Playing pickleball on a sandy beach brings some special challenges. The biggest issue is that the pickleball does not bounce well on sand. The balls are designed to bounce on a hard, smooth surface like concrete or asphalt.
When a pickleball lands in soft sand, it does not bounce up like it should. This makes it really hard to hit the ball back over the net. The ball often gets buried in the sand when it lands.
The court lines also get hidden by the sand. It can be tricky to see if a ball is in or out without clear lines. The sand makes it hard to move quickly and get in position to hit the ball.
Using Outdoor Pickleballs
There are special outdoor pickleballs made for playing on the beach or grass. These balls are bigger and softer than regular pickleballs. The extra size and squishy material allows them to bounce higher on natural surfaces like sand or grass.
Brands like Onix and Dura make outdoor pickleballs just for beach and backyard play. The Onix Fuse Outdoor pickleball has a soft rubber skin and a polyurethane core. This gives it better bounce and control when playing outdoors.
Outdoor balls like these are a must for trying to play real pickleball on the beach. The usual hard indoor balls will not work well at all. Having the right outdoor equipment makes beach pickleball possible.
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Building a Court in the Sand
While it takes some extra effort, you can create a pickleball court layout on the beach. This will help define the playing space and give you lines to aim for.
Use shovels, rakes, or your hands to smooth out a rectangle 44 feet long by 20 feet wide. This is the standard court length and width. Then mark the outer court lines by digging trenches or laying down ropes in the sand.
You can make the inner kitchen area by digging a 20 foot by 7 foot rectangle on each side. The kitchen is the zone closest to the net where you cannot volley the ball. Do this kitchen box on both sides of the net.
For the net, set up portable pickleball net posts or tape the net to two poles stuck in the sand. Make sure to measure so the net height is 36 inches at the posts and 34 inches in the middle.
Having clear court lines marked out will help you know if a shot is in or out. It also defines the space to move around in just like a real court.
Trying Different Beach Locations
All beaches are not the same when it comes to playing pickleball. The texture and depth of the sand can vary in different areas. Some parts of the beach will be better for pickleball than others.
Places where the sand is more packed down and firm tend to work best. Wet, hard-packed sand right at the water’s edge provides the most stable surface. Look for sections with finer grain sand instead of deep, loose sand.
If the beach has a boardwalk or paved area, this can act like a hardcourt for beach pickleball. The solid surface lets the ball bounce normally for better play.
Check the beach at different tidal stages. In the morning or evening when the sand is moist, it is often more packed down than midday when it is dry and fluffy.
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Positioning the Court Properly
Pick the right orientation when setting up your beach pickleball court. Place the length of the court parallel to the water. Having the net run sideways from the water to high ground avoids issues.
If the net runs directly along the water line, one side will get very wet. Incoming tides can swamp half the court. The ball will bounce differently on the wet sand verses dry area.
Orienting sideways with the net line moving inland keeps things even. No part of the court will get soaked as the tides come in and out. Players can move freely without getting their feet constantly wet.
Make sure to leave a safe buffer between the court sidelines and water. Allow enough space so rising tides do not wash over the court and interrupt play. Observe how far up the tide comes and position the court safely beyond its reach.
Dealing With Wind Problems
Wind can cause problems when trying to play pickleball on an open beach. Even a light ocean breeze can impact ball control and accuracy. Strong gusts that kick up sand make playing very difficult.
The best defense against wind issues is positioning the court in a sheltered spot. Look for areas protected by high sand dunes, berms, or vegetation. Align the court so prevailing winds blow across rather than along the length.
If wind becomes too much during play, try rotation the court ninety degrees. Changing the orientation may put you parallel with the wind rather than fighting against it.
You can also set up portable windscreens or tarps around the court perimeter. This creates barriers to diffuse strong winds when needed.
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Playing Times and Weather
Paying attention to beach weather and tidal patterns will improve your pickleball experience. Some periods will provide better playing conditions than others.
Early morning and evening when winds are calmest tend to be ideal times for beach pickleball. The sand also often remains damp and firm before full sun exposure.
Overcast days are better than hot sunny days. Bright glaring sun can make it hard to see the ball. Hot mid-day sand is very dry and soft. Cooler temperatures keep the sand firmer.
Check tide charts so you know whether the beach area will be expanding or shrinking when you play. Allow enough space so rising tides do not overtake the court during games.
Avoid playing pickleball on the beach during periods of high winds, major storms, or large waves. Safety should be the top concern when determining if weather conditions are suitable or not.
Benefits of Beach Pickleball
Despite the challenges, beach pickleball offers some unique benefits:
- Playing on sand builds strength, balance, agility, and fitness. Having to move and recover on shifting sand is great exercise.
- The scenery of the ocean, waves, and open skies adds beauty and interest. Beach pickleball connects you with nature.
- Beach breezes help keep you cooler on hot summer days. Shade is often limited on the beach, so the airflow helps.
- Noise carries less on the beach, making for a more peaceful game. The sound of waves masks paddle hits and ball bounces.
- Scheduling beach court time is easier than reserved indoor courts. You can just show up and play when ready.
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Pickleball can successfully be played on the beach with the right modifications. Choose an appropriate open location, set up a simple court, and use soft outdoor balls to adapt the game for the sand. While trickier than solid pavement, adding pickleball fun to a beach outing can be very enjoyable. Just be flexible given changing tides, winds, and weather. With the right preparation and gear, you can enjoy this classic paddle sport even on sand. Have a blast but also take needed precautions when attempting to mix beaches and pickleball.