A question that is often asked by newer players, as well as some not so new, is what type of paddle should I use AND how often should I replace it?
The best answer on the right paddle is usually the one that FEELS good when you swing it.
Different paddles and different brands will all have various characteristics. There are different head sizes, core firmness, weights, and maybe the most important (but not often discussed) is the balance point.
The balance point quite simply is the mid point at which the weight is evenly distributed between the handle and the head. If you have two paddles of the same weight, and one is head weighted (balance point is closer to the head) and the other is handle weighted, they will feel VERY different. The head weighted one will feel much heavier to most people. Imagine holding a hammer by the handle. In this case, the weight is in the head. As an alternative, think about how it would feel if you held it by the head, with the handle facing up. The hammer weighs the same in both instances, but FEELS much heavier when the weight is in the head. The more a paddle is weighted towards the head usually makes it tougher for players to control drives, but also provides more power all things being equal as there is more mass at contact. They are also easier to control volleys at the net for the same reason. The closer the weight is to the handle, the more the player needs to swing their arm faster to create the power, but it should be easier to control drives because of this too. Most Xenon paddles are evenly balanced to try to get the best of both worlds, though some models lean a little towards handle heavy (Vector Light and Vector+).
When you combine a heavier weight along with a balance point towards the head so it feels heavier, that is one of the contributors to arm fatigue and pain, especially with a lot of play.
All the Xenon paddles have a medium core (except the Vector Light Max). This helps to provide more control and just a little extra "pop" from the trampoline effect. Firmer cores often times feel like you are hitting with a solid piece of wood, which makes it harder to control but provides more power.
Head size is also very subjective. With advances in technology for paddle design, more players are going to a mid size or oversize paddle head rather than the smaller traditional or "standard" head size. The Xenon Prime is an example of the standard size head, while all the Vector models are more of an oversize head, though many have said they don't feel too big and play like a midsize. The larger head obviously gives more surface area to hit the ball along with a bigger sweet spot because of it. Though for some, optically, they like to see a smaller head size.
In the end, paddle selection is very subjective. What is right for one player might be completely wrong for another. The best bet is just to try different paddles at your local pro shop or from other players until you find one that fits YOU best. We hope that will be a Xenon paddle.
WHEN to replace a paddle is also very important! Remember the foam core of all paddles is made from EVA foam. It is a denser version of the foam in a seat cushion. Think about what is asked of a paddle, it is used to hit a firm ball with force roughly 1,000 times each time you go out and play, and is expected to do that when the weather is 80 degrees or in the single digits and often times the paddle is going from that warm environment to a very cold one quickly. All of this breaks down the foam over time. Yes you can still use a paddle for 5+ years, but it won't be anything like what it was when the foam core was new. In addition, as that core loses it's recovery, it puts much more strain on your arm to get the same "pop" from it. Also, because that foam breaks down and disintegrates, the weight will change over time. While this is gradual so you may not notice, over the course of the year, the paddle could be much lighter than when it started. If you play once a week and only "in season" you can likely get 2 years from a paddle and have it perform as you expect. If you play multiple times a week or play year round, it makes sense to replace a paddle at least annually. Unlike a tennis racquet that you can restring, this is the equivalent. Imagine playing tennis regularly and never changing (tightening) the strings over 5 years?
If you have any other questions or are wondering what in the Xenon line would be comparable to a paddle you are using from another company, just ask us. We'd be glad to help.