Pickleball is one of America’s most popular games and has been around for nearly half a century. Over the years, as the game evolved, the pickleball paddle underwent a major transformation from a makeshift ping pong paddle to a modern-day paddle with exquisite design and top-notch features.
Read on to learn about the pickleball paddles used back in the day and how they have transitioned to the compact paddles we use today.
A Glance at the History of Pickleball
You would be surprised to discover that pickleball came into existence through sheer coincidence. As the story goes, the founder of the game; Joel Pritchard was at his summer home with his friend Bill Bell on Bainbridge Island, Washington. When they saw that their kids were bored and idle, they challenged them to create a game of their own.
After experimenting for some time, the adults came up with a game on their deserted badminton court using a lowered badminton net and table tennis rackets. They devised a set of rules and had a splendid time playing their self-made game, which came to be known as pickleball, as it combined elements of various games.
Soon the game gained popularity and spread to other states. The massive growth in pickleball called for newer and better paddles. And so as time passed, innovators came up with modified paddles that improved the gaming style and playability.
The First Pickleball Paddle: Ping-Pong Paddle
Many people believe that the first paddle was a wooden one. However, this is far from the truth, as the first paddle was in fact a slightly modified ping-pong paddle (though ping-pong paddles are also made of wood).
When Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell’s started playing pickleball for the first time, they improvised and used ping-pong paddles. Their sole purpose while playing was to have some good family time. They found out that the ping pong paddle was not quite suitable for the game as it wasn’t very durable and broke down, often disrupting their game.
So the adults headed to the nearby shed to create a wooden paddle but soon ended up inviting their friend McCallum, who they thought would be perfect for the job. And this is how the initial ping pong paddle used for pickleball was quickly replaced with a wooden pickleball paddle.
The Era Of Wooden Pickleball Paddles
Barney McCallum, who was a friend of Joel Pritchard, is credited with inventing the first wooden pickleball paddle. Keeping in mind the need for a strong and durable paddle, he fashioned various paddle shapes out of plywood using a hand saw.
The first paddle he created was given the name of McCallum 1 or M1. Soon enough, M1 was modified, and an improved version came into existence called M2.
M2 grew immensely popular among players, and nowadays, paddles are styled to resemble the M2 paddle. McCallum was flooded with requests from players for more paddles, and this is how the pickleball paddle business kicked off.
The improved wooden paddles offered a better playing experience and stayed around for 20-25 years. Despite the power and durability of wooden paddles, players felt they were disproportionately heavy compared to the light, perforated pickleball. This gave way to the creation of composite pickleball paddles.
Though wooden paddles are still used today, there are better options. You can read our article to see if wooden pickleball paddles are good for you.
The Birth Of Composite Pickleball Paddles
The first composite pickleball paddle was invented by Arlen Paranto in 1984 using Boeing airplane floor paneling material. These paddles were lightweight and had a larger sweet spot than wooden paddles.
Arlen Paranto came to the idea of making composite paddles because his son Steve Paranto lost several matches to the same opponent and complained that the wooden paddles weighing 13 ounces were too heavy to handle.
Arlen Paranto improved the paddle with edge guard technology and handle grips, setting the stage for modern-day paddles. Soon enough, composite paddles gained tremendous popularity, and the company Pro Lite was born. Arlen Paranto made around 1000 paddles before selling off the company.
The Rise of Modern Graphite Pickleball Paddles
With newer innovations in pickleball paddle technology, various manufacturers began the quest to produce better and improved paddles. Companies began experimenting with different features of the paddle to refine the quality.
One such breakthrough came with the invention of the graphite surface for the paddle. Onix produced the first graphite paddle that made it to the market and was massively appreciated by players.
These paddles have a honeycomb core sandwich between two thin graphite plates on either side. This unique design ensures lightweight paddles that deliver powerful shots.
Nowadays, both graphite and composite paddles are equally popular, and there’s quite a debate on graphite vs. composite pickleball paddles.
The Bottom Line
After answering what the first pickleball paddle was made out of, we discussed the sequential timeline of pickleball paddles indicating how the initial paddles underwent successive changes and finally culminated in the modernized paddles we now use.
The advancement in paddle technology kept pace with the growing popularity of the game and ever-increasing demands for improved paddles.
While hoping for further innovations in paddle technology, we must also not forget how the game started off simply as a children’s game using ping-pong paddles and has now become USA’s fastest-growing sport.