Pickleball in France Is a Whole Thing Now

south of france

Pickleball is taking over. I played tennis in high school — in a more scattershot but still deeply obsessed way since then — and so fought against it as long as possible, but here’s the thing: It’s too fun. Resistance is futile. When I left grad school for France earlier this summer, I left my tennis racquet at home, but my pickleball made the cut.

As for Pickleball in France, the sport is nowhere near as popular as it is in the US — but it’s on its way, thanks in no small part to the work of a few movers ‘n’ pickleball shakers — including Garrett Weinstein, the American behind Pickleball de France, a new series of weeklong, pickleball-centric trips to top-line destinations in Europe — beginning, this past May, with the French Riviera.

Here, we talk to Garrett about the future of pickleball in France — how the newbie, super-casz sport will fare in a nation of staunch traditionalists, who I personally can’t see yield their precious tennis courts to anybody looking to tape down some pickleball lines. Garrett, though, thinks the future is bright: “Pickleball will always be addicting, endorphin-filled, accessible to all ages and genders, and a community-oriented sport,” he says. “That’s an unstoppable combination!”

And if you’re already in France and looking to play pickleball, good news: Guillaume Carlier, the Frenchman behind the Pickleball Paris initiative (and Garrett’s partner in pickleball-related activities) has recently added two additional rec centers to their offerings, which will hopefully mean that their oft-sold out weekly sessions will be slightly less sold out moving forward. For more details on how to access these all-level sessions, see here.

pickleball france

Where are we with pickleball in France right now? Is it growing? Are you seeing more or fewer people play these days?

Pickleball in France is definitely on the up-and-up! While it’s still in the early stages, interest and awareness are growing steadily. Just look at Pickleball Paris — my friend Guillaume Carlier’s weekly event at La Villette. It used to be half-full, but now it consistently sells out, with many new French players becoming regulars.

The French Tennis Federation —- the governing body of French racket sports like table tennis, badminton, and padel — has just officially integrated pickleball, which is huge. They even had a pickleball setup at Roland Garros this year, exposing the sport to over 600,000 visitors. This kind of exposure and recognition is critical for a sport that’s still finding its footing here.

At Pickleball de France, one of our core missions is to grow pickleball in France and beyond. For our inaugural event this past May on the French Riviera, we partnered with a local tennis club that had never heard of pickleball. By the end of the week, we had about ten local players join us, and we lent them our equipment so they can keep the momentum going. It was incredible to see padel and tennis players picking up the sport so quickly. Plus, we connected them with the Platel brothers: Theo and Julien, the best players in France. Now the local club has the equipment, coaches, and knowledge to keep playing and begin integrating the sport into their program.

Another interesting experience was when I was searching for an indoor tennis facility near Nice to use as a backup court. I had to drive all around the region to find an indoor facility that would let us reserve courts in case of rain. It seemed impossible because it doesn’t rain enough in Nice to justify building indoor facilities, which are costly, so there are only a few. I almost lost hope until I drove to the last facility nearby. I introduced myself and explained our situation and pickleball. They agreed to lend us the courts for free in exchange for organizing a pickleball demo for their club. We did the demo, and it was a huge hit! Players aged four to 70 tried it out, and of course the courts had the view of a château in the background — what more could you want for French pickleball? We connected them with Franck and Astrid from EuroSphere — Europe’s leading website for pickleball equipment — and to the Platel brothers for coaching. Now, they’ve got a solid starting point and will be a hub for the local pickleball scene.

Another recent example is Guillaume’s inaugural Skechers Pickleball Paris Open. Over 200 players from France, the rest of Europe, and even the US participated. It was amazing to see so much enthusiasm and the “pickleball addiction” in action.

While pickleball in France lags behind the US by several years, there’s a palpable sense of excitement and growth, especially in the southern regions where there’s more space and sport communities. The sport is spreading, and I see a bright future for it here.

pickleball france

Here in the US, many public tennis courts have been refitted to accommodate pickleball players as well, with the addition of fresh paint or tape to indicate the contours of a pickleball court. This obviously has helped speed the spread of the game, since pickleball players don’t need dedicated courts. Do you think this will happen in France? I feel like the French esteem for “doing things the way they have always been done” might indicate a reluctance to see that kind of adoption.

You’re spot on — France is a bit more resistant to change due to its strong sense of tradition. This makes it a bit slower to adapt new sports like pickleball. However, there are some promising signs.

French culture is deeply rooted in tradition, which is precisely what makes it such an incredible country. The history, cuisine, art, and the entire culture are driven by the centuries before. But this also means there’s a hesitance to try new things. Just a few years ago, padel was the new hot sport, and the padel players fought tooth and nail to integrate the sport in the racket culture here. Now to do it all over again with pickleball is a big ask. Plus, in cities like Paris, there’s already a shortage of tennis courts for tennis players, let alone for pickleball. Private clubs can be costly to join and slower to adopt new sports, and bureaucracy can be a real hurdle. When I had to drive all around the south of France to find an indoor facility willing to host us,  some places actually required a handwritten letter to the French Tennis Federation just to get permission!

Despite these challenges, we’ve had some success. Guillaume convinced a gym to let him use their indoor space for his weekly Pickleball Paris sessions, and we set up two tennis clubs with pickleball courts in the south. It’s possible, but there’s definitely more friction here compared to the US.

So while it won’t happen as quickly, I do think we’ll see more tennis courts accommodating pickleball over time. We just need to be persistent and maybe a bit creative.

The idea that pickleball is “le plus US des sports de raquettes” made me laugh. I have my own ideas, but why do you see it that way?

Ha this is Guillaume’s quote! I’ll let him answer this one, but here are my own thoughts.

Pickleball is quintessentially American because of its casual, social nature and rapid growth. The sport’s origins and boom in the US are very telling of this. It started as a backyard game, perfect for family gatherings and casual play, which fits the American penchant for laid-back, fun activities. Imagine friends playing pickleball, drinking beer, and having a blast — it’s very reminiscent of the classic American barbecue vibe.

This contrasts with the more traditional French approach to sports, where there’s a strong emphasis on history and established norms. In France, leisure often means spending time at a café, enjoying a glass of wine, or having long, elaborate meals with friends and family. So, while the French also value social and leisurely activities, the way they engage in them is different, making pickleball seem quite “American” in its casual and inclusive spirit.

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Americans are generally more open and friendlier than the French, which can be advantageous with pickleball. Do you think the French mentality is suited to pickleball?

The French can be more reserved initially, which might present a challenge for a sport that’s so social and open. However, once you break through that initial barrier, they can be incredibly friendly and loyal. Pickleball’s inherent social nature might actually help bridge this cultural gap over time.

In the US, pickleball has brought together diverse groups of people, breaking down barriers of age, politics, and social backgrounds. I believe it can do the same in France. While the French might take a bit longer to warm up to strangers, the fun and camaraderie of pickleball can foster a sense of community. I’ve seen it start to happen already with local players joining our events and becoming regulars.

During our Pickleball de France event, we played each day at the same tennis club, so we saw some of the same local players several times throughout the week. By the end of the week, a few of them were honorary members of our group… despite not speaking any English! Scenarios like this highlight just how powerful the pickleball camaraderie can be for communities and bringing people together.

And even in the US, there are strong divides based on politics or generational gaps, but pickleball has managed to bring people together. It’s amazing to see my parents, who live in a community with stark political differences, making friends with people they might never have interacted with otherwise — all thanks to pickleball. I believe the same openness and camaraderie can develop in France as more people experience the joy of the game.

Do you think pickleball will find widespread success in France, or are its American qualities too overwhelming?

Pickleball will definitely find success in France. It’s just too much fun to be ignored! While it might not reach US levels, the accessibility, low barrier to entry, and social aspects will appeal to many here.

Look at how the Californian fitness lifestyle has caught on in Paris — yoga, athleisure, and home fitness were unheard of a decade ago, but now they’re thriving. It shows that while the French are rooted in tradition, they’re also open to adopting new trends once they see they make them happy. I see a similar trend for pickleball.

The sport won’t become a nationwide phenomenon overnight, but I do see it becoming a beloved activity with a dedicated community. The people who are already playing are hooked — they play every chance they get. I’m bringing in my tennis friends to our group play, and some are slowly becoming regulars. The casual, social nature of pickleball fits well with the French love for leisurely, social activities, even if it takes a bit of time for it to spread widely.

If a pickleball player wants to travel to Europe and is considering joining Pickleball de France next May, what should they know before showing up?

If you’re considering a pickleball trip to Europe, you’re in for a treat! Pickleball de France offers an amazing blend of top-notch training and cultural immersion. Our trips start with intensive pickleball clinics in the mornings, led by expert coaches, followed by afternoons filled with unique local experiences like wine tastings in Provence or private tours of the Monte Carlo Casino. Evenings are for relaxing and enjoying exquisite French cuisine with new friends.

Our first trip sold out, attracting participants from across the US and even Australia. It was a great mix of singles, groups, and couples, all bonding over their love of pickleball.

Our next trip is in May 2025 in the French Riviera, and it’s shaping up to be another fantastic adventure. We’re excited to welcome more players and share the joy of pickleball and the beauty of France. Players between levels 3.0 – 3.75 are welcome, and you don’t need to speak any French.

Considering the cultural richness and the rapid growth of pickleball here, this is a perfect time to visit. Whether it’s playing on courts set against a stunning French backdrop or enjoying local culinary delights, it’s an experience that perfectly captures the spirit of pickleball’s growth in France. And our participants play an active role in the sport’s growth, purely by showing how fun it is.

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