How did padel get so big in Sweden?

SS: ‘There has been a padel boom here in the past couple of years, but the pandemic made it even bigger.’

SA: ‘Because the padel clubs were allowed to be open, instead of going to the nightclubs, people were going to play padel.’

SS: ‘You couldn't get hold of a time to play. The time slots are released two weeks in advance, so people were building bots to hack the system. We call it padel mania!’

SA: ‘The beautiful thing with the sport – and this is why I think it's growing so fast and becoming so popular – is that if you compare it to tennis, it's so much easier to start playing. The barrier is much lower, and it's more social, because you usually play in doubles. It's easier, because you have the glass walls surrounding the court, so you can bounce the ball and the ball is more in play.’

Was it that boom that inspired you to launch TWOTWO?

SS: ‘The idea came about one year ago now. In Stockholm, all of our friends are playing padel, but if you had asked us two years ago, we would never have heard of it. It's supposed to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world; it's really hard to find current statistics, because it's growing so fast.’

SA: ‘We were wondering: if padel is the fastest growing sport, why does all the equipment look like energy drinks for a 14-year‑old dude? If you have a look at a sports store or a padel court, it's not beautiful. We thought that there was an opportunity to start a more design-driven lifestyle brand. We wanted to make something that was more compelling to ourselves. It's a sport for everyone, but it felt like the equipment and everything was designed to suit one dude, who we couldn't relate to.’

What was your previous experience with racket sports?

SS: ‘I hadn't played any racket sport before, but I had been looking for a nice hobby to put my time and energy into. I didn't find that until padel, which is very common. A lot of people who are into it had never played a racket sport before.’

SA: ‘Padel is accessible. With tennis, you have to take classes with a private trainer, and it's also super expensive. It's an upper-class sport, like golf.’

SS: ‘When you play padel once, you feel like it's not that hard – and you actually hit the ball.’

SA: ‘The development curve is very steep. You can learn very quickly.’

What makes TWOTWO different?

SS: ‘We were very inspired by POC, a Swedish brand that started off with a bicycle helmet. Before, it wasn't cool to wear a helmet. Then this helmet came – they reshaped it.’

SA: ‘They took away all of the extra stuff and made a more minimal design. It was smooth, sleek and solid. It's a very cool brand. All of a sudden, it was cool to wear a helmet when you were skiing. Now, you're an idiot if you're not wearing one.’

SS: ‘Since we came from the perspective of wanting to do more fashionable and minimalistic gear, it was important to focus on the construction and performance part, because we're dealing with sports gear. We met an engineer called Fredrik and he was actually a part of the team that created the first POC helmet, which was funny. When he told us, we were like: we need you!’

Who actually plays padel?

SA: ‘It's interesting, because most trends start with the youth and come up to the older ones. But with padel, it seems like the boom was created by people in their 30s and 40s. I think that's because, when we were younger, we were playing football or dancing. We had all of these hobbies, but then you grow up and you go to work, and you're not part of a sports club in the way that you were when you were younger. I think padel has become that for grown-ups.’

SS: ‘People are allowed to have fun and play again. That's why we call ourselves a social athletics company.’

And what does that mean?

SS: ‘It's more about meeting people, having fun and playing together than it is about winning the game and performing. Padel is inclusive, because you can be at different levels. In Sweden, we're seeing families playing together, girls with boys, older and younger people. It's hard to find that in other sports.’

SA: ‘Since you need to have four people to play, it can be difficult to find people. In Sweden, there are tons of groups on Facebook, where people post every day inviting people to play. I've joined a few games, sometimes meeting people I've never met before, and we've had so much fun.’

SS: ‘I think it's the perfect sport if you want to meet new people. The padel community is so open. There are [even] apps to match people together.’

Can padel reach people who have been left out of other sports?

SS: ‘I read that in Spain, only 15% of people playing tennis are women, but it's 30% for padel. That number is growing a lot. There are so many women playing padel, which is amazing. In Sweden, it's the middle managers that are playing the most, but padel has the potential to become a sport for managers and CEOs. Traditionally, men at companies go and hunt, or go to the sauna, which is very exclusionary for women. This has the potential to be a sport that everyone can play.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 44, December 2021/January 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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