A delaminated pickleball paddle is a damaged paddle with its surface layers separated apart from its core which can affect its performance or even cause it to rip apart.
I researched how the whole Ben John controversy happened and the cause of delaminated paddles and found out it is a more complicated problem than I thought.
If this problem isn’t solved, it can cause many disputes and disagreements among players and officials on the court.
In this article, I will cover:
- What paddle can be delaminated
- What is a thermoformed paddle, and how it caused the recent controversy
- How to identify a delaminated paddle
- How to avoid the natural delamination of your paddle
By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of this issue and how to deal with it.
Let’s dive in.
What is a Delaminated Pickleball Paddle?
A delaminated pickleball paddle is a paddle that has separated or peeled apart from its core or surface layer, which can result in cracks, bubbles, or gaps in the paddle that can affect its shape, weight, balance, and bounce.
Delamination occurs when the adhesive or bonding material that holds the paddle together fails or weakens over time. This can be due to poor manufacturing, low-quality materials, or environmental factors.
Delamination results in rare cases, but the recent flaws in the design of the thermoformed paddle bring the issue to the pickleball community’s attention.
What is a Thermoformed Paddle?
Thermoformed paddles are made by heating and molding plastic sheets over a core material. The heating process combines both sides of the paddle into one piece of carbon. They are popular because they are lightweight, durable, and affordable. However, they are also prone to delamination because of the high temperature and pressure involved in their production.
What Causes Delamination?
Delamination is an unexpected flaw in the thermoformed paddle design. It is caused by various factors that compromise the integrity of the adhesive or bonding material that holds the paddle together.
Some of the factors that can also contribute to delamination are:
- Poor manufacturing: Some manufacturers may use inferior or inconsistent materials or processes to produce their paddles. This can result in weak or uneven adhesion between the core and surface layers of the paddle.
- Low-quality materials: Some materials may not be suitable or compatible with thermoforming or bonding. Some plastics may melt or warp under high temperatures or pressure, while some adhesives may degrade or lose their effectiveness over time.
- Environmental factors: Some external conditions may affect the stability and durability of the paddle. For example, humidity, temperature changes, and moisture exposure can cause the materials’ expansion and contraction, which can create stress and cracks in the paddle.
Why is Delamination a Problem?
Delamination is a problem because it can negatively affect a pickleball paddle’s quality, performance, and safety. A delaminated paddle can lose its stiffness, stability, and consistency, making it harder to hit the ball accurately and with the desired speed and spin. A delaminated paddle can also change its weight and balance, affecting your swing and timing.
It can also be dangerous and cause uneven matches on the court. A delaminated paddle can break or shatter during play, injuring you or your opponent. A delaminated paddle can also give you an unfair advantage or disadvantage over your opponent, depending on how it affects your paddle’s characteristics. For example, a delaminated paddle can make your shots faster or slower, more or less spinny, more or less predictable, etc.
Delamination is considered a severe flaw in pickleball paddles and can invalidate their warranty and certification. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the governing body of pickleball in the United States, a delaminated paddle is prohibited in sanctioned tournaments and events. You may be disqualified or penalized if you are caught using a delaminated paddle in a USAPA event.
Signs of a delaminated pickleball paddle
Spotting a delaminated paddle is difficult. There are some general methods to check if a paddle is dead, but they are not one-size-fit-all. These general signs can give you some hints on whether your paddle is delaminated.
- A hollow or rattling sound when you tap or shake the paddle. This video shows you the sound of a delaminated paddle vs a regular paddle
- There are soft or mushy spots on the paddle when you press it.
- A crack sound when you press the sweet spot of your paddle with both of your thumbs
- A sudden change in performance when you hit the ball, such as a loss of power or control
How to Prevent and Fix Delamination?
Fortunately, most newly manufactured paddles do not have this problem anymore because companies put it as their top priority because of previous drama. They use new techniques to ensure the adhesion between their paddles’ core and surface layers is strong and reliable.
However, there’s no guarantee that delaminated paddles have disappeared. If you have an older or defective paddle showing signs of delamination, there are some ways to prevent and fix it.
To prevent delamination, you should:
- Store your paddle in a cool and dry place. It is should away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and moisture.
- Avoid exposing your paddle to moisture, such as leaving it in your car or playing in the rain.
- Inspect your paddle for cracks, bubbles, or gaps, and report them to the manufacturer or retailer immediately.
- Protect your paddle from scratching and other damage by using a paddle bag.
If your newly purchased paddle is delaminated, you can ask the manufacturer or retailer for a replacement or refund.
Delamination happens, but it’s not a big deal as long as we can identify it quickly. If you’re considering buying a new paddle, check out my How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle article.