What exactly is customization? Adding anything to a retail paddle is technically customization. It encompasses many different elements and can be as simple as adding an overgrip, or as complicated as perfectly matching two paddles in weight, balance, and swing weight.
So why customize?
It's pretty simple; customization is there to help you solve a problem. Is the paddle slipping in your hand? Are you not getting enough power? Do you want to make your paddle last longer? Customization can help you solve those problems, but it can also be a slippery slope.
As humans, we all love the idea of the most tailor-made product. But tinkering with your paddle can also distract us from what's important: customization won't make you a better player; only grinding out the hours on-court can, so keep that in mind when you embark on this journey. It can quickly become a complicated and confusing endeavour, and as soon as it does, it's best to stop and refocus on your game.
We will cover as many areas of customization as we can today, starting with the most simple and finishing with the most complex. Some of these you'll be able to do yourself, but remember that at Rackets & Runners we have professional paddle and racket technicians who have years of experience and skills to help you achieve what you want. We are always here to help!
The CRBN Paddle Eraser is the easiest way to instantly get your paddle playing a little bit fresher. If you play with a raw carbon paddle long enough, you'll notice bits of urethane getting stuck inside the top sheet's grit, clogging the carbon weave and making it harder to access the same amount of spin as when the paddle was fresh. The CRBN Eraser does an impressive job of cleaning up that paddle face by "erasing" those urethane marks and unclogging the weave.
Of course, it won't stop the top sheet from naturally wearing out over time, but at the end of each session, thoroughly rub the eraser on both sides of the paddle, and you won't notice such a stark drop-off in spin potential. You can easily do this yourself, but we are also more than happy to do it for you!
While a CRBN Eraser will help restore your paddle's playability, protection tape will help drastically extend its life. Pickleball paddles take a beating, and there's no way to avoid it because constantly worrying about making contact with the court will negatively affect your play.
Instead, you can apply a layer of protective tape to your paddle's edge guard. It's light and thin, so it has minimal effect on playability, but it's also remarkably robust. It does an impressive job of protecting the edge guard and can last a decent amount of time itself. Of course, over time, you'll need to replace the tape, but spending $10 every month to extend your paddle's life is a much easier pill to swallow than buying a new $200 paddle.
Protective tape can be tough to apply, so you may want to let us do it for you. Selkirk offers a couple of widths to match paddle thickness, and we also have a running roll of Head protection tape at our disposal.
You've probably all heard of an overgrip; most of you probably play with one right now. Out of the box, your paddle comes with a "replacement grip." It's a thicker grip that goes directly on the handle but doesn't provide much more than just comfort.
Overgrips are much thinner and are meant to be applied directly over the replacement grip. They serve two important purposes. First, they extend the life of the more expensive replacement grip. You'll wear through your overgrip, but they generally come in packs of three, so it takes time before you have to get new ones.
The second and more important purpose of an overgrip has to do with playability. There is a variety of different overgrips, each with a unique texture and feel made to target a specific need. They range from ultra tacky to ultra dry, and finding which works best for you can do wonders for your comfort and handle-hold on the paddle.
Generally, players who sweat a lot prefer dryer replacement grips like Tourna Original XL or Babolat VS Original. When sweat combines with the dry texture, the grip turns into a sort of shammy that absorbs moisture but also becomes very gritty and doesn't twist in your hand.
Personally, I turn into a fire hydrant when I play, and Tourna Grip has been life-changing for my pickleball, to the point where I feel disconnected from my paddle without it.
Then you've got "hybrid" over grips. They are pretty tacky but also absorbent and meant to work for the widest range of people. They do exactly as they say, so give one of Wilson Pro or Yonex Super Grap a shot for those of you with averagely sweaty hands. These are more comfortable and longer lasting than the dry grips and usually work for most people.
If you have very dry hands, or just like how ultra tacky grips make it feel like your hand will never move, there are also options for you. Tourna Mega Tac is on another level of tackiness; so sticky that it will make you want to wash your hands after touching it. Gamma Supreme is less intense but still very sticky.
Finding the perfect overgrip may take some time, but it's important, and once you do, you'll wonder how you ever played pickleball before it. As you might expect, applying more than 20 overgrips a day has made all of us in the racket department experts, so we're more than happy to do it for you, but eventually, you'll be so comfortable doing it yourself that you won't want anyone else touching your overgrip!
Lead tape… we've all heard of it, and all got googly-eyed when we were told of its magical playability-altering powers. Playing around with different lead tape combinations can be the best way to tailor a paddle, but as I mentioned earlier, it's an extremely slippery slope. I'm going to go over different lead placements in-depth, but I want to emphasize how important it is to remember that lead won't make you better, but it may help solve certain problems.
I want more power and spin!
Adding weight to the top of your paddle (the 12 o'clock position) logically has the highest effect on playability. Up there, a small amount of weight goes a long way, so you won't have to drastically increase your paddle's static weight to get a noticeable boost in swing weight. Adding swing weight will help you put more force behind the ball, increasing your power and spin.
Remember, weight up there will also slow the paddle down, so don't put too much, and if you feel a drastic decrease in hand speed, it may hurt power and spin. Remember the "force equals mass times acceleration" equation from grade school physics? Force is power and spin, mass is swing weight, and acceleration is how quickly you bring the paddle through contact. Finding the optimal ratio of swing weight and paddle acceleration is the key.
I want a bigger sweet spot and a more forgiving paddle!
Adding weight anywhere on the paddle will move the sweet spot toward where the lead is placed. Adding lead at 12 o'clock will raise it, but adding it to the paddle's sides (at 3 and 9 o'clock) will expand it horizontally, making it bigger, which makes the paddle more forgiving. If you find yourself making improper contact and your paddle is too punishing when you do, 3 and 9 o'clock lead placement is perfect for you. The more you add, the bigger it will make your sweet spot, but remember too much, and your paddle will become clunky.
I like my paddle's power and spin, but I wish it felt better in the soft game!
Adding weight to the bottom portion of the paddle face — where the edge guard meets the handle — is the perfect solution. The more weight you add to the paddle face, the softer your paddle will feel. That's because a heavier face crushes the ball more, meaning the ball goes deeper into the paddle, increasing dwell time. Of course, you can't add too much lead high up the paddle because it drastically affects other playability characteristics, which is why if you want to add a lot of weight, you apply it as low on the face as possible.
Adding plenty of lead to rigid paddles especially thermoformed ones like the Filth, CRBN1X Power, or Vatic Pro V7, will do wonders for their control because it will help soften up their often instantaneous launch. These paddles are generally made for advanced players who like to take big cuts of the ball, so the slight trade-off in hand speed will be fine.
Of course, the word "lead" is pretty stigmatized, and for good reason. Proper precautions must be taken when working with lead, so we suggest you let us do the work for you. Some of our racket department members have decades of experience customizing sporting equipment, so trust that we know what we are doing! If you want to do the work yourself, we sell half-inch lead and can run you through the process.
As pickleball continues to grow, so will its competitive scene, and eventually, players will find themselves needing two (if not more) matched paddles. It may not be as drastic as string playability in tennis, but a paddle's playability will wear out over time. You'll want to switch to another paddle, but manufacturing tolerances could mean that those two paddles aren't as equal as expected.
Paddle matching is the most challenging type of customization because it requires scientific precision to get it right. You can't just match two paddles based on feel, and because of those manufacturing tolerances, you can't simply add weight in the same place and expect the same playability. You need some sort of paddle diagnostic machine, and the good news is, we have exactly that at Rackets & Runners.
Wilson's brand new Baiardo Tune Pro was developed with both tennis AND pickleball in mind and allows us to test for paddle weight, balance, swing weight, and several other important playability metrics. Machines like this are how professional racket technicians can perfectly match two paddles. This machine even has a "matching" feature which makes our job a lot easier because it means we don't have to follow the ol' trial-and-error method.
Paddle matching is one of those things we urge you to leave to the pros. Of course, there is a cost associated with it, but the result will be perfect, and when you do have to switch it up mid-match, you can rest assured that the new paddle will play just like the old one.
For pickleball, in particular, you may want to consider consistently rotating through your matched paddles to keep them playing as similarly as possible. As paddles wear out, they soften up and lose some spin, so transitioning to a brand new paddle, even if perfectly matched, could feel almost too extreme — almost like seeing the world for the first time after taking off your sunglasses. Instead, switch up your paddles every hour of play so that they wear out as evenly as possible.
Embark on the journey at your own risk, but know it can be fun, fulfilling, and beneficial to your game and wallet.
We are always here to help, so if you need our assistance to customize your paddle, you can visit our awesome paddle technicians in-store. As usual, all of the products we mentioned here today you can check out online. Happy pickling!