Greater Daytona’s Sports Scene is Thriving
Pickleball and surfing surge in popularity in the region.
Though famously known for NASCAR auto racing, the Greater Daytona region is quickly positioning itself as a pickleball destination and is nationally recognized for its surfing.
Whether you’re an amateur or professional athlete, you can find unique sporting opportunities in the region, plus the state-of-the-art facilities to promote them.
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With more than 4.8 million players nationwide, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball has grown by almost 50% in the past five years. The newly developed Pictona at Holly Hill is now the second-largest pickleball facility on the east coast of Florida. It is host to a number of tournaments, including the first-ever USA Pickleball Diamond Amateur Championship, which is put on by the national governing body for the sport in the U.S.
Pictona at Holly Hill will also host the last stop of the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Pro Tour in March 2023.
“The PPA Tour chose Pictona at Holly Hill as one of their 2023 event locations because the facility features 55 dedicated pickleball courts, making it one of the largest in the country,” says Hannah Johns, spokesperson for the PPA Tour. “The PPA Tour is extremely excited to visit Pictona at Holly Hill for the first time ever in 2023.”
Keith Howell is the tournament director at Pictona at Holly Hill. As part of the local pickleball community, he’s well aware of how crowded the courts are in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Holly Hill, Port Orange and New Smyrna, among others in the region.
Howell, who moved to the Greater Daytona region four years ago from California, says there is at least one tournament per month most of the year that attracts up to 1,000 players from all over the country.
“When I showed up four years ago, I knew no one. The Daytona Beach Shores group was very welcoming, as I’ve come to expect most anywhere I have gone to play pickleball.”
Keith Howell, Pictona at Holly Hill
Howell believes that the Greater Daytona region is a unique destination when it comes to pickleball.
“It has the advantage of both a very diverse choice of courts and play levels around the area, indoors and out, while also having the central attraction of Pictona, one of the world’s premier facilities for Pickleball,” he says.
Other pickleball facilities include Harris M. Saxon Community Center and Mariner’s Cove Park, both in Deltona; Port Orange Adult Center at White Place Park in Port Orange; and Pettis Park in New Smyrna Beach, among others.
On the surfing front, the New Smyrna Beach surfing community is strong, especially in Ponce Inlet.
“Ponce Inlet has the most consistent, high-performing waves that I know of on the Florida coast,” says Jimmy Lane, surfing coach and founder of Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy. “That’s why everybody comes to Volusia County to surf.”
Ponce Inlet has been recognized as one of the top 10 most famous surfing spots in Florida.
Lane says other great places to surf in the Greater Daytona region are the south and north sides of the New Smyrna Inlet, which both have epic waves for all surfers who want to advance their skills.
Soon, Edgewater, which doesn’t have a beach, will also become a prime place to catch a wave.
City officials have announced that a 15-acre PerfectSwell® Edgewater artificial wave surfing pool is being planned as part of a Hawks Gate Development mixed-use commercial project that is coming to the city. Along with the PerfectSwell® surf pool, Hawks Gate will feature a convention center, a retail village, restaurants, sports venues and hotels.
“The eastern seaboard is home to one of the largest populations of surfers. Add to that a location right next to one of the most heavily trafficked highways, and you have a compelling proposition,” said Mike Lopez, project developer, in a press release. “Combined with the natural beauty of the surrounding area, PerfectSwell® Edgewater will create a distinct and local vibe. We’re ready to start surfing.”
The PerfectSwell® Edgewater site will offer different artificial waves that can be enjoyed by everyone from children to beginners to experienced surfers. The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2023, with the surf pool expected to open by December 2023. The pool will feature amenities such as surf-inspired food and beverage concessions, a surf shop, cabanas, and day lounge areas.
The facility will eventually operate year-round. The builder is California-based American Wave Machines, which has constructed similar man-made surfing pools in Texas, Brazil and Japan. Once construction is complete, PerfectSwell® Edgewater will offer the same innovative technology as one of the company’s most well-known projects at Boa Vista Village in Brazil.
“Surfing in our small community was, and still is, a special communication between the local surfers, the visitors, out-of-town surfers and veterans,” Lane says.
Attracting those visitors are a number of surfing competitions, such as the Surfing USA Prime East and the Southeast Volusia Surf Contest, as well as several others. Mimi Munro Surf Camps is another popular surfing school that offers everything from group lessons to surf art classes.
Plus, Oceans of Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals with physical disabilities ride customized surfboards and kayaks in the Atlantic Ocean as part of their therapy treatment.
The Oceans of Hope program is meant to empower paraplegics and quadriplegics to safely surf or kayak, giving them an experience that demonstrates that anything is possible. Family and friends are encouraged to come and enjoy the day on the sands of Daytona Beach or New Smyrna Beach and in the Atlantic Ocean, ensuring that the experience can be shared by everyone involved.
Trained volunteers who are active oceangoing surfing experts provide safe surfboard, boogie board and paddleboard rides on the open waves. For its adaptive kayaking program, the foundation provides certified training to all its instructors based on American Canoe Association guidelines. The full-day training programs include instruction on the kayaking environment, safety and rescues, equipment, paddling skills and maneuvers.
Serving as one of the sponsors for the Oceans of Hope program in 2023 is Halifax Health/Brooks Rehabilitation Center of Daytona Beach. Brooks Rehabilitation made recent news by being recognized on Newsweek’s list of America’s Best Physical Rehabilitation Centers for 2022. It was also ranked the No. 1 rehabilitation facility in Florida.
Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.
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