“Like table tennis, but more fun.” This is the war cry of the newly resurrected English Ping Pong Association (EPPA), and we should be thanking them for drawing a line in the sand between pong and its uptight older brother once and for all. Dusted off in late 2011 after a 100-plus year hiatus, the EPPA is on a mission to bring the joy of ping pong to the masses. And no, we’re not talking little shorts and fluorescent-lit gymnasiums (looking at you, table tennis). We’re talking dingy backrooms, a dozen players caroming off one another at once and a free pint as a trophy.
As the founders of the rebooted EPPA, the trio of Andy James and twin brothers Will and Dan Lines are serving up a socially vibrant, speed-dating-like version of ping pong to pubs, galleries and outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom--one table at a time, literally. Not only do they lend out tables to various bars, but also James--flexing his urban- planning background--even started setting up tables in unused public spaces. “We took a table and wheeled it up the street and every few hundred yards unfolded it,” he explains. “And then we invited the public to play, and the idea of guerrilla ping pong emerged from that.”
At the core of this movement is the monthly Young Offenders Institute event at 93 Feet East, a dimly lit club on East London’s Brick Lane. There, in a backroom that can barely fit a full table, zealous pongers cradle pints and bounce off walls while keeping the game of “Round-the-Table” ping pong going. “Round the Table” is a uniquely social version of the game, where a dozen people (six vs. six) line up and try to keep the volley going with one hit from each participant in an ongoing, increasingly frantic assembly-line approach to the game.
The purpose of “Round the Table” is to include as many people as once, because really, who likes to just sit and watch? And this past November, the EPPA doubled down on the idea of “pong for all” by hosting a Guinness World Record-breaking event. According to James, 107 people turned up for the “World’s Longest Pong”, the most people to successfully complete a continuous rally where, and here’s the catch, a different person has to make each shot. (Watch the record-breaking attempt.)
For the After Hours Athlete looking to pony up a quid and earn a spot “Round the Table,” the next Young Offenders event is Thursday 8 March. And though they may not break any records this time around, each winner of a “Round the Table” session gets a free pint. Say it with us: Ping pong for all!
And for those After Hours Athletes not in the UK, where’s your favourite place to get your pong on?
Photo Credits: Photos courtesy of the Young Offenders Institute.