Today we're excited to introduce a new line of paddles from a manufacturer just entering the world of pickleball but experienced in creating equipment for many other racquet sports: HEAD.
Certain companies might make the assumption that what works in one industry can be applied to another, but HEAD took a more humble approach to development and began their pickleball journey without any preconceptions.
Instead, they spent three years researching what makes a paddle great and developing a strong new lineup with input from pickleball pro Sarah Ansboury, 2015 USAPA Nationals gold medalist.
This has resulted in two paddle series called the Xtremes and Radicals. There are four product offerings within each, and players are sure to find a fit that will match their skill level and play style.
As the official launch partner for HEAD Pickleball, we spent some time talking to Sarah and Ben Simons, Senior Business Manager at HEAD. A few defining features of these paddles are laid out below.
High Quality Design
Ben explains that the following features can be expected in all of their paddles:
- Quality: You can't take shortcuts to improve your game, and HEAD didn't take shortcuts to put out their product. Ben explains, 'We spent a lot of time in development and continue to ensure we're making high quality paddles players can rely on. You should be able to walk onto the court knowing your equipment will play the same every time. This includes a well-defined weight, balance, grip size, feel and shape for each individual paddle.'
- Extreme Control Shape: HEAD's unique paddle shape contributes to fantastic reach, flexibility and control. The two variations within the Xtreme and Radical lines slightly alter the paddles' balance to accommodate different play styles.
- Stylish Graphics: 'We wanted to make sure our paddles were attractive to a wide variety of players and demographics, not only in terms of play, but when it comes to appearance. Because of that, our cosmetics are bright and engaging. Fun is central to pickleball, after all!'
- OTC Honeycomb Core: OTC stands for optimized tubular construction. 'While polymer cores are used in many paddles, the truth is that there are countless variations when it comes to things like weight, cell size, shape, wall thickness and tube height. Based on our testing, we found the type we settled on resulted in optimized performance and quality.'
All HEAD paddles weigh in at 7.6 – 8.1 ounces. HEAD explains that, through play testing, they discovered this range was the preferred average for most players.
Ben explains, 'We learned that many players do not have the swing to play with an ultra-light paddle. They might think that's what they need, but when they hit with a well balanced paddle that has a little more weight to help them drive through the shot, they find they play much better.'
After checking out the paddles ourselves, PickleballCentral has been impressed with HEAD's ability to produce paddles at consistent weights.
Double the Options
Each Xtreme paddle has a Radical equivalent and vice versa, but the two lines have several key differences that make them best suited to certain types of players. We spoke with Sarah to determine the primary qualities of each:
- Slightly thinner shape with corners shaved down. 'This adds more speed and maneuverability to your game, particularly at the net. For racquetball players or those who tend the drag their paddles across the ground as they hit, this also prevents damage to the paddle.'
- Lighter weight that creates an even balance.
- Includes the Xtreme Tour, Xtreme Pro, Xtreme Pro L and Xtreme Elite
- More powerful, head-heavy shape. A bit thicker design with more forgiveness when it comes to ball placement.
- 'Players will still enjoy great control, but these paddles possess more immediate 'pop' due to their weight.' Despite the additional heft, players often pick these up and think they're lighter than they really are. In truth, the Radicals just have a better balance, so players get the benefits of extra weight without feeling it.
- Includes the Radical Tour, Radical Pro, Radical Pro L and Radical Elite
Sarah's personal preference is for the Xtreme Tour Paddle.
'I told them I wanted a paddle with some power that also had good control. I love the way the paddle grabs the ball making it great when I need to block or add spin. The interesting shape feels much more maneuverable for me which helps me at the net when I need to be fast.
To see featured videos for each of the paddles, go to the HEAD product pages and click the 'Videos' tab.
'One of my favorite parts of the paddle is actually the handle. They use a mold and spray foam to surround the handle, making it a solid piece which connects to the paddle as a whole. This creates a more solid feel and durable neck.'
The Xtreme Tour (and Radical Tour) are recommended for players coming from prior racquet sports due to their touch and texture, which more closely mimics the grip you can get from something like tennis strings. The graphite surface on both models provides excellent responsiveness as well.
'The two Elites have the lowest price point in both lines. They actually have the same high quality core and surface materials as the other options, but they have harder grips and a smooth face. Either would make a great starter paddle that will also hold up to advanced play, but since the Pro and Pro L options are just a bit more expensive, if players wanted a more cushioned grip they could go that route as well.
'For power players, the Radical series gets the edge due to the extra weight and fiberglass surface. There's a lot of responsiveness that gives added pop for put-aways.'
HEAD's Dedication to the Industry
Sarah concludes that, as an instructor, she wanted to feel confident recommending paddles to her students dependent on their individual strengths.
'Being able to choose a quality paddle that's affordable but still uses the newest technology is important in the long haul. HEAD did a lot of play testing before putting out their final products, and not just with me. The engineer would have me answer about 20 questions, and almost as soon as I had sent a paddle back, I'd get another 20 questions! I loved that they really wanted to understand the sport.
'I believe HEAD got into pickleball to truly help the growth of this sport. In the near future we'll continue to build the HEAD player team and ambassadors while trying to bring new players into the game. I hope everyone will enjoy the diversity their paddles are bringing to the industry.'
At PickleballCentral we carry over 100 models of paddles and often get approached by new companies attempting to break into the industry. We're glad to be the official launch partner for HEAD paddles and hope our customers and readers will love the new products!
Co-Founder Anna Copley shared her perspective on the launch by saying: “We started collaborating with HEAD last spring at the 2017 US OPEN Pickleball Championships, and we put the new paddles through our lab and player testing all summer. We’ve found them to be exceptionally durable with fantastic performance. Visitors at our Pro-Shop and staff have enjoyed them, and HEAD has developed a great set of products that we are proud to share.”
Check out the HEAD paddles directly on our site, PickleballCentral.com!