This update is rather late – I stopped using my GX paddles after about 6 months. It seemed that (my guess) the lack of a honeycomb interior resulted in shock waves shooting up my arm. I developed tennis elbow in a bad way. I noticed that Gearbox no longer sells the GX series paddles, and perhaps this is why.
I know everyone has a paddle they love. I did not, until recently. That’s when I got a Gearbox GX5. I just ordered a second one after using the first for only two days. Can’t have too many paddles!
Before I discuss Gearbox paddles, let me first get a little technical and talk a little bit about carbon fiber. Carbon Fiber is a polymer that is very strong and is also very lightweight. Carbon fiber is five-times stronger than steel, twice as stiff as steel, but lighter than steel. Because of these features, it is used in a number of sports, including whitewater kayaking.
We have a number of whitewater kayaking paddles (seven in all, I think), all of them made of carbon fiber. A typical paddle is about 197 cm long (6.5 feet) and weighs about 2.5 pounds. Lightweight paddles are a necessity for whitewater kayaking, because you are constantly paddling and using the paddle to make quick maneuvers. A heavier weight would tend to wear you down. As far as strength goes, some of our paddles have been through a lot, including multiple encounters with rocks and sides of cliff faces, yet they are still very, very strong. I don’t know anyone who uses anything but carbon fiber paddles for whitewater kayaking.
About 15 years ago, when I played golf just about every day, I purchased a set of custom clubs. The shafts were, of course, filament-wound carbon fiber. The clubs were obscenely expensive, but I wanted every advantage I could get. Because I walked the course, the difference in weight between steel and carbon fiber was important as well. It is a rare professional golfer who does not use carbon fiber shafts these days, so that should tell you something.
Finally, my wife just bought a whitewater kayak, shown below.
This is how the boat is constructed: The outermost material, just behind the lime green gel coat, is s-glass, a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass. The s-glass is backed with layers of Kevlar and carbon fiber/Kevlar hybrid fabrics. You would think that with all the layers of material the kayak would be heavy, but, in fact, the that is 1/3 lighter than conventional kayaks and much more durable. Yes, it was expensive.
So, what does any of this have to do with pickleball paddles?
First of all, most PB paddle manufacturers have paddles with a honeycomb core. The cores are typically made of either, nomex, polymer or aluminum honeycomb. Nomex is a harder material which will perform longer due to the density of the material and smaller honeycomb size. Aluminum has very similar performance to the Nomex core. Polymer is softer and has larger honeycomb cells, but because it’s a softer material you’ll sacrifice some control compared to nomex and aluminum.
Below is a picture of what a paddle with a core looks like.
The honeycomb core is usually covered with one or more face materials which are built up into a surface. It is the surface that actually comes in contact with the ball.
The problem with honeycomb cores is that they breakdown – they can get “squished” if you will. I was recently playing next to tennis courts when a tennis ball came over the fence. I picked it up and hit it back with my paddle. Based on the sound I heard I immediately thought, “I should not have done that.” When the core begins to break down, you lose power and you may get uneven results. I think this is why a lot of players constantly change paddles – their paddles lose their “pop.”
A lot of pickleball manufacturers have faces coated with carbon graphite. This is a good way to reduce the weight of the paddle while helping to maintain durability.
So, what’s special about Gearbox pickleball paddles? They do, after all, make a paddle (the GH7) with a Polypropylene Honeycomb core and fiberglass face. However, Gearbox now offers paddles that are made entirely out of carbon fiber – there is no honeycomb core. This is a game-changer.
I recently got a Gearbox GX5 Control, a lightweight (7.8 ounces) paddle that, as the name suggests, focuses on control. I found, though, that I actually had to ratchet back my swing because the paddle offers a lot of pop. I also found that my control, especially on my serve, was as good as any other paddle I have used. As far as spin goes, the GX5 provides plenty of spin when you want it. And, because the Gearbox paddles have a carbon fiber edgeless frame, you have a larger hitting surface area and fewer mishits. I loved this paddle so much that, after only two days of using it, I ordered a second paddle.
The best part, as evidenced by our other purchases, is that I believe in carbon fiber construction. Just as in golf, kayaking and tennis (I have not discussed tennis but virtually all rackets are made of carbon fiber), the pickleball paddle manufacturers are sure to migrate to carbon fiber construction. Gearbox is the first and will dominate that market for some time to come.
The Gearbox paddles are powerful and should theoretically last forever with no loss or performance. You owe it to yourself to try one.
Here is a link to the Gearbox website: http://www.GearboxSports.com