PROLITE Sports has been making high quality pickleball paddles for thirty years, longer than just about anyone. When pickleball was first invented, the first pickleball paddles were actually heavy wooden paddles modeled after table tennis paddles. PROLITE Sports changed that forever when in 1984 its founder, Arlen Paranto, a Boeing industrial engineer, noticed the large lightweight panels that Boeing was using to make airplanes and had the idea to use these panels to make pickleball paddles. Arlen purchased panels from the Boeing Surplus Store in Kent, Washington and the rest is history! Most pickleball paddle are made out of similar panels of graphite or fiberglass faced honeycomb sheets originally created for the aerospace industry. Today PROLITE Sports continues to be an industry leader with innovative new paddle designs and technology. Elite pickleball players recognize PROLITE paddles as extraordinary products. You'll find PROLITE paddles in the hands of many tournament champions. With the perfect blend of touch and power, PROLITE paddles are like no other.
2021 Q & A with PROLITE owner Neil Friedenberg about New PowerSpin 2.0 Paddle Lineup and More
Q: PROLITE is truly an original manufacturer of pickleball paddles. You have seen tremendous change in the sport. What is the biggest difference in the way pickleball is played today compared to when you started in 1984? A: The biggest difference that I have seen is the progression to a much faster paced game. Points are still long mind you, but because of the higher skill set and the ability to reset points, the matches are truly remarkable. You are seeing players turning on the power aspect of the game much quicker than before. Before, most were hitting the soft 3rd shot drop and then moving to the line where it became a very long dinking war. Not anymore. Players are coming in with professional and collegiate backgrounds. The fire has been ignited among the older professionals as well, looking for that competitive drive again. And they found it in Pickleball.
Q: There have been a lot of changes in paddles over the years; what do you see as having the biggest impact on paddle performance? A: It’s funny. Take a look out there at the best. Almost 95% of them play with some type of honeycomb core in some form or fashion thanks to PROLITE. It was not until recently that brands started using thicker cores. And, to answer your question, durability, vibration control, and rebound have been the biggest contributors to paddle performance.
Q: You spend a lot of time in research and development of your paddles; what was the inspiration behind the PowerSpin 2.0 series? A: My inspiration was being more direct, and to utilize a new type of fiberglass that was more forgiving, felt more controlable, added touch, and thickened up the overall paddle resulting in increased crispness and vibration absorption; the perfect blend! Besides, why in the world would someone buy a paddle that is the same shape, same construction, but different weight or thicker/thinner, and have a “control” paddle versus a heavier version and call it a “power” paddle? Why not have both?
Q: Tell us about the thicker core that we find in the new PowerSpin 2.0 line of paddles. A: Yes, the core is 14mm thick. It is a different type of polypropylene core that we have not used previously. After heavy R&D, we kept coming back to the 14mm; the ultimate blend of vibration absorption, feel, and lower pitch (sound). We knew it was a step above the rest. It also aided in the overall sense of a player looking for the one paddle that can deliver it all...power, touch, crisp impact, balance, and high quality.
Q: The Rival PowerSpin 2.0 is a unique shape. What is the purpose of the rounded shape? A: The goal for the rounded shape was to increase the overall size of the sweet spot, basically making it one of the largest sweet spots on the market. While developing this paddle, I wanted to create a fully rounded paddle where there were not flat/straight areas along the perimeter of the paddle. And there is more headweight, just like a tennis racquet. Now you have that in a paddle. Not only is it geared for tennis players, it transitions well for the table tennis player, too.
Q: You've developed a lot of versions of the Rebel paddle over the years; what is it that keeps you updating that particular model? A: The demand, hands down! The shape is unique because of its blend of oversize, elongated, hybrid with the rounded upper part of the paddle aiding in digging out low balls. And, the name! Think about PROLITE and what we have been doing for almost 40 years. We have always been the "rebel" among the others. We develop new ideas constantly. We think differently. We are not concerned with what others are doing. We enjoy being different and not following the crowds. It is not a popularity contest of which manufacturers have which players on each team. It is an integrity and character contest in the eyes of those who feel comfortable in their own skin and have a vision of what they foresee bringing the overall best quality and innovation to the market. Are you a PROLITE mentality type of player?
Q: Is there a paddle that you prefer to use in competitions? A: Usually our Supernova Pro, although in my last tournament I used the new Rival. It changes though. I am the type of person that enjoys trying the entire line of PROLITE paddles. They are all made well, excellent quality control, and all have a definitive feel and vibe within the line. Lately, I have been swinging the brand new PROLITE Rebel PowerSpin 2.0 in aqua/yellow.
Q: We know that top-rated pro players often add weight to change the power or balance of a paddle. Have you done anything to adjust the paddle weight or balance of your paddle to optimize it for your game? A: Oh yeah. I love additional headweight. I add PROLITE Edge Tape Armor to mine. Why not make it spicy?! I used to add lead weight in the past, but there's no reason to now. Plus the edge tape comes in different colors and is a healthier option than using anything made with lead. I like a little extra force/weight coming through at impact.
Q: Do you have any advice on what type(s) of players are best suited for the different PROLITE paddle models? A: Absolutely! This is why we developed a FitChart. Not many companies do this, but our goal was to "narrow it down" for customers based on their sporting backgrounds. For instance, headweighted and longer-handled paddles are great for tennis, padel, and platform tennis players. However, paddles which are evenly weighted throughout and feature a short handle are better suited for those with racquetball and ping pong experience.
Q: Here's a weird one...does paddle color matter to you, and which is your favorite? A: Hey, I am just like the rest of you. I like color and sharp patterns on my personal paddles. I “dress it up." I typically like vibrant colors that give some attitude to your paddle. Red, lime, and silver to name a few. I try to project an 80’s vibe.
Q: Finally, do you have any special rituals that you follow during tournament days that you think amateur players might benefit from knowing? A: Great question. I don’t play nearly as much as I used to at tournaments. Balancing family along with pickleball tournaments can get tough to do. Honestly, I try to relax my mind and go through a normal routine. Breakfast, warm-up, practice game, and then just chill. It's pickleball...a game of unforced errors. You versus yourself much of the time. Make fewer errors than your competition and you will be in good shape. Try to dumb it down, in a sense. That takes the pressure off of yourself and relaxes the mind. If you are calm, you are patient. If you are patient, you wait to attack. And if you wait to attack, generally, you are the team to beat.
Pickleball Paddles from PROLITE Sports
True to its name, PROLITE Sports makes no super heavy pickleball paddles (we categorize a paddle as super heavy if it's over 9.6 ounces). Because wood paddles are always super heavy, this company doesn't make wood paddles.
Mark Friedenberg acquired PROLITE from Arlen Paranto and took pickleball paddle design to the next level with innovative technologies and design variations. Mark Friedenberg knew what he was doing in crafting the world's best pickleball paddles. A sponsor of many clinics, tournaments, and other events, PROLITE Sports continues to contribute to the great sport of pickleball today as they have since their founding. PROLITE's current line of pickleball paddles includes:
Magnum Graphite Stealth Paddle – Often referred to as the MGS, it's lightweight, has a supple graphite face, and is one of the few paddles using the powerful Nomex honeycomb core remaining on the market.
An Interview with PROLITE Owner, Neil Friedenberg, circa 2015
Here's a transcript of Neil's interview:
I'm here with Neil Friedenberg of PROLITE Sports and big news recently came out that you purchased Dink Sports. What was the motivation behind that?
Well the motivation was, they had a ton of innovative and great ideas, they're a Wisconsin-based company, we actually all play pickleball together and we wanted to share our information with each other and really build on the PROLITE and still have the attitude.
And I had an opportunity to watch you play a little out there! I want to know how being a pickleball player influence you as a paddle manufacturer?
Well it's pretty influential, you know. I get the time to play and obviously that's great, I like being competitive and I like playing pickleball. But you meet a lot of good people; you need all those players and a wide variety of paddles out there, shapes, weights, everything and you have the chance to talk to them and what they enjoy, what they're looking for in a paddle and that's important to make sure we're covering everyone's preference out there, that's really important to us. It also lets us talk with other manufacturers. We're all friends out here and motivated to make great paddles for everyone... you meet a lot of good people, good friendships.
And in talking, there's some hints that there's some new stuff coming from PROLITE!
We have a lot of great ideas and we are very antsy about it, very excited. I can't give away too much here but just watch out for PROLITE... we have a lot of new items coming out that I think are going to be outstanding for pickleball, very innovative things.
Fantastic, really appreciate your time.
Thank you very much.
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