It's been 32 years, but thanks to padel tennis, I finally found a hobby

It feels as if the UAE has been taken over by the sport, and I can see why

The National's Sophie Prideaux enjoying her new hobby, padel tennis. Sophie Prideaux / The National
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I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but in my 32 years, I have never had a hobby.

That’s not to say I don’t have interests, or things that I do regularly, I have plenty of those. I drag myself to the gym a couple times a week, or when the weather allows, take myself out for early morning runs. But I see those less as hobbies and more as necessary evils.

But recently, I think I may have discovered something that counts as an actual hobby. As in something that I do once, sometimes twice a week, and actually look forward to – padel tennis.

It feels as though the UAE has been taken over by padel tennis fever in the past few years, with more and more clubs popping up, and every other person I know posting pictures online from their Saturday morning games. Ever one to follow the crowd, I thought I’d give it a go.

It was a resolution I added to my list at the turn of the new year, and one I promptly forgot about, alongside keeping my inbox clear.

But then in March, about the same time my inbox had amassed an ungodly number of undealt-with emails, I was invited to play my first game of padel. And something miraculous happened, I actually went.

Now, I am by no means sporty. I have, at best, mediocre hand-eye co-ordination, which drops to well below average when I forget to put in my contact lenses. But during that first hit about, I was not as terrible as I thought I might be. And thanks to a patient and helpful padel partner, in just one hour, I even saw improvements.

As soon as we were done, I found myself asking when we could play again. A question that took me one step closer to turning this pastime into a hobby. Something I had not experienced after my half-hearted attempts at wake surfing, roller skating or netball.

Week in, week out, I have found myself not only returning to the court, but actually looking forward to it. I’ve tried enough courts around Dubai that I now have my favourites (Redline for outdoors, Oxygen for indoors and Matcha, if I’m feeling fancy) and have even managed to rope a number of friends into trying it too.

But the best part about it is seeing myself improving week on week. As I have already pointed out, I have always put myself firmly in the “not sporty” category, and that self-given label has, on reflection, perhaps held me back from giving certain activities a decent shot. Trying new things as an adult can be intimidating, especially when you feel as though you are coming at it as a complete beginner. But everyone has to start somewhere and as cheesy as it sounds, it really is never too late.

Seeing how quickly I have improved, and how great I feel at watching myself do so, has made me question that “not sporty” label I’ve been carrying all these years. Am I really not sporty, or had I just not found my sport? And while I highly doubt I will be playing competitively any time soon, after 32 years I think I can firmly say that I, Sophie Prideaux, have found a hobby.

Updated: May 29, 2023, 2:21 PM