How They Came to Be: The History of Ping Pong Paddles

Table tennis, or ping pong, is one of the most widely played sports in the world. And like any other sports and games, it has a rich history of its own – and so are ping pong paddles, which are very important equipments of the game. In fact, its beginnings and developments dated more than 100 years ago.

The table tennis racket had been through numerous changes and significant revisions for the past 100 years or so. It started out as a hollow drum racket – the earliest form of the paddle. Today, it has become the sophisticated sponge racket which we came to know and is popular worldwide.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and get to know the humble beginnings of these table tennis paddles and how they became the table tennis equipment we now broadly use.

From the 1880s to the early 1900s

The table tennis racquets have gone through series of developments in approximately the same order below.

  • The first design was a long-handled vellum battledore, also known as the banjo racket, and could reach up to 48 cm long.
  • A hollow vellum battledore, this time a short-handled racket outdated the long-handled version.
  • A plain wooden paddle was then introduced, primarily made from various kinds of wood, in different sizes and thickness.
  • In a desire to help players perform a spin on the ball, a sandpaper-covered racket emerged.
  • A cork-faced racket superseded the racket with sandpaper, and majority of players noticed an improvement on their game performance.

From the 1920s to the 1950s

These decades chiefly focused on the technical specifications of the paddle. And Japanese technology became widely known to European players for the first time in history.

  • The first stage involved the creation of a pimpled rubber racket. It had a canvas backed sheet made also of rubber and a studded surface.
  • Next was the construction of an extra wide paddle which also had a pimpled surface, and mostly preferred by players with defensive styles.
  • A waffle sponge racket was manufactured in the early 1950s.
  • The first Japanese ping pong racket emerged on the European sports scene on the same decade. It was a soft sponge racket measuring 10 mm.
  • The crepe rubber racket was introduced in the market but it failed to capture the hearts of ping pong players because it offered very little ball control.

From the 1960s to the present

This era became the starting point for the development of the cutting-edge ping pong rackets we have today.

  • The first phase was a racket covered with a pimpled rubber sponge, measuring 1 mm. But it was unsuccessful because it gave certain limitations on doing spins.
  • Later on, a 2 mm pimpled rubber racket appeared which was believed to be perfect for offensive plays, but with limited spins again.
  • The next stage was more innovative in nature. It was designed to have a surface which would effectively absorb heavy topspins, therefore countering topspins.
  • A 1 mm reverse rubber sponge surface was incorporated on paddles, helping players produce the highest degree of speeds and spins.
  • Lastly, the same 1 mm reverse rubber sponge paddle was developed for better racket control.

Playing a game of table tennis would definitely require your physical prowess. And with the various enhancements ping pong paddles had undergone in the past years, you are assured of efficient equipments ready to help you ace your sport.

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