Grip It and Rip It: Enhancing Your Pickleball Paddle with the Right Grips and Lead Tape
A Gripping Story
When you grab your pickleball paddle, what’s the first thing you touch? The handle, of course. Today’s paddles come with a good quality, cushioned grip over the handle. What does it feel like? Firm? Tacky? Spongy?
It’s surprising how many players overlook this important aspect of their equipment. It’s the first point of connection between you and your paddle, so it matters. The feel and vibration from the handle sends the appropriate feedback to your brain, and tells you about your shot. So it makes sense that the material covering the handle makes a difference. A small one, perhaps. But the more your pickleball game progresses, the more you’ll be able to notice such a subtle change.
For clarification, the grip is the cushioned covering, directly on the handle. Every paddle has one when you buy it, and it can be replaced when worn out, so sometimes it’s called a replacement grip.
The overgrip is optional tape that you wrap around the grip.
Overgrip comes in lots of fun colors and textures. And it’s inexpensive.
If you play often and your grip has seen better days, you’ll want to get a new one. This involves completely removing the old grip down almost to the bare wood (or composite), and applying a replacement grip. You might prefer a very rounded, cushiony grip, designed simply for comfort. If you want to really feel the bevels on the handle, you’ll want to go with something thinner. There are also contoured grips that have a raised ridge, which is helpful as a guideline for hand position, and awareness of face direction.
Want to fine-tune even more? Add an additonal layer of overgrip. This can have several benefits. Many people put on a fresh overgrip every few games, to give them that “new paddle” feel. I personally do this, and the tackier the better! When you feel secure that the paddle won’t slip, you can play with softer, more relaxed hands. If you’re clutching the handle like your life depends on it, over time it can result in arm pain. You’ll notice your poor arm is killing you and you won’t know why.
From dry and absorbent to incredibly tacky, there’s an overgrip to please everyone. Some players prefer just several layers of this, without a spongy grip underneath. Take note that even though we’re talking about fractions of an inch, it will still increase the circumference of the handle. So if you’re a frequent flyer in the tape department, choose the grip size of your paddle accordingly!
Should I add Lead Tape to my Paddle Too?
While we’re talking about ways to customize your paddle, let’s spend a minute on lead/tungston tape, and how to use it to give your game some pop. Usually more advanced players will do this because they are experienced enough to realize where they want extra weight. On their pickleball paddle, that is…
With strategic placement of tiny increments of weight on the paddle, you can use lead tape to slightly alter the balance and tweak it to feel just the way you want. A 4”x 1/4” strip of tape weighs 1 gram. Adding the tape to the handle can make the head feel lighter, to get a faster whip-like motion, or it can help balance out a paddle that feels too head-heavy. When resting comfortably in the center of the top edge, that little strip of lead will give your shots more punch and explosive power on drives and serves.
For a closer look at HOW to apply the tape, WHERE to put it, and WHY you should use it, check out this video from Selkirk University:
Lead tape on the outside edges of the paddle adds stability, and reduces vibration on impact. Make sure the strips are the same length and exactly symmetrical. This arrangement is great for blocking your opponent’s drives. You can even redirect them to go on offense yourself, which is a great way to frustrate the folks on the other side of the net. Adding weight at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions is another popular way to stabilize off-center hits and get a more balanced shot. It really comes down to what works for your own game. And while it’s exciting to experiment with ways to give yourself an edge, remember—stop if you’re feeling pain resulting from any change. Lead tape is easy to remove if you don’t like it. If you are unsure, consult a professional.
It’s amazing how a different grip material, or a minuscule amount of weight added to your paddle, can tip the scales in your favor!
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