In May of 2016 the USAPA announced that paddle textures would be regulated so that players couldn’t impart as much spin in their hits (at least, not without proper technique). This caused several paddle manufacturers to either remake their offerings or maintain their current designs with the understanding that players wouldn’t be able to use those paddles in USAPA-sanctioned tournaments.
The amended rules state:
2.E.2. Surface. The paddle hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart additional spin on the ball. Paddle roughness is determined using a Starrett SR 100 Surface Roughness Tester. The allowable limits for roughness shall be no greater than 30 micrometers (µm) on the Rz reading (average maximum height, peak to valley), and no greater than 40 micrometers on the Rt reading (maximum height, peak to valley)…
While recreational players went unaffected, there was also a sizable group of picklers frustrated to learn the paddles they’d been playing with would no longer be viable in competitive play.
Spin is still a high-level strategy used to this day, but it’s more difficult to pull off and less extreme in execution without highly textured paddles, which “grip” pickleballs and send them twisted back across the net. When the USAPA made the motion to regulate texture, it was in the hopes of maintaining pickleball’s accessible nature and ensuring an playing field, so no one would be able to perform these techniques more easily than their opponents.
For newer players that weren’t competing at the time these changes went into effect this may seem like a non-issue, but it’s still an important topic that we see come up fairly often. Some beginners go into pickleball “blind” and buy whatever paddle they enjoy playing with or are recommended, but if and when they eventually look at entering tournaments, they may be surprised to find out the paddle they’ve been using isn’t allowed.
As such, if players think they eventually might want to delve into competitive play and don’t want to change paddles down the road (which is another feasible option), we highly recommend asking our representatives if the paddle they’re buying is “USAPA-approved.”
You can also check this information for yourself by visiting the USAPA website, highlighting the “Rules & Referees” heading, and looking at the “Approved Paddle List.”
Although the USAPA has limited the amount of texture on paddles, this doesn’t mean all paddles are entirely smooth. Our customer service team is always happy to help people decide which option may be best for them, so if you’re looking to get a bit of an edge when it comes to working on spin, we can help!
Lipen Chang, one of our customers, recently reached out to us because he found himself in a situation similar to that described above. He had purchased 6(!) paddles from our Amazon store but discovered that an upcoming tournament wouldn’t allow him to use his paddle due to texture regulations. We were able to replace his paddle with another option… after which, Lipen (and his partner) went on to win gold in the tournament!
It just goes to show that even if you’re currently using a non USAPA-approved paddle, it’s more about the player than the gear! Of course, getting the right paddle matters when it comes to complementing your skill and getting into tournaments, so don’t hesitate to try different things until you find the perfect option.
You can always give us a call at (888)-854-0163 if you’d like to find out if your current paddle is USAPA-approved, what textured paddles we recommend and how to stay up-to-date on the newest paddle innovations. Best of luck on the courts!