PPA Tour Implements Updated Paddle Testing Standards, Singling Out ProXR Players

In our latest takeaways and on our latest podcast, we went into some detail about paddle testing concerns that occurred at the PPA Seattle Open with respect to Zane’s signature ProXR paddle. We reported that on two separate occasions (and that report has since been definitively confirmed) that the Zane paddle was challenged on two separate occasions for surface roughness and each of those tests yielded two failed initial tests and a pass on the third test. The PPA’s Paddle Testing Policy is still up on the website, even if it is not easy to find, and contrary to what we had said on the podcast and in our takeaways. The Policy does set out that a paddle only needs to pass one test but one of our issues has continued to be that the PPA does not publicize when challenges occur nor do they publicize the results of a challenge.

We have now learned that the PPA told its players, late on Thursday night, that any players using ProXR paddles must be tested before every match, regardless of which round the player is in. The PPA also updated its paddle testing standards for all paddles as follows:

(1) When paddles are tested before a match, the surface roughness number must be “at or below the USAP standard of 40”. However, if a paddle is challenged during a match, the PPA’s 7.5% error margin score of 43 will still be allowed.

(2) For a paddle to pass pre-match testing, paddles will be tested just once and, if a paddle fails, it will not receive approval to be used in the match. If a paddle is challenged during a match, the paddle must fail two out of three tests to be deemed illegal.

We had wondered during our initial reporting whether the PPA may decide to take action in banning the ProXR paddle, which has not happened. The main reason we thought this could occur was due to Ben Johns having to face the wrath of the ProXR at the hands of Connor Garnett in Seattle last week. We were there in-person watching the match and noticed some interesting reactions from Ben following a few shots hit by Garnett.

This is not the first time this year the PPA has singled out a paddle company in this manner. They did it earlier this year prior to the PPA Austin Showdown with the CRBN 1X paddle after players like Tyson McGuffin were publicly vocal about the pop coming off the paddle. It is not clear when the protocols requiring the CRBN 1X paddle to be sent for off-site testing were lifted, but we had expressed our dismay for the PPA singling out the CRBN paddle without releasing the process for testing, test results and how it compared to test results of other paddles.

The further concern we had expressed was that there was a strong belief out there that players have been or probably still were modifying their own paddles outside of approved standards. The PPA did not put out a statement when they banned the CRBN 1X, instead relying on other sources to spread the news when word got out. 

What we have heard through the grapevine is that the reason the Zane ProXR paddle is getting the singled out treatment is because the way the grit is laid down makes it difficult for current testing to correctly read the surface roughness. While not necessarily illegal based on the way testing is done, it is undoubtedly pushing the envelope on the part of ProXR, assuming this is true.

Prior to these new testing standards being implemented by the PPA, Zane Navratil shed some light on the situation on the most recent Pickle Pod episode. Again though, we’re really not that concerned about a company pushing the envelope on paddles. The expectation is that this is going to happen as we know companies like JOOLA constantly toe the line when it comes to legality of surface roughness. The problem we have is with the testing done by the PPA and their arbitrary enforcement of their own rules.

A big question we have is whether anything would have been done if Ben Johns hadn’t been pushed to the brink by Connor Garnett. There is no question that stuff gets done when the PPA’s top dogs start barking. Ben is smart enough that he generally doesn’t make things public, but we expect he is working behind the scenes when needed. Although, Ben unsuccessfully challenged Yates Johnson’s paddle after his surprising loss to him on Thursday. 

This is all par for the course on the PPA’s end. No announcement. No statement. Just quietly telling players informally that a certain paddle is subject to different standards despite it being close to a lock that the ProXR isn’t the only paddle out there that could be subject to some legality questions.  

One thing that we forgot to mention on the podcast or in our takeaways is the fact that there are rumblings that there is something in the works between ProXR and Paddletek. The PPA does not typically throw the book at marquee players or bigger sponsors as we clearly saw with how they handled the Tyson McGuffin Red Rock paddle incident (yes, we realize this continues to be brought up by us, but it is a prime example of the inconsistent way each of these circumstances is being dealt with by the PPA). It’ll be interesting to see if there is a merger or takeover with the companies whether that has any impact on how the PPA deals with them.

The other curious thing about the new paddle testing standards is the PPA’s choice to have different standards for pre-match testing and post-challenge testing. Why is a paddle held to a stricter standard before a match and a less restrictive one afterwards? It’s hard to make sense of that. It is also worth questioning that the PPA has mildly walked back its requirement for 3 out of 3 failed tests, and is now going to only require 2 out of 3 failed tests for a paddle to be ruled illegal, which would have made both challenges in Seattle successful. 

The paddle issues are not going to go away. So long as the PPA continues to handle things in an arbitrary manner, there are going to be inquiries made. Additionally, MLP has not been quick in implementing what appears to be a more objective process for paddle testing. They announced prior to San Clemente that they would not be doing any surface roughness testing but, with grit being back in the news, it could be a real issue if MLP decides to only test for deflection once again. 

It’s your move, once again, PPA. It’s okay, though. We won’t be holding our breath.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Threads and Facebook. Also, listen and subscribe to our new podcast on Apple, Spotify and YouTube!

7 thoughts on “PPA Tour Implements Updated Paddle Testing Standards, Singling Out ProXR Players

  • August 5, 2023 at 4:24 am

    Horrible policy! It is irrational as you said. Didn’t Carl S. of USAP say the Starrett test would be replaced when he appeared on The Pickleball Studio podcast? Does it even make sense to put so much weight on this test.

    • August 5, 2023 at 1:56 pm

      USAP has officially stated they are moving to the Filmetrics Profilm3D but it’s not a simple process.
      For a number of reasons –

      1. Cost: 25k is the minimum configuration for the Filmetrics – Imagine if it becomes the standard overnight – suddenly all these companies that bought a 3k USD Starrett SR-160 are gonna be pissed they bought the 3k and on top of that will need to get a 25k unit to validate their gear (likewise for factories etc)

      2. Even if you brush over the cost issue there’s the added complexity of comparing an S value (an area measurement) versus an R value (a line measurement). USAP needs to ensure that they figure out what the new standard limits are (and how they compare to the old limits). Imagine if they arbitrarily set a new target which seems reasonable but then some older paddles start failing that new test.

      That would be a disaster (with potential crazy solutions such as grandfathering in pre-ban paddles) so they need to take their time to figure out what sensible metrics are.

      As for the ProXR stuff – given the USAP rules of averaging our Starrett measurements in 6 different directions – it’s certainly possible to conceive of peel-ply patterns that would bias roughness in the X direction (just imagine vertical lines of roughness that are beyond the maximum legal limit – separated by perfectly smooth sections. You just vary the length of the smooth sections to dial in exactly how far your can push the peaks.

      Note I have no idea if this is what ProXR is doing – somehow I doubt it – it’s more likely they are just running close to the wire as Zane suggested. Given the very loose tolerances in most chinese factories (plus/minus 20% of roughness) they may well end up pushing the limits

      • August 6, 2023 at 12:11 am

        We know nothing of this process you are referencing. Thanks for sharing. This is to improve ability to measure surface roughness?

      • August 11, 2023 at 9:15 am

        Excellent commentary and analysis. PPA can not be trusted as long as they do their black box testing secretively behind closed doors instead of transparently and openly reporting all results and actions. Now they may pick and choose arbitrarily who they will sanction, Tyson obviously has no worries.

    • August 6, 2023 at 12:13 am

      Brutal policy. We didn’t listen to that episode but we know Starrett is unreliable


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