When I was first introduced into pickleball, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why anyone would pay more than $30 for a pickleball paddle. “Glorified ping pong paddles,” I thought, while ignoring that I’d once paid $50 for a ping pong paddle that helped me win some spirited games in high school.
Still, they’re light, you can only hit a plastic ball so hard, and how much spin could you really impart on said plastic ball?
Obviously, I was naive. I started play with a wooden Franklin paddle that seemed to suit me just fine. One day, I loaned mine to a friend and then got asked to play by someone else who provided me with a Head pickleball paddle…and I saw the light.
While I tend to still think the mistakes pickleball players make are more of the user error variety than an equipment failure, I’ve played and improved enough to know that a high quality paddle can certainly improve my game on the margins when it comes to pace, control, and spin- especially at the net.
I recently switched out my Ben Johns 13mm Franklin paddle for the Diadem Icon Medium Weight paddle. I haven’t had enough sessions with it to give it a full review, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen and felt with it so far.
I’ve found that when it comes to paddles, everyone can’t wait to recommend the one they’re currently playing with. Unless they’ve got an old, beat-up paddle, their current paddle is THE ONE and they’d highly recommend it for it’s combination of spin, control, and power. Seriously- everyone says the same thing.
Truthfully, I don’t think there are many out there that have ACTUALLY tried out enough paddles to make recommendations. So, when it came to investing in a new paddle for myself, I referenced a pickleball friend that has tried (and reviewed) scores of paddles (by now, I’m sure you know our love of data, so I wasn’t going to rely on any small sample sizes), and the Icon came highly recommended by him.
Some people like to have lots of paddles and jump from one to the next from session to session. I’m incapable (read: not good enough) to try that- instead, I want to really get the feel of one paddle and then learn how best to play with it. I don’t need a ton of power to my paddle, so I wanted one with high reviews in spin and control- and that was the Icon for me.
People change paddles for lots of reasons, but here were my 3 main reasons for changing things up with my weaponry:
–Old age (the paddle, not me…yet). I’d used the Ben Johns paddle for 10 months, and I’d played with it a lot in the summer months (5-7 times per week) and 3+ times per week in the fall. The edge guard was loose and it started to have a dead sound when I hit the ball, especially compared to people that were playing with newer Ben Johns paddles.
–Loss of spin. This goes along with the old age point above, but the grit had worn off on my paddle, and the sweet spot on both sides was pretty smooth. I have nice touch with a cut backhand, and I was not getting the shape I once had with the paddle. Again, when I compared it to new Ben Johns paddles, the difference was stark. This was hindering the quality of shots I could hit and made me realize I needed a new paddle.
–It’s fun to get new paddles! Let’s face it- it brings me joy to try a new paddle, and given paddles aren’t that expensive (compared to baseball bats and golf clubs, etc), it’s something many of us are fortunate to get to upgrade a couple times throughout the year. Plus, I saw how upgrading to a pro level paddle changed me as a player, and I’m excited to see how a new paddle might shape my game. I thought of going back to another Ben Johns paddle (of the 16mm variety), and I may still the next time around. However, maybe the Icon will help me grow in some new small ways that I’m not yet envisioning.
At some point I’ll be back to tell you how I like the Icon, but in the interim, I’d love to hear others share what’s made them want to upgrade in the past…and what your favorites are if you’ve used 10+ paddles in your pickleball lifetime.