Gearbox has always been about innovating the best sports equipment for players of all levels, and they did just that with their launch of the CX Series.
Founded in California by Rafael Filippini, a professional racquetball player with over 25 years in the composites industry, Gearbox brought together a unique combination of skills to create some of the most technologically advanced sporting equipment available today.
Now almost fifteen years old, Gearbox continues to be synonymous with excellence and durability. We sat down with their team to ask about their new paddles, the tech and innovation involved in creating them and more.
Your GX and CX paddles feature Solid Span Technology for the core. Can you explain what SST is?
SST is an advanced patented technology invented by Gearbox engineers. This technology uses a proprietary molding process using high strength carbon fiber materials to form a ribbed cored, one-piece paddle construction. SST has introduced the only patented ribbed core paddle in all pickleball.
Your paddles have a Power and a Control model. The paddles are the same shape and same weights. How do you create Power vs. Control in your different paddles?
Gearbox can create a Power versus Control option by differing the way our Solid Span Technology is applied to a paddle and modifying the paddle’s lay-up in the sweet spot area.
The Control option is designed to absorb energy from the ball on impact, rebounding off the face slightly slower. The Power option is designed to return energy to the ball, rebounding the ball slightly faster off the face.
With the CX14 you have the Elongated and the Hyper shape. With the CX11 you have the Elongated and the Quad shape. What is the difference between the Quad and the Hyper shapes?
The Hyper shaped head when compared directly to the Quad shaped head is slightly shorter in length. Both head shapes are the same width.
The Hyper shape is only offered in Gearbox’s 14mm thick profile option and is combined with a longer handle length. The smaller Hyper head helps our thicker paddle feel quick and maneuverable despite its thicker profile. The Hyper shape is also a softer hitting paddle when compared to the Quad 11mm profile paddles. The longer handle found in this shape helps to accommodate a two-handed shot.
The Quad shape is only offered in Gearbox’s thinner 11mm profile paddles and is combined with a standard handle length. The 11mm profile combined with the Quad shape head provides more maneuverability and quickness when compared to the Hyper shape. This shape also offers a standard handle length, which some payers prefer.
What are the pros and cons of an elongated paddle?
The advantages of the elongated shape are that it provides more reach, it’s slightly narrower making it easier to roll, and it has a longer handle length for those that like a two-handed shot or like to drive the ball hard.
As for cons, some players may find that the overall longer length of the paddle makes it slightly less maneuverable with left to right motion.
Gearbox paddles have a smooth face, yet players say they get great spin. How do the Gearbox paddles achieve spin?
Gearbox has gone beyond texture to generate spin. Most of our spin is generated with our patented SST core. Our core’s ribbed structure cups and bites the ball on impact. Gearbox adds some texture to the paddle surface, but overall, it took a more systemic approach to spin, focusing on the paddle’s structure, design, and lay-up along with texture. This entire system is what we call our Hyper-Bite Spin Technology.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about Gearbox?
At Gearbox, innovation is more than what we do, it is who we are. Gearbox has a technology-first approach to paddle development. Our vision is that every level of pickleball player experiences first-hand the meaningful effect of Gearbox paddle technology on both their performance and enjoyment of pickleball.
The team at Gearbox continues to create high quality pickleball equipment meeting the highest standards every time. We look forward to seeing what they come out with next while enjoying their latest versions now! Still not sure which one you should get or want to know more about a certain paddle? Call us at 1-888-854-0163. Nothing makes us happier than helping you find a paddle that fits your game. Buy with confidence, knowing you have a 30-day test drive to make sure it works on the courts – where it counts.
HEAD has revamped their popular Radical Pickleball Paddle series with thoughtfully designed new technology and graphics, for a line-up of four new models. Featuring HEAD’s new Extended Powercore technology and increased core thickness, the new Radical paddles serve up a deliciously generous sweet spot and increased control and touch, while still delivering massive power.
Like to put spin on the ball? Look no further! HEAD’s new SpinOn texture, found on the new Radical Tour and Radical Tour CO paddles, sets you up for more spin on every shot. Along with two grip size options and stylish new graphics, the new HEAD Radical paddles provide plenty to love.
We recently chatted with HEAD about their new Radical series – read on to learn more about this next generation of solid performers.
Can you go over each paddle in the new Radical Series?
We have four new models launching in April 2022:
Radical Tour Formerly known as the Radical Tour GR, the Radical Tour features HEAD’s graphite hitting surface for a superior soft feel and increased control for the competitive player.
Radical Tour CO The Radical Tour CO is designed with a composite hitting surface, for increased power on passing shots and put-aways.
The Radical Pro is the ultimate power paddle, but still has all the comfort needed due to the Comfort Grip System’s vibration dampening.
The Radical Elite provides a great value for the beginning/intermediate player, featuring HEAD’s Ergo Grip for enhanced feel upon impact.
With the Radical Performance Paddles you have introduced new core technology. What was the goal of a thicker 15mm core?
We’ve added our Extended Powercore technology to all of our Radical Paddles, and increased the core thickness from 13mm to 15 mm. This has allowed us to increase the feel of the sweet spot and enhance control and touch, while still being able to deliver massive amounts of power.
You have also added SpinOn texture. How does the texture affect durability of the paddle?
Our new SpinOn texture allows for increased spin potential on all shots and is made to last the lifetime of the paddle itself, without wearing off. Players adept at producing both topspin and underspin will find this particularly beneficial. The SpinOn texture can be found in our new Radical Tour and Radical Tour CO paddles.
You provide two options for grip circumference. What guidance can you give players to help them choose the right grip size?
Selecting the right grip size (circumference) for a paddle is very important. A grip that is too small can cause players to squeeze the handle too tightly, while too large a grip makes it difficult to maneuver between different shots. To ensure the right grip size, players can perform the Index Finger Test. For reference, pick up any paddle with an Eastern grip (holding the index knuckle on the third bevel in line with the paddle face). Then with the other hand, try to fit the index finger into the gap between the ring finger and palm. If there is extra space, size down; if there is not enough space, size up.
What’s new with HEAD footwear?
HEAD has three newly designed shoe lines for 2002 as well. Correct footwear is crucial for preventing injury, and provides a better playing experience. HEAD has designed great-looking new models of their three popular court shoe lines, providing a shoe type and fit for all player preferences.
Revolt Pro 4.0 Wider toe box, comfort fit, and highly durable.
Still not sure which one you should get or want to know more about a certain paddle? Call us at 1-888-854-0163. Nothing makes us happier than helping you find a paddle that fits your game. Buy with confidence, knowing you have a 30-day test drive to make sure it works on the courts – where it counts.
Meet Brandon Nsekpong, a pickleball pro that has recently hit the scene and made quite a splash, with his skills in other sports that have helped him cross over into pickleball and excel! He just signed on with the ProXR Pickleball Team, and has great goals for his pickleball career. We sat down with him to talk about how he got started, what it’s like to be sponsored by ProXR, and how he’s planning to dominate the competition in 2022. We’re going to let him take it away from here, so you can read all about it! Enjoy!
What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I grew up playing Ping Pong and Table Tennis at a high level as a junior (Ages 8-14). From there I got heavily into basketball and took it as far as I could into a D3 college scholarship. Three years ago I was playing basketball recreationally at a gym and saw pickleball going on the other side. It looked like something I could be instantly good at with my background. After getting beat 11-2 in singles to a 50+ male I knew there was so much more to the game than what I thought. The first two years of playing I couldn’t really get into it at a high level and just enjoyed the casual rec games with friends. The social aspect of pickleball was amazing to me. It wasn’t until this past year where I really felt that I was selling myself short by not going all in to see how far I can go. I’m not a fan of wasting talent. So far it’s been awesome becoming a pro and taking my game to new heights every month. My goal is to be the #1 player in the world and I know I have a long way to go to get there.
Congrats, you just joined the ProXR Team! What do you like about them?
Thank you! How much time do I have? Lol. The ProXR team is phenomenal. They started reaching out to me strictly off of my potential even before I won my first pro match. That showed me that they really do their research and care about the development of me as a player instead of just what I can do for them. Their paddles and handle design are unique and took some getting used to at first. Yet, now I am able to maximize my game with it. It feels like I’m a part of a new family and I really love that dynamic.
Read about ProXR’s game-changing handle technology here.
What ProXR Paddle do you play with and why?
I play with the ProXR Advantage Blackout Series paddle. It’s the 16mm core thickness and has just enough control for all my resets while having an insane amount of power and pop that is required at the pro level. I also doctor it up with some lead tape as well. This paddle also comes in 14mm.
If pickleball had a walk up song like some other sports have, what would yours be?
Wow. “Who’s Stopping Me?” by Big Sean would have to be it. Confidence booster for sure. Although “A Mili” by Lil Wayne would be a close second.
What tournaments have you played in and what does your schedule look like this year?
So far I have played in about ten pro tournaments. Mostly all the APPs and some local PPA tourneys (Texas Open, Austin Open). I committed to at least 24 tournaments this year or about two per month. I’ve never traveled this much in my life so I’m enjoying the scenery along the way, while also trying to pick tournaments that are great vacation spots for the family.
What is your best pickleball tip?
Drill every day. You can’t skip that portion. No matter how good you think you are, drilling is the foundation that you can never forget about. Rec play and testing your skills is great and needed, but drilling should be something you crave daily/weekly if you want to improve your game. Some people focus too much on learning new shots but would enhance their game solely by being more consistent on the shots they already have. It took me a while to learn this concept but I’ll never forget it.
What is your favorite shot in pickleball?
Forehand drive on a medium to high ball in the middle of the court. You can hit it anywhere! Plus you can add so much deception to it also. Close second is the backhand counter block at the kitchen.
What are your favorite drills?
Dinking games to 11 all angles. I love warming up to that. Also transition games like starting at the baseline with someone at the net and trying to work your way up. I also do a lot of resetting drills as well, where people fire balls at me as hard as possible and I return them soft in the kitchen.
What are some of your goals in pickleball?
The top two overall are to be the #1 male in this sport and also to impact people’s lives by using my platform. I want both equally as much, but few things would be more important to me than being able to influence others in a positive way based on my own success. I constantly look for opportunities to do this in my daily life and would love to be blessed with the ability to do so on an even larger scale.
We look forward to following along on Brandon’s journey! If you are interested in a ProXR Pickleball paddle but aren’t sure which one to choose call us at 888-854-0163. Nothing makes us happier than helping you find a paddle that fits your game. Buy with confidence, knowing you have a 30-day test drive to make sure it works on the courts – where it counts.
Designed in California, CRBN Pickleball paddles have rapidly gained a strong reputation with many players both amateurs and pros. Founded in 2020, CRBN has already earned the endorsements of many top pro players, no small feat for such a young brand. These sleek, premium-quality, high-performance paddles are ideal for players who love to put spin on the ball.
We recently chatted with Garrett Gosselin, founder of CRBN Pickleball, to learn about his pickleball journey and CRBN paddles.
How did you find yourself starting a pickleball company?
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, I was let go from my job. Lucky for me, I found pickleball. I quickly became obsessed, playing five hours a day, seven days a week. I progressed quickly and played in as many tournaments as I could.
My doubles partner, Ryan, was the first to have the idea. After a match, he said something like, “We should make our own paddles. We can do better – we know exactly what we want and need.”
Three weeks later, prototypes arrived at my doorstep with the exact carbon fiber face and specs we wanted to take our game to the next level.
It was love at first…touch. We got them in our hands and were unbeatable on the challenge courts. I quickly sent a few off to get approved by USA Pickleball so we could use them in tournaments.
It was never my intention to make a business out of them! They were just for us, but quickly, everyone at our local courts decided they had to have a CRBN paddle too. They saw the combination of control and power we were able to generate, and the paddles looked sleek and cool.
Through all those requests was my “a-ha” moment where I realized I should make a business around these paddles. I partnered with an established entrepreneur in the pickleball industry and a childhood friend who is an engineer, and the rest is history.
We’ve been on a rocketship ever since, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be spending every hour of every day either working on my pickleball company or playing pickleball. We don’t pretend to be a massive company with flashy colors and gimmicky buzzwords. We’re still the same scrappy and agile company that started by tinkering on paddles to make them better. We love the game and the community surrounding pickleball, and look forward to providing the very best products for many years to come.
What is special about carbon fiber as a paddle’s face material vs. the other types of materials that are also commonly used?
We use the highest quality T-700 carbon fiber which is not the case for every paddle company out there. We use T-700 because it has unique properties which help our paddles have an immense amount of durability, power, spin, and control. T-700 has incredibly high tensile strength and durability, while also being malleable enough to flex upon contact to absorb energy and help generate spin. Our gritty T-700 surface outperforms fiberglass, graphite, and other paddle types in almost every category, and is the very best material for paddles bar none.
How do CRBN paddles differ from other carbon fiber paddles that are available?
The term “carbon fiber” gets thrown around quite a bit by paddle companies. Many companies are using carbon fiber as a weave for structural integrity or as part of their core, but that’s a vastly different thing than what we’re doing with our paddles and our gritty surface. Also it’s important to understand that there are many different types of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber isn’t universally great. That’s why we specifically source the very best T-700 carbon fiber that gives us our paddles unparalleled control and spin. Combine that with the most durable internal paddle construction, and we’ve got a paddle that plays better and lasts longer than the competition.
You have some great pros on your team, what do they love about the paddles?
We’ve been so fortunate to be able to put together one of the most competitive Pro Teams out there. Many of our athletes tried our paddles independently and actually approached us for sponsorships. Almost universally, they comment on the unique combination of control AND power. Usually you have to give up one or the other, but not with CRBN!
Can you talk us through the design and style of each paddle
The CRBN1 (elongated) is the first paddle we built. It was the paddle that I made specifically to suit my play style and most players out there. It features an elongated handle (perfect for two-handed backhands) and the extra length of the face feels great for driving the ball. Out of any paddle on the market, it’s the closest you can get to the feel of a tennis racket. This paddle comes in 13mm and 16mm core thicknesses. Generally speaking, 16mm provides a bit more control and the 13mm is ideal for those looking for more power and speed off the paddle.
The CRBN2 is our newest paddle and features a shorter handle and square face. It provides a wider sweet spot and has quickly become the go-to for many of our customers who prefer a wider hitting surface.
In terms of style, it has been our goal to keep a clean, subtle design. We don’t need loud colors and confusing marketing jargon. We want a sleek paddle where the performance does the talking.
We’ve got a lot of exciting new products in the pipeline! Two things we definitely have coming out this year are different colorways for our existing paddles and a premium pickleball backpack. The colorways will feature our same, recognizable carbon fiber face along with stylish color accents that really make them pop. The backpack is something we’re really proud of also. We custom built it from the ground up to include exactly what we would want as pickleball players on the court. Everything else I’ll have to keep under wraps for now. I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
CRBN paddles let your playing do the talking – for more spin, more core control, and more points. Try out a CRBN1 (elongated) or CRBN2 (traditional square) paddle and you will realize what many players have already…that CRBN Pickleball means business.
Still not sure which one you should get or want to know more about a certain paddle? Call us at 1-888-854-0163. Nothing makes us happier than helping you find a paddle that fits your game. Buy with confidence, knowing you have a 30-day test drive to make sure it works on the courts – where it counts.
The first pickleball paddles were actually intended for table tennis, and now the industry is joined by a company with years of expertise in this influential sport: JOOLA. Starting off with a bang, JOOLA is releasing a series of paddles in partnership with #1 Men’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles player Ben Johns. The lineup is full of exciting technology with textured, spin-tastic surfaces, in addition to two types of polymer cores catered to either control or power-centric play styles. You can even get your hands on the paddle Ben Johns uses himself which comes with a unique foam-injected core to greatly increase stability and shock dampening qualities. We sat down with JOOLA to learn more about their company, the team, and their launch into pickleball!
Why did JOOLA decide to enter the pickleball world?
When table tennis clubs temporarily closed during the pandemic, the team at JOOLA decided to try out pickleball. It was initially just out of curiosity and to get some exercise outdoors. The team was instantly hooked! JOOLA brings 70 years of expertise in table tennis equipment research and innovation. Further research into pickleball allowed JOOLA to quickly find similarities in paddle construction and apply its innovation and technology to pickleball. JOOLA wants to be at the forefront of driving additional global growth and developing the next generation of equipment.
You have had tremendous success in Ping Pong, what have you learned there that you think will transfer to pickleball?
Our company has table tennis players from all levels of the sport, from beginners to Olympians. This gives us a wide perspective to understand our customer base to reach the grassroots players, home recreational players, and players on the high-performance track. We are taking a similar approach towards pickleball where we have immersed ourselves into playing the sport, consuming the great content the pro tours are putting out there, and meeting all the great people along the way. We truly are connecting to the entire pickleball world and building a connection with all the great people no matter where in their pickleball journey they are at.
Can you talk about each paddle in this launch?
We have a wide variety of paddles for every pickleball player from the beginner to the advanced competitor. Each paddle series in the JOOLA lineup offers a unique head shape, purposely designed to appeal to players with various playing styles. A common element throughout the entire JOOLA line is the Sure-Grip technology, which is a perforated anti-slip ridge grip that reduces moisture and helps increase shock absorption. Balance and performance are a key focus throughout the entire line.
Solaire Series – The Solaire series offers two paddles that are quite different in performance but with the same performance shape that creates a strong combination of power and feel. The Solaire FAS 13 offers a Fiberglass Abrasion Surface for more direct power and the Solaire CFS 14 is designed with the Carbon Friction Surface for maximizing spin, with a well-balanced amount of power and control. The Carbon Forged handle and HyperFoam Technology is incorporated within the Solaire CFS 14, making it a true game changer.
Vision Series – A lighter, more aggressive, elongated paddle shape with tremendous control, feel, and spin. If spin is a critical element to your game, JOOLA’s Carbon Grip Surface will help you maximize your shot potential. Comes in a 14mm and 16mm core.
Radius Series – Bringing JOOLA’s heritage to pickleball with a table tennis inspired shape offering the largest edge to edge sweet spot. This paddle incorporates the Carbon Grip Surface for exceptional spin and the rounded paddle head offers an incredible amount of control. This paddle was designed to offer tremendous touch, making it ideal for dinking, blocking, or hitting controlled shots. (Coming soon)
Ben Johns Hyperion Series – Three unique paddles make up this series. The Ben Johns Hyperion CAS 13.5 offers a thinner core for more power and the Ben Johns Hyperion CAS 16 is designed for more control. Both of these models come with the Carbon Abrasion Surface with a sand-blasted textured surface for more spin. JOOLA’s innovative Hybrid-Ply technology creates a paddle that takes advantage of carbon and fiberglass characteristics when you want to hit soft or hard.
The Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16 is our most advanced paddle specially designed and engineered to perform at the highest levels in all categories of control, power, and spin with an unmatched consistency anywhere you hit the ball on the face of the paddle. The Carbon Forged handle and HyperFoam Technology is incorporated within the Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16, making it a true game changer.
Your paddles have unique shape – the Solaire, Vision and Hyperion with the rounded top and the Radius is very round – what advantage does this give to the playability of your paddles?
The Aero-curve technology is a head curvature design, inspired by many other paddle/racket sports to reduce drag and allow the player to maximize their swing speed, which leads to more power. This rounded design allows players to get to their shots faster and place trust in their own abilities to meet the ball timely and improve their game.
The Solaire CFS and the Ben John’s Hyperion CFS both have the HyperFoam Edge tech. What is it and what affect does it have on the paddle?
The HyperFoam Edge Technology is another innovation from JOOLA to improve the overall performance, stability, and consistency in a paddle. In most polymer honeycomb cores, the edges or the perimeter of the paddle, where it is cut to shape, becomes weaker, often leading to the ball not bouncing off as well or feels “dead”. JOOLA has solved this problem by inserting a specialized foam that expands and fills the honeycomb cells around the perimeter of the paddle leading to a consistent edge to edge performance and an enhanced sweet spot.
You have a Carbon Abrasion Surface, a Carbon Grip Surface and a Carbon Friction Surface, how do they differ?
The Carbon Abrasion Surface utilizes a multi-step, sand-blasting process, creating a unique, textured surface for increased spin.
The Carbon Grip Surface technology utilizes a durable, long-lasting Carbon Flex3 textured surface that grips the ball to create more spin on every serve, drive, and dink. The natural state of the carbon material, along with JOOLA’s specialized manufacturing process helps generate more spin.
The Carbon Friction Surface technology utilities the next generation of materials to generate maximum spin performance. A more advanced, durable, longer lasting Carbon-Flex5 textured surface, harnesses raw power while also creating an unparalleled spin rotation on the ball and a very crisp feel on the shots that matter the most.
Which do you feel provides the most spin?
Spin generation certainly begins from the surface material, but it also is a factor of the composition of the paddle. Carbon material allows for more flex in the surface which increases dwell time. That increased surface dwell time when the ball hits the surface allows for our paddles to generate more spin than other similar paddles on the market. The Carbon Grip Surface and Carbon Friction Surface technology paddles generate the most spin within the JOOLA lineup.
What type of player do you think will enjoy these paddles?
With 12 meticulously crafted and unique paddles at launch, whether you are a new player just getting into pickleball for the first time or a seasoned rec player playing multiple times a week or you are playing at the highest pro level at national tournaments, there is a paddle within the JOOLA assortment we feel would be best for you! New technology and innovation has been incorporated into each of our paddle designs for the sole purpose of helping players play their best game. A new era of next generation equipment is here!
The leadership team at JOOLA has completely fallen in love with pickleball playing 4-5 days a week, sometimes even playing before work, during lunch, and after work in a single day. We have truly become addicted to this amazing sport like many pickleball players do, and that is because this sport can be so much fun at whatever level you are starting at. JOOLA has always been a market leader and innovator in table tennis, and with our global footprint we hope to use our reach to help spread the pickleball craze worldwide! Come say hi to any of our team, we’ll be visiting communities and events nationwide!
We are thrilled to welcome JOOLA to the pickleball world and excited to see what they continue to do in this space. Still not sure which one you should get or want to know more about a certain paddle? Call us at 1-888-854-0163. Nothing makes us happier than helping you find a paddle that fits your game. Buy with confidence, knowing you have a 30-day test drive to make sure it works on the courts – where it counts.
Pickleball is a home-grown Washington State creation. No other place on the planet has the deep-rooted connection to pickleball that we here in Washington enjoy. Washington will someday be known as the birthplace of Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Pickleball. Tourists will travel to Bainbridge Island to see the first pickleball court and visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum’s pickleball exhibit. On Monday March 28th, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a declaration making pickleball the official sport of Washington State!
You may already know the pickleball origin story: In a backyard on Bainbridge Island, three friends (Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum) invented the game during the summer of 1965.
They made up rules and introduced the game to neighbors. At the close of summer, the game jumped the Puget Sound to Seattle. From there it spread south to Tacoma and east to Spokane. Snowbirds brought it to Arizona and Southern California. It took over 55 years but pickleball is now the fastest growing sport on the planet with millions of players around the world. The International Federation of Pickleball has 68 member countries and growing! Campaigns are underway to make pickleball an Olympic sport.
But, do you know:
The first pickleball paddles, balls, and net systems were invented in Washington State. Barney McCallum, one of the game’s inventors, used his jigsaw to cut the first plywood paddles. As demand grew, he incorporated and created the first pickleball company, Pickleball Inc. Barney was an entrepreneur and built McCallum Envelope Company. He knew how to manufacture and sell products. Barney designated a small section of his Ballard warehouse for Pickleball Inc.’s inventory of paddles and balls, and began shipping products to pickleball customers. At first whiffle balls were used to play pickleball, but they broke easily and had a short life span, so Barney invented the “Dura Pickleball,” a durable ball that is still a leading pickleball. As interest and demand grew, consumers sought pickleball nets. Barney invented the first pickleball nets and first portable net systems.
The world’s 1st pickleball company was in Washington State – Pickleball Inc.
The world’s 2nd pickleball company, Ultra-Lite Paddle Company, subsequently called ProLite Sports, was in Washington State and founded by Arlen Paranto.
The world’s 3rd pickleball company, Pickleball Stuff, was in Washington State and founded by Fran and Barney Myer.
The world’s 4th pickleball company, S-Type Sports (later sold to ONIX Sports), was in Washington State and founded by Steve Wong.
The world’s first pickleball tournaments were in Washington State.
The world’s first “National” tournament was in Washington State.
The world’s first pickleball corporate sponsors, Vlasic Foods and Budweiser Beer, were for events in Washington State.
The world’s first pickleball governing body, The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA), was launched in Washington State. Sid Williams was the founder and first president.
The world’s first pickleball rule sheets/booklets were created in Washington State by Washingtonians.
The world’s first pickleball school PE program was launched in Washington State.
The world’s first composite pickleball paddle was invented in Washington State by Arlen Paranto. Arlen and his son Steve Paranto were frustrated by the heavy weight of wood paddles so wanted to come up with new paddle technology. Arlen purchased panels from the Boeing Surplus Store in Kent and began experimenting. The composite paddles he crafted out of those Boeing panels is essentially the same technology used in most composite pickleball paddles today – a honeycomb core sandwiched between layers of fiberglass or graphite/carbon fiber.
We are delighted and proud to have been a part of this effort. Special thanks to the unstoppable Kate Van Gent for leading the charge to make pickleball Washington’s official sport. Congratulations to all the Washington State pickleball players who voiced their passion. Way to go Washington!
Childhood best friends, pickleball lovers and now business owners! Meet the women behind Varsity Pickle. Karen and Adele created Varsity Pickle for the pickleball player who wants a little style on and off the court. We recently spoke with them about their designs, where the name came from, and what is next! View the full line here.
Why did you start Varsity Pickle?
We’ve been best friends our entire lives. We spent our childhood rollerblading, jumping on the trampoline, and making up dances. We first learned how to play pickleball in middle school gym class and constantly got in trouble for talking too much during the lessons. We both picked it up again in the past few years (along with millions of others) and still probably talk more than we play.
When we looked online for pickleball apparel, most of what we saw wasn’t designed well – flaming pickleballs, clip-art graphics – not the kind of clothing we would want to wear.
We have backgrounds in design and marketing, so we decided to collaborate and create a line of apparel you can wear on and off the court that is playful, fun, and cool. We are also, coincidentally, both very passionate about pickles (the food) and would definitely make varsity if there were a team.
How did you come up with the name?
We weren’t really “varsity athletes” in high school. We blended in and didn’t embarrass ourselves, but never knew the thrill of being a varsity star. So the first time we ever won a pickleball game, it felt like we might finally be good at something. We created Varsity Pickle to celebrate every level of pickle player with gear that makes you proud to play.
Can you talk us through the design process?
Pickleball is fun, and we let that inform the creative direction. A collegiate, retro aesthetic felt right to us. It was important to choose styles and materials that players would be comfortable in and we would wear ourselves. Our sweatshirts are all super soft but light, and our performance wear is very high quality, sweat-wicking material.
People often ask us “What makes pickleball clothing different from other sports?” The answer is not much, really, but pickleball players want you to know they play pickleball, so we feature pickle branding on all of our gear. It’s a strong community! When you see someone with a pickleball shirt on, you have to tell them you’re part of the pickleball club too!
So fun. Duh! It’s no surprise that after 30+ years of friendship, we’d make a great partnership. We have different strengths and we help bring the best out in each other. We know how to work hard but still find time to laugh at ourselves. Plus it’s super helpful, that when we reference our 7th grade gym teacher vibes, we both know exactly what that means.
How long have you two been playing Pickleball?
We started in middle school, played a bit in high school, and then picked it up again in the past few years.
We love to play pick-up games, on vacation, with people older than us, younger than us, for exercise, and even after a few beers. All that said, we are both totally average pickleball players. We are NOT tournament ready. But we definitely have fun out on the court!
What do you love about Pickleball?
We love how simple pickleball is to pick up compared to other sports. Even your first game is fun! Everybody makes varsity, and then there is so much room to level up.
What else can we expect from Varsity Pickle in the future?
Besides world domination? A kids’ line and more awesome, retro gear.
We are excited to see more apparel coming to pickleball and look forward to seeing what else Varsity Pickle brings to their collection. Shop now at PickleballCentral.
The past few years has brought many new players to the sport of pickleball. We love seeing the new players at our local courts and around the globe taking up the game! While many are perfectly content to come out on the weekend to play with friends, others enjoy competing in tournaments. If you’ve never played in a tournament and think that they are only for the pros, you might want to reconsider. Tournaments are a great way to further your enjoyment of pickleball, and bring many benefits to your pickleball game and social life.
Friendship & Community
One of the wonderful things about pickleball is the community. People often comment on how friendly and fun pickleball players tend to be and it’s true! Going to tournaments expands your pickleball community even further – you get to meet and play with other people from many different locations, which often develop into long term friendships and future partners at other tournaments.
In addition to the extra level of fun that competing in tournament matches brings, one of the most fun things about tournaments are the pick-up games that happen in the evenings after tournament matches conclude. People hang out on the courts and meet new friends as they play in matches with others of different skill levels from different regions. Often it’s a pickleball party atmosphere, with music playing, lots of happy people sharing in their love of the game, and of course opportunities for apres-pickleball outings. The tournament atmosphere is so much fun that some people go to tournaments just to spectate, watch the pros, cheer on their friends, and play in the evening rec games, even if they don’t sign up for tournament competition themselves.
For many people, playing in tournaments becomes a main focus of their recreational travel. Planning vacations around tournaments provides a fun way to select new places to visit. There are tournaments all over the country throughout the year, with many in appealing sunny locations such as AZ, FL and Hawaii, which make for a great winter vacation. Or how about a pickleball tournament vacation in Italy, France, Spain or Jamaica – all countries that have held tournaments or will be hosting them in 2022.
Range of Skills & Competition
Players who are newer to pickleball or who have not played other sports competitively might think that tournaments only for top level players. In fact, most tournaments offer events for all skill levels including beginner and intermediate, and many also offer events for different age levels combined with skill levels so that players of all ages/skills can find appropriate events. There are even some tournaments that are for beginners only, particularly among the smaller local tournaments. Also, some tournaments are structured as “Round Robin” format, which means you get to play matches against every other doubles team (or singles player) in your division.
Improve Your Game
Another benefit of playing in tournaments is how much you can learn from playing with and watching other players. Tournament play exposes you to many different types of shots, strategies and teamwork that you won’t necessarily see from just playing with the same people at your home courts. Also, at tournaments you can learn from watching other players, especially higher level players and pros if you go to some of the bigger events where pros play. It’s educational and exciting to watch what they do on the court. You’re likely to see shots and moves you’ve never seen before, which is inspiring and motivating.
Playing in tournaments also helps you improve your game by setting goals. If you know you have a tournament coming up you are likely to want to work on practicing with your partner, identifying areas you want to work on, and establishing some goals you hope to achieve. With each tournament come new goals, which provides a great way to stay motivated on continuing to improve your skills, technique and mental game.
How To Find Tournaments
PickleballTournaments.com is the best place to look for upcoming tournaments. If you go to “Future Tournaments” you can search on keywords, state, city, country, etc. to look for tournaments in a particular area. When looking through the list of options, you’ll then see a list of tournaments by location with the dates. From there you can click on “View Details” to explore each tournament and learn what skill levels are offered, registration dates, how many players are registered, costs, and more information.
If you’re just starting out with tournament play, looking for smaller tournaments could be a good place to start. But even the larger tournaments, such as those that are part of the PPA (Pro Pickleball Association) and APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) pro tours, offer events for beginners and intermediate players, so don’t rule those out just because they are also for pros. In fact the pro tour events can be a great way to gain competition experience at whatever level you are currently, while also getting to watch and follow the pros which adds a whole new level of excitement and interest to the sport.
Whether you play in tournaments or not, keep your paddle up and keep having fun!
As the #1 pickleball player in the world, pro Ben Johns obviously spends many consecutive hours and days training and competing in tournaments. Even for younger athletes, all of those hours on the court can take a toll on the body; staying in top shape for peak performance match after match requires taking care of your body before, during and after competition. Ben recently talked with us about how he prepares for tournaments and what recovery looks like for him.
What do you do to prepare yourself before competition?
I prepare beginning the week of competition; what I eat and drink that entire week matters to me. I stay away from sugary or fried foods, as well as sugary drinks. My meal the night before competition is particularly important – it’s usually a protein fish or meat like chicken or salmon, with rice and a vegetable or similar. The morning of competition I typically have eggs, yogurt, and fruit. Throughout the day of competition I like to eat fruit, nuts, and protein bars.
I stretch most evenings, but the week of competition stretching is especially important to me. I focus on loosening the hips, quads, and back in particular.
It’s also important to me to have all of my equipment prepared and ready to go – paddles weighted, over-gripped, etc. Clothes for the day, massage gun, and foam roller should be in my bag, with everything else I need for game day ready by the night before.
My warm-up routine consists of mostly ROM movements, like arm circles, Frankenstein walks, and generally dynamically moving to loosen up. Then I do a solid thirty minutes of hitting.
Do you have any “superstitions” or rituals?
I don’t have superstitions so much as preparations. I need to have everything ready to go before the day of competition – all of my equipment, food, drinks, etc. I’m quite particular about the socks I wear, both bottom and top (I’m a double sock guy), so that’s as close as I get to superstitious.
What injury prevention products do you use or wear?
I will wear compression leggings when I’m playing in cold weather. The arm sleeves I wear are not compression but for the sun.
What do you do after matches or training to recover?
The Therabody Compression Recovery Boots are an easy-to-use, effective way to improve circulation, soothe achy legs, and may also help reduce fluid retention. Their internal chambers inflate sequentially from the foot towards the heart, which helps maximize circulation. The quiet technology allows you to relax peacefully while enjoying the components of the convenient touchpad control, including a timer and four pre-programmed modes for specific pulses and settings.
If you’re wearing running shoes when you play pickleball, you should consider replacing them with pickleball court shoes soon so you don’t injure yourself on the court. Running shoes are designed strictly for forward movement, not for the quick lateral movements that pickleball requires. The soles of running shoes flare out, and can easily cause an ankle injury if you land wrong when moving side to side. If you’ve been bitten by the pickleball bug like the rest of us, do yourself a favor and get a proper pair of court shoes before you end up with a sprained ankle!
Running shoes are constructed with a very soft midsole cushion that helps absorb hard impact and alleviate pounding on your feet and joints. Over time this cushioning will lose its spring and deliver less comfort and joint relief with every step. With court shoes designed specifically for sports like pickleball and tennis, the cushioning of the midsole and outsole is made with a much more rigid material than a running shoe; while it won’t create the same degree of cushioning, the firmness of the rubber is beneficial in maintaining its tread while being dragged across the rough surface of a pickleball court.
The best indicator to determine when it’s time to replace your pickleball shoes is to look at how much tread is left on the top half (from the toe edge to the shoe’s mid-section) of the outsole on the bottom your shoe. The frequent movements of pickleball will typically cause the toe box area of your shoe’s rubber to wear down the fastest. Some players notice heavier wear in the heel of their shoes, which is also a good way to determine if it’s time to replace or not.
What you want to look for is flattening and smoothing of the rubber outsole. Any part of the underside of your shoe that has no visible tread pattern remaining indicates that your shoes are not going to offer as much traction, stability, comfort, or support as they once did. The importance of replacing them is primarily to reduce the risk of injury from wearing a shoe more likely to cause sliding on the court. In addition, worn out tread and less traction cause your shoes to slow you down; they don’t grip the court as well as they should, so you won’t be able to pivot or get up to the kitchen as quickly as you can with newer shoes that have fresh unworn outsoles.
Some shoes have a layer of material beneath the outsole that is a different color. If you’re able to see this from underneath the first layer of material, this is an immediate sign that your shoes are worn out and should be replaced.
How Long Should Court Shoes Last?
People often ask how long their court shoes should last. There is not a one-size-fits all answer as this depends on several factors that vary from player to player. How often do you play? Do you lift your feet or toe drag with your shot set-up, execution and follow-through? Do you wear your court shoes to and from the courts or only while you’re playing? Do you have just one pair that you wear all the time or do you rotate through several pairs at the same time? All of these factors will affect how long each player’s shoes will last.
How Does Shoe Weight Affect Durability?
A shoe’s relative weight affects its durability and how long you can expect it to last. A heavier shoe has harder, more dense rubber that is designed to maintain its tread and traction for several months of play. Some court shoes come with a six-month outsole guarantee; you’ll notice most of the shoes offering this warranty are on the heavier side compared to the more lightweight court shoes that are available.
If durability and longevity are primary considerations in your selection of court shoes, HEAD Pickleball offers several excellent options. HEAD provides a six-month outsole warranty on several of their court shoes, including the HEAD Revolt Pro and HEAD Revolt EVO for men and women, two of our top selling shoes.
Lighter court shoes are typically constructed with a softer rubber that is less dense, thus more comfortable. If you are not playing very frequently and you’re more concerned with comfort than durability, lightweight shoes are a great choice. Several stylish and comfortable lightweight shoes to consider are the HEAD Sprint Pro, Wilson Kaos Swift and Babolat Jet Tere, available in men‘s and women‘s sizes and many color options.
Our Shoe Comparison chart lists all of the popular court shoes that we carry, with their weights, widths, and whether they come with an outsole warranty. For an easy way to compare them all, view our Men’s Shoe Comparison Chart and our Women’s Shoe Comparison Chart, which you can find at the bottoms of our Pickleball Court Shoes For Men and Pickleball Court Shoes For Women pages. You can also navigate to all of our pickleball court shoes here.