My Best Paddle

By Matthew Schwartz

April 23, 2024


The company for which I write this weekly blog has never asked me to promote its products. Hudef Sport gives me complete autonomy. Its staff doesn’t know what my pieces are about when I send them in to be posted.  As someone who spent 40 years as a television news reporter (the last 20 years as an investigative reporter), I can tell you this type of independence and trust are rare.

When Hudef offered me this job out of nowhere in late 2023, I didn’t want to work even part-time. I turned 70 last October and was happy playing pickleball and enjoying other hobbies.

I told the company I’d love to write a column if it could be about any pickleball related topic of my choosing. This would combine my passions for writing and pickleball. I didn’t and don’t want to write the same pickleball articles found in countless other websites, about injury prevention, which shoes or protective glasses to wear, pickleball rules, etc. Don’t get me wrong, they are important topics. But I want to offer pickleball players something not often found in the pickleball space.

Since starting this column in January I’ve written about inspirational and interesting players, annoying players, paddle addicts and pickleball debates. I like ending each column with some non-pickleball thoughts you hopefully find interesting or funny or can relate to. I told Hudef I’m not a salesman and they were good with that.  

 So what I’m about to tell you is completely on my own.

I’ve played with about 20 paddles over the past eight months and have liked several. They’ve been from big companies and small ones. I have never spent $200 or more on one as a matter of principle. I have, though, borrowed $250-$333 paddles and hit with them.

Hudef’s upcoming Viva Pro Gen3 is my favorite.

Paddle reviewer Dustin Fowkes, who operates the Pickleball Medicine channel on YouTube, last week raved about the Viva Pro Gen3’s predecessor, the Viva Pro Gen2. I played with that one as well. I liked it a lot, it has excellent power, pop and control. But for me the Viva Pro Gen3 is an improvement in every category.

Fowkes hasn’t yet reviewed the Gen3 but ranked its predecessor among his top three paddles for overall drive speed, at 58.4 mph. I don’t know the Gen3’s speed. I only recently bought a scale to weigh paddles, I’m not a full-blown paddle geek, yet. But I’ve hit drives that are plenty fast. Fowkes  clocked the Gen2’s RPM rate at 2110, and the Gen3’s spin rate should be similar if not higher. Hudef Sport provides a lifetime warranty on its paddles. You don’t like it, return it, and Hudef will provide a refund within 30 days.

 Of course you can believe I’m saying this because I get paid by Hudef for writing, despite the aforementioned fact that they’ve never asked me to even mention any of their products. Perhaps those of you who are more open-minded will believe that my opinion has everything to do with one simple factor: how I play with this paddle. It happens to be a high quality paddle, and at a good price.

The Viva Pro Gen3 drops this Friday, April 26th. The company sent me a Beta version three weeks ago. I’m a 3.5 player most days, a 3.75 on my best days. I’ve never played better since using this paddle. I realize it’s the player, not the paddle, that comprises 90 or 95 percent of the results. I mean, Ben Johns could pickle me playing with a cellphone. But playing well with your paddle and feeling confident with it sure helps.

The Pro Gen3 has a DuPont Kevlar surface, is elongated with unibody construction and its core thickness is 16 mm. It weighs 7.8-8.1 ounces. The paddle feels fast and light to me, not head-heavy like some other elongated paddles. I played with Six Zero’s Ruby for two weeks and the Viva Pro Gen3 plays similarly, but for me the Hudef has more pop and will cost much less. I’ve found it to be a fantastic all-court paddle. I pop up a lot of balls with thermoformed paddles but not with this one. Several players I play with have tried it and all said they like everything about it.

I also like the way the Viva Pro Gen3 looks. I know color schemes, graphics and overall aesthetics aren’t important to everyone, and for me they’re not a deciding factor, but it’s a nice bonus when you like the way your paddle looks. The Viva Pro Gen3 will cost $169.99 (with my discount code MS15-G3 it’ll be $144.49.)

There are many great paddles on the market. New paddle companies pop up almost every week. On average, a new paddle is released every day and a half. I’m not a good enough player to constantly change paddles and adapt to the different nuances of each. I think it hurts my game. Conversely, when I like a paddle and play with it consistently for a while, I play better. I don’t like having a herd of paddles. I prefer to play with one for a long time and focus on improving my game. For the foreseeable future, my paddle shopping is over.

I have always said there is no perfect paddle for everyone, only a perfect paddle for you. What works for me may not work for someone else. The Viva Pro Gen3 has been the perfect paddle for me.

My thoughts of the week, not all pickleball 

The Golden Bachelor and his wife of three months announced they’re getting divorced. I’m shocked! Considering the series’ big ratings, the executives at ABC are laughing all the way to the bank. I don’t think the breakup has the execs broken up. If you think those “reality” shows aren’t staged, I’ve got some swampland in New Jersey to sell you. A former TV colleague of mine years ago was on the show, Blind Date. My buddy and his date were getting along nicely. The producers stopped the cameras several times and told the couple they needed more tension and to argue more.

Before moving to North Carolina almost two years ago, I played pickleball indoors once. We lived in Tucson where it rarely rains. I’ve now played indoors in and near Asheville many times and it can be frustrating. Balls from adjacent courts interrupt play every five minutes and I’ve never miss-hit so many balls after losing sight of them due to the backdrop or lousy lighting. But playing indoors is much better than not playing at all. I still have a blast.

In last week’s blog I listed my three greatest upsets in sports history and asked you to respond. This was my list:

3) James “Buster” Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, knocking out Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight championship in 1990. Douglas’ mother died weeks earlier at age 46 after suffering a stroke. She had told him he’d win, and then he fought the fight of his life.

2) The New York Jets, an 18.5 point underdog, beating the mighty Baltimore Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. Jets QB Joe Namath had famously guaranteed a Jets win. This was a landmark game, the game that showed the AFL could play with the NFL.

1) The USA’s mens Olympic hockey team in 1980, days after getting blown out by the Soviet Union 10-3 in an exhibition contest, shocking the Russians and the world, 4-3, in the Olympics semifinals. The game and team forever known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The final seconds were punctuated perfectly by Al Michaels classic call, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

A dozen readers emailed me all saying the same thing: they agreed with those three but disagreed with my order, that #2 should be Douglas’ KO of Tyson, and the Jets beating the Colts should be #3.

Upon further review, those readers are right.

We now have the benefit of history in knowing that the AFL was as good as the NFL before the leagues merged in 1970. The so-called experts overrated the NFL’s Colts and gave little respect to the AFL’s Jets and one Joe Willie Namath. The AFL also won Super Bowl IV,  the Chiefs routed the Vikings, 23-7.

One woman on Facebook told me the 1969 World Champion New York Mets should’ve  made my list. But as I told her I was listing upsets of individual events, not a Cinderella season. But that’s a good one for my next blog.

I like communicating with my pickleball partners during rallies. If I’m certain a shot is going out, I’ll yell, “No.” A ball between us might elicit a “Me” or “You.” I appreciate it when my partner does the same. Communication in any team sport is necessary. You always hear basketball coaches telling players, “Talk on defense.” I’m disappointed when a partner tells me he or she doesn’t want me to tell them to let a ball go. A couple partners have said it distracts or rattles them. So I keep quiet and during the subsequent match they’ll invariably hit several balls that would’ve been out. Hey, I sometimes hit balls that would’ve been out, but not as often as when my partner tells me to let it go.

Did you ever go online, get distracted by misleading headlines, dumb videos or dumber news stories, then look at the time and see that two hours have passed?

Speaking of being online, does it bother you as it does me that some people inject politics into discussions that have absolutely nothing to do with politics? It could be about the weather and some troll will blame a politician they despise. Those people seem to me to be kind of miserable, angry, or both.

A sad way to live. Don’t you think life’s too short for that?

I still love baseball and believe those who think it’s boring just don’t get it.