Why are hybrids like pickleball and surfing the future of the sport?
This year, I surfed on some unexpected surfaces. Sure, I did the usual water checks, but I also surfed on concrete with a sled, on an ice rink with a pair of blades under a board, and off a dirt hill on a mountain board. In June, I was surfing in Santa Monica when I watched a live broadcast of the teqball final on ESPN. Teqball is a cross between soccer, volleyball and table tennis, and is played on a curved table that can cost upwards of $3,000.
Some fans may have bemoaned Eugenie Bouchard’s decision to shift her attention from tennis to professional pickleball – the love child between tennis and badminton – saying they couldn’t afford to join the hybrid sport. But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the staying power of hybrid branches.
Hybrid sports are created for all kinds of reasons. Some, such as the padel (tennis and squash strain) were developed due to physical limitations. Invented by Enrique Corcuera in 1969 when he didn’t have enough space for a proper tennis court at his home in Acapulco, it has grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, when non-contact sports were the safest. Necessity is also often a motivation: modern surfing began in California in 1995, because, unable to control ocean waves, surfers sought ways to practice on land.
Other hybrid sports are designed out of a desire to recreate a certain feeling on another surface. The snowboarding experience I experienced comes from Jackie Torres and Daniel Blanco, a snowboarder and snowboarder, who wanted to combine their two passions on one surface – ice.
Likewise, one of the founders of Techball, soccer player Gabor Borsani, was practicing passing the ball across ping pong tables, and later realized that the curved surface made the game more fun.
What is considered a sport is constantly evolving. Growing up abroad, physical education classes alternated between basketball, volleyball, soccer and rugby. I never would have imagined that the Olympic Games would one day include sports like skateboarding and skateboarding, which will debut in 2024 in Paris. Hybrid cars are part of that development, with teqball aiming to be part of the Games in Los Angeles in 2028. But a new sport doesn’t have to make it to the Olympics to be legitimate.
Iterations of the original sport can extend the lifespan of a beloved activity. When I think about how much my father loves tennis today and wonder if aging might eventually slow his ability to play, I’m relieved that pickleball, which is easier for those with joint problems, is there if he needs it.
Hybrid sports are also easier to market to fans and potential players than an entirely new sport. Lionel Messi’s practice of teqball has become widespread, Surfboard manufacturers regularly collaborate with professional surfers to reach their audiences. Bouchard isn’t the first tennis player to cross the aisle into pickleball.
This is because people can easily imagine themselves in something fairly familiar. I’m a lousy surfer, but I can’t deny how knowing the basics of the sport made it easier for me to want to surf. Likewise, when I watched the teqball final, I understood it instinctively because I knew what it was all about.
These sports can also be included within existing regulatory systems, which formalizes them more quickly. The Italian Tennis Federation officially became the Italian Tennis and Padel Federation this year. In the United Kingdom, skateboarding falls under Skateboard GB.
The ability to self-build equipment, replicating what was used in the original sport, is also bringing hybrid sports to market more quickly. My snowboarding was on homemade boards, complete with hand-cut strap sandals to help me push on the ice. A new piece of equipment could spawn other hybrid sports. The curved teakball table gave rise to teakpong (Teqball and table tennis) And pickleball (Teqball and pickleball). Yes, hybrid sports are hybrids themselves.
Instead of complaining about hybrid sports’ lack of originality, we should be happy about these developments that stand out on their own, and the fans that want to go along for the ride.
Now excuse me while I search for the desert, so I can conquer the sandboarding.
Cathy Liu is a surfer and cybersecurity and technology expert. They help lead the UK’s largest surfing community.