By Chatty Cathy
3:15 PM Oct 19th, 2015 Buckeye, Arizona
As the November 1st “Evolved EVO” release deadline approaches and the walls begin to close in on ZZT Sports Jerald “Even Stevens” Christensen, rays of sunshine pierce the rain clouds and shed light on what seems to be a “game changer”. Early indications show that this is a good sign for the company, which has somehow been surviving off of discarded seconds for over 6 months. The need to sell the seconds, ‘Dented, Dinged and Otherwise Ugly Paddles’, came after a 4 year relationship with the supplier of 90% of ZZT’s product line disintegrated overnight. The inability to correct the problem sent the company scrambling to find a new supplier, to regain 10 years of momentum lost in a moment’s time that Christensen compares to, “throwing out an anchor on a speedboat.”
Spy photo captured of rumored ZZT Sports “Maverick” $55 dollar paddle
We went with the .40 inch thick 3003 aluminum honeycomb core and a plastic coated glass strand weave surface, which is our composite manufactures own creation, for the skin. Essentially, it is strands of fiberglass coated in plastic and woven tight, much like carbon fiber is plastic coated carbon (a.k.a. graphite) woven together. I’ll be honest in saying there are many composites (fiberglass and graphite) on the market that are unidirectional, meaning the strands run one way. This creates a grain effect, or a perforation that makes it easy to split if stressed at the wrong spot. Like the handle for instance, where it narrows down to under an inch. If you have ever had a paddle break, chances are real good it was cut against the grain.
Having the strands woven together eliminates the grain and distributes the force throughout the paddle surface. Using glass instead of carbon yields characteristics close to carbon fiber, at a fraction of the cost. The glass is also more compatible than carbon with the phenolic resins used to bond the core and skin. This means a stronger bond, no separation and/or dead spots. It is solid, ridged and predictable. Allowing you to pop it when you want, and then dink accurately. It is proof to me that “how the composite is made” is as important as “what the composite is made from”. The Maverick will weigh in at 7.7 - 7.8 ounces.
The Maverick will have the same rock solid edge guard of our Contour. We heat every edge guard and then allow it to cool to shape on each paddle before gluing them to the frame. It is time consuming but we are fighting a constant battle against concrete, and the edge guard is the shield. The Maverick also carries a lifetime separation warrantee and our standard satisfaction guarantee. We are very proud of this paddle, we think you will like it too.
3. I wasted valuable time (and money) trying to make them pretty. I was convinced they needed paint to compete. Paint or logos cost more per paddle regardless of the method of application and I chased dead ends trying to find an affordable and reliable way to do it. It wasn’t until I got the feedback from the prototypes we sent out that it dawned on me that the unpainted material was perfect with the new type of balls they are introducing and testing. But raw and unpainted they are ……..well plain. It didn’t seem to matter, nobody cared what the paddles looked like. It played so well they want it. Now. So I learned all that glitters is not gold. I lost sight of the basics, so we named our all-time best seller “Basic”, as a reminder of how we got here in the first place.
In a recent interview with The Buckeye Value Saver (a free weekly paper best known for laying in the driveway and tipping off the neighbors you’re out of town), Christensen admitted that the past 6 months have been frustrating, to say the least.
“It’s been like trying to rewire a 747 in flight, everything that could go wrong has. We are not building microchips here, but everything has to fit together correctly or it will fail. I know this because I have failed before, and I hate buying our own paddles back. My mother’s passing has slowed everything down in my world, enough for me to focus on my priorities in the company and my personal life. I have a clear vision of our future and it is bright. It’ll be another 6 months of eating “coffee pot Ramen noodles”, but we will survive. I can’t help to acknowledge how blessed I’ve been, and I refuse to take life for granted.”
When asked if the handcuffs on the sample paddles in the spy photo are related to the security concerns and corporate espionage, Christensen responded, “No, of course not. I kept losing the paddles, so I made sure they stayed with me.” Christensen laughed. “I’ll be honest; if I had to name the exact moment we knew we were doing the right thing, it was after sending an order to China (to fulfill an order) and then getting Chinese clones of our paddles solicited back to us a year later. What the paddles lacked in quality, they made up for in their low price. It was like the universe showed me a perfect example of what we would be building if we made profit a priority over quality. God bless them for choosing our paddles to rip off, they helped reinforce the point we were trying to make in the first place.”
“The new EVO line will be lighter and stronger, and testing has been very positive for feel and durability.”
When asked how they stack up against the competition in the appearance department, Christensen shrugged and said, “They have a glowing personality. They have a high quality .50 inch aluminum core and military grade fiberglass skins that have been engineered for strength and durability. The first prototypes have been 7.8 oz compared to the original EVO 8.3oz and even stronger. Just think WWII Willys Jeep.”
“The mid price paddle we have dubbed the “Maverick” is just as light and even stronger. It is rigid and it pops. It has a new woven skin that is a little easier on the eyes. It was slated for the fusion replacement, but we can actually produce them cheaper than the old fusions, so we can sell them cheaper. At $55 dollars retail, we feel this paddle will compare to paddles almost twice the price, with a no hassle guarantee. It raised the bar set on creating our top of the line Fuzion replacement, which is still in early development. We found some really, really good material though. We are excited”
Pre-order starting Nov. 21st for EVO Basic. Shipping Unkown.
The Maverick is the Fuzion replacement, and we chose the name for two reasons; the movie about a riverboat gambler who puts it all on the line for one last shot to win it all, and the fact that we marked it down $10 instead of following the herd and marking it up $10. The only thing the Maverick and the original Fuzion have in common is the shape. We have increased the handle length by a half of an inch.
The Slim Pickin’s are running out, and we are two months from having a paddle we feel confident in selling. A gap in having anything to sell is inevitable, but we sell quality paddles, not problems. We are waiting as fast as possible, but they have to be tested, refined and retested. We invest in prototypes and send them out across the world to trusted fans, to be used and abused in every condition. People will play pickleball in subzero temperatures at 8500 feet, and we think a paddle should stand up to that, even when the third ball has cracked from the cold. We are backing these up with our 100% satisfaction guarantee, and a lifetime (Jerald’s lifetime) core separation warrantee. You do not need warrantee cards, receipts, or proof of purchase. We keep it simple; if you are unsatisfied by the product we built, we will fix it.
We hand-build every paddle. There is no warehouse or factory full of employees and machinery. We have no research and design department and our distribution department has merged with advertising department in the form of a $30 website, that Amanda works her fingers to the bone to maintain. We carry zero debt, we have no investors or shareholders to answer to. There are four dedicated people, who manage to handle everything from purchasing to distribution. I assure you, we are far from shutting down. A goal without a plan is a dream. We’ve had a solid plan from day one. The goal is to be the best paddle, for half the price.
We have grown with the sport for a decade now, and we have worked hard doing the work ourselves, to keep overhead costs low. The freedom of having profit at the bottom of the list of priorities, allows us to focus on quality first and invest in our reputation.
We do not make these paddles in our home, we just live in the factory. And we have never been more blessed.
Thank you for making it possible, your patience will be rewarded.
Jerald A. Christensen
We are going to release the EVO replacement November 1st, and the Fusion replacement December 1st. The timing is horrible and there is nothing we would love more than to have everything ready by the beginning of the snowbird migration. We could do it by cutting corners and “hoping for the best”, but foresight and discipline, allows us to do it our way, the right way. I personally feel sad watching the EVO, and especially the Fuzion, go by the wayside. Watching the last few Slim Pickin’s get boxed up and shipped out, I have to laugh at the fact I once said, “Nobody will buy an unpainted paddle”. Yet here we are. My favorite is still the Contour, but the Fuzion was something special and will be hard to replace.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
First of all I would like to apologize for the delay in production and speaking for the company itself, I would like to thank all of the ZZT sports fans and supporters for your patience. We understand how you make it possible for ZZT Sports to exist, and we love you for it. We would love to show you just how much we love you with the best paddle we can produce, and we are proud to announce we have found the material to make it possible.
To remove any prejudices and misconceptions, we had to find a company who never even heard of pickleball. That turned out to be harder than you would think, and certainly harder than it was five years ago when we developed the EVO and Fuzion line. However, we have found an American company who listened and produced results. They are good people doing good work, and we have invested in the people and the company itself, more so than the material. We had to start from scratch, and we took this opportunity to literally get down to the molecular level.
We have kept our promise of doing everything possible to bring you America’s most affordable composite paddle………. we just need more time. Two more months is all we ask for.
My family has worked for well over a decade building our reputation, investing our lives and our efforts, and growing steadily, one paddle at a time. A challenge was made long ago, "If you think you can do better, than go for it”, sounds like a wager to me. We started our journey of making a better paddle and continue every day trying to prove that we can do it better. We have stuck with 3 basic principles:
I affectionately call our customers fans. They are not dollar signs, but supporters. We have never advertised and I never plan to. Our best sales people are the players who buy our paddles. Our sales are based on recommendations from the players on your court next to you and across the net who have been satisfied with the value and quality of their ZZT Sports paddle. With tens of thousands ZZT Sports signature white paddles spread across the world, our workmanship has created its own niche. I wouldn’t trade that for all the money in the world.
All is not lost though. We started this with something to prove. The lack of material for our Classic and Contours gave birth to the EVO and Fuzion lines in the first place. We have packed up our Subaru and hit the road visiting old suppliers with new ideas and new suppliers with what we know works best. I have secured some Contour material and plan on releasing my stockpile of seconds, or blemished paddles, at the best price possible in the next few days.
I cannot promise an immediate solution. But I do promise I am doing everything I can to bring you America’s most affordable composite paddle.
Jerald A. Christensen
My concern is for those who feel let down at the rec centers and clubs. My concern is for the new players looking for an affordable, and better, alternative to wood paddles. As the sport grows, big companies are popping up with their own mass-produced paddles. Some just attach new names to paddles made from the same materials that failed the test of active play in the past. Some use inferior materials from overseas as a cheap alternative.
But if it costs these manufacturers less to make a paddle, why are they charging you more? Where is the guarantee of quality and satisfaction? Pickleball is a game of fairness and trust. That’s why we play it. You call the ball out even if the call goes against you. That’s why we halted production. This is who we are.
Why are we out of EVO’s?
As the man with the final say for ZZT Sports, I take full responsibility for the extended backorder on our EVO line, and soon the Fuzion Pro’s. All of us at ZZT Sports believe – and hope – that production will resume within another month, but we just can’t guarantee it at this time. This is the risk we took because we DO guarantee the best pickleball paddle in America.
The reason for the back order is simple. I refused a very large order from our composite manufacturer and I halted all production thereafter. The material was not up to my standards and I would not use it. Period.
This was a big decision. With our thin profit margins that depend on a healthy sales volume, a halt to production will cost us big. Real big! Good thing we are not in this for the money. I’ll go back to driving a big rig cross country before I put our name on anything we ourselves wouldn’t play with. Still, you have to see the irony of me and ZZT being stuck up this river without a paddle.
Jerald A. Christensen
Back to the basics. We are dropping the numbers on the EVO line and we are replacing them with the EVO Basic and the EVO Plus. The Basic adopting the smaller EVO II shape, with a slightly longer handle. The EVO Plus having a larger face resembling the EVO I. These two shapes have served us well and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The EVO Plus will be available by the first of the year.
The cores are the same .50 inch 3003 aluminum honeycomb core with Military spec fiberglass skins. I like the .50 inch over the industry norm of .40 inch, because the wider core provides more surface area for the edge guard to bond to. It has passed rigorous standards for use in military applications, so I think it will stand up to what we want to do with it. The best part is the smooth surface mates with the material of the Pickleball (especially the indoor and new quiet balls) very well, to give you more control. Who knew smoother was the way to go?
They have the same low profile edge guard as the EVO I and II, and your choice of the Gamma Pro-lite, an Ultra-cushioned Contour or the larger blue gel grip. They have been consistently 7.8oz in weight and have a little more grip length to balance and give more grip surface area. They carry a “Lifetime Core Separation” warrantee and our “No Hassle" satisfaction guarantee. At $45 retail, we think it is a tremendous value. $35 is even better.
Monday - Saturday
8 AM MST - 6 PM MST
I’ve been straight with you so far, so I’m just going to say it. I have made mistakes that put us a few weeks behind and I apologize. If you are mad that you cannot buy an EVO yet you are justified, and you can direct your anger towards me personally. The tank is empty and every day we are delayed feels like one more nail in the coffin. I most often refer to everything “we” do as “we”, because it’s a family business and “we” are all in this together, good or bad.
America's best value in composite Pickleball Paddles
This is me, Jerald Christensen, taking personal responsibility for three mistakes:
1. I obviously set to short of a deadline for us. I made some last minute changes that I felt were necessary for long term survival of the paddles. I felt the risk and delay was worth it, and I know it is frustrating not having an alternative paddle under $50. I have gone “all in” on these new paddles and with the new rules for sound and surface testing, a failed test could kill the paddle before it hits the court. I empathize with the frustration of paying $110 for a paddle that is “too loud” to play with in your community, and then trying to explain that it’s “too loud” to the kid at the big box store when you try to return it. A quality paddle should be solid and quiet. I guarantee all ZZT paddles will be accepted everywhere.
2. I underestimated the demand for the EVO replacement. Drastically. We have lost our anonymity, and our secret is out. Be careful what you wish for. I was convinced another manufacture would grab the spot we left empty at the low end of the market. This isn’t the case, the “clones” have been outlawed for the most part and everyone else seems to be concentrating on the high end of the market at the $75-$95 range. I assumed we would be filling orders from 0, starting from square one. Thank you by the way, you are the best fans a company could ask for. So shame on me for being short sighted and not believing in your loyalty. We were backordered before the new paddles existed, and we still have to build them. I promise production will be at full steam until the demand is met, with no compromises on build quality. Lowering the price is probably not the best way to slow demand, but I think it’s obvious by now, I’m no rocket surgeon.