Outfitted: Nettie Paddles
Bringing Pluck and Personality to Pickleball
Considered the fastest growing sport in America, pickleball is taking communities by storm. The USA Pickleball Association (yes, that’s a thing) claims that more than 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021. I happened to be one of them.
Players claim that it’s popularity is due to the fact that it’s fun and fast to learn, is accessible for all ages and has community at is heart rather than intense competition. As someone who’s never been naturally inclined toward organized sports, I was a little hesitant to give it a try, but once I got the hang of it I was hooked.
Even though the pickleball buzz has just ramped up in the past five years or so, it’s actually been around since 1965. It was created on Bainbridge Island in Washington when three dads were bored and looking for something to do with their kids on a Saturday afternoon. After not being able to find all the pieces for badminton, they improvised with a wiffle ball, lowered the net and made some paddles out of plywood. Pickleball as we know it was born and the son of one of those original families is currently the president of Pickle-Ball, Inc. out of Kent, Washington.
A combination of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong, pickleball uses a court about 40% of the size of a tennis court. This makes the grueling sprinting on a tennis court more manageable with a smaller size, and the fine-tuning that can take years to properly play tennis is reduced with this more unassuming version. With terms like “kitchen”, “falafel” and “flabjack” being thrown around, it can take a minute to get the hang of the rules and the slang, but I quickly caught on after about two games.
After one afternoon of playing pickleball, I was on the hunt for my own paddle. Even though I spend a lot of my free time testing and researching outdoor gear, my full-time gig is as a graphic designer. I’m always keeping an eye out for good visual design as well as function. Last year, I came across Nettie pickleball gear after reading a blog post from one of my favorite design agencies out of L.A., Hoodzpah.
The Hood sisters at Hoodzpah Design were commissioned by Nettie founder Catherine Baxter from Cincinnati to create a nostalgic and playful design that hearkened back to old racquet clubs of yesteryear. Baxter herself is an avid pickleball player and found the market to be saturated with paddles that had cheesy graphics reminiscent of energy drink cans. She wanted a high-performing paddle that captured the fun, elevated feeling of playing as a kid. What they ended up with are four unique paddles of which Armin Vit of Brand New Under Consideration design firm commented, “Unapologetic about its retro approach, this brand delivers vintage goodness across all elements but with a fun, contemporary execution.”
The paddles each have a meaningful name and design that coincides with the Nettie story. The Pendleton is named after Baxter’s neighborhood in Cincinnati where she first came up with the idea for Nettie. The Bainbridge is named after the island where pickleball was invented. The Bedford is named after a street in Brooklyn where Nettie came to life. The Ashbury is named after the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Fransisco where picklball reigns strong among fog-soaked courts.
Made with premium plastic honeycomb cores, the intentionality of every element of design makes these bright and playful paddles a constant hit among the pickleball community. I especially appreciate the bringing together of three of my favorite things: Midwestern roots, quality graphics and playfulness. Individual paddles are for sale, but I recommend getting the two- or four-person set that includes the paddles, balls, sweat bands and a carrying bag. $80-270, playnettie.com
Meg Simon is an Aspen-based freelance writer, graphic designer and founder of Simon Finch Creative. She can be reached at email@example.com.