“You add weight to your paddle? Really!?”
This is the exact question I asked a pro friend of mine 3 months after I started playing pickleball. I was dumbfounded—I knew that tennis players customized their tennis rackets but I had never even thought of adding weight to a pickleball paddle. The paddle was light, the pickle ball was lighter than a tennis ball and I just thought that's the way it was. Little did I know there was a world of lead tape ahead of me!
So, the first questions people ask me are: “What do you mean by paddle customization? Like, what do you do to the paddle?” Both valid questions. In short, I tell them about using lead tape to add weight to the paddle. Most composite paddles come from the factory weighing between 6-9 ounces. Within those weight ranges, every paddle will have its unique balance and swing weight too.
You can customize the paddle in a way that suits your game's needs by strategically applying lead tape to your pickleball paddle.
Adding weight to your paddle will help with power. The more mass you have moving through the ball on any given shot, the faster that ball will explode off the paddle. I am not a scientist but I am sure Sir Isaac Newton had pickleball in mind when discovering that:
Mass x Acceleration = Force
The extra weight will also allow you more stability on resets and will give you a little extra on your dinks.
“Adding weight sounds amazing. More power, better resets, and some more oomph on my dinks—let's make the paddle as heavy as we can!” Not so fast...
Pickleball is not just about power, you also need control! Lighter paddles will give you more control and maneuverability which is super useful when you play someone that hits the ball really hard and when you get into "fast hands" battles.
Placement of Weight
“Pickleball Mcnasty, where do you put the weight on your pickleball paddle?”
Now this is where things get tricky because every pro or recreational player will have their own weight placement that feels good for them. When it comes to placement, it is truly a personal preference but I will tell you where I put the lead tape on mine and why I think it helps.
I put lead on each side of my paddle from 10 and 2 (see your nearest clock or steering wheel for reference) all the way down through the handle. It helps me add weight to my Wilson Echo without adding too much weight to the paddle head. The added weight helps me with power and resets but since I do not have added weight in the head, I can still maneuver the paddle to win most "fast hands" battles.
I know some pros that add all their weight to the head of the paddle and none in the grip. These players are usually fantastic at dinking and resetting but aren’t looking to get into quick exchanges.
Even the smallest amount of weight added in an area you aren’t used to can completely change the balance point and feel of the paddle so be very careful and be ready to tinker with the process until you find what works best for you.
How Heavy are the Pros Paddles?
I'd be lying if I said I knew the weights of every pro paddle out there but I do know a few, and I know some don’t customize their paddles at all. The range you see on tour is from around 7.5 oz to 10+ oz. That being said, it seems the sweet spot (pun completely intended) is around 8.5 oz. It gives players enough weight for added power but also gives them the maneuverability they need to get in and out of any situation. This is also the reason Gearbox paddles for competitive players weigh exactly 8.5oz.
Now you that you got the basics down, what should you really be doing? Let's break it down...
I Have Never Played Pickleball Before
Leave the lead tape on the shelf and just enjoy your first weeks on the court! Tinkering with the paddle is not for you. You need to get the feel of the ball and have fun playing with your friends. Knowing the non-volley zone rules is more important than figuring out how heavy the paddle should be.
I am getting into it and want to improve but I am just playing with my friends for now.
Playing with friends can be competitive, so any type of advantage you can get is something to consider. Do your research and see what may work for you. If paddle customization isn’t your thing, it's Ok, you can always go back to the "lab" and try again!
I am pretty darn good! I play a lot and know what I’m doing. Getting ready to play a few local tournaments soon and see how I do.
Alright, go and get some lead tape. You need to make sure you know what works for you. What balance do you like and how much weight allows you for that increased power while not sacrificing maneuverability? The paddles can sometimes scrape the ground so make sure you have extra lead tape and electric tape to be prepared for any last minute repairs.
I'm LIVING on the Pro Tour!
Get ready to tinker! One match might make you reconsider your whole weight distribution if you lost a hands battle to Ben Johns! Travel with a roll of lead tape and scissors because things change quickly. Also, make sure you have backup paddles that are weighted to your specifications. Things happen and paddles can break mid match (happened to me in Newport!) so be prepared with more customized paddles!