The short answer is “yes,” pickleball paddles do wear out, but much like the sport of pickleball itself, this question seems simple enough but holds a lot more complexity as you dig into it.
What is a Dead Pickleball Paddle?
A “dead” pickleball paddle is a paddle that has lost the quality of performance. This can be caused by a break, crack, dent, worn down surface, or overuse for the lifespan of the paddle.
You know your paddle is “dead” when you’ve played a couple of games, and you just can’t find the sweet spot, and maybe the sound is a little off. This is the first sign that you have a dead paddle. Here are some other signs of a worn down pickleball paddle.
Signs Your Pickeball Paddle is Worn Out
Pickleball paddles can get worn out in many ways here are the issues I tend to see or have personally experienced.
- The edge guard can come loose or fall off.
- The surface can lose grittiness and become less easy to control and spin with.
- The core can break down and start to rattle.
- The handle can break off from the base of the paddle (probably the easiest one of these to diagnose).
- If you play with it long enough, it can develop dead spots that affect the sound, feel, sweet spot and consistency of your paddle.
Resource: Graphite Vs. Composite Pickleball Paddles
How Often Should You Buy a New Pickleball Paddle?
Well, what type of player are you? Not all players are created equal, and not everyone will have the same standards for how long a paddle is playable. Determining your level and play type/goals is key in answering the question of when to replace your paddle.
Ben Johns, the number one male player of all time, has said that he changes pickleball paddles once every tournament or so. On the other end of the spectrum, I play with a buddy who has been playing with the same “starter” paddle for three years and counting.
How much you play, how aggressive you are, and what kind of paddle performance you demand are all critical variables determining how long a paddle will last.
Generally, I would recommend changing your paddle once you realize any of the issues above are starting to arise.
Need Help Deciding Which Paddle to Get? Check out: Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide
Do Different Paddles Have Different Lifespans?
Absolutely. In general, any paddle that has a spray on the surface will lose it’s grit and texture much faster than a woven carbon fiber face. Carbon fiber is currently the top-of-the-line material in terms of performance and durability.
How About Warranties?
I’m glad you asked. As you have probably noticed, these pickleball paddles aren’t cheap. All of the reputable companies have manufacturer warranties that cover many of the issues listed in the first paragraph above. Check with your particular company if you are having an issue and chances are, if you bought the paddle in the last 6 months or so, it is likely covered and they will send you out a replacement (as long as they determine damage is not due to normal wear and tear).
Paddle Care Tips
Pickleball paddles aren’t exactly monarch butterfly wings that need to be handled with gloves and tweezers at all times. But taking care of them will help ensure they last as long as they can before wearing out. So here are the top 5 tips for caring for your paddle:
1. Get a case.
They are inexpensive, sleek, and will guard your paddle from unnecessary damage while not in play.
2. Keep your paddle out of the sun/extreme temperatures.
The materials inside the paddle do not handle high heat or cold well. If you have a really nice paddle and leave it inside your car with the windows up on a summer day, do not be surprised if a crazed pickleballer smashes your window to liberate it.
3. Do not let it get wet (or dry it ASAP if it does).
Moisture can ruin a paddle face very quickly and thoroughly.
4. Don’t tap paddles, or if you do, take it easy.
It’s tempting to emphatically slam your paddle with your teammate after an awesome Erne or ATP, but resist the urge! Too much impact can lead to all kinds of problems for paddles.
5. Keep it clean.
Again, this isn’t rocket science. We all learned in kindergarten if we want our toys to last we need to take care of them. Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth (no household cleaners!) to wipe down the hitting surface on your pickleball paddle.
Your pickleball paddle will wear out if you’re playing pickleball frequently. If you notice something is wrong the outside or potentially the core of your paddle, then you should consider buying a new one.