Getting High On Balsa

A few things can happen when you purchase a new racket that is very different than what you are used to. There’s the potential that it could be terrible. You might not like anything at all about it. There might be something surprising about your new purchase. It’s kind of like a blind date. Your new racket might be heavier than you anticipated. Maybe it looks nice, but is just not the kind of thing you could imagine spending a lot of time with – or it could be love at first sight. 

I got caught up in some post-Christmas impulse buying. I’ve gone through a lot of paddles in my table tennis career. Rarely have I been so impressed with my blind purchase. It’s not like I just opened up the Paddle Palace catalog and bought the first racket I saw. I did some research; but in the end, it was a roll of the dice. I’ve never had real high expectations for blind dates. Having exhausted so many possible combinations of blades and rubber, there was one avenue that I had never gone down. I had never used a balsa wood blade.

Balsa is light – really light. As one user stated, “You either like it or you don’t.” I purchased the Yasaka Battle Balsa blade. It is light, but is advertised as having a little more speed than most balsa blades. The blade I had been using was super slow but had great control. A little extra pop would be a welcome change. The Battle Balsa has that pop. It’s not the world’s fastest racket; it just sounds that way. If you are a ping pong paddle connoisseur, you know that the way a racket sounds is strangely important. I want to be able to hear the sound of my shots, but they need to sound right. I miss the sound of speed glued Black Jack rubber on a lacquered carbon blade exploding from the opposite side of the gym. The Battle Balsa doesn’t quite sound like that, but it’s close. The Spinlord Waran rubber enhances the sound a little, but it’s mostly the blade. 

I will now admit that I haven’t played one match, one game, one point, or even warmed up with my new racket. I have managed to hit enough balls around to get a general feel for it. What seems like love at first sight may turn into the date from hell. Today, I’m high on balsa, particularly this Yasaka blade. It looks good, feels right, sounds fantastic, and has potential to influence my equipment selections for a long time. Balsa is quite different from any other wood. It’s unique qualities work well for certain table tennis styles. I’m hopeful that I’ll be as high on it after I’ve actually played a few matches. You never know – sometimes even blind dates work out.

2 Replies to “Getting High On Balsa”

  1. I couldn’t control my Hunter Flame (Balsa core) and had to stop playing with it. Balsa is very rigid. I might try it with a 1.5mm sponge some time.

    1. You are exactly right. The balsa blade I have does not have much in the way of dwell time. That means it does not work very well for looping. Oddly, mine is excellent for chopping and potentially very fast on the forehand for drives. Balsa typically matches well with pips out rubber. I’m still enjoying my purchase but may need to rethink what the best match is for my backhand. I almost bought the Hunter Flame because I remembered you had one and I think I had tried it out once.

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