As several of our articles have reported recently, pickleball is not just limited to the U.S. but is becoming popular all across the globe. We have featured stories from the U.K., India, China, and now South Africa.
This article features three South African regions: Durban, Johannesburg, and the small town of Memel (about 135 miles southeast of Johannesburg).
Inaugural Pickleball Tournament
In the heart of the beautiful coastal town of Durban, the Durban North Tennis Club (DNTC) recently made a splash by hosting its inaugural pickleball tournament.
This remarkable event unfolded just half a year after the club introduced the sport to its facilities. Nestled along the picturesque southeastern coast of South Africa, Durban provided the perfect backdrop for this exciting occasion.
Matt Brackenbury, the PRO of the club, was overjoyed by how well the tournament went:
“The DNTC Pickleball Tournament was a huge success. Participants, families, and friends all joined to enjoy some action-packed pickleball. It’s amazing to see this sport growing as it is so accessible to everyone.”
Johannesburg’s Pickleball Journey
Pickleball captured Darren Zidel‘s attention approximately 2½ years ago while he was scrolling through Instagram one day.
He decided it looked like fun and was curious to give it a go. However, finding suitable courts in Johannesburg proved difficult.
Undaunted by this, Zidel’s investigations led him to the International Federation of Pickleball, connecting him with Megan Charity, a prominent North Carolina-based pickleball professional who had once achieved the impressive rank of World Number 13.
Megan Charity now stands as the President of Pickleball South Africa.
Zidel and Charity united their efforts to cultivate pickleball’s growth across South Africa. Their endeavors resulted in the establishment of four pickleball courts at the Bryanston Country Club and the Wendywood Squash Club, located in the northern reaches of Johannesburg.
The transformation at Bryanston led to the participation of up to 16 individuals on one court during a session of doubles matches! The club’s membership surged from a mere four individuals to around 40 regular players.
According to Zidel, the Johannesburg Country Club in Auckland Park now boasts dedicated pickleball courts, with additional courts being introduced at the Irene Country Club in Centurion.
The Endearing Story of Pickleball In Memel
A small rural haven named Memel, equidistant between Durban and Johannesburg, has emerged as an unexpected epicenter of pickleball devotion.
Memel underwent a transformation when Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns chose the town as their retirement destination.
Having dedicated most of their lives to serving the United Nations in areas marred by conflict, Ablondi and Burns embarked on a new endeavor with the Memel.Global project.
This initiative focuses on housing, health, primary education, sports, and the arts, and under Memel.Global‘s influence, pickleball became an integral part of this small town.
The Memel Pickleball Association of Southern Africa came into being in 2018, and the community’s children revitalized a long-forgotten tennis court, mending nets and removing overgrown vegetation.
A Dream Fulfilled
Ablondi and Burns still had the idea of building dedicated courts and this dream was fulfilled when the community came together and built one on land provided by the Drakensberg Club (DKBC).
The court was completed at the end of 2021 and was officially launched in April 2022, coinciding with the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
This court held the distinction of being Africa’s first dedicated pickleball court, according to Memel.Global.
Meanwhile, Memel Primary School, with approximately 365 pupils, integrated pickleball into its 2021 sports curriculum.
Expressing his sentiment in a letter to the USA Pickleball Association, school principal Johan du Toit conveyed that Memel Primary takes pride in being “the first grammar school in Africa to play pickleball and to support their first African pickleball team.”
He even reached out to the USA Pickleball Association, stating, “Any support you could offer would be appreciated. And, you are welcome to come and see our fledgling Picklers, and visit our beautiful village of Memel.”
Click here to read more of our stories about pickleball around the world.
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