x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Mikel, the man who paddles and padels

Mikel Audicana talks about trying to promote the emerging sport of padel, its popularity in Spain and his efforts to introduce it into the UAE.

Mikel Audicana, a business development manager for Masdar City, is working hard to promote the sport of padel.
Mikel Audicana, a business development manager for Masdar City, is working hard to promote the sport of padel.

Mikel Audicana, a business development manager for Masdar City, shares his passion for paddling and padel, the latter being a mix of tennis and squash. Allow him to explain further:

Q How long have you been kayaking?

A Since I came to Abu Dhabi three years ago. To me, it's not just kayaking - it's kayaking in mangrove wetlands. When you drive by and see the mangrove, you think it's something dangerous, dirty. But when you kayak inside they're beautiful. You are surrounded by nature.

Is it a rigorous workout?

It's a combination of entertainment with sports. It's a mild exercise. Depending on the group, you can go faster or not.

How is all that paddling connected with your work?

Well, I work in Masdar City, so I'm absolutely sustainability-oriented and understand the footprint of what you do and how it has an impact on the environment. We spend the whole day thinking about this. When you see developments near the mangrove, you start thinking: "Have they considered their impact on the mangrove or not?" From what I've seen lately, there is a clear impact.

You also started a small company with your wife to promote padel, a mix of tennis and squash. How did that start?

One year ago I was having lunch with a friend, who said the royal family from Spain was looking for another padel court in the UAE. I said: "Oh, I can provide that." We built these two padel courts at Zayed Sports City, which opened a few months ago and are the first in Abu Dhabi to be offered to the public.

But most people here have probably never heard of the sport.

I'm from Spain, where we have more than 1 million who play. It is rapidly growing in Europe, Argentina and Uruguay. Sometimes people say this is like easy tennis because there is a net and the ball is similar. But you don't have to spend a lot of hours to learn how to play. In padel, as soon as you're a little bit good with the racquet and you understand the basic rules you can have fun.

What are the physical benefits?

You release a lot of energy and frustration. It's also a much shorter distance between players so it's not about strength. It's much quicker. I brought more than 15 colleagues to padel and they all enjoyed it.

What's in store for padel's future?

My wife and I are approaching companies, human resource departments, schools. We are trying to say: "This is something you can build in your headquarters. It's small." We are also in contact with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. We know this is going to take time. To introduce a new sport is difficult.