in any other sport.”
In Padel Hispania’s first five years in Portugal, in 2007, Paulo Pinto recalls that the company was installing around six courts per year. From 2016 onwards, that number had shot to around 20. Last year, in October alone, they installed 43 courts all over the country. In the Algarve, up to March 2022, more than 20 courts were sold, mostly to private clients, both Portuguese and foreign.
Paulo Pinto estimates that the region already has around 100 padel courts, with a greater concentration in the Golden Triangle (Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura). “However, we have also been contacted by people near Sagres and others from Vila Real de Santo António. Courts are spread all over the region and even inland,” he assures. Padel Hispania provides several options in the installation of a court, which occupies around 231 square metres. Regarding the structure, there are two models. In the classic Roma model, the back glass wall is reinforced with a steel structure every two metres. In the Panoramic model, the glass wall has no visual obstacle and is completely open. When it comes to the grass carpet, there are more options to consider, although none of them influence the quality of practice. The three types — fibrillated, monofilament and textured — have differences related to speed.
“The grass can be slower or faster,” explains Paulo Pinto. There is also the Spider model, the top of the range, which has an entirely panoramic structure, without any steel structures and, instead of the usual four floodlights, it has eight special spotlights that make streaming possible. “We must have sold about 10 of them in Portugal, three for private properties. Private clients usually opt for the panoramic court with blue textured grass, which is the most popular at the moment,” explains Paulo Pinto. The Algarve is also not short on public venues for the practice of this sport, with padel clubs in Albufeira, Vilamoura and Portimão, for example, and Quinta do Lago’s renowned sports complex, The Campus, has four padel courts.