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Despite the simplicity of the game, the increase in popularity and competitiveness of ping pong over the years has led to a much wider variety of available equipment. The first games of ping pong, also known as table tennis, were played in England in the 1800s. In the place of modern paddles, players used books and eventually pieces of parchment stretched across a wooden frame. Today, the right ping pong paddle is an integral part of any player's arsenal. And although it is easy enough to pick up a paddle at any sporting goods store, for serious players, the competitive edge that comes with a more sophisticated paddle is usually quite desirable. For that reason, it is important for those wishing to invest in a ping pong paddle to know how to evaluate a ping pong paddle for quality parts.
History of the Ping Pong Paddle
The sport of ping pong has achieved popularity around the world, and as such, the ping pong paddle is known by different names in different geographical regions. In the U.S., "paddle" is the preferred term. In the U.K., the sport is played with a ping pong "bat" and among the International Table Tennis Federation, it is referred to as a "racquet." No matter what name is used, there is no denying that the implement has evolved over time.
The first ping pong paddles were repurposed books and broken lids to cigar boxes. After that, manufacturers came out with specialized paddles made from parchment stretched over a wooden frame. It was not until 1901 that a rubber coating was added to the paddle, which began the ascent into modern ping pong paddle construction. Today, ping pong paddles are made from wood, with the blade, or hitting surface, covered in a layer of sponge and then a layer of rubber. Players can choose different types of rubber in order to produce different results, including spin and speed.
Parts of a Ping Pong Paddle
Ping pong paddles are such a common sight in modern times that they may seem quite simple. However, each part of a ping pong paddle plays an important role in how an individual player will fare. There are different styles of each piece, so it is important to find the right combination of parts that work for an individual's playing style.
Ping Pong Paddle Blade
The blade of the ping pong paddle is the hitting surface that is used to serve and return the ball. It is also the surface that, in most instances, is covered in rubber in order put spin and speed on the ping pong ball. The term "blade" is also used by some people to refer to the entire structure of the paddle before rubber is added. Underneath the rubber coating, the blade is made of wood. The differences between types of ping pong blades may seem subtle to beginners, but they can make a huge difference for more competitive players who are seeking an edge in their game.
One of the most important differences between ping pong paddle blades is the weight. Most ping pong blades weigh between 70 and 100 grams. The weight of the blade determines how much spin a player is able to put on the ball as well as how fast the blade can accelerate through the air. A lighter blade, under 77 grams, is often prefered by players who have a fast game and tend to play close to the top of the table. Heavier blades are considered "power blades" and can more easily transfer energy to the ball, but they may not be appropriate for beginners. In fact, for players who are looking for their first professional-grade ping pong paddle, it is important to choose a blade that is versatile and can be used for different styles of play. Players who are not set in their ways may still be experimenting with various styles, and a versatile blade can allow for experimentation.
Ping Pong Blade Handle
The handle of the ping pong paddle is the narrow part that is gripped by the player during a game. There a number of different ping pong grips that are used in competitive play, but the most common are known as the shakehand grip and the penhold grip. When buying ping pong paddles, it will be clearly noted for which of these grips the handle design is most appropriate.
Additionally, there are two styles of ping pong paddle handles that are commonly seen. A flared handle ping pong paddle is wider at the base and narrows towards the blade. Many players find this makes it easier to maintain a hold on the paddle without gripping too tightly. Straight handle ping pong paddles are also quite popular and have a uniform width from the base to the blade. Some believe that these types of handles make defensive play and backhand strokes easier than flared handles. Although these are the two most common types of ping pong paddle handles, there are also anatomical handles, which flare both at the base and in the middle, and conical handles, which are sometimes preferred by players with large hands. The type of handle that any player chooses is truly dependent on individual taste, comfort, and playing style.
Ping Pong Paddle Rubber
The generic ping pong paddles that most casual players are familiar with come pre-assembled with rubber coatings on the blade. However, the most effective professional ping pong paddles do not come with the rubber surface, since competitive players add their own preferred rubber and sponge layers to the paddle.