Paddle texture, can you have too much?

Update: January 2024

The more paddles I make, the more I learn. And the more I play, the more I learn about the paddles I make.

Lately, I’ve been working on a new paddle for those who consider spin to be paramount, and it seems that people believe it produces some of the best spin they’ve ever experienced. Through testing these new paddles, I’ve gained insights into aggressive textures and paddle performance.

Paddle design is all about balance. If you want more of one thing, you have to give up more of another. For example, if you want more power, you sacrifice control; if you add more weight, you lose agility, and so on. So, what about texture? If you want more aggressive spin, what’s the trade-off? Well, at some point, you are likely sacrificing control and the ability to defend. How can that be?

Spin is usually associated with an offensive play style. However, nobody plays offense throughout an entire game. At some point, you have to defend your position, which is a critical part of the game. Pickleball is about waiting for your opponent to make a mistake.

Here’s the issue with a heavily textured paddle: while it excels in generating spin on the offense, that same texture can cause problems when returning a spinning ball. The textured surface can grip the ball, causing it to spin off more aggressively upon impact, leading to less control on the return. This can make it challenging to effectively return a serve and to slow the game down with resets, drop shots, and dinks. This is especially true for players below a 4.0 skill level, as they may struggle to read and handle spin effectively.

Over the past few years, more manufacturers have been emphasizing aggressive texture on their paddle surfaces. Why? Because texture is easy to feel on a paddle, and with enough marketing and positive reviews emphasizing spin, textured paddles sell. Unfortunately, what often goes unmentioned is the trade-off: reduced control.

It’s essential to remember that paddle design is a balance. Just like paddle shape, weight, and material, determining how much texture, if any, you need for your best game is key to finding the right paddle.

So, let’s consider another way to generate spin but balance it for a more rounded overall performance. Another crucial element in a paddle’s ability to generate spin is the coefficient of friction, which is why the USAPA tests both the surface roughness and the coefficient of friction of paddles.

Surface Roughness and Materials

Surface texture is an obvious factor in friction. If two materials are both extremely rough, like sandpaper, the parts that stick up on one surface will often find their way into the valleys of the other surface, creating more friction. However, not all surface textures are created equal, and some can actually reduce friction by reducing surface contact area.

Materials also play a significant role. For example, rubber will have a different coefficient of friction on pavement than on glass. A softer paddle face will create more friction than a harder one.

Surface Flexibility and Contact Area

The stiffness of surfaces affects friction as one surface deforms to the other. Rubber, for example, deforms easily, allowing it to match the surface of another material, creating more contact area and hence more friction. A textured surface can be problematic for those who like to spin on soft shots, as there is often not enough force to compress the paddle face or the ball surface to provide suitable contact area to generate spin. The ball only makes contact on the peaks of the texture.

Benefits of the Coefficient of Friction

Too heavy a texture on a paddle is not always beneficial for a rounded game. The textured surface can lead to the ball spinning off the paddle, reducing control. Further, with softer shots, there is often less contact area and less ability to generate spin.

A paddle surface designed with the coefficient of friction in mind can offer numerous advantages over one designed primarily for texture. First, the paddle face is more forgiving when defending against balls with spin, facilitating more control on a return. When playing with more finesse, it can make it easier to put spin on the ball on softer shots.


Do you need a textured paddle surface to spin the ball and win more games? Most manufacturers would have you believe this, but in our opinion, the answer is no.
While an aggressive surface texture may allow you to put more spin on a ball, it should not be relied upon for your entire game. A paddle with a higher coefficient of friction rather than an aggressive surface texture may provide you with a superior, more balanced overall performance.

With a non-textured finish, it is the paddle surface itself that is all-important. If the finish of the actual playing surface of the paddle is too hard, it will make the paddle less efficient at spinning the ball and less control, as the ball will slide off the face.
However a softer playing surface matched with a softer finish can provide a paddle with ample spin and offer an advantage by providing control. Paddle design is all about balance and the amount of texture is no exception.