1G Pickleball Paddle
First, second and third generation pickleball paddles all have their pros and cons. Deciding which of these basic paddle types is best for you will depend on what you need and what you like.
First generation (1G) pickleball paddles are made of wood. They have been made that way since people started playing the game back in 1964. In fact, we are told that there are players in the Seattle area who still have 1G paddles that were made in that era.
Wood, of course, is highly durable. Unlike 2G paddles, there are no edge guards to come loose. Unfortunately, wood is also rather heavy. So it is not uncommon for a small wooden pickleball paddle to weigh more than a full-sized adult tennis racquet.
The extraordinary durability of 1G pickleball paddles makes them perfect for group use in schools, community centres and clubs. It doesn’t seem to matter how poorly they are treated, they stand up well and continue perform as they should.
2G Pickleball Paddle
The durability of 2G paddles, meanwhile, does not compare to wood. The most common problem with these paddles is what is know in the industry as “premature edge guard departure”. In other words, the plastic edge guard that runs around the entire perimeter of the paddle breaks free and begins to flap around.
The other problem with 2G pickleball paddles appears when moisture (usually from rain or a leaking water bottle) sneaks in behind the edge guard and saturates the core of the paddle. When the core is made of cardboard, this causes swelling and distortion.
In a short time the layers begin to break down and the paddle quickly becomes useless. In spite of these minor flaws, though, players have been using 2G paddles for pickleball since this style of paddle was first manufactured in the 1980s.
The fact that they are lighter than wood and come in a variety of attractive colours and designs only adds to their popularity.
3G Pickleball Paddle
3G pickleball paddles are relatively new on the market. The first of their kind was introduced in 2009. They are modern-looking paddles made of non-absorbent materials like fibreglass or graphite and filled with non-absorbent foam. As a result, water damage issues are not even a consideration for most 3G pickleball paddles.
See my article about the best pickleball paddle to buy this year.
Preferred by advanced players who dislike the edge guards on 2G pickleball paddles, 3G paddles have their own issues that consumers need to be aware of. The biggest issue is chipping along the edges. Since 3G paddles lack the prominent edge guards of the previous generation of pickleball paddles, the paint and lacquer along the edges is subject to chipping.
In general, this affects only the appearance of the paddle and does not interfere with performance. The other major issue with 3G paddles is the gradual breakdown of the dry foam core at the centre of the paddles.
Like loose grommets on tennis racquets, these small pieces of foam can begin rattling around inside of the paddle and can become a bit of a distraction. Once again, however, this issue may be a nuisance but rarely does it change the performance of the paddle during play.
Look around at your club and any busy day and you will probably see all three types of paddles in use. Each has advantages and disadvantages that have to be considered, pros and cons that have to be weighed.
Over the past five years, 1G paddles have been the cheapest while 3G paddles have cost the most. This is expected to change drastically over the next 12 months as new releases by big names such as Topp, Paddletek, Gamma, Wilson and Head drive prices down on 3G paddles.