Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Apike?
October 14, 2010 in Pickleball Equipment
Most players say they prefer the Apike because it is lighter than other paddles. Some like it because it is quieter. Some prefer it because it offers (and delivers) superior spin and control. However, nobody has ever said that they use an Apike because it allows them to hit the ball harder.
Amongst the players in our club, the Apike paddle has an excellent reputation. In fact, the only players in our group who don’t own at least one are either snow birds who play in USAPA tournaments or are simply averse to paying more than $70 for a pickleball paddle.
As accepted as it may be within our circles, however, it does encounter opposition from the occasional outsider who comes to play with us.
“Oh no,” said one wide-eyed Arizona pickleball player last week. “I won’t even go on the court when people are using those things,” she said nodding in the direction of a tiny, 68-year-old woman clutching an Apike paddle.
Hmmm, I wondered. Is she really fearful? How hard does she imagine that a tiny, 68-year-old woman can hit a pickleball? Is there really that much of a difference between her own Pro-Lite paddle and her would-be opponent’s Apike? How much of this is fact and how much is fiction, I asked myself?
For more than a year I have been hearing and reading all kinds of rumours about the Apike, but I haven’t seen any facts. So to begin arriving at some, I did what any guy my age would do; I bought a radar gun.
My quest: to test a variety of racquets and balls and determine which, if any, may present a danger to the players in my pickleball programs. After all, if people refuse to play against a particular paddle, that will have an impact on our clubs.
Today, less than 24 hours after receiving my new radar gun, I set up on one of our outdoor courts and blasted away with four different racquets. I hit about 25 balls with each, all from the same spot on the court.
The first racquet I tried was George Brewer’s famous Predator. My top speed with that little baby (one of my personal favorites, by the way) was 54 mph. Of the 25 balls that I hit with George’s Predator, the vast majority were in the 42 to 47 mph range.
The second racquet out of my bag was Frank Wu’s infamous Apike. Again, I hit about 25 balls from exactly the same spot. Most were in the 44 to 49 mph range — slightly faster. But one shot made the radar gun blink an amazing 58 mph. For those of you who are counting, that is 7.4% faster than the top speed I was able to achieve with the Predator.
Next, I tried Doug Smith’s Elite pickleball paddle — a favorite starter paddle for those moving up from wood. The top speed I was able to generate with that paddle was 53 mph with the majority of shots clocking into the 35 to 40 mph range.
Then finally, just for fun, I went into the shed and got out one of the wooden swinger paddles that we use for our school programs. My average speed with this paddle was 37-42 mph, which is just a bit faster than my average with the Elite paddle. However, I was never able to hit harder than 52 mph with the Swinger. And given that I had already hit 75 balls at full power before I picked it up, I am not surprised.
So now I have some facts to work with. I was able to demonstrate to my own satisfaction that a 48-year-old, 190 lb. man swinging with all of his might (much, much harder than he would EVER swing in a game) can make a pickleball fly 7.4% faster with Frank Wu’s Apike than he can using George Brewer’s Predator. I was also able to demonstrate that on average this same player is able to attain a marginally higher average speed with the Apike than with the predator.
However, I am not yet able to answer the question I am most curious about: is there a reason to fear for one’s safety when playing against opponents wielding Apikes? At this point, I have no evidence to indicate that such fears are reasonable. But neither can I brush them aside.
Over the next several weeks and months I will continue testing amongst our players and publishing my results for all to see. I expect to learn a great deal from these tests. I expect that my readers will learn something as well.
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