What other paddles are REALLY made of

What other paddles are REALLY made of

If you have gone shopping for a pickleball paddle you have inevitably heard of Carbon Fiber paddles, Graphite Paddles, Fiberglass Paddles and more. The market is full of the names of high-tech materials - but have you ever wondered what makes a carbon fiber paddle a carbon fiber paddle? It might be less than you think.

Most paddles on the market today are made the same way - by cutting out a paddle shape from a sheet of polypropylene (AKA PLASTIC) and then adhering a really fancy sticker to the surface of the polypropylene on either side made out of any of the materials listed above.

Many paddles then have a hard plastic edgegaurd wrapped around the perimeter to hold the paddle together and conceal the edges of the polypropylene core. In lieux of the edgegaurd, some manufactures instead use a different high energy intensive  manufacturing process to encapsulate the entire paddle in the surface material, injecting a plastic foam between the polypropylene and the surface material around the edge.

Most manufacturers then add pieces of plastic to the faces of the handle to create the handle shape, and then wrap the handles in a synthetic grip that is, you guessed it, plastic based.

Without getting into the nitty gritty, lets talk about what carbon fiber is exactly. In essence, carbon fiber starts as plastic fibers which are heated to carbonize them, then coated in another kind of plastic to protect them, and then woven together and often coated in more plastic to bond them. Or in other words, carbon fiber is very fancy plastic.

So let's take the typical Pickleball Paddle being advertised as a carbon fiber paddle. First, the bulk of the weight and volume of the paddle is actually expanded polypropylene, not carbon fiber. So, mostly plastic. The grip and edge guards are also plastic. And the thin sheets of carbon fiber that are on the paddle are... also plastic. 

For a great illustration of just how much plastic a carbon fiber paddle is made out of, check out this video of Shea Underwood tearing apart four different pickleball paddles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig4P1EF-PMA

So why do we call them carbon fiber paddles when in reality they are plastic paddles? I don't know. Maybe the manufacturers don't think people will pay over $200 for a piece of equipment made out of a material that is more often in the toy aisle than the sporting goods aisle.  



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