Joshua Chaffee
Joshua Chaffee

Mar 23. 2 mins

Frescobol Fever

There’s nothing like smacking a ball back and forth between two partners on a beach, so, when you come up for a breath of air from your latest dive, why not take time to dry off with a beach sport? Thankfully, we have lots of them to choose from, but there’s one in particular that has swept the world by storm, leaving enthusiasts in its wake.

Maybe you’ve heard of it; frescobol has rapidly gained popularity over the years as a beach sport from country to country.

Possibly originating in Israel under the name of matkot, frescobol is now known by numerous different names all over the world. If you are playing in Italy, you know this sport as Raccetoni. If you are in Mexico, you might call this game paleta. In The States, you probably wouldn’t know what to call it if you saw someone playing.

The game is so popular that the Museum of Modern Art in Ukraine dedicate an exhibit to “matkot” in honor of the Israeli version of the game. One art curator in The Times of Israel is quoted to say “There is nothing more Israeli than matkot”.

However, nobody seems to know the true origin of the game. Some say that “frescobol” originated in Rio de Janeiro on the famous Copacabana beach. Others say that Turkish immigrants may have brought the first paddles to Israel.

But what is it?

What is Frescobol?

The closest comparisons I can make to frescobol (for Americans) would be to call it a mashup of pickleball and racquetball using the wooden racquet from pickleball (think ping-pong paddle) and the rubber ball from racquetball. One of the key differences, though, between frescobol and other similar sports, is that it is played with a teammate instead of an opponent.


The point of the sport is to work together to hit the rubber ball back and forth as many times as you can without dropping it. The game is played on the beach without a net.
Skip the gym and head to the beach! Frescobol is a supplementary workout for people all over the world. Improve your coordination, concentration, reflexes, and agility by working with your partner to achieve a sustainable balance of offensive and defensive hits. Active frescobol players enjoy peak physical condition as well as improved patience and coordination.

The Rules and Strategies

At its core, frescobol is played with just two players in a friendly match to see how many times they can pass the ball between themselves. However, there are countless variations to the game.

One thing that is a relief with the rules and strategies, is that they seem to be more-or-less unified from country to country when it comes to casual play. There are, though, a few different styles of play:

Freestyle

When two players are playing frescobol freestyle, the goal is to hit the ball in a way that gives you the most airtime. Typically, players start about 15 feet apart hitting the ball as accurately as they can to their partner. Gradually, both players move away from each other, trying to hit the ball higher than before. Some teams end up more than 30 feet away from each other in this game type.

Fastball

Fastball is a style of play where two players try to hit the ball between each other as many times as possible in a given amount of time. When playing casually the time can be anything from 30 seconds to three minutes. In a competition, the time limit would be decided by the tournament rules in whatever country you are in, but three minutes is a good rule-of-thumb for tournament fastball.

3-player

3-player frescobol is a casual gametype. You may see people on the beach casually passing the ball between each of the three players, but the best way to play 3-player frescobol is to have one player alone on one side, and the other two together opposite the first. The first standalone player would alternate passing the ball to the other two players.

Radical and Expert

Radical and expert game types are tournament-only styles of play that require a referee and a judge to determine a score and a winning team. Here are some criteria used when judging a frescobol team as outlined by Joga Paddles:

  • Number of missed hits
  • Number of attacking hits
  • Number of high-risk hits (exceptionally high or low reaches)
  • Balance of attack and defence (in other words, both players should be both attacking and defending, instead of just one player always attacking and the other always defending
  • Power of attacks
  • Number of rescues (to save a ball that was almost lost)
  • The aesthetics of the gameplay

Go Play Frescobol.. or Matkot.. or.. Raccetoni.. Or.. whatever!

Even though most players choose to play in the sand or in shallow water, frescobol can be played virtually anywhere (maybe not in your living room). If you can get a hold of some frescobol equipment where you are, then give it a try! Grab a partner and start practicing! Maybe you can be competition-ready sometime soon.

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