Meet Mike Hess – Global Ambassador of Pickleball

Meet Mike Hess, the founder of the Spanish Pickleball Association and long-time global ambassador of the sport. Mike, a native of Southern California, has been living in Europe for the past 28 years. He founded the Spanish Pickleball Association in 2012 and served as President until 2018, laying the groundwork for the growth pickleball is experiencing in Spain today. He also served two years as president of the International Pickleball Federation (IFP) where he presented the sport in many countries such as China. We connected with Mike to hear how he got started with pickleball, learn how he took it to Spain and to find out how the sport is continuing to develop in “Espanya.”

How did you get started with pickleball?
In 2009 I was working as Director of Basketball for the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) and some of the athletes told me about pickleball. It wasn’t an official sport of the Senior Games yet, but I was intrigued and decided to check it out. I had to search to find courts back then, but after watching a few games and observing the players’ interactions, I was drawn to the sport and decided to get involved. I started collaborating with the USA Pickleball Association to improve understanding of how to increase participation and I’ve been working on growing the sport ever since.

Mike setting up pickleball courts in Madrid, Spain
Mike setting up pickleball courts in Madrid, Spain

What is your background in sport that led you to promoting and developing pickleball?
I’ve always been active in sports. I played many growing up and earned a Division I basketball scholarship to the University of California, Irvine. After playing four years I stayed on as an assistant coach for two years while earning an MBA and then received a contract to play professional basketball in Germany so I moved to Europe. When my hoop-playing days were over, Adidas hired me to work at their headquarters in Germany. I ran the European marketing division for basketball and later worked on global promotion strategies for Adidas-sponsored events like the Olympic Games.

Mike presenting pickleball at the World Sport Summit in China along with the other International Sport Governing Bodies
Mike presenting pickleball at the World Sport Summit in China along with the other International Sport Governing Bodies

How did you get involved with pickleball outside of the US?
I’ve been living in Europe for the past 28 years. I left Adidas to do a PhD in Business in Barcelona and have been living in Spain for the past 24 years teaching business courses at CUNEF University in Madrid. I spent my summers in the US working with NSGA and USAPA to promote sport participation and decided to initiate pickleball in Spain and Europe where I lived most of the year. In 2012 I founded the Spanish Pickleball Association (SPA) and was president until 2018. I helped several other European countries introduce pickleball and was eventually elected president of the International Pickleball Federation (IFP).

Mike along with team members of the Spanish Pickleball Association
Mike along with team members of the Spanish Pickleball Association

How has the sport evolved in Spain?
Pickleball’s growth in Spain has been terrific. I remain in close contact with my former SPA team who now run the Association, and they tell me that membership is consistently increasing. Spain has sunny, warm weather and an amazing history with tennis and padel (a sport similar to platform tennis). With tennis legend Rafa Nadal and new star Carlos Alcaraz, racquet sports are part of the Spanish lifestyle. An increasing number of permanent pickleball courts is enabling Spaniards as well as travelers visiting Spain to play throughout the country. Growth of pickleball in the US continues to propel the growth overseas, and we’ve had several pickleball ambassadors and pros visit us to share their expertise, among them Jennifer Lucore, Marcin Rozpedski, Irina Tereschenko, Daniel Moore, Dave Weinbach, Jeff Shank and Kyle Yates.

Pickleball Clinic in Spain led by Pro Marcin Rozpedski
Pickleball Clinic in Spain led by Pro Marcin Rozpedski

What type of pickleball events and organizations are there in Spain?
We started the Spanish Open Pickleball Championships in 2015 which is held every September and this year will be part of the APP tour. It’s an international event that draws players from around the world. The SPA has done a great job expanding the sport by establishing regional associations. Every year there is an increasing number of places to play, trained coaches, clubs, tournaments, school programs, ambassadors and media coverage. The SPA has also initiated a program with the European Union called “Pickle4all” to promote pickleball as an inclusive sport in multiple European countries. It’s exciting the see the sport expand in so many ways since we began in 2012.

Medal winners of the Spanish Open Pickleball Championships
Medal winners of the Spanish Open Pickleball Championships

Tell us about the pickleball tours you’ve organized in Spain.
For years pickleball players from the US and Canada asked me to organize pickleball vacations in Spain so they could come and enjoy the incredible sites, history and culture of Spain, as well as play plenty of pickleball on the trip. It was a unique opportunity to combine two of my greatest passions – Spain and pickleball. In 2014 I began organizing tours in Madrid and Barcelona for players of all levels. People from all over the US and Canada have joined the tours and had an amazing experience.

Mike with travelers enjoying the sites on one of the Pickleball Spain Tours
Mike with travelers enjoying the sites on one of the Pickleball Spain Tours

Are people traveling to Spain again?
Fortunately Spain has fully reopened for travel and tourism is booming right now, so I’m excited to finally offer tours again and have two scheduled for September of 2022. Our next pickleball tour is in Southern Spain, the region called Andalusia. It’s a unique part of the world with great weather and incredible sites to explore. All of the tour details are available at www.pickleballtourspain.com.

Now that you’re no longer president of the association, how are you involved?
I talk regularly with Roberto Perez, the current SPA President, about opportunities they’re involved with and considering. Because I travel frequently between the US and Europe, I offer a unique perspective on pickleball’s development. I’ve learned that outside of North America, a key factor impacting pickleball’s growth is the availability of referees. Spain and Europe simply don’t have trained referees and this severely limits their ability to host sanctioned tournaments. This year I obtained my referee credentials from USAPA so I can start training referees in Spain and Europe. My trainer was Teri Carter, the USAPA Certified Referee Coordinator for the West, and she was amazing. Now I’m working with the SPA to develop a pool of referees with training and on-court experience, and I look forward to expanding that base in other European countries as well. I also completed the PPR instructor course this year to improve my coaching skills. I learned a lot from both training programs. It can be challenging to teach in different languages, but I’ve learned that sport is a universal language, and pickleball is a great platform for bringing different cultures together.

Mike receiving his referee credentials from trainer Teri Carter, USAPA Certified Referee Coordinator for the West
Mike receiving his referee credentials from trainer Teri Carter, USAPA Certified Referee Coordinator for the West

Meet The Pro: Jessie Irvine

Pickleball Pro, Jessie Irvine

Jessie Irvine is an incredible player who overcame adversity to excel at a game she loves. Having spent much of her early life focusing on tennis, when Jessie was on the verge of going pro she encountered a setback: Serving overhand caused intense pain due to missing cartilage in her joints. While this resulted in a change of focus, tennis’ loss has become pickleball’s gain as she’s soared through the ranks. Jessie is currently a top 5 player in all three divisions of women’s pro pickleball and kindly took the time to discuss more about her plans, practice routines and strategies. Read on to find out more.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

My pickleball story started at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019 and at the time I was teaching tennis mainly to kids and also playing POP Tennis. Around that time two separate people I knew, one from tennis and one from POP Tennis, told me I should try out pickleball. They said the sport was starting to become more professional with tournaments, money and players getting involved. The major aspect was that there were no overhanded serves, which is what cut my dream of playing professional tennis short. So I gave pickleball a shot and instantly fell in love with it. I was interested in competing at a high level and began playing seriously at the beginning of 2019. The rest is still being written!

What paddle do you use and why?

Right now I use the Engage Pickleball Pursuit MX. It is the grittier spin-off of the original Maverick which is what I first started using after only a couple months of playing pickleball. For me at the time the appeal was that it was one of the only few paddles on the market that had an extended grip handle. I felt that was an important feature to take advantage of my long arms and two-handed backhand, which is my favorite shot. 

Engage Pursuit MX Pickleball Paddle by Engage Pickleball

Shop Engage Pickleball

We love your style and signature space buns! Is this part of your pre-match routine?

Jessie Irvine with her Engage Pickleball Pursuit MX Paddle

Haha, I wouldn’t say my style and space buns are part of my pre-match routine. But I will say that I do like to have fun with my looks, and I enjoy being colorful and creative. My pre-match routine consists of getting up super early on match day (I’m a slow mover) so that I can stretch, get organized, have a little breakfast and get to the courts so I have at least 45 minutes to an hour to warm up before my match. I am definitely one of those players that likes putting in the reps and hitting a lot before my match. 

Where do you see this sport in 5 years? Any short-term and long-term goals?

I hope that in 5 years pickleball is in the Olympics. Realistically it may take longer than that, but it would be amazing if that were to happen sooner than later, because one of my goals would be to play pickleball in the Olympics. That would be a major dream come true. As for other goals, I just want to play the best I can for as long as I can. I want to have fun and enjoy it. I’m grateful to have been given a second chance to be competitive again, and as seriously as I am taking this opportunity, at the same time I don’t want to forget to have fun and enjoy the journey. 

What is your most memorable moment so far in pickleball?

I think my most memorable pickleball moment so far is winning pro doubles gold (gold in women’s doubles and mixed doubles) at the 2021 PPA Vegas Championships. It’s one of the biggest tournaments of the year and being able to compete on Championship Sunday then win gold in both events was a huge moment for me and one of my favorite pickleball memories. 

What can you tell us about playing mixed doubles and strategy? Hand signals? Stacking?

I love pickleball strategy as a whole. I think it’s my favorite part of the game and I always compare high-level pickleball to chess. The best part of pickleball is that the game/strategy is always changing and evolving, which keeps it exciting. I think the strategy does change between gender doubles and mixed doubles. In my opinion, I find the mixed doubles strategy to be a little more simplified in the sense that I feel like my job is to keep the ball away from the other guy since he is also looking to be aggressive; and then find the best way to utilize and set up my male partner so that he can use his strengths to take advantage of the points. Essentially, I try to hit unattackable shots until my male partner can attack. In gender doubles, the game plan isn’t always clear cut so the strategies can be more complex and change from one team to the next. I enjoy the strategies both kinds of doubles provide. 

Jessie Irvine and Mixed Doubles Partner Kyle Yates at a PPA Tournament 2022

What are you doing when you’re not playing pickleball?

When I’m not playing pickleball… I’m playing pickleball! I really do love and enjoy it. When I’m hanging out with friends we end up playing pickleball for a few hours, eat and hang out, then play for a couple more hours. When I’m not traveling for tournaments I’ll do that twice a week. On the other days, I’m either working, doing off-court training which includes recovery work as well. At the end of all of that, if I have any time or energy left, then I will relax and catch up on some Netflix shows. 


Be sure to check out the Engage Pickleball Pursuit MX if you feel like you could benefit from a stronger two-handed backhand, and keep a watch out Jessie’s impressive talent in future tournaments!

Meet the Pro: Lauren Stratman

Team Electrum pro Lauren Stratman has quickly risen to the highest ranks of pickleball, becoming one of the top ten female players in the APP and PPA tours. Her current world pickleball rankings are #7 in singles, #9 in doubles and #9 in mixed doubles. She and Team Electrum player Patrick Smith won bronze in the 2021 World Pickleball Championships.

We interviewed Lauren to get her thoughts on the new Electrum Pro II paddle she uses and helped develop in addition to her experience of the game overall.

Lauren Stratman with the Electrum Pro II

What is your pickleball story?

One of my tennis students convinced me I needed to try pickleball in 2018 so I started off playing in my hometown of Santa Barbara, CA. It wasn’t until I played my first tournament in 2019 that I was officially obsessed, and in 2020 I went pro. I actually quit my full-time tennis job to pursue pickleball which my dad thought was insane, but now he’s my biggest supporter!

Electrum Pro Pickleball Bag

How did you help in the design and make of the Electrum Pro II?

I think most players coming from other racquet sports have an affinity for elongated paddles due to their reach and power, so while I enjoyed the grittiness the Pro model has, I had always hoped for a longer version. One of my favorite shots is a two-handed backhand counter and that’s far easier to do with an extended handle. So both of those elements were added to the Pro II. 

What do you like about this paddle?

Having that little bit of extra length makes a huge difference in both singles and doubles. It’s still just as solid as the Pro and has the same great feel and touch, but it’s an all around improved version of the original. I also really like the stylish new yellow edge guard.

Electrum Pro II by Electrum Pickleball

What is the best pickleball tip/advice you ever received?

To have fun! I get stressed out when I take it too seriously. Having fun helps me play loose and to the best of my ability. 

What are your most notable pickleball wins / accomplishments?

Finals PPA Masters Women’s Doubles 

Finals PPA Arizona Grand Slam Mixed Doubles 

Finishing as the #1 female player on the APP tour in 2021 

Do you  have a favorite pickleball drill?

I like skinny singles and full court singles drills. My dad used to do 20-40 ball drills with me in tennis; now I like to do that with pickleball. I have someone feed me 20-40 balls at a time to get myself running side to side and add in some forward movement as well. It’s great for cardio and working on groundies on the run. 

What do you like to do when you’re not playing pickleball?

While I love traveling and have been to over 15 countries, these days I’m on the road for pickleball so often that in between events I’m usually just relaxing and recovering before the next one. I like to spend time off the court with my boyfriend Julian and my dog Baylee.


In addition to representing Electrum, Lauren is a Chicken N Pickle instructor who teaches at their locations across the U.S. If you’re near one of their complexes, be sure to check if she may be coming to a court near you!

Shop the Electrum Pro II if you’d like to see if Lauren’s signature paddle suits you.

Meet the Pro: Dayne Gingrich

Meet family man, coach and pickleball pro Dayne Gingrich. A sponsored player by Electrum Pickleball, Dayne has gained major success in the senior pro circuit. He is a strategist and positive thinking wizard who manages to make every shot look effortless. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dayne to find out more about him, and we can confidently say that this guy has something special. Here’s what he had to say. Enjoy!

Dayne Gingrich sponsored by Electrum Pickleball

Notable Wins:

2021 PPA Mesa – Gold Men’s Senior Pro 

2021 Red Rock PPA – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro

2021 PPA Newport Shootout – Gold Men’s Senior Pro 

2021 APP SoCal Classic – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro 

2021 PPA OC Cup – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro 

Dayne Gingrich plays with the Electrum Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

My stepdad brought me to a 4.5 open play weekend four years ago. I played the entire day without any breaks. I loved it but couldn’t walk for two weeks. Life got in the way and didn’t allow me to touch a paddle again for another year and half after my initial introduction. When I returned to the game, because of my tennis background, I was lucky to be playing 5.0 immediately, and the rest is history. 

What paddle do you use and why?

I currently use the Electrum Pro. It feels as close to a tennis racquet as there is on the market. It has a tremendous amount of spin and power while still allowing me the necessary control needed. The first day I demoed it, I instantly knew it was going to be a complete game changer. 

The Electrum Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle from Electrum is a premium paddle made with cutting-edge materials to ensure excellent durability and balanced construction. The face of the paddle is made with Toray T-700 carbon fiber, which is resistant to deformation and provides a strong surface for returning shots. This carbon fiber also provides a textured feel, which imparts spin onto pickleballs and makes it easier to control your shots.

We see you sharing strategy tips on your page, can you share with us some of your top tips?

The biggest “Pro Tip” I’ve been sharing lately with my students is the mandatory need for more controlled aggression in their game. With the evolution in paddle technology the game is speeding up, but there’s still a need to find control due to the added spin. If players don’t look for more opportunities to attack, they’ll GET attacked, and sooner than they may expect. The initiator in today’s game has the advantage, unlike in past years, again, due to the power of the latest paddles. As aggressors we can obtain information (who we’re attacking, when, where, and our opponents’ response), which gives us a mathematical edge in the long term. The defenders will always be reacting and guessing. Of course, there are a couple players currently on tour who have faster counterattacking hand speed than the initiator’s attacks, but they are a tiny minority. Learn to attack from below the net, out of the air, off the bounce, and on both your FH and BH. 

Another tip I focus on is transition play. This area, unless given a high and slow meatball, is for resetting. As aggressive as the game is becoming, the court is still small, which means there isn’t enough room to power through players from the transition area (during doubles play). Make a habit of slowing down, keeping your feet still, low and wide while executing resets. The paddle also needs to be quiet, with a light grip pressure, absorbing the ball into the body, while maintaining a mental vision of a “baby arc” that softly brushes a penny off the top of the net. 

What are your favorite drills?

My favorite drills are anything straight ahead with an opponent. I also like adding a ball machine feeding crosscourt dinks so I can work on the 1-2 attack/finish part of my game. All the fast action happens straight against the player in front of us and through the middle of that player, so learning how to improve this part of our game is a necessity for long-term growth. I rarely practice crosscourt dinks anymore, as I’ve found straight ahead dinks have improved my crosscourt dinks 100x. 

What does your Mental Performance Coaching help pickleball players with?

Mental Performance is every player’s secret sauce. Unfortunately, only a small percentage understand or want to commit to this part of their game. Those that do, however, create a massive amount of improvement, which leads to a disproportionate level of confidence against their competition. The first thing we establish together (as coach and student) is their long-term vision. Micro day-to-day goals are irrelevant without first establishing a detailed, emotionally connected vision they’ll eventually begin working towards. Once this vision has been declared, written down and visualized, we start our work. Everyone comes with unique gifts, motivations and triggers, so there isn’t a stock program, but the majority of athletes I work with have to create a new, heightened state of belief. I want them to design an inner confidence that doesn’t give in to difficulty, pain, frustration or self doubt. While everyone’s path is different, patience and self belief will always play a fundamental role in their blueprint. 

What do you think is the most important shot in pickleball?

There are so many important shots in pickleball and I think the level of each player will determine which one is the most important for them. For the beginner, I believe that learning soft hands, feel and touch should be a staple in their process. Once we shift into intermediate and advanced, where most players can make the majority of their 3rds, it’s a tie between the transition reset and the aggressive kitchen attack. The reason I call it a tie is because it doesn’t matter how good your resets are if you don’t have an offensive game once you make it to the line. But it also doesn’t matter how good your kitchen attacks are if you can’t get to the kitchen to show them off. Once we move into a regular advanced level of play, the ability to seamlessly shift from a fast kitchen fire fight right into a reset that neutralizes that fight may be the single most difficult shot in all of pickleball. 

What are some of your short term and long term pickleball goals?

My goal as a player is to never get out-worked by another player, pro or senior pro. The results after I control my daily work ethic and commitment to continuously improve aren’t in my control. I have huge long-term goals I’ve set for myself, but they will only come to life if I focus on my preparation and recovery, mentally, physically and emotionally. As a coach, I’m currently working on a ginormous project that can’t yet be announced, but when it becomes a reality, it will change the landscape of how pickleball is taught and learned. I’m also FINALLY starting to write my book. This has been in the works for too long, but I believe will be worth the wait. In the meantime, while these projects are being put together, I will continue giving away a ridiculous amount of free content online with the singular focus of adding value to as many players as possible. 

What are you doing when you are not playing pickleball?

When I’m not playing pickleball, I’m constantly falling head-over-heels in love with my wife every day. She’s my angel and the miracle that makes it all possible for us, as a family. Without her push to always be better and think bigger, while simultaneously, keeping me humble and grounded, our family’s long term vision wouldn’t be what it is. I’m also a girl-dad, through and through. My poor daughter is probably so sick of me telling her much she’s loved, appreciated, and how proud her mom and dad are of her. Being a great player is important, evolving as a coach is important, but nothing is bigger or has more meaning than my family. 


If you’d like to read more from Dayne and stay tuned for his future projects, be sure to check out his website. To check out his paddle of choice take a look at the Electrum Pro and see if it might be a fit for you.

TechTalk with Oneshot Pickleball: Introducing the Flipshot

Introducing the Flipshot by Oneshot Pickleball

Why choose between touch and power when you can have it all? After years of players having to select either a fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle, Oneshot is now offering both materials in a single design. Taking inspiration from table tennis paddles which often have dual surfaces, the Flipshot provides incredible versatility and different levels of responsiveness depending on which side of the face you use. This innovative style is fully approved by USA Pickleball and ready to offer new tricks with a flip of the wrist.

Read more to hear what Oneshot has to say about this paddle’s greatest benefits.

Can you tell us what is innovative and different about the Flipshot Paddle?

In this model we incorporated two completely different materials (fiberglass & carbon fiber) on each surface of the paddle in order to create a unique feel on each side. The blue side will feel much softer, consequently providing more control, while the red side will feel solid to provide more power. 

When did the idea strike for this paddle and why?

The idea started about a year ago when we were talking about how much we like our forehand or backhand more than the other. That’s where we had that lightbulb moment and considered incorporating two different surfaces within the same paddle to compensate for a weak backhand or forehand.

There have been few attempts by others at this type of technology in the past. Why do you think pickleball is ready for it now?

Now more than ever the sport has been attracting athletes from other paddle and racquet sports. These players have different styles and consequently need products that adapt to their needs, which makes perfect sense for us. 

What type of player will enjoy this paddle?

Any player that wants to mix it up and try something unique.

Which side would you advise players to use on their forehand or backhand?

That’s the fun part about this paddle: There is no right or wrong. Just use each side to compensate for a weakness or double up on a strength!

What’s next for Oneshot in terms of technology or innovations?

We will keep that a secret for now, but we can share that we have multiple initiatives going on that will take the industry by surprise. We have models launching as early as this year and as late as 2024.


Read more about the Flipshot’s specs to see if it might be the right match for you, and let us know if there are any other unusual paddle styles you might like to see in the future.

Minto US OPEN Medal-Winning Paddles 2022

With the dust still settling from the Minto US OPEN Championships, many picklers are eager to check out what gear the pros used to claim their victories. Owning the same paddles won’t immediately take someone from average to 4.0, but knowing your equipment has been tried and tested by some of the best players in the world does provide extra certainty that your skill development is on the right path. We’ve listed the Minto US OPEN winners and their paddles of choice here so you can determine which option might complement your play style.

Catherine Parenteau – Tempest Reign Pro from Paddletek

Catherine Parenteau at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Tempest Reign Pro Graphite Paddle from Paddletek

Catherine Parenteau’s winning streak continues with gold in Women’s Singles and Doubles with partner Lea Jansen. The Tempest Reign Pro’s elongated shape adds even greater reach to the control of Paddletek’s beloved Wave Pro thick core.

Simone Jardim – Prince Response Pro Composite from Prince

Simone Jardim at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Response Pro Composite Pickleball Paddle by Prince

Simone Jardim and partner Ben Johns won another gold in Mixed Doubles. The Prince Response Pro Composite paddle was the first paddle with a rounded shape, well known for its huge sweet spot.

Jennifer Dawson – ProKennex Ovation Flight by ProKennex

Jennifer Dawson at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Kinetic Ovation Flight Paddle by ProKennex

Jennifer Dawson dominates the Senior Pros with gold in Sr. Mixed Doubles with Dayne Gingrich and in Sr. Women’s Doubles with Cammy MacGregor. The ProKennex Kinetic Core Technology reduces vibration and impact to help prevent injury, and the innovative oval shape is all sweet spot.

Cammy MacGregor – Selkirk S2 AMPED by Selkirk Sport

Cammy MacGregor at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the AMPED S2 X5 FiberFlex Paddle by Selkirk Sport

Cammy MacGregor and long time partner Jennifer Dawson won another gold in Senior Pro Doubles. With Selkirk’s largest sweet spot, the AMPED S2 combines a thicker core with softer face for a perfect combination of control and power.

Dave Weinbach – Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro by Paddletek

Dave Weinbach at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Tempest Wave Pro Graphite Paddle by Paddletek

Dave Weinbach (the “Badger”) and partner Dayne Gingrich won gold in Sr. Doubles. Paddletek’s Tempest Wave Pro delivers deliciously soft play with a thicker core for increased control and touch.

Collin Johns – Electrum Model E Graphite by Electrum

Collin Johns at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Electrum Model E Graphite Pickleball Paddle by Electrum

Collin Johns and brother Ben Johns won another gold in Men’s Doubles. The Electrum Model E combines the Electrum Pro’s premium raw carbon fiber face and textured finish with a longer shape for even more reach and power.

Dayne Gingrich – Electrum Pro Graphite by Electrum

Dayne Gingrich at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Electrum Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle by Electrum

Dayne Gingrich had a great run, taking gold in Sr. Mixed Doubles with Jennifer Dawson and in Sr. Pro Doubles with Dave Weinbach. The Electrum Pro’s raw carbon fiber face, wide surface and textured finish make it a favorite for players who like to spin the ball.

Lea Jansen – Franklin Ben Johns Signature Model by Franklin

Lea Jansen at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Ben Johns Signature Pickleball Paddle by Franklin

Lea Jansen added to her recent wins taking gold in Women’s Doubles with partner Catherine Parenteau. Franklin’s Signature paddle features Max Grit technology for precise controlled play and plenty of spin.

Mattias Johansson – Engage Pursuit EX by Engage Pickleball

Mattias Johansson at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Pursuit EX Graphite Paddle by Engage

Mattias Johansson won gold in Sr. Pro Singles. The Engage Pursuit EX combines a powerful core with a high touch graphite face for excellent control.

Beth Bellamy – ProXR Advantage Blackout Series 16mm by ProXR

Beth Bellamy at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the Advantage Blackout Series 16 Paddle by ProXR

Beth Bellamy won gold in Sr. Pro Singles. The ProXR Advantage Blackout Series 16 delivers forgiving touch and plenty of power with its composite face. The angled handle helps with spin and quicker reloads.

Ben Johns – JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16 Graphite by JOOLA

Ben Johns at the 2022 Minto US OPEN with the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16 Graphite Paddle by JOOLA Pickleball

Ben was the only player at this year’s US OPEN to win a triple crown (again) taking gold in all events: Singles, Doubles with brother Collin Johns, and Mixed Doubles with Simone Jardim. Ben’s new paddle, the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16 Graphite, combines control and responsiveness with extra length for easy court coverage and follow-through.

Have you tried any of the paddles above and found they made a big difference in your game? Let us know in the comments. We are always happy to help customers find out which style may suit them best, so feel free to give us a call if you need help making a selection.

Bruce Yeung Photographer and Videographer

Kudos to our Pickleball Central photographer Bruce Yeung for all these awesome US OPEN action photos. Give him a follow on Instagram and Facebook at @yeungphotography

What Kind of Tape Can You Put on Pickleball Paddles & Why Should You?

Get your paddle ready for action

You may have heard of “edge tape”, “lead tape” or “grip tape”, but if some of these terms or products have you confused, we’ve explained the differences and why players choose these different types of tape to customize their paddles.

How is Lead Tape Used?

Lead tape provides an easy and inexpensive way to add weight to your paddle and customize the balance point of your paddle so that it feels exactly how you want it. Adding weight can do three things: provide more power and swing speed, change the balance (making it more head heavy or handle heavy), and add stability.

Tourna Pickleball Lead Tape is a self-adhesive lead tape that comes in a 72” long x ¼” wide roll. To use it you simply remove the paper backing and apply the tape to the edge of your paddle. Lead tape is easy to remove, so you can easily experiment with different placement and amounts to create the weight, balance and stability that you prefer.

Tourna Pickleball Lead Tape

Our video demonstrates how to add lead tape to your paddle to achieve more power, change the balance, and increase stability.


Why Use Edge Tape?

Edge tape is used to provide extra protection to the outer edge of your paddle, to minimize scratches and maintain structural integrity. Placed along the paddle’s edge, edge tape can help extend the life of your paddle, without adding much extra weight.

If you use lead tape to add weight to your paddle, edge tape can also be used (instead of electrical tape) to cover and secure the lead tape.

Many players also enjoy using edge tape simply to customize the look of their paddles with different colors. Some might coordinate the same color of edge tape to match their grip color, or go for different colors to create an even more bold look.

PROLITE Edge Tape Armor comes in a choice of three colors:  black, red or white. Each 3-pack contains three strips that are 31.5” long and ½” wide, making an ideal size for most paddles that have a ½” core thickness.

PROLITE Sports Edge Tape Armor
PROLITE Sports Edge Tape Armor – More colors available at Pickleball Central

Gearbox Protective Bumper Tape 3-pack comes in black or white and two thickness options: 20mm or 30mm, so you can select the width that best fits your paddle’s core thickness.

Gearbox Protective Bumper Tape
Gearbox Protective Bumper Tape

ProKennex Training Tape has options designed specifically for both the ProSpeed and Ovation paddles, available in black.

ProKennex Training Tape
ProKennex Training Tape


What About Grips and Overgrips…Is That Tape Too?

Since some players refer to paddle grips and overgrips as “grip tape” this warrants clarification. Some people use these terms interchangeably, but there are differences it’s important to understand. Grips are designed to cover the core of your paddle and are made of thick materials, intended to entirely replace the grip your paddle game with.

Overgrips are designed to be put on top of your paddle’s grip. Overgrips are typically made of thinner material than grips, and are used to add extra tackiness, moisture absorption and comfort to your grip without adding much weight or changing it’s shape or size.

Customize your overgrip to stand out with your paddle

Grips and overgrips come in a wide assortment of styles and colors, adding another way to customize the feel of your paddle as well as it’s style and look.

A few of our best-selling grips and overgrips include:

PROLITE No-Slip Thin Grip – available in seven colors, provides superior handling with minimal padding.

GAMMA Honeycomb Cushion Pickleball Grip – perforated grip that helps wick moisture while providing a tacky feel, available in four colors.

HEAD Xtreme Soft Pickleball Over Grip – a thinner grip with a soft yet tacky feel, the large perforations provide optimal moisture absorption. Available in six colors.

In our video, pro player Glen Peterson demonstrates how to regrip a paddle and how to add an overgrip.

See all thirty of our grips and overgrips here.

TechTalk with Gearbox Pickleball: Technology-Forward Paddle Manufacturer

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.

What are the paddles in this series?

CX11: Gearbox CX11E Control Pickleball Paddle, Gearbox CX11E Power Pickleball Paddle, Gearbox CX11Q Control Pickleball Paddle, Gearbox CX11Q Power Pickleball Paddle

CX14: Gearbox CX14E Pickleball Paddle, Gearbox CX14H Pickleball Paddle

Gearbox Pickleball Paddles CX14

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. 

CX14 Elongated Pickleball Paddle by Gearbox Pickleball

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.

TechTalk with HEAD Pickleball: New Radical Series

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.

HEAD Pickleball Releases Four New Paddles in Their Radical Series

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.

Technical Specs for the HEAD Radical Tour Paddle

Radical Tour CO
The Radical Tour CO is designed with a composite hitting surface, for increased power on passing shots and put-aways.

Technical Specs for the HEAD Radical Tour CO Paddle

Radical Pro

The Radical Pro is the ultimate power paddle, but still has all the comfort needed due to the Comfort Grip System’s vibration dampening.

Radical Elite

The Radical Elite provides a great value for the beginning/intermediate player, featuring HEAD’s Ergo Grip for enhanced feel upon impact.

Technical Specs for the HEAD Radical Elite Paddle

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.

2022 HEAD Men’s Revolt Pro 4.0

Shop Men’s Revolt Pro 4.0 – More Colors Available

2022 HEAD Women’s Revolt Pro 4.0

Shop Women’s Revolt Pro 4.0

Sprint Pro 3.5
Medium width, performance fit, and lightweight – stability with speed.

2022 HEAD Men’s Sprint Pro 3.5

Shop Men’s Sprint Pro 3.5 – More Colors Available

2022 HEAD Women’s Sprint Pro 3.5

Shop Women’s Sprint Pro 3.5 – More Colors Available

Revolt EVO 2.0
Widest fit, for the casual player seeking the most comfort (coming later in 2022).

Shop all HEAD Pickleball

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 the Pro: Brandon Nsekpong

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.

Throwback photo of Brandon winning a Ping Pong trophy
Throwback photo of Brandon playing basketball

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.

Brandon Nsekpong joins the ProXR Pickleball Team

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.

See all ProXR Paddles at Pickleball Central.

Brandon playing with ProXR Advantage Blackout series paddle

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.

Brandon at the Del Ray APP Tournament in March 2022

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.

Meet Pro pickleball player Brandon Nsekpong. Learn about his partnership with ProXR, the paddle he plays with, his best pickleball practice tip and more!

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.