Why you should care about what your paddle is made of

Part 2 - Surfaces


Many players (including pros) don’t understand what’s in a paddle so they don’t really know that a core or surface really is and WHY it makes a difference to THEM.

It’s not about the type of core or type of surface- it’s about the notion that there are different materials that affect the way their paddle performs and we are the ONLY company that offers this to every player.

We hear players say they use a graphite paddle or they want the honeycomb paddle. Without understanding the basic paddle construction, talking about cores and surfaces are premature. A pickleball paddle consists of a honeycomb (its core- meaning it’s the middle layer of the paddle) which is sandwiched between two faces (the surface of your paddle on each side). This core sandwiched between the surfaces is called a panel. The surfaces are bonded to the core on both sides with a very strong adhesive. Then the entire paddle shape including the handle is cut out of the large 8’ x 10’ panel, including the handle. Next the graphics are printed on each side of the paddle surfaces. The edge guard is then attached to the perimeter of the paddle to protect the edges. Finally, the handle is built on top of the handle end of the panel. It consists of two pallets (these are what gives the handle it’s shape) and an end cap is placed over the end and the bottom of the pallets (see drawings). Now the grip is sized or each person’s hand by building up the handle in 1/8” increments. The grip tape is wound around the handle (and yes, the way it is wrapped matters if you are left handed or right handed) and a band is placed at the top of the grip to keep it in place and giving it a finished end so it doesn’t unravel.

Now that you see how the materials come together, understanding what these materials do and how they make each paddle perform is what should matter to every player.

Finding the right paddle for you isn’t about what Bob or Sally plays with or which colors look best. It’s about building the right tool for the job. Players that understand their game and are educated in the playing characteristics of the materials that make their paddle and cause it to play a certain way, are better equipped to perform to the best of their abilities. Knowing about cores, surfaces, weights and handles/grips will enable you to build the paddle that will elevate your game. When you have confidence in your equipment, that translates into performance on the court!

Which Surface and Why

The three most commonly used surfaces for pickleball paddles are Carbon Fiber Weave, Graphite and Fiberglass Composite. Each has characteristics that, when combined with a core material, give each paddle the performance profile that suits every player’s unique style and game.

Carbon Fiber - (softest surface material)

Carbon fiber surfaces are the most expensive, most durable and lightest weight. When bonded properly to a honeycomb core, Carbon Fiber weave (it is actually fabric before being bonded to a honeycomb core) is strong, durable, high tech and very distinctive in appearance. It provides the ultimate in ball control, but can lose a bit of power compared to the other surfaces.

Fiberglass Composite - (most neutral surface material)

Composite paddle faces take full advantage of the latest aerospace composite material technology. Variations of composite surfaces are expanding throughout the industry, increasing their playability. These paddles feature an incredible combination of touch, feel, and strength. The Composite surface provides a bit more power than the other two surfaces.

Graphite - (hardest surface material)

Graphite paddle surfaces are very thin, about the thickness of a fingernail. Light and responsive, yet hard and strong. Players like the quick action off the Graphite face. Graphite is a bit heavier than carbon fiber and slightly less durable (and more cost effective, which is a reason many manufacturers use it rather than carbon fiber). Because of Graphite’s stiff nature, the ball does not sink into it, so it is easier to direct the ball, providing fantastic ball placement.

Weight

Paddle weight is a hot button for players. Many believe that the weight determines how well they respond to the ball and should be based on their size and gender. That’s the opposite of what they need to think. Skill determines how well a player responds to the ball. Weight is more about what your body can cope with during play.

Very similar to baseball bats and tennis rackets, the player must first have the skill to aim, respond and direct the ball. The weight is what lets them do it comfortably and accurately. Heavier paddles help smooth out players’ shots, making them more consistent and repeatable. Lighter paddles can encourage too much herky-jerky movement and inconsistent hits. Simple physics, Force = Mass x Acceleration, dictates that the heavier the paddle, the more power a player has with less effort. The paddle is doing the work. Players with light paddles tend to incur more wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries.

Before a player decides that they must have a certain weight based on their size or gender, they should instead be sure that: 1) their grip is properly sized, and 2) the paddle weight matches their level of strength, regardless of their stature or gender. That combination is the most important factor in choosing a proper weight.

Also keep in mind how the weight is distributed in a paddle. The key is how a paddle is balanced, not the total weight of the paddle itself. Mitigating the scale weight so the swing weight of the paddle feels light and responsive is what separates Third Shot Drop Custom Pickleball Paddles from the rest. You can pick up two paddles with the same weight and one may feel significantly heavier due to how the paddle weight is balanced. Blind studies have shown players typically think many of our paddles weigh an ounce or more less than their scale weight.

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