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How to make fast friends while traveling? Try playing Pickleball.


“One of the reasons I love pickleball is because the community is so nice,” said Martin Michelsen, 21, a senior at the University of Florida in Gainesville who plays on the varsity team (pickleball is a club sport at many colleges and universities).

In high school, he learned pickleball at a park near his home in Westin, Florida, where local players lent him a paddle. Last spring, his doubles team won an eight-school tournament held at North Carolina State University.

“Everyone starts somewhere,” he said of playing with less skilled enthusiasts during a recent family vacation in the Dominican Republic. “I would love to be part of someone’s pickleball journey.”

According to USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, there are nearly 10,000 pickleball venues nationwide. Its website, Places2Play, offers a searchable database.

Travelers say they just need a paddle, because the locals always have balls.

“For ease of portability, it’s a no-brainer,” said Ms. Jacoby, from Chicago, referring to the strong but lightweight paddle. “It’s flat and fits in a carry-on, tote, or backpack.”

“You need pumps,” warned Sue Baker, 75, a retired teacher and travel agent who travels seasonally from her home in Lewes, Del., to destinations including Florida and Arizona. where she brings her equipment. “I fell once and broke my wrist.”

Most public courts and walk-in sessions are free or inexpensive.

“It’s more accessible than other sports,” said Laura Gainor, 40, a marketing consultant in Ponte Vedra, Fla., who discovered the sport three years ago and founded Pickleball in the Sun, a travel and leisure brand that profiles pickleball stations and sells apparel. “You don’t pay to practice like golf.”

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