The Pickleball frenzy has hit Necker Island

Richard Branson at the 2024 Necker Island Pickleball Forum
Necker Island Pickleball Forum
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 20 March 2024

We’ve been hosting the Necker Cup tennis tournament on the island for many years now, and it’s always one of my favourite weeks of the year. The tournament has welcomed the giants of the game, including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Justine Henin, Ana Ivanovic, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and many others.

When Pickleball took the world by storm last year, the wonderful Casey Brown came up with the great idea of a Pickleball tournament on the island. I knew it was a brilliant idea, right off the paddle.

The Necker Island Pickleball Forum brought some of the greatest players to the island, alongside a group of people who just really love the game. As with many things we do on Necker, the tournament was also a great way to raise money for Virgin Unite.

To launch the tournament, we converted some of our tennis courts into another six temporary pickle ball courts. Jaume Martinez Vich, Kaitlyn Kerr and Shawna Tibbitts came away as the tournament winners and (as much as I hate losing) it was a real pleasure to watch them play. So much so that I thought we should celebrate with a bit of champagne during the trophy ceremony…

There’s arguments about whether Pickleball or Padel will dominate in the future. Europe seems to be more taken by Padel, while the US is fixated with Pickle. On Necker, we’re lucky to have tennis, padel, pickleball, and beach tennis - so there’s something for everyone! One of the great things about pickleball is that almost anyone can pick it up. It may take some time to become an expert, but it’s something everyone can have fun with. Before the tournament, I also hadn’t realised how skilful pickleball could be. There’s a lot of finesse to the sport, which you can see in this rally.

The cherry on top of the tournament was seeing Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady ship glide past the island, while the players were having a bonfire. The crew lit up the side of the ship with the word ‘X PICKLERS X’ and right as it sailed past, a rocket soared through the night sky. Incredible.

Thank you to everyone who came along to the tournament, and to everyone who made it happen. It was such a success that I’m sure we’ll be serving it up again for many years to come.