As a global leader in sporting equipment, HEAD has entered the pickleball market in a big way, formally making a commitment to the sport after watching it evolve over the past several years. “We’ve had our eye on pickleball for five or six years now,” says Ben Simons, Senior Business Manager for Racquetball, Squash & Pickleball for HEAD Penn Racquet Sports. “Normally, when we decide we’re going to do something, we invest a lot of resources, we don’t go half way, so we wanted to be sure. There’s a lot of research and development, engineering and major capital investment to get into a new business. We found our own factory, and it took a couple years to bring a paddle to market and be competitive.”
Since then, however, HEAD has developed two lines of paddles that players of any caliber can excel with.
“We tested all kinds of cores to come up with something we were sure of,” says Simons. “We tested cores that resulted in turbo-charged paddles and others where the ball died on the paddle. But you have to go through all of that development to make sure everything is right. And then you put it out to the pros to get their expertise. We’re in this for the long run. If we create great products, invest back in the sport, be at the US Open, Nationals, regional events, work with ambassadors, the HEAD brand can help everybody, and that’s great. If the sport grows, we all grow.”
Currently HEAD offers two lines of paddles—the Radical Series and Extreme, both of which have the same shape, thickness and core throughout their individual three-product lines. As with all HEAD lines, the three options are created in a “Good, Better, Best” format.
The Radical is a traditionally shaped paddle. Tour features a graphite face, the Pro has a fiberglass, textured face and the Elite, with its $69 price point, is essentially the Pro without the texture and comfort grip system.
Simons says HEAD’s philosophy is to ensure even their entry-level paddles maintain the same quality control as their top-of-line models. “We don’t want to destroy the integrity of the product. We take off the fringe parts for our entry models and you still have a quality paddle base.”
HEAD’s second line, the Extreme, features a unique shape with the top corners cut off. “In developing the Extreme, we tried a couple things. We wanted something that had a little weight, but felt light, so we took some head weight out,” says Simons. “They swing very quickly, have a thinner core and are a control type of paddle in general. The Extreme is for players who can generate their own power and prefer maneuverability.” The Extreme also comes in Tour, Pro and Elite versions.
Simons says HEAD also has various accessories available to pickleball enthusiasts and is always working to push the envelope further. He says his personal opinion is that eyewear will be a future priority in the sport and HEAD’s already out in front of that.
“We’re always looking at the bigger picture,” he says. “We’ve covered the major things for players, now what can we do?”