SPEEDMINTON: Portable game is ‘exercise disguised as fun’ (photos)

SPEEDMINTON: Portable game is 'exercise disguised as fun' (photos)

SURREY — I first played badminton as a wee tyke and, apart from a brief hiatus as a prototypical surly teenager, have continued to play it throughout my life. It’s a superb casual sport where one need not spend a lot of money (a decent racquet runs $50) or be ungodly big, tall or steroid-enhanced to become proficient and have a heckuva good time.

One problem: If you don’t join an indoor league somewhere, you’re forced to set up your own court/net, and you’re usually also forced to play outside, where even a mild breeze will wreak havoc on the object of the game, the birdie.

Enter "speedminton."

Born in Germany in 2002, speedminton is badminton shaken to its core, altered and warped and X-Games-ified to better suit the reality of today.

In speedminton, there is no net. In its place are two 18-foot "squares," marked on the ground 42 feet apart from each other with tape or cones. Players score points by landing the "speeder" (a smaller, weightier, wind-resistant birdie variant) inside their opponent’s square.

It’s a far more portable setup than badminton, and becomes even more so if participants opt to do away with a court and simply smack the speeder back and forth — on a beach, say, or a mountaintop. Or wherever. Talk about adaptable.

The racquets are different, too. Forget the long handles and teeny tiny heads of their badminton counterparts. The speedminton ones are shorter and faster, with a massive sweet spot.

But does it make for a better game? Certainly it doesn’t put such an emphasis on trickery; the dainty drop shots of badminton are not to be found here.

But, as evidenced by the scores of folks who tried speedminton for the very first time at the recent South Surrey Community Festival, it’s a ton of fun nonetheless.

On hand was Kim Matthews of M4 Ideas (Speedminton.ca), the Canadian distributor of speedminton gear. Kim, along with other instructors, doled out the equipment, gave a quick five-minute tutorial and sent the players into battle.

Virtually everyone who jumped in grabbed the concept right away — one of the beauties of the sport.

And then up stepped this humble reporter — the badminton player from way back. My first shot went 20 feet over the head of the opponent. Within five minutes, though, we’d had a thrilling 16-shot rally and at least two distinct moments of glory.

As Kim had forecast, adhering to the boundaries seemed secondary to keeping the speeder in the air.

"Speedminton is exercise disguised as fun," she said. "The bonus is that people of any age, any stage of physical literacy can play the game."

And as I trudged away to my next assignment, I looked back at the action, wishing I was still in the middle of it.

• The third World Speedminton Championship will take place from Aug. 28 to 30 in Berlin.