Meet the Racket Sport Taking Over America (and the Businessman Trying to Make It Happen)
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On a recent balmy night in Miami, a crowd of the Magic City’s “who’s who” gathered at a former seaplane base-turned-private club to watch as some of the world’s top racket sport athletes took to a newly-constructed court for some friendly rallying.
This wasn’t tennis though, nor was it paddle tennis, or even pickleball. Instead, the crowd has assembled to see some of the world’s top players in padel.
A racket sport first developed in Mexico in the Sixties, padel uses smaller courts and a playing surface that encompasses four-meter-high walls, for an unpredictable, fast-paced game that brings together the best parts of tennis, pickleball and squash. Though it’s still relatively unknown in the U.S., padel is the fastest-growing sport in rest of the world, with massive courts — and massive tournaments — played throughout South America, Europe and parts of Asia.
The crowd in Miami had assembled at one of the only padel facilities in the U.S., a site named “Reserve Padel” that was founded by businessman Wayne Boich. The former college athlete, who grew up playing tennis, first discovered padel during a trip to France ten years ago and immediately fell in love with the intensity and excitement of the game. Boich was building a house in Miami at that time and eventually reworked the backyard plans to include a personal padel court. His house — and court — soon became one of the hottest spots in town.
Recognizing its incredible potential, not just as a sport, but also as a way to bring people together, Boich set out to create a market for padel in the U.S. That was the genesis for Reserve.
Stationed at the intersection of sports, wellness and lifestyle, Reserve is like a Soho House for padel. While some courts are open to the public, Reserve’s high-end courts, events, and food and beverage offerings (I.e. a beachside bar serving cocktails and rosé) are yes, reserved for members only.
This isn’t your ordinary racket sports club either: the Reserve Padel pop-up at the Miami Seaplane Base is a luxury experience spanning more than 50,000 sq. ft. of open-air courts, lounges, viewing areas, and patio-style dining overlooking Biscayne Bay. After opening earlier this year, the club has already welcomed guests like Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and David Beckham, while Boich and his team have hosted events like the Blockchain.com Miami Padel Open in February 2022 — North America’s largest padel tournament to date.
“I think part of part of the genesis of Reserve is to create clubs that can lend themselves to a beautiful backdrop, great place to do exhibitions, good place to do tournaments, but also have guests feel like they’re part of a community,” Boich tells Rolling Stone. “You get everything you get in a lot of members clubs, but with the athletics, the health, the wellness and the view. We really believe that this is the most beautiful padel facility in the world.”
While padel has taken off in other parts of the world, Boich says it’s been slower to find an audience here in North America. In addition to a lack of courts (Boich has one at his home in Miami and one at his home in Beverly Hills, but there are just a few dozen public facilities in the country) a chief reason is also explaining just how padel is played.
“There are similarities to the other racket sports, for sure, but there’s also a vast set of differences, starting with the ability to play off the glass,” Boich explains. “The fact that when the ball gets by you and your paddle, that you can still very much keep the point alive, leads to more dynamic, exciting points.”
Worth noting: padel rackets are also smaller than tennis rackets, and the hitting surfaces are made from a perforated composite material rather than strings. It makes the game more competitive, as it’s less about power and “smashing” the ball, as it is about placement and agility.
“People feel like they’re really in the match, even when they’re outside the court,” Boich says. “That’s a common comment I get back from people, like, ‘Man, I’m not even playing and I feel like I’m in the court a lot more than tennis.'”
From March 30 through April 1 this year, Boich’s Reserve Padel pop-up put on its first-ever “Reserve Cup” exhibition, a three-day competition match that brought in 12 of the best padel players in the world to compete in front of a packed house of spectators.
Juan Martín Díaz, an Argentinian who was ranked #1 in the world for 14 years and is considered by many to be the best padel player of all time, was on hand for the event, as the newly-named Chief Padel Officer of Reserve Padel. The hope is that Diaz’s presence will not only attract top padel athletes from around the world to play in the U.S., but that it will also attract newcomers to the sport, who want to eventually play at a more competitive level.
Boich also has plans to expand the Reserve Padel concept to other states in the country, with an eye on New York, California, Texas and Nevada. He’ll work with local clubs and officials to introduce more public courts as well.
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With decades of experience in mining, energy and real estate, the Chairman and CEO of Boich Investment Group is no stranger to launching big ideas. But Boich says padel is personal for him.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a bunch of different businesses, but when I get passionate about something, it’s fun, and it’s not like work,” he says. “People say, ‘When it doesn’t feel like work, it’s right,'” he continues, “and padel is no different. Given my tennis background, I love the athletic side of it and the wellness side of it, and it also just packs a little extra punch, you know? So while I have other businesses that I continue to focus on, at the end of the day, you make the time, particularly when you think you have something that can be truly special and unique, which is what I think we have here.”
And if people are still skeptical about giving padel a try, Boich says you only have to step onto his court — or any court for that matter — to fall in love with the sport. “I’ve been amazed at how, in 15 minutes, people are hooked. I feel like I’m batting 1000,” he boasts. “The feeling of playing padel is very empowering, it’s very social, and there’s an excitement to it that gets people really invigorated fast. So my pitch will be try it once and prove me wrong,” Boich says with a smile, “because I think you’re gonna like it.”