One common question pickleball players have is whether you can play pickleball on a wet court, such as after it rains. The short answer is yes, you can technically play pickleball on a wet court. However, it is generally not recommended, for a few key reasons:
- Increased risk of injury due to slippery surface
- Poor ball bounce leading to getting hit by the ball
- Potential damage to the court
Under certain circumstances, such as light rain during a game already in progress, players may opt to continue playing on a damp court. But whenever possible, it is best to wait until the court dries before playing pickleball.
If you do choose to play on a wet pickleball court, there are some precautions you can take to reduce injury risk and court damage. We will explore those tips later in this article. First, let’s look at why playing on a wet court can be problematic.
Why Play Caution On A Wet Pickleball Court
There are a few main reasons why pickleball players are advised against playing on a wet court:
Slippery Surface Increases Injury Risk
One of the biggest dangers of a wet pickleball court is the slippery surface. When the court is damp, puddles accumulate on the surface and the lines become very slick. This can lead to poor traction and players slipping and falling more easily.
Wet pickleball courts are infamous for slippery lines. As players move side to side to hit shots, they often slide along the kitchen line and baseline. Traction is especially poor when trying to stop quickly or change directions.
Slipping on a wet court can lead to injuries such as:
- Sprained ankles or wrists
- Twisted knees
- Pulled muscles
- Bruises and scrapes from falling
Wet courts require players to be much more cautious of their movements and footing. Aggressive movements like sliding for a shot become quite dangerous. Even simple things like serving and moving between shots poses increased injury risks.
Poor Ball Bounce
In addition to slippery footing, a wet pickleball court also affects ball bounce. When the court surface is damp, the ball does not bounce as well or as consistently.
Instead of a nice lively bounce, the ball can die on a wet court. It may skid instead of bouncing up. Or it may take an unpredictable sideways bounce.
This inconsistent and dampened ball bounce makes it much harder to judge where the ball will go. It is easier to mis-hit shots on a wet court. And there is increased risk of the ball skidding in an unexpected direction and hitting a player.
So on a wet court, players have to be extra cautious of errant bounces and prepare for the ball to behave unpredictably. This can interrupt the flow of play and also increase safety risks.
Potential Damage To The Court
Not only is playing on a wet court potentially hazardous for players, it can also damage the court itself over time.
Outdoor pickleball courts are usually paved with an acrylic surface coating applied over asphalt or concrete. This acrylic coating helps create a smooth, consistent ball bounce.
When the court is wet, especially from heavy rain or irrigation sprinklers, the acrylic coating can start to peel away from the underlying surface. Puddles that sit on the court can seep under the coating and cause it to bubble or detach.
Constant wet court play gradually erodes the coating and leaves bald spots on the court. This damage then leads to even more inconsistent ball bounces and safety issues.
For these reasons, avoiding play on wet courts can help prolong the life of the court and reduce the need for costly repairs.
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Tips For Playing Safely On A Wet Court
If you do choose to attempt playing pickleball on a wet court, either out of necessity or for fun, there are some precautions you can take:
Wear Shoes With Good Traction
One of the most important things is to wear athletic shoes with good traction. The best shoes for wet pickleball have thick, grippy soles with a tread pattern that channels water away.
Basketball or tennis shoes work well. Trail running shoes also have excellent wet grip. Avoid smooth-soled shoes, which will be extremely slippery.
Good footwear gives you a fighting chance of maintaining traction on a damp court. Focus on controlled lateral movements and try to avoid sudden stops or direction changes.
Bring A Towel To Dry Lines
If there are just a few wet spots or puddles on the court, use a towel to dry the surface as much as possible. Pay special attention to the kitchen lines and baseline where most slides occur.
Even drying a small area can improve traction and allow for safer play. But remember that below the surface, the court is likely still wet, so proceed with care.
Adjust Your Game Strategy
Playing on a wet court requires adjusting your strategy and movements to account for the different surface. Here are some tactics to consider:
- Play more conservatively and stay closer to the non-volley zone. Don’t go for aggressive drives and drops from deep in the court.
- Hit the ball with a bit less power and try to keep it in play, rather than aiming for corners. The ball already won’t bounce as well.
- Focus on control and placement over speed. Go for higher percentage shots rather than risky winners.
- Take smaller, controlled steps instead of lunging or sliding. Maintain your balance over your hips.
- Allow a little extra time to react to shots, since the ball may skid or bounce sideways.
- Call “faults” on close shots to avoid injuries from chasing errant balls.
Stop Play if Conditions Worsen
If the court goes from damp to fully soaked, or if heavy rain begins, stop play. At that point, the risks likely outweigh any benefits of continuing to play. Wait until the court dries to resume your match.
Always listen to your gut. If at any point you feel unsafe on the slippery surface, just call the game for the time being. Pickleball will still be there later when the court is dry!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about playing pickleball on wet courts:
Is it ok to play in light rain or mist?
Light rain or mist can make the court slippery, but players may opt to continue play, especially if already mid-game. Take extra precautions and stop if traction seems dangerous.
How wet is too wet to play safely?
It’s hard to define exactly how wet is too wet. In general, multiple puddles, visible slick spots, and poor footing mean conditions are unsafe. Anytime you slide unintentionally, it’s too wet.
Should we avoid wet grass courts altogether?
Is morning dew ok or should we wait for it to dry?
Morning dew can be very slippery, especially if it soaked the court overnight. Allow time for the court to air dry before play rather than trying to “play through the dew.”
If it just rained, how long should we wait before playing?
After rain, allow 1-2 hours for an acrylic court to air dry before playing, longer if very heavy rain. Even if the surface seems dry, moisture below can still create slippery conditions.
Will wet courts damage my shoes or gear?
Wet courts generally won’t damage shoes or paddles. But debris and grit brought up by moisture can potentially scratch paddles over time with repeated wet play.
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Playing It Safe As A Beginner
For beginners learning the sport, it is especially important to avoid wet court conditions when possible. Slips and falls are more likely for newer players who are still working on skills and court movements.
Until you have strong paddle control and good balance, avoid wet pickleball courts, or use extreme caution if you do play. Focus only on keeping the ball in play rather than attempting shots requiring quick movements.
As a beginner, simply reschedule your lesson or practice time if the courts are wet. Learning proper technique requires a dry surface with good traction. Once you have pickleball fundamentals down, you can better judge when it’s safe to play on damp courts.
Benefits of Indoor Pickleball For Year-Round Play
One way to avoid wet outdoor courts is to play indoors! Indoor pickleball facilities allow you to enjoy the sport rain or shine.
Here are some benefits of indoor pickleball:
- Stay dry in any weather condition
- Consistent court surface and ball bounce
- Comfortable temperature controlled environment
- Great for beginners learning the game
Many cities now have dedicated indoor pickleball centers with multiple courts. Schools and community centers often convert gymnasiums or racquetball courts to host indoor pickleball as well.
If you are lucky enough to have access to indoor courts, take advantage of wet weather days that keep outdoor courts soggy. Just be ready for some differences in indoor ball bounce and strategies.
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The Bottom Line: Exercise Caution on Wet Courts
While it is possible to play pickleball on damp or wet courts, it is not generally recommended. The slippery surface increases injury risk significantly. Plus wet conditions can damage the court over time.
However, an occasional drizzle need not call an automatic end to play, especially if already mid-game or tournament. With proper footwear and some strategy adjustments, you can continue play cautiously.
Use your best judgment based on conditions. Stop play if the court becomes fully soaked or footing seems treacherous. And when planning matches ahead of time, wait for the court to dry following rain or heavy morning dew before starting play.
By exercising caution and respecting wet court risks, you can have fun on the pickleball courts while staying safe and protecting the surface – then enjoy getting back out when sunny days return!