Maybe you’ve heard it? Maybe you’ve felt it? A different sound … a different feel to your paddle. Sometimes you hit the “sweet spot” on your paddle and it feels great, other times the ball just dies when paddle meets ball. Do you have a dead pickleball paddle? Yes, paddles go dead and should be replaced; they do not last forever.

How to tell a pickleball paddle is dead:

  1. Sound (part 1):  If you hear a change in the sound your paddle makes when you hit the sweet spot, then your paddle is mostly likely due for replacement.  Sometimes you can just hear the difference your paddle makes when you hit the ball.  It can mean your paddle is dead if the sound is different than usual when you know you hit the sweet spot.
  2. Sound (part 2): Take your knuckle and tap the paddle.  A nice hollow ring means you are in the sweet spot.  A more dull sound indicates an area with less than optimal response.  Most performance paddles have an area of optimal response, and areas with less than optimal response or “dead spots”.  Dead spots are commonly found above the handle, the corners and the very top.  By tapping your knuckle around the paddle you can hear the locations of those optimal areas and those areas that are “dead”.
  3. Feel: You can just “feel” it.  The ball feels different when you hit it now than it did when the paddle was new. A dead spot can often be very small and therefore barely noticeable.  But once you feel a paddle is not performing the way it did when it was new, then you should probably replace it.

Causes for a dead pickleball paddle:

  1. Usage: Unless you are playing with wood, most paddles will lose their optimal response within a year.  The paddle may still be good for play, but just not be as responsive as it was when it was new.
  2. Hitting the ground (or fence):  When a paddle hits a hard surface, the paddle can delaminate just a little causing dead spots.
  3. Broken handles: A broken handle, no matter how slight, can cause the entire paddle to perform poorly.

Dents:  Be cautious of celebrating a good point or match by powerfully hitting paddles together. One paddle’s edge can dent another’s paddle’s face depending on the force of the “good job partner” slap or tap.

Multi-time National and US Open Champ Kyle Yates’ observations:

“When should you replace your paddle?   Let me answer that question with another question:  Is your paddle’s deficiency directly causing you to lose points?

You can play with a paddle that appears scratched or dented, but once you start to lose control over the ball because of the faulty paddle, it may be time to switch.

For example, recently I was playing in a tournament, and my paddle got knocked into the fence as I went for a shot out wide. The force of the blow was enough to dent the edge of my paddle a solid half inch. To many people, it would seem “broken”. Not to me. It still played as good as new and I kept using the same paddle until I finished the tournament. I’m not going to say how that day ended up (okay … Gold.)

Also, often times we see our paddle’s face get worn down, or dirty. This could be an indication for a new paddle. Once the face of the paddle begins to “wear off”, then you should be able to determine if the paddle is breaking down. This is where you could be losing some power that a new paddle could be giving you. “

Thanks, Kyle!  Pay attention to the sound and feel of your paddle, and you might improve your game just by replacing your paddle.  Thanks also for additional insights and input from Curtis Smith, CEO of Paddletek.