Pickleball Paddles – What’s The Secret to a Good Paddle?

Pickleball Paddles were initially played with wooden paddles. To this day, some players still prefer a wooden paddle despite many advancements in design and material technology used with the new age paddles now available.

In addition to wood, there are generally two face materials used, fiberglass and graphite (which we will discuss later) and there are generally three core types frequently used in pickleball paddles: 
·         Nomex
·         Aluminum or
·         Polymer

Reference to and use of aviation materials and the humble bumble bee with its honeycomb nesting structure has been the dominate intelligence for paddle design due to its light weight and durability.

Nomex Pickleball Paddles

Nomex is an aramid fiber. It is synthetic and has excellent heat resistant properties that naturally have a high strength to weight ratio. Understandably they are used in aerospace and military applications, for ballistic-rated body armor fabric and ballistic composites, in bicycle tires, and as an asbestos substitute.

Nomex is used in graphite paddles because it bonds well with graphite which helps to solidify the paddles structure which helps to eliminate the formation of paddle “dead spots.” As you might expect, Nomex is expensive material but it’s properties produce an excellent paddle.

Aluminum  Pickleball Paddles

Like Nomex, aluminum is similarly light, durable and heat resistant. While it could technically be compared as matching the qualities for repeated impact than Nomex, aluminum is susceptible to corrosion and requires special treatment and manufacturing to accommodate this negative property. Similarly, Nomex paddles increase their impact profile by having a thicker face.

Polymer Pickleball Paddles

Polymers come in all forms, from rubbery like to bouncy, sticky and gooey to soft or hard, depending on its molecular structure.

The polymers used in some paddle cores are light weight plastics which are relatively low cost. While plastics can be susceptible to heat, modern manufacturing minimize this through additives that make its particular molecular structure and through design. A polymer core can be covered in a UV-protected vinyl covering for example. The molecular structure and performance characteristics when used in pickle paddles dictate the manufacturing techniques used that in the end make the ultimate difference!

So what are the secrets and considerations to a good paddle?

Aside the product used to manufacture a paddle, there are seven core considerations which has more to do with personal preference, feel and one might say intent or ultimately your player profile and in no particular order they are.
·         Player Profile 
·         Price
·         Player frequency
·         Your hand size
·         Price
·         Weight
·         Grip Size
·         USAPA approved

Player profile – How well do you play or want to play and how much do you play or want to play.
A weekend warrior might be happy and best suited to hit and play with a budget wooden paddle. However a more committed pickler will likely not be satisfied with anything other than the best.

Price - How much do you want to pay? Are you happy with run of the mill of is top quality your buyer profile.

Player frequency – Are you a weekend warrior or regular player.

Your hand size – Hand size will dictate the best Grip size for you which is a functional personal preference.

Price – While not the ultimate guide, price is a generally a good indicator to the quality of paddle available for purchase.

Paddles range in price primarily because of 3 things. The material is it made of, the complexity of design and manufacture and of course marketing. You can pay as little as $20 for a paddle up to $120 plus. Progressive manufacturing much like the tennis racquet market would deem that new and more expensive paddles will enter the market as the growth of the pickleball game grows.

Weight – a most important factor with paddles is weight and weight preference is totally personal. Pickleball paddles can range from 6 to 14 ounces which in reality means one bat can be twice as heavy as the other but both are preferred by different players.

Most composite or graphite paddles weigh from 6 to 9 ounces. Weight absolutely influences feel, response time and shot execution. Irrespective of sex or strength - no one paddle fits the bill. Players with long term injuries or in the older age bracket  will likely choose a lighter paddle weight simply because of their own health considerations however players who want the best paddle for playing with will focus on what provides them with more performance.

It is too general to say more power or drive comes from a heavier paddle and more feel, or touch comes from a lighter paddle or any justification in-between because there are too many contributing variables. The end deciding factor with be your personal preference and this will likely continue to build and change with playing experience.

Grip Size – Much like weight, grip size is a personal preference however whatever that preference is, it is important to play with a paddle that has the right grip circumference for your hand. A big paddle grip may cause lack of control and power and it may even cause the paddle to slip in your hand.

When buying a new paddle, it is worth remembering that most players can play with a small grip size, but not nearly as many can play with a grip that is too big for them. And while it would be absolutely ideal to know exactly what is perfect for you, it is also worth remembering that you can always enlarge your handle size with an overlay grip. This is not an option for a big grip paddle however.

You should feel that the grip size that you play with enables you to have the control that you want. It should not hinder your wrist action, one of the key elements to putting spin on the ball and ball control. Proper wrist action also produces powerful serves, and more accurate drill shots.

Understandably the paddle market offers a range of grip sizes which are between 4 to 4 1/2 inches in circumference. Like tennis, pickleball grips are broken down into 1/8 inch increments.

USAPA approved
There are paddles and paddles. This means that there are many good paddles that you can play with however, if you intend to play in a USAPA Sanctioned Tournament, then guess what...? 

Paddles must pass all paddle specifications outlined in IFP Rule 2.E and ultimately be "USAPA Approved" and this certification now needs to be displayed on any new manufacture paddles. 

Choice of New USAPA Seal of Approval 

There is now an ever growing number of paddles and brands which has only just started – (you read it here first) – We are already spoilt for choice and it will simply get better as the sport continues to grow. You will find that paddle that you are looking for and in a very short space of time it will become common place to have two or more paddles – just like many who play the game of tennis.

For anyone other than a weekend warrior, a Paddle is one of the most important purchases you will make for your pickleball fun. We all want the right paddle for us and at the right price which you can read more about right here: Pickleball Paddle – Premium Crafted Pickleball Paddles (Link Page yet to be edited)

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