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Pickleball has been played for several decades. Since its propulsion to fame by Lord Cadwallon of Wales in the late 10th century, it has attracted the interest of many, both professionally and for recreation.
Core to the game is the paddle. This is because without it, it is impossible to play the game.
Over the years, the pickleball paddles have undergone redesign and re-engineering to give you the best possible equipment for playing.
The introduction of the game to competitive sports has further increased investment in the design of paddles.
This is because players like you prefer to look for the most comfortable paddle that can support you to win a match or tournament.
While selecting best pickleball paddles, majority of players primarily focus on the shape, grip and weight.
One key element that keeps on being overlooked is the type of material the pickleball paddle core is made of.
Pickleball paddle cores have direct influence on the outcome of a match.
This article will demonstrate to you how the material used to make a pickleball paddle core could greatly influence the outcome of a match.
What material is a pickleball paddle core made of?
There are different pickleball paddles currently available in the market.
Most of these vary in size, structure and most important, the type of material used in making the core.
Some of the common materials used to make the paddle cores have been reviewed below.
Wood Core Paddles
These were first used when the game was invented.
Surprisingly, you will notice that have stood the test of time as they have never been phased out by more technologically advanced paddles.
The whole core structure is made up of uniform multiple plywood.
This makes them heavier than other core structures by 25% to 75% depending on the type of core you compare it with.
The weight the core adds on the paddle greatly affects how well you can use the paddle.
This is because while weight is considered good for force in play, it offers resistance to grip and maneuverability of the paddle.
You will hence hit the ball hard quite easily but find it harder to control direction of play.
You will find that wooden core paddles are the cheapest in the market.
This is because very little technology is involved in the construction. Its affordability makes it common among beginners.
This is because most beginners want to learn and enjoy the game without having to heavily invest in equipment.
The wooden core makes it very durable hence you save up on recurrent expenditure.
You will encounter most of them in learning institutions and pickleball beginner programs.
Nomex Honeycomb Core Paddle
These are the most common pickleball paddles you will find in use among those made of composite material.
Nomex is a polymer found in the same class as nylon.
It is commonly used in the aerospace, aviation and manufacturing industries.
This is because it is durable, light in weight and very flexible.
Some common items made of nomex are race car suits, military flight suits and firefighter jackets, among other applications.
If you happen to have a look at the core of the paddles, you will notice they mimic the design of a typical honeycomb.
The cells are however smaller and denser than those of an actual honeycomb.
This feature creates a lot of power to the paddle, enabling you to take very powerful shots.
The density of the honeycombs couple with the strength and light weight nature of the paddle contributes to this power.
You are therefore able to take very powerful shots without having to exert a lot of force to the paddle or take a wide swing.
The downside of having that much power is the lack of control.
Fast shots coming your way will easily bounce off your paddle without much effort.
This makes controlling the direction and precision of such shots quite difficult to achieve.
Nomex paddles are also known to be very loud with a high popping sound when used in playing.
You are advised to avoid them if loud irks irritate you or make you lose concentration when playing.
The strength and stiff nature of nomex makes these paddles highly durable.
Science dictates that normex does not absorb a lot of energy like the other polymers.
It instead bounces off the energy. This helps in keeping the core structure intact, hence strong and durable.
These paddles will serve you well if you are a “power” player.
They feel solid and powerful hence enabling you take very powerful shots.
This works quite well if you are an offensive player.
However, their lack of control and less precision makes them not ideal for beginners.
Aluminum Core Paddles
As much as paddle cores made of aluminum are available in the market, they are not as common or popular as wooden, polymer or nomex core paddles.
Aluminum is a very light weight element.
Paddle cores made of them take the shape of small honeycombs with hexagonal walls made of ultra-thin aluminum.
Its use in pickleball paddle cores produces light weight paddles that offer considerably more grip and control.
They equally don’t cost as much compared to other composite core paddles in the market.
Aluminum paddles are also known to be relatively loud.
However, the intensity of the noise they produce is considerably less than that of a nomex paddle.
The light-weight nature of the core gives these paddles a great disadvantage when it comes to power.
In pickleball, you will often hear people say “the more the weight, the more power” you have on your paddle.
When using paddles with aluminum cores, you will notice a great difference in energy you use to exert force just to compensate for the lack of power.
However, there is a trade-off between power and control.
Aluminum core paddles have much more control.
This means you can structure your game to play much closer to the net than other players using paddles of different cores.
This is because you have so much control over where the ball lands and the direction it goes hence you can use this to your advantage.
Grip and control of the paddle also feels better with an aluminum core paddle.
Due to their light weight, the center of gravity of the paddle is concentrated towards the handle of the paddle.
This offers more maneuverability of the paddle hence increasing your precision when striking or bouncing back the ball.
Despite the described pros and cons, you are not advised to considerably use the aluminum core paddles.
The trade-off between power and control is so big than an aggressive player using any other type of core paddle will most likely overwhelm you with powerful shots.
You are better placed using a heavier paddle for competitive or high intensity recreational playing.
However, their feather weight nature make them ideal for children or people having arm or wrist limitations, but would like to play.
You can also use it to teach control and precision better, especially when engaging new players.
Polymer Core Paddles
This is the most recent technology used in making core paddles.
Polymers are in the same family of compounds as polythene and other plastics.
They are made from structured compounds of carbon elements.
Their features have made them preferable over their predecessors in the market.
You are likely to encounter more of polymer core paddles in the future as they are gaining popularity among players by the day.
Carbon compounds are known to be strong, durable, light and flexible.
These properties make manufacturers move towards using them in developing these cores.
The polymer core seems to address most of the challenges previously reported, acting as a merged product of nomex and aluminum cores.
The polymer core is structured like a honeycomb.
The carbon in the polymer therefore provides strength to the core while keeping its weight down.
The polymer core is relatively heavy and produces power.
At the same time, it is equally soft and flexible, offering some level of control and precision.
During a strike, the polymer absorbs some of the energy, making the paddle easy to control and strike the ball with precision.
The absorption also reduces the noise produced considerably.
Use of carbon compounds also make the polymer core strong and durable.
However, polymer core paddles are the most expensive you can find in the market.
Most people argue that the high price could be demand driven. Its power however can’t still compare to that of a nomex core paddle.
The polymer core provides for power, control and precision. It seems like the ideal package; a combination of all three cores in one product.
This does not however automatically make it your go to product. People have different playing styles.
These also play into their own personal strengths and weaknesses; be it in force of strike, paddle control or strike precision.
You should therefore go for a paddle that suits your method of play and compliments your strengths and weaknesses.