Imagine an oceanside volleyball court. Lower the net considerably, though, and make each of its square holes much smaller. Then hand each player a paddle, put a deflated tennis ball in the air and see how many cross-net volleys they can muster in a row before the ball crashes into the sand.

Voila: beach tennis.

The sport is gaining popularity and momentum in Southern California, and its growth continued earlier this month with the establishment of courts in Santa Monica.

The three courts are located on the beach near the Perry’s Cafe at 2600 Ocean Front Walk — close to where Ocean Park Boulevard dead-ends into Barnard Way.

They’re the result of the efforts of Donny Young, the president of West Coast Beach Tennis, who in 2009 launched his organization in Hermosa Beach. He always thought Santa Monica would be a perfect fit for the sport.

“We love Santa Monica,” he said. “I love that beach right at Ocean Park — there’s a fun energy, and the community seems really great.”

Young already has plans in place to put the new courts to use. This weekend there will be open games and free instruction to introduce interested players of all ages. A small tournament is scheduled for April 25. A facilitator will be on hand on weekends throughout the summer.

It’s all part of momentum that Young has envisioned since he first picked up the sport’s specialized paddle.

“We’ve been trying to get beach tennis going for quite a few years,” he said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Young said beach tennis has grown significantly since its inception in 2005. Brazil and Italy have shown massive interest, and there’s a pro tour involving 80 countries around the world.

Last year, he organized a few beach tennis tournaments at Annenberg Community Beach House.

“But we don’t want to step on the space of volleyball players,” he said.

Young reached out to Heath Hamilton, the City of Santa Monica’s beach recreation supervisor, and they made arrangements to give beach tennis its own area.

The courts will remain in place through the summer, when people are most likely to use them, and could become permanent fixtures depending on feedback over the next few months, Hamilton said.

“We’re always looking for ways to offer a variety of recreational opportunities that will make sense on the beach,” Hamilton said. “It’s a temporary trial. We’ll see how people on the beach react to having more equipment. It seemed like a good spot to put in some of those courts.”

With net posts firmly rooted in the Santa Monica sand, Young is excited to see how local beachgoers take to the sport, a fast-paced version of one-serve, volley-only tennis with sudden-death deuces and playable lets.

“That’s what makes it fun — it’s quick,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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