The Radnothy family playing pickleball on vacation.
The Radnothy family playing pickleball. Victoria Radnothy

My Airbnb had a pickleball court... and a family tournament ensued

DALLAS, TX – There's nothing like a little getaway from the hustle and bustle of covering everything happening in the picklesphere right now.

Between the ongoing governing body wars and the JOOLA lawsuit alone, there’s no shortage of topics to write about.

So during July's tournament break in the PPA schedule, I took a vacation with my family and turned off my e-mail and social media notifications to get my mind off America's fastest-growing sport.

Imagine my surprise when I eventually discovered that the Airbnb had a pickleball court in the backyard.

Was this really happening? It's the very thing I was desperately trying to avoid.

And yet, here was this pristine court under a big dome to shield people from sudden wind gusts and rain storms. Talk about ideal playing conditions.

Pickleball court under a dome
Pickleball court Victoria Radnothy

Unfortunately, I didn't come prepared.

No court shoes. No regular tennis shoes. No lifestyle tennis shoes. My two options were:

  • - Birkenstocks: A guaranteed way to stub my toe, twist my ankle, or have one epic and dramatic fall that could ruin my whole vacation.
  • - Teva hiking boots: Incredible grip strength, sturdy ankle support, a bit clunky and tough to move, but at least I'm less likely to fall and injure myself.

Hiking boots it is. 

Playing in them was certainly an adjustment, especially in the dinking department. Rushing to the net was basically impossible, too, because the boots had such remarkable grip. I simply couldn't move fast enough to be super competitive.

There was a genuine learning curve, but wearing hiking boots wasn’t too bad in the end.

We also had to work with the gear provided, which was the definition of outdated.

These owners may have built a custom court, but they clearly ordered a paddle set from Amazon that’s best described as a piece of plywood covered in plastic with a peeling handle grip.

Worn pickleball paddle and ball
Pickleball paddle and ball Shutterstock

And some pickleballs that were so scuffed that you couldn’t make out the brand. At least they bounced.

One of the paddles had a cracked handle, so we gave it to the best player because it’s only fair that they have a disadvantage. (I wasn't the best player.)

Every morning, we started out with a few games before our regularly scheduled vacation activities. It became a week-long series with different partners, questionable line calls, and a whole lot of chirping – all leading up to the final morning to see who would win the Airbnb Championship Cup.

I got hit with a genuine case of the yips, so every time I needed to serve, I was basically useless. I knew that Airbnb Championship Cup wasn't mine to win. 

But, that made me an underdog. And everyone loves an underdog story.

In a back-and-forth battle between me and my hiking boots and my partner with the broken paddle against my brother and my dad (both equipped in proper footwear with proper paddles), there was no way that we were going to win. 

And in the final, a miraculous serve from myself, returned with a lob from my brother, and an expert drive right down the middle from my partner, ultimately earned us the coveted trophy.

Hiking boots and all. 

Sometimes, the desire to play pickleball far outweighs the logistics. You want to play so badly that you’ll even wear your muddy hiking boots on the court. Or play with a broken and cracked paddle. Or even play after a three-mile hike through the snow that left your calves and thighs aching.

Though next time I’m packing my court shoes and a paddle. No question about it. I’ll be making room in my suitcase. Or just sign me up for Pickleball Getaways.