Are You A Pro? Figuring Out Illegal Pickleball Paddles!


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Hello professionals!! Are you going to participate in any USAPA approved pickleball tournament? If yes, then this article addresses your kind attention.

Do you have any idea about illegal pickleball paddles?

USAPA (an acronym for USA Pickleball Association) approved tournament requires you to play with the “approved” paddles. Other than “approved” paddles, the rest are termed as prohibited or illegal paddles. The approval depends on various standards.

It’s your call to find the best and use the just.

Defining Illegal Pickleball Paddles

A paddle involves so many features to look for that the players get confused in searching the finest. If there is no thumb rule for using a paddle, people start coming with various types of paddles that may create chaos.

Here USAPA comes in to begin the evaluation process under few parameters. This calls for a test and approval for the paddles later on. Henceforth, the USAPA website publishes the updated list of approved paddles on a regular basis.

Some Legal Paddles

Out of several legal paddles, we list below a few paddles those successfully follow the guidelines of USAPA:

  • Amazin’ Aces Signature Paddle
Amazin' Aces Signature Paddle

Beginner to advanced- players of all levels can get the feel of this paddle. High performance and superior quality are the keys of this USAPA approved paddle. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • XS XSPAK Graphite Paddle
XS XSPAK Graphite Paddle

If you are looking for optimal balance between power and control, XSPAK Graphite would be the right choice. This USAPA approved paddle is designed with honeycomb polymer core. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Selkirk’s Amped
Selkirk Amped Paddle

Selkirk Amped is used by over 200 sponsored professionals and ranked players worldwide. The state-of-the-art thicker X5 polypropylene core enhances power and control. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Selkirk Latitude Widebody Composite Paddle 
Selkirk Latitude Widebody Composite Paddle

Having widest face, the Selkirk Latitude is engineered by PolyFlex composite surface. This exclusive surface is capable of neutralizing spin from the rivals. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Amazin’ Aces Cambria
Amazin' Aces Cambria

One of the most popular USAPA approved legal paddles is Amazin’ Cambria. A blend of quality craftsmanship, superior performance and high-end comfort makes this piece of art players’ number one choice. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Upstreet Graphite Paddle
Upstreet Graphite Paddle

A consistent balance between power and control is the key to success that you can get by using Upstreet Graphite. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Selkirk Prime Epic Paddle
Selkirk Prime Epic paddle

Traditional paddle shape with large sweet spot includes the Epic in the professionals’ top picks. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

Franklin Sports Paddle is another USAPA approved paddle in our picks.

There are many other legal paddles which are approved for tournament play. It is mentionable here that USAPA strictly follows the rules of paddle usage in various tournaments.

Check the USAPA website for the details of the Approved Paddle List (https://equipment.usapa.org/paddle-list/).

The ‘Fail-Rated’ Paddles

The paddles those fail to get a positive nod from the USAPA are listed below:

  • Amazin’ Aces Classic Wood
Amazin' Aces Classic Wood

Durable 7-ply wood construction and comfortable cushion grip on the handle make this paddle beginners’ ultimate choice. The paddle does not get approval from USAPA for tournament play. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Amazin’ Aces Classic Graphite
Amazin’ Aces Classic Graphite

This paddle is a blend of superior-grade materials and cutting-edge technology. This lightweight piece of art is featured with polymer core not having any USAPA approval. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Sports Adventure’s Graphite Paddle
Sports Adventure’s Graphite Paddle

Adventure’s Graphite racket provides responsive and strong surface with softer polymer honeycomb core. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Diller Pickleball Paddle
Diller Pickleball Paddle

Diller comes with safety wrist strap and perforated cushion grip. Durable 7-ply alternating grain hardwood makes the paddle unique. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

  • Upstreet Wood Paddle
Upstreet Wood Paddle

The 7 ply maplewood constructed Upstreet Wood Paddle is designed with a high-end cushioned grip. This feature is truly common in expensive composite paddles. (Check Amazon for detailed Review & Price)

An innumerable number of paddles are found in the marketplace termed as “illegal” or “not approved”. Mostly, wood paddles are included in this list. The beginners and kids usually go for buying this type of low-priced paddles for recreational purpose.

Features That Make The Difference

Different attributes like paddle surface size, grip length, surface materials, roughness etc. require certain standards and guidelines to follow. A detail overview of paddles specifications is given below:

Material

IFP (International Federation of Pickleball) website includes “Paddle Material Specification” document that describes the requirement needed to produce paddles. The materials deemed safe and not prohibited according to rule book can be used in making paddles.

Relatively rigid and non-compressible materials ensure a unique combination to get the green signal from USAPA.

To assess the rigidity and compressibility, a deflection test will be a great option to go through. The deflection test measures the “bouncing back” reflex after the collision of the ball and bat. It is called the trampoline effect.

Paddle manufacturers sometimes use foam core that initially meets the USAPA deflection test. Over time the quality of the foam core degrades and the paddle lacks USAPA standard specifications. Hence, foam-core paddles are illegal.

A common practice in making an expensive paddle is to use the honeycomb aramid core which is an aerospace fiber. Another material is a honeycomb polymer. Lightweight and strength are the major features of these two materials.

Surface

Holes, dents, indentations on the paddle surface area may generate excessive spin. Pickleball paddles must meet the requirement of a roughness test to get the USAPA approval.

Starrett SR160 Surface Roughness Tester is used to determine the roughness of the paddle surface. You can still find few spin-helpful paddles, all of those are not necessarily USAPA approved.

Paint, Reflection, Depiction- all of these criteria should be strictly maintained to be USAPA approved paddle. The manufacturer may paint the surface with the appropriate label and image.

Adversely reflective paddle surface may cause vision problem to the opposition players on the court. A reflection test by the USAPA can mitigate this difficulty.

Size and Weight

Considering the length and width, the surface area of 24 inches (60.96 cm) is the maximum a paddle can have to be legal by the rule. This measurement includes edge guard and butt cap. Other than this, the paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm).

Though most of the paddles weigh between 7.5 and 8.5 ounces, there is no hard and fast rule for weight and thickness of the paddle.

Alterations

Modification, adjustment, adaptation to some extent are allowed provided that these all adhere to all specifications mentioned in the rule book.

Few players use edge guards to protect the paddles. The lead tape usage makes the paddle a bit heavier. The grip size and wrap can be changed to make the best fit for you.

Decals and pen markings on the paddle surface should not affect the surface roughness. But manufacturers can use these as long as they do not have an impact on generating spin when the ball hits your paddle.

Unlawful Surface Features and Mechanical Features

There are few features that will certainly make the paddle illegal to the USAPA. Among these anti-skid paint, texture particles and rubber substances are mentionable that may increase spin.

Sandpapers, rubber, synthetic rubber components and spring elements are also prohibited. Any removable parts other than paddle grip adjustment and lead tape on paddle edge are also banned to use in USAPA approved tournaments.

However, by law, USAPA does not support to take electronic, electrical and any kind of mechanical component.

Model Name and Number

A company may have different brands with unique characteristics like signature core material, surface design and other notable features. Out of these different brands, a specific brand accounts for a unique model name and number. The manufacturer is bound to clearly mention these on the paddle surface.

Homemade Paddles

Say “No” to homemade paddles. That’s a very specific and clear observation by USAPA against the homemade paddles.

USAPA: Rejection Begins Here!

USAPA, the authoritative body of Pickleball, Board of Directors follow the recommendation of the Equipment Evaluation Committee (EEC). This review body consists of two personnel having engineering backgrounds and diverse experience in sports. 

EEC assesses several prototypes of manufacturers under USAPA standards and guideline of the rule book. Violation of the same may lead to a penalty.

By the way, without altering the spirit of the game, the consistent and honest effort of the committee is truly admirable.

Let’s watch a video on this topic:

Closing Remark

You are a pro and you have the vision to play the official tournaments. So, be patient and ignore the illegal pickleball paddles.

You may find lucrative and cheap illegal paddles in the marketplace. But, be judgmental in choosing the best for you and use the legal one.

Raise your voice for the “Pass”.

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