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How To Choose A Pickleball

How To Choose A Pickleball

As the weather warms up in the northern half of the country and players begin moving outdoors to play, I have been getting this question a lot. There are two basic types of pickleballs and, although there are no requirements for how they are labeled, there are real differences between them depending on the court surface and whether you are playing indoors or outdoors.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Pickleballs

You may see pickleballs labeled as indoor or outdoor but choosing the best pickleball for your use is not that simple. The main difference between balls labeled for indoor vs. outdoor play is the quantity and size of holes. Indoor balls typically have 26 larger holes while outdoor balls have 40 smaller holes.

indoor vs outdoor pickleballs

In addition to number and size of holes, there are usually slight differences in weight and material for balls labeled as indoor vs. outdoor. Balls made for indoor play tend to be softer and lighter, which results in a little drag and a slower pace--preferable for indoor play. Balls made for outdoor play tend to be heavier and harder to hold up in more varied weather conditions. The majority of pickleballs sold in the U.S. are labeled for outdoor play, because it is easier to play indoors with outdoor balls than the other way around. This is mostly because of the wind factor--the slightly heavier weight and smaller holes in outdoor balls prevent them from being blown all over the court during outdoor play but they also work indoors.

Court Surface

Court surface also comes into play in selecting the right ball. The majority of indoor and outdoor pickleball courts in the U.S. are hard surface, but pickleball can also be played on clay courts, concrete and wood gym floors. Playing on a clay court is easier on your body and lower impact than playing on a hard court, but it's much harder to get the surface right for the pickleball to come up when it bounces because they are soft. Of course one downside of playing on hard surface courts is that the balls take a harder beating and may not last as long.  

Pickleball Durability 

Unfortunately, no pickleball will last forever. If you compare their lifespan to tennis balls--which may only be used once or twice before losing their bounce--pickleballs last a pretty long time!

Durability is largely influenced by the ball material, but generally, the harder the material, the shorter the lifespan. Because indoor pickleballs use softer materials and are less exposed to varied temperatures, sun and wind, they tend to last longer. But all pickleballs lose their shape over time. How long they will last depends on the climate you play in, how often you play and even how hard they are hit (you know who you are, bangers!). Eventually, you'll notice a ball cracking with continued play.

Pickleball Recycling

Like most mixed plastics, it is not easy to recycle pickleballs. There are some materials scientists and environmental groups working on the possibilities. Play-PKL has partnered with The Repickle Project to help find a solution and keep all of the broken pickleballs out of landfills. As a first step, we are working through the logistics of how to collect, store and transport the balls to a facility that will melt them down and understand the material properties so that we can find a second life for them. Stay tuned for more on this as the project evolves. 

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