Jordan Rowe of Bainbridge Island has always loved paddle and racket sports.
He’s played tennis, racquetball and pickleball. He’s also played Fresco Bol, a Brazilian sport played on the beach with participants hitting a ball back and forth with paddles. “I have an interest in unconventional foreign sports that aren’t corporatized,” Rowe said.
In 2018 he decided he wanted to create a hybrid of all those sports that would have universal appeal. He and co-creator Clint Roerig, also 37 of BI, invented what “Frescotennis.” “Fresco” means “open air” as Rowe wants to get people “outside.”
“Screens can be dangerous long-term. My goal is to get people disengaged from their (computer and TV) screens and get them outside where they can make some real connections again” after COVID, he said. “I know in my heart we have a winner.”
The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District must think so. It plans to offer classes this fall for youth and adults to learn the game.
Julie Miller, recreation sports manager for parks, said she found out about the game by finding one of their fresco balls on a court when she was playing pickleball. It piqued her interest so she looked up their website. Talking about it she found out a co-worker is one of the top fresco tennis players on the island. So she contacted Rowe.
When she found out how easy it is to learn and that “anybody could do it,” she thought it would be great if parks could offer some classes to show locals how to play. She compared the strategy of the game to volleyball. “You put it where you want and create a little chaos if you can,” she said. Like pickleball, she likes that there’s a social aspect to the game as well. “This has the potential to do the same thing.”
Frescotennis brands itself as “The Future of Dynamic Rally Sport.” It’s an alternative paddle sport for two to six players competing on a tennis court. It includes strategy, sprinting, cardio, teamwork and core fitness training. It’s played with handmade Brazilian fiberglass and carbon fiber paddles, along with high-velocity 50mm rubber balls.
Rowe said Frescotennis can be just for fun or super competitive – like in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, foreign countries they are targeting. “There’s a universal appeal there for rally sports,” he said.
Along with those countries and Washington state, Frescotennis is also being marketed strongly in Florida.
“It appeals to older people who can’t play tennis anymore,” Rowe said. “There are long-term consequences” with injuries such as tennis elbow. “People get dismayed when they can’t play tennis anymore.”
And, like many sports, it’s also good for “mental acuity,” Rowe said. “It enhances brain function” as there is a lot of strategy involved.
Easy on the body
Frescotennis is much easier on the body. Players who can’t serve anymore in tennis, “get their serve back,” with Frescotennis. “And the service game is so important. You can rack up a lot of points,” Rowe said.
Rowe’s career is in international investments, but marketing Frescotennis is quickly becoming his full-time job.
Florida, where the Frescobol is made for that beach game, is quickly taking to the sport. The owner of that company grew up in Brazil, but no one played the game when he moved to Florida, despite its high hispanic population. The popularity of that game is now branching out to include Frescotennis, Rowe said.
Roerig said since there are few sandy beaches in Washington state they’ve changed the game, making it so it can be played on tennis courts that are available here.
He said his main contribution is “seeing what was fun. I wanted it to be enjoyable with health benefits. This checks all the boxes.”
Roerig said he would play with Rowe and give him feedback. “He would decode the message I’m trying to tell him” and tweak the game accordingly.
He said people don’t even need to keep score to have fun. He recently played with a hurt foot and just enjoyed knocking the ball around. It feels good “just to hit the ball really hard.”
He said it’s been a fun process getting involved in something new, and now he wants to help build the sport and watch others enjoy it. Roerig said he wants to teach the sport and watch others get better, possibly even forming leagues.
“I’m exciting about getting people involved in something new, and help them develop skills in a new paddle sport,” he said.
The game was developed to be played in not-always-so-great Northwest weather. The balls and paddles can be used in the rain, and the balls are small and hard enough they cut through wind.
“We’re not going to let the weather keep us from playing,” Rowe said, adding that rain actually makes the serve increase in speed – “taking off like a rocket ship.”
Rowe said they play the sport year-around, “Even in the snow, when it wasn’t sticking.”
The game can be played with singles, doubles and even three on a side.
Anyone can play
“We don’t want to hold anybody back from playing,” he said, adding with three on a side if one player is not as strong he or she could guard the back line. But if they are strong, they could play the “striker” position at the net. Rowe recommends anyone playing that spot wear protective gear because of how hard the ball sometimes is hit.
Rowe said it can be hard for people to visualize the game without seeing it. “We want to get people on the court,” he said, adding that’s when they fall in love with the game.
Rowe said, “The rules have been meticulously refined and tinkered with over the years,” to make the game interesting for competitive players, but also easy enough for anyone to play “to make the sport the most smooth and enjoyable experience possible. It’s been a long process of fine-tuning – like designing the Swiss watch.”
Rowe and Roerig tested all types of paddles, and, like Frescoball, they decided on composite, wood, carbon fiber and fiberglass. “It’s up to the person to decide,” Rowe said.
“The ball is a whole new story,” he added.
They tried many types of balls. They started with racquetballs, but they were too big. About 18 months ago they decided they needed a high-velocity ball. They ended up making a brand new ball 55 mm in size.
“It was a multi-thousand-dollar process,” Rowe said, adding they broke down every little thing about the ball and continue enhancing it. “It completely changed the game.”
Rowe said except for tournament play, any tennis court will do. He said there are many unused tennis courts around that could be used with some chip seal or court resurfacing.
“I love tournament play, but some people just want to do it for the exercise aspect. Some people just like to meet up on the court and just get a hell of a workout,” he said, adding some don’t even keep score. Players can burn 400 calories an hour, their promotional material says.
Roerig added: “I know people are watching us. What is this game? Is it even a real game? What do I need to play?”
Contact info: Website: www.frescotennis.com; Email: IFL@frescotennis.com