Can you recall the History of Pickleball Composite Paddles? Steve can!

We are so glad to know Steve Paranto!  He is a wealth of information about all things pickleball.  In this installment,  Anna interviews Steve about the history of composite paddles and Pro-Lite Sports. Enjoy!

Anna:  Okay, so, here we have Steve Paranto. And Steve has a long history of pickleball. Steve if you could tell us about when you started playing and what kind of paddle you used.

Steve:  My very first exposure to pickleball was my community college, which is a suburb of Seattle, where the sport, near where the sport was invented, Green River Community College. And all the tennis players, I was a tennis player, during our lunches, we would go in and play pickleball and the first two weeks of college our professors went on strike. So we felt like, well we’re not going to class, let’s play pickleball all day and we did that. And back then our paddles were wooden paddles with holes in them and they weighed about 13 ounces, so they were very heavy.

Anna: And you said that your dad..

Steve:  So my dad would follow us around to tournaments and my dad was a Boeing engineer and he was an athletic person, so he loved sports and would root us on. And the partner I had at the time, we did fairly well, but we kept losing in the semis and finals to the same people over and over. And I was frustrated and I came home one day and I said, “You know these paddles, these wooden paddles are too heavy.” I weighed a pickleball paddle and I weighed a pickleball and they were thirteen times heavier than the ball. I weighed a tennis racket at the time and a tennis ball, and they were seven times heavier. And I said, “The ratio is off.” So a week later, Dad makes two prototypes out of Boeing floor paneling, he was an engineer at Boeing and we had the prototypes, we went to the next tournament and beat those guys, the same guys that we were losing to and that was the start of the company.

Anna:  I am curious about the facings on those. Were they graphite facing?

Steve:  They were fiberglass, they were fiberglass the very first (ones). They were honeycomb, just like everything you see now is basically a copy of some sort of that material.

Anna:  Do you know what year that was?

Steve: That was 1984.

Anna: And did it have an edge guard on it or how did that..?

Steve:  That was the only part of the paddle my dad did not manufacture, we had that molded by a company. My dad made every single portion of that paddle in our garage in Eatonville, Washington.

Anna:  And then, what about the grips and the build ups on those?

Steve:  Oh well, Dad did that out of a foam material, cut that out of foam. He did that all himself. Beveled it. Had a process to bevel it and then we would be gripping paddles. It was about a 22 step process to make a paddle.

Anna:  And you made them in your, your garage?

Steve:  Garage.

Anna:  Right! Did your dad play pickleball too?

Steve:  …he did and he got very good for senior level. He was winning local stuff for his age. He is 84 now, so. At that time, he was younger than I am now. So it’s kind of hard for me to believe when I look at those old pictures that, “Hey Dad, you’re younger there in that picture than I am now.”

Anna:  Right. Your dad started the company Pro-Lite.

Steve:  He started Pro-Lite.

Anna:  And he named it Pro-Lite because of…

Steve:  Well, it was the lightest paddle available and we thought we’d put “Pro” in front of it. The lightning bolt came from watching the movie “The Natural” by Robert Redford. We were watching the movie when we were starting the company and we liked how Robert Redford put the lightning bolt on his bat. So the next day we had a lightning bolt as our logo.

Anna:  Great. And then you guys sold the company to..?

Steve:  We sold it to Mark Kendall Lario who then a couple years later sold it to Mark Friedenberg and now Mark Friedenberg’s son, Neil has it.

Anna:  Very good. Well, thank you Steve, so much for sharing with us the history of the paddle.

Steve: Yeah, you’re welcome.

It is so good to hear this story.  Pickleball started as a cottage industry and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years.  If you have a good story about the history of pickleball, just shoot me an email, eliza@pickleballcentral.com.

Meet the Pickleball Pros – Jessica LeMire

Our second featured pickleball player proves that pickleball is a sport for all ages. Jessica LeMire is a college student who is finding success with the sport before she even finishes school! 

Jessica (green hat) at 2013 USAPA Nationals with Yvonne Hackenberg, Marsha Koch and Hilary Marold.

PBC: Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

JL: 2013 USAPA Nationals- Gold in Women’s 19+ & Bronze in the Open Division
2014 SoCal Summer Classic- Gold in Women’s 19+ & Silver in the Open Division

PBC: What paddle do you play with and why?
JL: I play with the Legacy Paddle because of its pop and turbo power.

Jessica LeMire's favorite paddle is the Legacy Pickleball Paddle

Jessica LeMire’s favorite paddle is the Legacy Pickleball Paddle

PBC: What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

JL: My dad and I player racquetball together at the Meijer State Games of Michigan in 2011. During the opening ceremonies for the event, all the participating sports processed into the stadium in alphabetical order. Naturally, pickleball and racquetball participants walked next to each other. Of course, my dad and I were curious as to what pickleball was. When we spoke to the super nice picklers, they told us about it and invited us to their courts to check it out. We took them up on their offer, and we were hooked!

PBC: What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
JL: I prefer playing outdoors. In Michigan, we don’t have the luxury of playing outside all year round so I enjoy playing under the sun when I can.

PBC: Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
JL: I prefer playing doubles because I love the partner aspect of the sport. Doubles is the art of two people working as one- I think that’s pretty awesome.

PBC: What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
JL: If I’m having a blast with the folks I’m playing with, I could be playing on the worst court in the country and it would be my favorite place to play. For me, it’s about who I’m playing with rather than where I’m playing.

PBC: What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?
JL: I think the “secret sauce” in pickleball is partner chemistry. The teamwork and synching that occurs- competing together, moving together, strategizing together, and supporting one another- is such a special part of the game. Not only is it essential to be on the same page, but it’s also crucial to find someone with whom you are comfortable and can have a great time.

PBC: What’s your day job?
JL: I’m currently a graduate student at Central Michigan University studying communication.

PBC: How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
JL: During the summer, I play an average of seven to nine hours or so a week, but when I’m at school, I strive to play every other weekend. I make time for pickleball because of the physical and mental benefits- it’s my favorite way to exercise, connect with friends, and relieve stress.

PBC: Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
JL: No lucky rituals for me, but I do say a prayer before I play.

PBC: Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
JL: It’s inspirational to watch athletes in their seventies and eighties play pickleball. My goal is to be like those rock stars and be able to compete when I’m their age.

Thanks Jessica!

ZEN Pickleball Paddle – New from Onix Sports

Zen Pickleball Paddle

We can’t wait to get our hands on Steve Wong’s latest creation, the ZEN Pickleball Paddle.  The ZEN has an aluminum core and a high-end Gamma Contour Cushion grip.  According to the technical specs, the ZEN weighs between 7.3 – 7.5 ounces.  Steve says the paddle is one of his quieter models.

We love the design with the Chinese character Zen.  The paddle colors are supposed to be brilliant. The pictures sure look good.

We’ve ordered a bunch of the ZEN paddles and they are supposed to ship to us next week.  We’ll post on Facebook when our shipment arrives and the paddles are available for sale at the best place to buy pickleball paddles, PickleballCentral.com. 

There are lots of definitions for the word Zen.  I think the definition found in the Urban Dictionary best fits a great game of pickleball:

1. Zen
One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.  “Sun is warm, grass is green.”

download

Edge Guards – love ’em or hate ’em? Three reasons I love ’em

The black edge guard on most all graphite and composite paddles

The black edge guard on most all graphite and composite paddles

Many customers and several other people here at PickleballCentral.com,  don’t like the edge guards and claim the edge guards messes up their shots.   Manufactures have heard the complaints and are hard at work creating a truly breakthrough edge-less paddle.  There are a few good edgeless pickleball paddles on the market now such as Wilson’s BLX and  Wilson’s Champ  but I still prefer a paddle with an edge guard for three reasons:

#1. Protects the Core. There are at least three layers to every composite paddle – a top face, a core and a bottom face. The edge guard seals these three layers and protects them from de-laminating.  De-lamination is when the paddle face detaches from the core. De-laminated paddles are “dead”.  Sometimes small pieces of the core  break off and rattle around inside the paddle.

Pickleball paddle delamination... to the extreme

Delamination is when the paddle face detaches from the paddle’s core.

#2 . Play with Reckless Abandon.  The edge guard protects the paddle like the bumper on a car.  You don’t need to be precious with paddle. You can dive for those shots and not be too concerned about denting or scratching your paddle’s edge guard.

#3 Pop.  Maybe it’s just me but I think an edge guard gives the paddle more pop.  I like pop.

What about you? What is your position on edge guards?

– Anna

THE #1 Most Helpful Tool for Choosing a Pickleball Paddle….. Paddle Comparison Chart!

Tiny Paddle Chart


Pickleball Paddle Comparison Chart compares 41 of the world’s most popular pickleball paddles.

We’ve been using our Paddle Comparison Chart for months and it really is the very best tool in existence for guiding people to the right paddle.  We use it all day, everyday.  Just click on these underlined words, Paddle Comparison Chart,  and you’ll see the chart on our website. Some people might need to scroll down a little to see the chart on their computer screen.

The chart has the most current information possible.  Including the weights of the paddles we currently have in inventory. Pickleball paddles are still made mostly by small companies who make small quantities of paddles at a time. There are often variations of paddle weights between batches of paddles. To address this inconsistency, we hand-weigh every single paddle we sell and update our information so the correct weights are listed in each product description and on our Paddle Comparison Chart.

Share this chart with your friends, link to it from your club’s pickleball website. People will find it extremely interesting and helpful.  – Anna

Fiberglass vs. Graphite Paddles, what’s the difference?

Fiberglass paddles often weigh a little more that graphite paddles. Because they are a little heavier than graphite paddles, fiberglass paddles are considered to have more power. Graphite paddles are considered to have more control or finesse. Both graphite and fiberglass paddles are lightweight and strong. There is a general perception that graphite is better but no one has studied if there is a difference in how the ball comes off a graphite vs. fiberglass paddle.
What do you think? Is there a difference between to two paddle face materials?  – anna