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What is happening to Clay Courts in California


Are my pipes leaking


What we are experiencing in California for the last 2 weeks ( Dec.3 – Dec. 14, 2013) only occurs every few years and only for a short period of time.  If you have not had this experience before then you might think your pipes under the court are leaking or broken. 


Court owners ask “ where are these puddles coming from”, “ Where did the puddles go”.  “ What is happening to my court.” 


Why is this situation a mystery?  In California we are accustomed to playing on our courts all year round.  We can play in a slight rain when asphalt courts are slippery and dangerous.  We can play after a heavy rain and in fact the court plays better since the courts are more evenly watered.


The mystery has a very simple answer.  Sometimes in California, but not to often and for not very long the weather will turns quite cold.  Cold as in temperatures below 32 degrees fahrenheit, cold enough where water pipes might freeze and crack if not protected.  The court will react in numerous ways. 


If this freezing weather comes in a dry period then the court because is retains moisture will freeze.  The court will be solid and hard similar to walking on concrete or asphalt.  Once the sun warms the court up, the frozen areas will soften.


The worse condition is if there is a good rain before this freezing weather cycle.  The court will freeze because of the water in the court but when the sun comes out the court thaws and releases the frozen water.  The court will show puddles. The first time you see this paddling, you might think the under court pipes froze and cracked and now you have a leaking pipe. 


When this rain and freezing cycle occur the court will become unplayable until the weather changes and temperatures rise above the freezing level.  The court will take several days to dry out.  If you have a hand or ride on roller this will be the time to use it.  Be very careful as the court after experiencing this freeze-thaw will be very soft. 


If you can step on the court without slipping then you might experiment in an area of the court that is along the fence line to see if the court is stable enough to roll.  Go slowly and cautiously because different areas of the court might be worse than others.  If you have a hand roller take the water out for the first rolling.  You might have to roll a few days in a row to get the court back to playable condition.


If you don’t have a roller, then you must let the court dry out on its own and it eventually will.  Keep the kids and dogs off the court because they will leave foot prints and possibly tear the surface up.  All can be repaired but only after a good dry out period. 


These conditions described are the worst you will see in California unless you are in snow country, or go through a flood, huge windstorm or similar occurrence.  The rain storm freeze-thaw experience does not happen very often in California but when it does you can breath easy that your pipes are not leaking. 




Clay Court Tennis in Auburn - 2013 - RAIN OUT


Okay, the tournament was held and then weather for the first time did not cooperate. I decided to have a 13 point tie breaker but due to weather conditions I modified it to a 7 point tie breaker. First to 7 wins the set and all players would have to drink a beer and finish it before the next round of play. After playing 7 rounds with one team yet to play the rain really stared to come down. They finished their set but the court was in terrible conditions you can see from the pictures. With no letting up the finals were postponed to next year's tournament. Would you know it the person who won 9 times is again in the finals and we have to wait to see who will have won this year.


Normally I have the tournament the last week in September or the first week in October, but due to my schedule I scheduled the tournament a week earlier. Who would have guessed that we would have early rain.

2013 Auburn Players