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The Erne

“The Erne” is the unicorn shot of pickleball.  

Originally named for the player who invented the shot, Erne Perry, the shot remains as elusive today as it was for the founders on Bainbridge Island in 1965. It is a difficult and unusual shot as it takes a rare combination of speed, judgment and surprise while flirting with the non-volley zone around the kitchen.

Ranking high in style points and finesse, both The Erne and ATP (around the post) require a higher level of skill and anticipation.  The keen player employs the element of surprise when implementing “The Erne.”

What’s “The Erne”

An Erne is when a player steps outside the inner part of the court and on the other side of either the right or left sideline and comes forward to be parallel with the kitchen but is in fact standing outside the kitchen on the other side of the sideline. The ball will be struck out of the air and very close to the net. (Wikipedia).

Video #1: Practice and Setup of the Erne

The sneak attack is best executed with your opponent dinking directly in front of you.  Attempt to dink as closely to the line as possible and skirt around the kitchen towards the net when your opponent’s head is down.  Leave too early and you are highly susceptible to a passing shot or lob (see Video #2 below); but, if you catch your opponent off guard, the smash a few inches from the net is a pure adrenaline rush. VICTORY.

Setting Yourself Up for the Erne

Most advanced players are able to dink cross court and ahead with confidence and ease.  The Erne employs some cunning tactics to set up your sneak attack.  Here’s how it’s done:

  1. While dinking with your opponent ahead of you, place your dink close to the line.
  2. You want your opponent to stretch and reach for the ball so that the dink is returned to you (if not, they may more easily go cross court).
  3. As your opponent lowers his/her head to reach for the ball, skirt around the kitchen towards the net when your opponent’s head is down.
  4. Smash the ball from the side of the kitchen as the ball is just crossing the net.
  5. NOTE:  The surprise on your opponent’s face is…priceless.


Video #2: Executing the Erne Timely

Video #3: Unusual Crosscourt Setup

Is the Erne Legal

An Erne is legal because you are not standing in the kitchen. Both feet must be established outside the kitchen and you may not make contact with the ball before it crosses the net.  Jumping over the NVZ (no volley zone) is legal. Landing in the NVZ is not.

Keep dinking and keep your game below the net. Thanks for following!

Bob and Randy

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