As 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz was on his way to becoming the third youngest man to win the coveted Wimbledon title last Sunday, dozens of Laguna tennis players and fans gathered at the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) to watch the thrilling men’s final and celebrate the official launch of the Laguna Beach Tennis Association.
The new association, spearheaded by LBCAC founder and retired high school tennis coach Rick Conkey, hopes to bring local awareness to Laguna’s rich and storied tennis culture, as well as work with the city to ensure court space is distributed equally given the increase in pickleball’s popularity.
“Tennis has a big culture here in Laguna,” Conkey said. “We’re planning to showcase the art of tennis by hosting watch parties and things like that here at LBCAC to get people together and start raising money and interest.”
Conkey said he wants to turn the association into “a club without a clubhouse” while using LBCAC as a hub for future fundraising events.
“We’re trying to create some organization among players,” Conkey said. “Right now, many decisions are being made that affect tennis. Players and tax-paying homeowners are being left out of the conversation. We’re getting the association off the ground first by creating a database of all the players in Laguna Beach. What level they’re playing at, what they want, and what days of the week. That’s the starting point.”
Trace Klug has been playing cardio tennis in Laguna for 18 years.
“A group of about 16 of us play together, and we learned tennis from coach Julie, who is now retired,” Klug said. “We play for fun, but we also play four days a week.”
The cardio tennis group usually takes up one or two courts, and Klug said it’s one of the important things in their lives: mentally, physically and emotionally.
“A lot of us play pickleball too, and we love it, but at the same time, we need to make sure that the tennis players have their courts.”
Klug said that on the days she plays cardio tennis, she starts her morning by looking for a court at the high school. If the courts are taken, she drives up to Alta Laguna in hopes of finding an open court, which is never a sure thing.
“People are saying that tennis is dead in Laguna, and that’s not true,” Klug said. “We have a lot of players in Laguna, and it’s really important to us.”
Those interested in becoming a Laguna Beach Tennis Association member can email Conkey at [email protected] with your name, email, phone number and Laguna Beach address.