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Hamtramck Artist’s Eco-Friendly Paddle Takes the Court by Storm

Hamtramck Artist’s Eco-Friendly Paddle: In the heart of Hamtramck, Michigan, beneath the floorboards of a quaint rowhouse, Forrest Hudes is crafting something extraordinary. In a workshop tucked away in the basement, Hudes meticulously wraps leather around the handle of what they proudly call “the world’s first hollow-core” wood pickleball paddle.

Forrest Hudes, a skilled woodworker has spent the last decade transforming wood into remarkable pieces of furniture and home decor. However, a fateful encounter with pickleball at Clark Park in southwest Detroit last summer changed everything. “I got two points into my game, and I was like, ‘This is my life now,’” recalls the 34-year-old to Metro Times. Hudes, who admits to having an addictive personality, was instantly hooked.

Addressing Environmental Concerns

The attraction of the game soon gave way to a stark realization, the quality of pickleball paddles was lacking. Most paddles, made of plastic, deteriorate quickly, contributing to long-term environmental waste. Wooden paddles, while an option, often fell short—heavy, prone to breaking, and inconsistent. More serious players turn to paddles made from various toxic composites like carbon fiber and fiberglass.

As pickleball’s popularity surged, Hudes grew concerned about the sport’s ecological footprint.

“I researched pickleball and the history of the sport, and it opened my eyes to how big the pollution was.

“It’s shocking how fast it rose in popularity. It adds up to a lot of impact on the environment, and because of the popularity of the sport, it multiplies that impact by millions of paddles a year. It’s an amazing sport that has so many positive social and health impacts, but it’s taking this ecological toll that is invisible to a lot of people.” – Hudes

The Birth of Bigwood Sporting Goods

With a master’s degree in 3D design from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Hudes paused their other artistic endeavors and converted their basement into a paddle production studio. Thus, Bigwood Sporting Goods was born in September 2023, named after Hudes’ partner. The company’s mission is to create a high-performance, and he mentioned about company’s vision of environmentally friendly pickleball paddle made entirely of wood.

Developing this innovative paddle was no small feat. Hudes tested 50 design variations and 28 full prototypes before arriving at the final product. The key innovation lies in the paddle’s lightweight basswood core, carved into a honeycomb pattern for enhanced strength and impact distribution. This design, pending patent approval, sets it apart from conventional wood paddles that are often heavy and lack finesse.

Hamtramck Artist's Eco-Friendly Paddle

Crafting the Paddle

Covering the face of each paddle is a dark, rich walnut veneer, offering unique grain patterns that ensure no two paddles are alike. The handle is wrapped in leather, and each paddle comes with an organic cotton sleeve. Priced at $220, these paddles are competitively positioned and come with a one-year warranty. In April, the U.S. American Pickleball Association (USAPA) approved the paddle for professional tournaments.

Rising Popularity and Market Impact

The rise of pickleball, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen the sport’s player base swell to over 13.6 million in the U.S. alone. The global pickleball paddle market is projected to reach $322.6 million by 2028, largely driven by paddles made from toxic materials. Despite the crowded market, fewer than two dozen companies dominate the premium paddle segment. However, after trying a Bigwood paddle, even seasoned players accustomed to high-end brands like CRBN found themselves impressed.

Performance and Player Feedback

Initially skeptical, the players discovered that the Bigwood paddle offered remarkable power and control, rivaling the best carbon fiber paddles. Its lightweight construction and large sweet spot ensured consistent performance and minimized vibrations. The tactile feedback from the natural wood significantly enhanced their game

There are a lot of power paddles out there, but you lose that touch and control,” Hudes explains. “Because wood is a natural material and has the ability to flex because of the fact that it comes from trees, it has the ability to hold onto the ball and have dwell time. You get this combination of power and touch, and that is really awesome.”

Beyond performance, the Bigwood paddle addresses one of the sport’s biggest issue, the high-pitched sound of plastic paddles. The wooden paddle produces a more pleasant, lower-pitched thwack, much to the relief of nearby residents.

Challenging the Status

Though wooden paddles are rare in competitive play, Hudes and their partner made a strong impression at a recent Detroit tournament, winning against my team with their Bigwoods. Their paddles prompted a reevaluation of the sport’s environmental impact and potential for sustainable innovation.

Hamtramck Artist's Eco-Friendly Paddle

A New Chapter in Pickleball

Forrest Hudes, who never envisioned themselves as a business person, is as surprised as anyone by their venture’s success. “I never imagined myself as a business person,” Hudes admits. “It has been a wild ride.”

In the rapidly evolving world of pickleball, Hudes stands at the forefront of a potential revolution, blending art, sport, and sustainability into a single, elegantly crafted paddle.

News in Brief: Hamtramck Artist’s Eco-Friendly Paddle

Forrest Hudes, a wood-working artist from Hamtramck, has pioneered a premium, eco-conscious pickleball paddle, claiming it to be the world’s first hollow-core wood paddle. Motivated by the poor quality and environmental impact of conventional paddles, Hudes transformed their basement into a production studio, launching Bigwood Sporting Goods. The paddle, made from lightweight basswood and walnut veneer, offers superior performance and is priced competitively at $220. Approved by the U.S. American Pickleball Association, it aims to challenge the dominance of toxic composite paddles in the market, providing both power and control while minimizing environmental harm.

Also read- Thompson Pickleball Launches Truefeel Sidewall Paddle

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