Yankell Clavery, pioneer among beach tennis pioneers

Yankell Clavery admits it bluntly: he is passionate, so interviews can last a long time. A native of Normandy, he spent part of his youth in Palmyre and very quickly developed an interest in sport: he then played tennis at a very good level, but also assiduously practiced surfing and beach volleyball.

The years go by. Yankell continued his professional career, became a physical education teacher and made a detour to the suburbs of Paris. Attracted by more exotic destinations, he left for Reunion in 2005. There he discovered beach tennis, a discipline which had just been imported by Bertrand Coulet, and which suited him perfectly, he who loved the beach as much as racket . He embarks on the adventure with several comrades.

“The BT had just replaced Tennis-Volley, a similar activity, which had been played for twenty years in Reunion and Mauritius, explains Yankell. We then organize and proceed in place the activity independently for a few years , in the Indian Ocean – Reunion and Mauritius – but also in metropolitan France in Royan, where I grew up and which hosted the first fields and tournaments in France in 2007”.

A real Polynesian potential

Until then very confidential, beach tennis is gradually becoming more democratic. And from 2009, Yankell participated in the first French championships and thought about the development of the activity with the FFT (writing the first educational support, linking equipment, etc.).

In 2015, he got in touch with two Polynesian BEs who wanted to discover beach tennis and carry out the first awareness sessions in the local tennis school. In 2017, a professional transfer sent him to Polynesia. The start of a new challenge.

“I create the first local club that I chair with a team of enthusiasts. We are affiliated with the Tahitian Tennis Federation, and have set up the organization of 8 tournaments per year (including 2 ITF tournaments) and the Polynesian championships French”.

In five years, the Beach Tennis Tahiti club has grown from 20 to 70 members (more than a hundred players in total). Development is hampered by several constraints, including the number and availability of gaming sites, but the potential is there.

“The playable beaches are not so numerous in Tahiti so we play on Beach-stadium (soccer or beach volleyball). The dynamic is very present in French Polynesia, more particularly in Tahiti and its islands where some fields are starting to be set up ( Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea, Tikehau…) The Polynesians are very playful, the sea and the beach are their domains.

Towards a circuit of the Pacific?

As in Reunion a few years ago, the beginnings seem promising.

“Four schools practice the activity in their EPS programming, there are interventions with works councils, municipalities… After this phase of democratization, I would say that we are entering phase 2 of development with more than training and openness to foreign countries and to France Phase 3 will be to be competitive and to organize an international event.

Since the beginnings in Reunion, we had already exchanged players with Australia. Today, New Zealand and Hawaii also practice. It bodes well for meetings in the Pacific, with why not players from Japan, China, Thailand and even the west coast of the United States, accessible directly from Tahiti”.

In 2021, Yankell returned to Reunion, for professional reasons, but still with one foot (and head) in Tahiti. He returns there during the holidays, organizing and managing business remotely in collaboration with his Beach Tennis Tahiti team. He also plans to settle again in French Polynesia in August 2023. To be continued…

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