On a recent evening, a padel club here was full, as friends played under floodlights.
One devotee, Patricio Guzman, started during the pandemic. Mr. Guzman, 38, never played tennis, but now plays padel four times a week — sometimes five, if he competes in a tournament.
“I’m addicted to it,” he said.
Several players had never heard of pickleball. Three brothers in their 50s, who gathered to try padel together for the first time, toweled off after a match. “It’s like tennis?” Jorge-Andrés Quevedo asked.
A day later, at the Chile Padel Academy across town, Tomás Bachmann, the head of Pickleball Chile, sipped a sports drink after winning a match. Mr. Bachmann, 34, discovered pickleball from his brother, who used to live in North Carolina. He decided to try to bring the sport to Chile about two years ago.
But so far, he has sold only about 30 nets and 80 paddles. A group chat for enthusiasts in Santiago, a city of almost seven million people, has about 85 members.
“I don’t see a boom with pickleball here,” said Sebastián Varela, a Chilean journalist and founder of Clay, an international tennis magazine. “Why would we need this pickleball thing if we are having so much fun with padel?”
Last year, about nine million Americans played pickleball, said Stu Upson, the chief executive of USA Pickleball. That’s almost double the players of the year before. A spokeswoman for USA Pickleball said the organization counted over 45,000 courts in the country, which does not include the driveways or the taped-over tennis and basketball courts, where the game flourishes.