After every hundredth person or so asks me what weight pickleball paddle they should use, my head spins on my shoulders, and I once again am reminded to point out that paddle weight is nonsensical — so 1960s.
Your concern should not be about paddle weight, but about “swing weight.”
What if I told you the paddle weighed 1 ounce, or 100 pounds? You would still pick it up. And as soon as you picked up the paddle, you would not be considering dead weight, but evaluating “swing weight.” How easy is it to accelerate a paddle to hit a ball? How much punch is there when the paddle strikes the ball? In addition, you should demand that every future paddle you buy have the same swing weight.
Let’s use the Pro-Lite Cypher as our example. By virtue of paddle design, with the width constantly increasing to the far end — the head — of the paddle, away from the hand, the balance and swing weight are actually moved toward the head of the paddle.
Simply because of design, it compared favorably in swing weight to another popular paddle brand, Paddletek, which is known for achieving a favorable swing weight by another method.
Here are several informative examples of how the slightest weight strategically added on any paddle can alter swing weight.
I took simple black electrical tape and placed it on the bumper guard at the very end to protect the paddle from scraping on the court. This small amount of tape placed at the very end of the paddle increased the swing weight 3 percent. Of course, that is a minimal increase, but it is a good example of how sensitive swing weight is to strategic placement of weight.
I also decided to place a very light overwrap around the existing leather grip. It increased the circumference of my handle slightly, which improved gripping and reduced the torqueing of the paddle on off-center hits. But that small amount of weight wrapped around the bottom quarter of the paddle reversed the swing weight by 1 percent, leaving me with a net overall 2 percent increase in swing weight.
Now, although there would be little reason to add additional weight to the Cypher, an addition of leaded tape, weighing just a fifth of an ounce, to the head of the paddle would increase swing weight a significant net 8 percent, which might just be the magic combination that a player needs in a paddle.
It might be said:
‘Quality materials dampen the shock,
They keep your arm away from the Doc,
Swing Weight gives you additional punch,
When you are in the 10-10- 2 crunch!’
With leaded tape, a balance bar and a scale, I can duplicate the swing weight of almost any paddle. I learned this when tennis rackets were made of wood and there was a great variation between every racket. Using these same principles, I was able to give world-class tennis players tennis rackets that had the same exact swing weight, regardless of their overall weight. When they switched rackets, each one felt like the others and delivered the same firepower.
As I was doing the playability research for this project, I discovered that I was pushing a smaller wall of air in front of this aerodynamic Cypher paddle than the more conventionally-shaped Paddletech, and realized that I needed more time to adjust to the faster head speed. This might be something the consumer should consider when evaluating paddles with varying shapes.
I have tried to help you understand the importance of this aspect of your paddle, so please don’t now ask me what swing weight you should use. Swing weight is a personal preference. Perhaps you need more or less punch for your game, but more importantly, the paddle needs to feel good to you, and you need to have absolute total confidence in the paddle you use.
In the end, your improvement in pickleball is going to come from playing and practicing the game of pickleball, so make sure you get the correct paddle with the swing weight that enhances your play.
Update: The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships begin April 21 in Naples, Fla., and several dozen players from Delaware will be making the journey. More than 2,000 players from 47 states and 17 countries will be competing, and I will be sure to report any medals won by our players.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point