Curious about Pickleball? Here’s the Dill
Tennis Express, as our names suggests, specializes in all things tennis. But did you know we have expanded our selection and expertise to the sport of Pickleball? If you haven’t played the sport yet, odds are you have at least heard of it. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association report in 2017, Pickleball now has more than 2.815 million players within the United States. Pickleball offers elements of table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Most pickleball is played on tennis courts that have been modified with extra lines, though there are more and more stand alone courts with each passing day.
Pickleball has a couple of great things going for it. First, the game is much faster to learn and pick-up-and-play than most racquet sports. The court size of 44 x 20 feet is substantially smaller than a tennis court which is 78 x 36 feet. Singles and doubles are played on the same size court and it’s much easier for players to play socially because the competitors are in such close proximity. Pickleball moves very quickly and players can finish a game in around 15 minutes on average. This allows for players to play different opponents and is a perfect set up for mixers or socials. Tennis lovers, who are battling mobility issues, can take full advantage of the smaller playing surface and compete against younger players because the game is more about touch and strategy than speed and strength. You don’t need tons of gear to give pickleball a try, all you need is a paddle, some comfortable workout clothes and a ball. I prepared this guide to help you find the right equipment to suit your needs.
Paddles have to meet certain requirements to be approved by USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association). The hitting surface can’t have any holes, or rough texture or edges that can impart extra spin on the ball. Most of the time, paddle width is around 8 inches and a length of 15.75 inches. There are no rules governing paddle thickness or weight. Paddles can be broken down into three types of hitting surfaces; Wood, Fiberglass composite, Graphite.
Wooden paddles generally are constructed with a solid plywood core and perfect for players that are just picking up the sport. Their low cost allows players to test out the sport and get acclimated to rules and flow of the game, without breaking the bank. Wooden paddles are often sold in bundles like the Rally Meister Bundle (below).Wood paddles are heavier than graphite and fiberglass and they won’t be as durable or abrasion resistant either. If you really take to the sport and find yourself playing once or twice a week, it makes sense to upgrade to a higher end paddle.
Fiberglass composite paddles represent a good balance of performance and value. At contact, they feel more comfortable and stable than wood, but are more than capable of playing touch shots and powerful drives. You will find composite paddles have a large cross section of prices, but you can get one like the Gamma Dart (at right) for around $70. Fiberglass paddles will handle scuffs and scrapes much better than wood and the feel is a step up to say the least. Most of the paddles you see people using are of this variety or graphite.
Graphite and Carbon Fiber represent the creme de la creme of pickleball paddles. The graphite hitting surface is strong, durable, and more slanted towards control than fiberglass. The core is generally constructed of polymer honeycomb for a softer sounding more dampened feel. Graphite paddles are commonly used by expert pickleball players and are priced more in line with a performance tennis racquet. A couple of great examples of graphite surfaced paddles are the Gamma RZR and the HEAD Extreme Lite. When shopping paddles you will come across the term “paddle core”. 95% of pickleball paddles utilize a polymer core, generally with a honeycomb construction. The more dense the honeycomb pattern, the heavier and more powerful the paddle will be.
While pickleballs look just like any whiffle ball from back in the day, there are some important details to pay attention to. The first is that an indoor ball is lighter than an outdoor ball, and the drilled holes are slightly smaller for outdoor play.
The heavier weight of the outdoor ball keeps the wind from overly affecting play. Outdoor balls are also harder and smoother when compared with indoor balls and they will need to be replaced more often because they get scuffed by the court surface.
Companies like Wilson and HEAD already make supremely comfortable grips for tennis and racquet ball. HEAD uses the popular Hydrosorb Pro on their top paddles, and Wilson uses their famous Cushion Aire Grip. Handles are usually about 5 inches long, and use a similar handle sizing system to tennis. The most common sizes are 4 inch, 4 1/8 inches, 4 1/4 inches, and 4 1/2 inches. It is best to go with a smaller size because you can always build up the handle with an overgrip. Gamma offers a great selection of Pickleball grips as well.
As far as footwear goes, tennis specific shoes work just fine for Pickleball. They offer a great combination of lateral stability and cushioning. Tennis shoes also have more durable outsole that will hold up better to hard court surfaces than running or casual shoes. Tennis Express has hundreds of shoes to choose from top brands like Nike and adidas, even options for indoor surfaces.
Where to Play?
If you are interested in trying out pickleball, but aren’t sure where to go, head over to USAPA’s Places 2 Play
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