The Onix Outbreak Reintroduces Graphite to Picklers in a Way We’ve Never Felt Before

The Onix Outbreak brings a new type of reinforcement to paddles that offers exceptional levels of durability and touch. The Outbreak’s graphite face is supported by TeXtreme, which has already been used in pro tennis, hockey, golf and other sports that require extreme precision and feel. Now it’s being brought to pickleball as well!

What is TeXtreme?

Onix Sports explains: “The TeXtreme surface is unique for two reasons. First, with most graphite paddles (such as the Graphite Z5) the carbon fiber strands are all a single layer going one direction. With TeXtreme, the carbon fiber strands are woven, which is what makes the checkerboard pattern on the paddle. This essentially provides a thicker and stronger layer of carbon fiber.

In addition to that, TeXtreme basically flattens the strands, eliminating the resin or plastic holding those strands together. This means when a pickleball hits the surface, it’s hitting carbon fiber and not the plastic.”

The TeXtreme reinforcement also adds very little weight to the Outbreak, meaning you get all the benefits of better reactivity and control without slowing down your game. The Outbreak only has a range of 7.8 – 8.2 oz.

outbreak - kasandra gehrke

Kasandra Gehrke playing with the Outbreak

The fact that Onix has kept the weight of the Outbreak in a medium range is doubly impressive when you consider that its polypropylene core is 5/8″ thick, the widest for a graphite paddle in the industry. This core allows the paddle to absorb shock, reduce jostling and offer enough power behind every hit.

Improved Graphite Technology

The Outbreak was created with the “next step in graphite technology” in mind. We’ve seen many innovations in pickleball over the past few years, particularly in the areas of composite paddles, but for a time graphite technology had been left behind in the mix. Onix tried many different options to develop just the right feel with the Outbreak, eventually settling on the TeXtreme for the best combination performance and consistency.

The paddle is a great option for players wanting a strong combination of touch and control. The Outbreak will provide great placement on dinks and noticeable feel in volleys.

outbreak - byron freso

Byron Freso with the Outbreak

It’s also a very forgiving paddle. During our correspondence with Onix, it was noted that players picked up on a difference in the sweet spot between the Outbreak and other paddles. The testers found that the Outbreak had a much better response even along the edges of the sweet spot so that they had more room on the surface to utilize.

Proven by the Pros, Loved by Intermediates

Several pro players are already using the Outbreak including Randy Zbinden, Byron Freso, Kurtis Campbell, KaSandra Gehrke and Erik Gertler.

Onix is also pleased to note that many amateur players have picked up the paddle and used it to bring out the best of their game. The TeXtreme material is an incredible addition to the world of pickleball and will allow players of all skill levels to focus on their placement and fully experience graphite’s control-centric performance.

Enjoy the combination of power, touch and precision of the Onix Outbreak today and feel the difference a unique graphite surface makes. Visit PickleballCentral to see the full list of technical specs on the Outbreak today.

The Most Stylish Pickleball Paddles of 2018

We’re reaching the end of the year with just enough time to list some of the most attractive paddles of 2018! Many manufacturers released some very unique shapes and looks over the past few months, and several classics were redesigned to offer a more modern appearance.

Skill is obviously the most important part of the game, but if you want to set yourself apart with something that looks great as well, take a look at our top picks. (We’re cheating a little bit and including multiple paddles within the same lines, but there are some individual standouts as well.)

Covert by ProLite

Covert by ProLite

The spiritual successor to the previously released and subsequently unapproved Apex Paddle, the Covert has a certain rugged charm to it, but it’s not only a pretty face. Its SPINtac surface helps the paddle grip pickleballs with every hit to help you curl them away from other players.

The background of this paddle simulates asphalt, ProLite cleverly worked their lightning bolt logo into the upper right corner and the pops of color are just enough to prevent the design from feeling dreary.

Margaritaville Paddles

Margaritaville Paddles

Florida is a hotbed of pickleball activity for a reason, but few paddles managed to capture the laid-back charm of this (and other tropical) areas until the Margaritaville line was released.

Using designs and quotes inspired by singer Jimmy Buffett, these are the perfect paddles to put you in the mood for fun in the sun. You can keep it cool with some of the breezier images or show off your competitive side with the “Fins” design.

Xtreme Paddles by HEAD

Xtreme Paddles

It was tough choosing between HEAD’s Xtreme and Radical lines, but in the end we decided on the Xtreme designs due to their clean and futuristic appearance. The highly defined edges contribute to their aerodynamic play in addition to simply looking cool.

We appreciate how HEAD’s logo draws your attention, yet it also seamlessly integrates with the rest of the paddles’ structure. These paddles look exactly like the precise instruments they are.

Spectrum Paddles by Prince

Prince Spectrum Pro Paddles
The Spectrum and Spectrum Pro Paddles are groundbreaking due to their highly circular design, resulting in a sweet spot that just about spans the entirety of the paddle. But just look at those colors and the clever layering of patterns over the face.

The use of honeycomb isn’t foreign to paddles, but slowly fading it into more angular shapes and curves keeps this look interesting. Prince’s “p” logo is front and center yet doesn’t feel out of place thanks to the complementary shades used to fill it in.

RZR by GAMMA

RZR by GAMMA

The original Razor Paddle was released in 2017, but GAMMA was forced to slightly redesign and rename it minus a few vowels due to copyright issues. We don’t mind, because that means we get to include this beauty on our current list!

Everything about this design feels classy yet eye-catching. We love the dark backgrounds, smoky splashes of color and elegant GAMMA logo. Even the grips take things to the next level by integrating matching glimpses of color in the material..

 

Of course, taste is subjective and we know there are many other beautiful paddles being used on the courts! Which paddles do you admire the most, either from this past year or earlier releases?

The Tradition of the Christmas Pickle

For those who celebrate Christmas, the big day is getting close! There are many great traditions surrounding the holiday such as baking cookies, giving gifts, spending time with family and decorating a tree, but the real question is… do you know about the famed Christmas pickle?

To take part, you’re supposed to take a pickle-shaped ornament and hide it somewhere on your tree. The first person to find it is supposed to receive an additional gift or have a year of good fortune.

Santa Pickle

This is a real tradition and not even something we came up with (though we wish we did)! No one is entirely certain of the Christmas pickle’s origins, but some believe it may have been part of marketing campaigns in the late 19th century. During that time glass Christmas decorations were imported to the U.S. from Europe, some in the shape of vegetables.

Another, more dramatic origin story is linked to the American Civil War. A Private John C. Lower was captured after serving in the 103rd Pennsylvania infantry, and on Christmas Eve he begged a guard for a pickle. He was given the pickle and said it ended up saving him from starvation, so when he returned to his family, he began the pickle-hiding tradition.

Christmas Pickle

This sounds a little dubious to us, but we can appreciate a good story regardless of its veracity. If you want to get in on the fun, we just so happen to offer a pickle ornament. We also have a non-ornament design. Best of all, these pickles not only have a lovely green sheen, but the ability to yodel out a happy tune. What more could you want to bring some more Christmas cheer to the season?

Do you engage in this time-honored tradition yourself? What are some of your favorite pickleball or non-pickleball related activities you take part in as the holidays get near?

2018 Pickleball Holiday Gift Guide

There are hundreds of amazing sales at PickleballCentral, and while many customers are gleefully searching for their must-haves, others are feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the available options.

If you’re newer to the sport, looking to buy something for a pickler but not sure where to start, or just want a quick overview of some of our very best deals, these guides will give you some great ideas to consider.

As always, you can also feel free to call us at 888-854-0163 if you’d like to get some direct suggestions from one of our informative reps. Have fun shopping for the holidays!

Pickleball Luxury Gifts

Now is the ideal time to splurge if you’re seeking incredible savings and high-end products such as pickleball machines and nets. If you’re shopping for the player who “has it all” and want to give them a pleasant surprise this season, the following gifts will set themselves apart from the crowd due to their utility and quality.

Luxury Collage 2018
A. Lobster Pickle Ball Machine – Easily maneuverable thanks to wheels, offers top/backspin and oscillation. Comes in battery or AC power models.
B. Paddletek Tempest Pro Paddle – Uses “Smart Response” technology via a thicker core to offer more power without losing control.
C. BOOST Pickleball Training Camps – Near San Diego, Kona, Seattle or Templeton? Come learn from the best during these incredible experiences.
D. Quick Cart Plus – Sturdy fold-up design is lightweight and has zippable canvas pouch that holds 150 balls. Secondary mesh shelf for storage.
E. QGear Pro Bag – Unique design with adjustable compartments so you can sort equipment precisely how you want it.
F. Pickleball Tutor Ball Machine – Remote options for control at a distance, 2-line feature, oscillating/non-oscillating, battery or AC power models.
G. Kinetic Pro Speed Paddle – Minimizes vibration with tungsten-filled chambers and 7-layered coating over the face. Three colors.
H. SwiftNet – Amazingly lightweight at only 14 lbs yet stays in place, holds shape thanks to supportive boom and sets up with ease.
I. Pickleball Weathervane – Uses 14-gauge US steel for durability. Powder coated and laser cut with various mounting options.
J. Kollectaball – Court cleanup has never been faster with this rolling ball pick-up that holds up to 60 balls within its wire construction.

5-Star Rated Paddles

The following paddles have been wielded by top pickleball athletes and up-and-coming contenders alike. If you’re looking for a reliable, strong and precise piece of equipment, any of these options will serve you well. The different materials and designs all lend themselves to different play styles, so you’re sure to find one to suit your needs.

Paddle Collage 2018
A. Engage Elite Pro – Used by 9 pro players during the 2017 US Open and they all won! Reactive feel with a super tough composite face.
B. Onix Z5 Graphite – A classic that’s stood the test of time. Balanced shape with reactive graphite and 8-1/8″ wide face.
C. Paddletek Tempest Wave – Graphite face with polymer core provides the best of both worlds and offers excellent touch.
D. Selkirk AMPED S2 – Large surface area creates broad sweet spot, X5 core allows for precise placement and control.
E. ProLite Titan Pro – Reduced vibrations and sound due to polymer core while carbon fiber face gives the paddle extra “pop” and speed.
F. Prince Response Pro – Rounded face makes for an exceptional response that allows pickleballs to bounce back no matter where you hit.

Men’s Pickleball Gifts

If you want to brighten the holidays for a certain pickleball-playing fellow, these items will help elevate his game and provide extra comfort on the courts. Depending on his needs, you can give the gift of a new paddle, extra storage space, functionality or style with any of these great picks.

Men Collage 2018
A. Winning Pickleball – Top player Mark Friedenberg shares basic techniques on up to pro level wisdom. 179 pages of techniques and drills.
B. Pickleball Shirts – Choose from over 30 designs and get them on your favorite style, color, fabric and size.
C. HEAD Pickleball Elite Backpack – Separate shoe pouch with large main compartment and adjustable shoulder straps.
D. Sterling Silver Pickleball Money Clip – Hand-made brushed sterling, 2″ long and 1″ wide.
E. Engage Elite Pro Maverick Paddle – Made collaboratively with pro Ben Johns, provides a 6″ long handle for grip space and reach.
F. Selkirk AMPED Invikta – Made through a partnership with Tyson McGuffin, comes in two grips, two weights and lengthy design.
G. Paddletek Pro Pickleball Backpack – Thermal-lined section, phone and shoe pouch, internal pockets and more provide plenty of storage space.
H. Jugy Water Flask – An eco-friendly bottle that retains its temperature and holds up to 32 oz of liquid. BPA-free and made of stainless steel.

Women’s Pickleball Gifts

Everyone wants to improve their play while showing off a touch of their owns style, and there are plenty of options to grab for the lady pickler in your life. You can get accessories that will add some more sparkle to her look or great quality accessories and clothing. Or give her some reading material to dig deeper into this great game.

Women Collage 2018
A. Pickleball Shirts – Select from over 30 images and multiple styles, colors fabric and sizes to create the perfect complement to her wardrobe.
B. History of Pickleball – By Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren. Personal stories of pickleball from founders, supporters and top players.
C. Pickleball Pizzazz Earrings – An easy way to add sparkle and shine to a look with drop or stud styles.
D. Sterling Silver Pickleball Partners Pendant – A great way to spruce up a bag, zipper pull or other accessory. Includes 18-inch sterling chain.
E. Margaritaville ‘Fins’ Paddle – A maneuverable paddle with a tapered face and polymer core that reduces jostling during play.
F. Pickleball Shirts – Same as “A” in different design.
G. Paddletek Bantam TS-5 Pro Paddle – Multiple grips and weights let you choose the perfect fit. Thicker core offers softer feel and fast action.
H. Margaritaville Backpack – A big central compartment holds up to three paddles and has 2 mesh side pockets for water bottles. Bright and fun design.
I. Margaritaville Tote – Main compartment, zippered accessory pouch and exterior zippered pocket all allow you to store your goods safely in this vibrant bag.

Pickleball Stocking Stuffers

If you don’t want to spend too much but still want to grab some gifts that will put a smile on a pickler’s face, this section if perfect for finding a fun, useful yet affordable gift.

Stocking Stuffer 2018
A. Pickleball Bottle Opener – Clever design looks like a normal accessory but opens up bottles with ease. Laser cut, comes in green and yellow.
B. Yodeling Pickle Ornament – Why say it when you can sing it with this silly pickle ornament? Battery-powered novelty item.
C. Neoprene Pickleball Paddle Cover – Keep your gear safe from dents, scrapes and other damage with this cushioned cover.
D. Pickleball Rating Decal – Ratings range from 3.5 to 5.0. Allows your competitive friends to proudly show off their skills.
E. Official Tournament Rulebook – No more guessing or unsettled courtside arguments when you have this book on hand. Has all the rules from the IFP for tournaments.
F. Gift Certificate – Let your giftee choose their own favorite products with these easy to use gift certificates via email or traditional mail.
G. Leather Pickleball Ornament – Simple yet eye-catching and charming. Clean design that comes in 8 different colors.
H. 200P Mini Paddle – Perfect for getting the kids started early… really early. This 7-3/4″ paddle is made of functional materials but is best used as a toy or adorable decor.
I. RAPTOR Eyewear – Don’t let lighting throw off your play or wayward balls knock you out of the game with this lightweight eyewear. Comes in 3 colors of anti-scratch/anti-fog lenses.
J. Pickleball Paddle Cookie Cutter – We normally say to stay out of the kitchen, but in the case of making cookies, we’ll make an exception if you share!
K. GAMMA Supreme Overgrip – Use to bulk up a paddle’s grip for extra cushioning, comfort and “grippy” feel.

Introducing the ProKennex Kinetic Pro Speed Pickleball Paddle

Introducing the ProKennex Kinetic Pro Speed Pickleball Paddle,
the First Paddle Designed To Prevent Arm Injuries

As the sport of pickleball grows, the number of players suffering from “pickleball elbow” and related arm injuries is also on the rise. We hear from many players looking for equipment that will help alleviate and prevent injuries to the arm. Finally, there is a paddle designed specifically to do just that, the Kinetic Pro Speed pickleball paddle just introduced by ProKennex Pickleball.

Kinetic Energy System

A leading science and design company well known in the tennis and racquetball worlds for their innovative injury-prevention product designs, ProKennex has been immersed in racquet sports since the 1970s. Their Kinetic Energy technology was thoughtfully developed specifically to prevent arm and elbow injuries. Utilizing a highly sensitive timing system with internal tungsten-filled chambers that reduce vibration and focus energy more efficiently, the ProKennex Kinetic Energy technology protects players from harmful impact forces and creates the most efficient energy transfer from paddle to ball.  The micro-tungsten beads are embedded in the paddle’s perimeter, absorbing impact vibration before it has a chance to travel from the paddle up your arm and into the soft tissues in your joints.

Steve Dawson, USAPA Nationals and US OPEN medalist, attributes the ProKennex Kinetic Energy system to saving his tennis career over 30 years ago, enabling him to become a Big 8 Collegiate champion, and successfully play and coach full time since graduating college.  As a young adult, Steve developed almost career ending elbow injuries, and after a switch to the ProKennex Kinetic racquets, he restarted his career, going on to a set of great collegiate championship performances, and a long, professional teaching career.  He swears by the technology, and is a living testament to its effectiveness.

Reduced Shock and Vibration

An independent study conducted by MIT Labs found that the ProKennex Kinetic Energy system delivers impressive improvement in shock reduction and dampening characteristics, creating a 43% reduction in vibration and a 20% reduction in shock, which the team at ProKennex believes can result in less damage to the arm. Shock and vibration are greatly reduced within the paddle, before traveling up your arm.

Preferred By Pros

Jennifer Dawson, 2018 USOPEN

Jennifer Dawson, 2018 US OPEN 4X Medalist with the Kinetic Pro Speed Pickleball Paddle

Pickleball Pros Jennifer Dawson, Steve Dawson and their son Callan Dawson have partnered with ProKennex to develop the Kinetic Pro Speed paddle, and all three of these powerhouse pickleball players now play exclusively with the Pro Speed.

At last month’s 2018 US OPEN Pickleball Championships, Jennifer won Gold in the Women’s Senior Pro Doubles and Silver in Women’s Senior Pro Singles playing with the Kinetic Pro Speed. Steve, a long time “survivor” of tennis elbow through his 35+ years of playing and coaching high-level tennis and pickleball, appreciates the same injury-reduction benefits of the ProKennex Pro Speed Pickleball Paddle that caused him to select the ProKennex Kinetic Energy technology as his preferred tennis racquet design.

Fast and Maneuverable with Exceptional Shot Performance

Engineered for maximum maneuverability with wind-resistant edgeless construction and thin core technology, the Kinetic Pro Speed paddle is lightning fast, nimble and responsive. The unparalleled tip speed improves quickness and reflex enhancement. The Kinetic Energy shock absorbing system helps players experience greater touch, feel and control, improving confidence and success at the net.

What Do Our Pro Testers Think?

Our staff has tested the paddle extensively here on the courts at Pickleball Central, and in many ways this paddle defies traditional categorizations.  It is without question the highest performance edgeless paddle we’ve ever tested, with a large, consistent sweet spot.  Most edgeless paddles we’ve tested don’t provide good shot feel the closer you get to the edge, but the Pro Speed maintains a solid feel out towards the edge similar to paddles that use a traditional edge guard.  We theorize that its integrated carbon fiber flush fit perimeter (which is super durable) gives the paddle stability at the edges that many prior edgeless paddles lack.

Jennifer Dawson with her ProKennex Pro Speed Paddle

Jennifer Dawson with her  Kinetic Pro Speed Paddle

It features a unique core and face build-up combining 7 layers of polymer, carbon fiber, and hybrid composites for a paddle that delivers tons of power with a large consistent playing sweet spot.  Weighing in at around 8.0 ounces, the paddle itself does a lot of the work, reducing the swing energy you need to use to power a ball over the net.  In warm, or outdoor windy conditions, or in situations with a softer playing ball (like the Onix), this paddle excels at giving you power without needing to swing super hard. It does this without giving up a soft touch – in fact, the feel of the ball on the paddle is unique because you feel less vibration in the paddle, and as such the sound and hand feel is less “noisy”, with a more confidence inspiring “solid” feel.

Don’t wait to be injured, prevent it before it happens with the Kinetic Pro Speed, the revolutionary new pickleball paddle that leverages nearly thirty years of injury-prevention design expertise. Learn more about the Kinetic Pro Speed on our website.

The Pickleball Magazine Provides the Latest and Greatest in Pickleball Trends

Pickleball Magazine continues to offer excellent articles about pickleball trends, best places to play and tournament features. In the latest issue, Wayne Dollard, publisher of Pickleball Magazine, shares his personal experience in “Building Your Dream Court.” Wayne shares the main reasons he considered building a home court, which include having a place for parties and social gatherings.

He also shares the list of things to consider before building a court, like space and cost. Excellent photos are included showing the stages of building the court, as well as a check list with a price breakdown. This article is definitely one of the best for explaining everything that goes into building a home court. The USAPA has also published a book, “Pickleball Courts: A Construction & Maintenance Manual,” that is helpful on this topic.

The Oct/Nov 2017 issue also contains two USAPA announcements: A Major Region Restructure for 2018 and the new USAPA Sanctioned League Play. It also has a great Q & A page “The Rules Guru” that answers some complex questions about the interpretation of the IFP Official Tournament Rulebook.

We enjoy hearing feedback from Pickleball Magazine subscribers. Here are some of our most recent customer reviews:

“This is a terrific magazine, and I’ve been passing it around the club for others to read. There is a good variety of articles, and the photos and physical pages are high quality! Personally, I would love to see more intermediate skills advancement articles, as well as product reviews.”

“I’m picking up useful tips from this magazine that are improving my game.
I highly recommend a subscription.”

A fellow pickleballer gave me a copy and it’s so informative to me (as a beginner trying to ‘catch on to how the game is played).
Articles with information are so appreciated”

Every Pickleball Magazine issue contains training tips from some of the best trainers in the country. Who doesn’t want to learn how to “Run Down a Lob Safely” with Sarah Ansboury or “Hit Down the Middle” thanks to Coach Mo? Subscribe today, and if you are already a subscriber, make sure your subscription does not expire.  You cannot afford to miss an issue!

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USAPA Reapproves Jugs Pickleballs, Clarifies Ball Conditioning Requirements for Pure 2

Jugs Indoor Pickleball

Jugs Indoor Pickleball, available in white or green

The USAPA has announced that the much-beloved Jugs Indoor Ball is back on the list of approved balls for tournament play PROVIDED they are properly conditioned. They’ve clarified that the Onix Pure 2 Indoor and Outdoor Balls need to be conditioned prior to use at sanctioned tournaments as well. This is to assure the balls bounce less than 34 inches when dropped from a 78-inch height.

Straight out of the package, the Jugs and Pure 2 Balls all bounce about 36 inches. According to Christine Barksdale, Director of Competition at the USAPA, “Effective January 1, 2018 conditioning will no longer be an acceptable method for meeting bounce height criterion.”

But there is much more to this story for any who are interested… 

The Real Story Behind the Announcement

You may think this rule change is much ado about nothing. As a 5.0 tournament player, I can tell you this is not the case. Many players have expressed passionate views about the rule changes relating to balls on social media in recent months. A couple of inches of bounce height is serious stuff. 

While USAPA ball rule changes have fueled much of the debate, the melee really began in 2015 with the introduction of new balls like the Onix Pure Outdoor Ball. The original Pure Ball was a yellow or orange 40-hole outdoor ball that was softer and easier to control than other outdoor balls. These are fantastic in many ways. However, because it was easier to control, many top players complained that it equalized play between lesser and better players.

Simply put, many players feel that the Pure Outdoor Ball changes the game in a way that reduces the skill needed for finesse shots. While I personally love both the newer, softer Pure Balls and the older, harder balls (like the Dura Fast 40), I have come to agree with these players’ assessments. 

We’re no longer dealing with mere wiffle balls; pickleballs have critical characteristics discernible by connoisseurs of the sport. Should we have one ball for pros and another for recreational players? Should there be different balls for juniors vs. adults? Should there be different balls based on the playing surface or weather conditions? Many sports have these variations.

Because some balls (like the Pure 2 and Jugs Balls) bounce higher when new, this creates inconsistent play as the ball wears over the course of a match or two.

The USAPA sought to address this issue while also addressing issues relating to the very nature of the sport. In October 2015, the USAPA  modified the bounce limit from 37 inches to 34 inches.

Their goal in limiting the bounce height was to preserve the tactical nature of the sport which rewards the patience and finesse required to succeed with a lower bouncing ball. The deadline for achieving the lower bounce was first set at May 1, 2016 and later pushed back to October 1, 2016.

Onix PURE 2 Outdoor Pickleball

Onix PURE 2 Outdoor Pickleball, available in yellow and orange

Balls perform differently when used outdoors on hard surfaces compared to indoors on floating wood floors. This further complicates the situation, much like how a tennis ball behaves differently on a concrete vs. a clay or grass court. More on this later…

In response to the 2015 rule change, Escalade (the company that produces the Onix Pure and Pure 2 balls) scrambled to develop balls that bounced under 34 inches. 

Their solution was to have users condition the balls prior to use or testing so that they would meet the 34-inch maximum bounce height. As with many innovations, the law of unintended consequences reared its head.

As 5.0 players, tournament directors and officials within the USAPA learned about the implications of conditioning, it started to create real-world problems, particularly for tournament directors needing balls that performed to USAPA standards without any conditioning.

The first conditioning process published by the USAPA involved squeezing each ball by hand 6 times in 16 different places, for a total of 96 manual squeezes.

For me, thumb tendinitis sets in after conditioning only 2 balls!

Imagine the problem of trying to figure out how to condition 250 balls prior to a tournament. Innovative tournament directors were faced with the challenge of addressing this with a variety of “home remedies.” I’ve heard stories of some really creative attempts to condition balls using clothes dryers for instance.

What’s the right setting? 15 minutes on the perma-press cycle? These approaches were interesting, but largely unscientific and unrepeatable. 

Fortunately, the USAPA is sorting this all out. They opened up dialog with the manufacturers to put the burden of consistency and science back where it belongs—on the companies producing the balls. 

Aren’t Indoor and Outdoor Balls Different?

While design differentiates indoor and outdoor pickleballs, the biggest changes in performance are determined by playing surface. Most outdoor play is on asphalt or concrete; most indoor play is on wood or carpet. More indoor facilities are accommodating pickleball on tennis courts, and outdoor balls are generally used because of the harder surfaces.

Popular outdoor balls are heavier and have 40 smaller holess. They perform better in windy conditions and on abrasive surfaces. Indoor balls are lighter and have 26 larger holes. Indoor balls perform well on smoother surfaces with no wind. But here’s the catch: Wood floors absorb more energy, resulting in a much lower bounce compared to concrete or asphalt.

The Jugs Ball is the most popular ball for indoor play, and though it bounces over 36 inches on concrete when new, on wood floors it bounces less than 34 inches. The same is true for the Onix Pure 2 Indoor Ball. This is why most of the debate underway concerns the Pure 2 Outdoor Ball used on asphalt or concrete. The Onix Pure 2 Outdoor Ball actually bounces 36-37 inches on the surface for which it is intended: asphalt or concrete.

Talking About the Dura Fast 40 (and the TOP, and the 503…)

As a tournament player involved with a retailer that sells more pickleballs than anyone else in the world, in my own unscientific sampling I found most 5.0 players prefer the original Dura Fast 40 balls for outdoor play. (In the interest of full disclosure, this same retailer acquired the Dura brand in August 2016.)

The Dura and Pure 2 Balls are made very differently, using different chemistry and materials. The Dura Fast 40 Balls are made using a seamless rotomolding process where holes are drilled after the balls are formed using a seamless production process. There is a line on the inside of the ball, but this isn’t a “seam,” it is simply the line that the mold makes during the release process. The Onix 503 and TOP Balls are made using the same process.

Dura Fast 40 Outdoor Pickleball

Dura Fast 40 Outdoor Pickleball, available in yellow, orange, white and neon.

The Dura Fast 40 Ball was developed in 1980 by Pickle-Ball Inc working closely with a family that specialized in unique high performance plastics manufacturing who had also taken an interest in pickleball. The ball was developed specifically for outdoor pickleball play on concrete or asphalt courts. The rotomolding and drilling process produces a geometrically precise ball with a smooth finish and attractive appearance.

This has been the primary outdoor ball for decades, and most players love it. But this type of ball demands real finesse. Players who have mastered this ball are recognized as deserving their 5.0 ratings. Their ability with this ball sets them apart, and they require no conditioning.

The Dura Fast 40 has always been the official ball used at the USAPA Nationals, and is now the official ball of the US Open. Alas for many, it will always be “the outdoor pickleball.”

When Pickleballs Go Sour

Many other balls have been introduced over the years. Most of them have suffered from a variety of issues including cracking, unpredictable flight patterns, a tendency to go out of round and unusual playability at certain temperatures.

Designing a plastic orb that performs after thousands of high-speed impacts with precision over time, in a variety of weather conditions, is a truly difficult scientific endeavor.

Pickleball evolved around a specific set of playability characteristics, and the USAPA is seeking to protect the integrity of the sport.

Neon Color Dura Fast 40 Ball

New Neon Color Dura Fast 40 Ball is the official ball of the US Open Pickleball Championships

Other sports have had their own issues with equipment. Golf has long suffered from issues with changes to golf balls. Aluminum and corked bats have changed baseball, and many would not say for the better. Remember “Deflategate?” Who would have thought that a half a pound of pressure in a football would have the consequences it did?

Large, well-financed companies have attempted to reproduce the magic of that breakthrough Dura Ball. For example, Wilson launched their similar outdoor ball prior to the US Open in 2015. They believed it would have similar bounce characteristics as the Dura Balls, but they found that the chemistry and manufacturing process was hard to master.

They quickly discontinued the ball due to out-of-round complaints a month prior to the US Open. Players loved the visibility of that new ball, but disliked the irregular bounces, and sometimes no bounce at all! 

US Open Logo

Late in 2016, a neon green version of the Dura Fast 40 was launched. The Dura Fast 40 will be the official ball of the US Open Pickleball Championships from 2017 through 2019. Others are following suit, and there is now a neon green version of the TOP Ball.

Differences in Pickleball Manufacturing    

“Injection molding” is a different type of manufacturing process than rotational molding. The Pure 2 Outdoor and Indoor Balls and the Jugs 26-Hole Indoor Ball (aka the Jugs Bulldog) are made using an injection molding process.

The holes are not drilled but formed in the mold. Each half is molded and the two halves are glued together. The chemistry of the materials and the injection process results in softer balls that bounce higher initially.

These softer balls are easier to control for many players. However, many tournament players, 5.0 pros and pickleball purists disdain them. Tennis players generally prefer the softer balls because they are more responsive to spin.

Do we want to give elite tennis players—already dominating the sport—even more advantage?

Injection molding is a proven way for plastics engineers to create high quality predictable products. While I’m not a materials scientist or polymer engineer (though I am an engineer), what we’ve heard is that the plastic material itself has to have certain characteristics to flow into the molds.  These characteristics manifest themselves in the way the balls bounce out of the package. After stress relieving (aka conditioning), these balls bounce less.

Cosom Fun Ball

The Cosom Fun Ball was the leading indoor pickleball.

Changing the chemistry of injection molded balls to make them bounce less is simple, right? We’ll see. Remember the Cosom Fun Ball which dominated indoor play for years? In my first tournament in SeaTac directed by Mark Friedenberg in 2013, the Cosom Ball was used.

In hard play, most balls would not last a single game before breaking at the seam. The boxes of broken balls at the conclusion of the tournament would have filled a mini van! Achieving great performance and lower bounce may prove a significant challenge for Jugs and Onix.

The Future of Pickleball(s)

Where do we go from here? During my research for this blog post I’ve heard a wide variety of opinions.  I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking with dozens of 5.0 players, manufacturer’s representatives, testing personnel at the USAPA and scientists working at the epicenter of this great debate. 

Some suggest the USAPA stipulate the exact materials composition and characteristic of indoor and outdoor pickleballs just like baseball does for balls, while others say that only the playability characteristics be defined by the governing body (like in golf.) 

Fortunately the USAPA is taking the lead in helping clear up this controversy in an effort to maintain the integrity of the sport. To that end, they have committed to further clarifying the rules relating to ball specifications, plus they have engaged the services of a new professional engineering testing firm to assist in making sure products used in sanctioned tournament play reflect the characteristics that assure long-term success for our sport. 

Ultimately the market will decide what type of balls are used. The one thing I know is this—whenever I get a new package of balls to test from some new company, I’m eager to get on the court and try them out! In 2016 I saw the introduction of several new balls from Paddletek, Gamma and others, and I had a great time getting to know these products firsthand. As a player, I say, “Let the battle for ball supremacy rage on!”

When I think about it, these aren’t just wiffle balls. They are the core DNA of our sport, and innovation in this aspect of our game is exciting and controversial stuff.

I really want to know what you think. Please post your comments here or on our Facebook page. Let the marketplace hear your voice as well. 

Glen Peterson is a retired engineer who spent a successful career at Caterpillar. He is a 5.0-rated tournament player who has had earned dozens of gold, silver and bronze medals at the USAPA Nationals, the US Open and other tournaments. He now works with PickleballCentral in a variety of product management roles and is sponsored by Selkirk Sports, whose paddles he uses in competition.