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Uberpong Brings Style to the Table

Graphically designed pingpong paddles straight outta Austin
Carly Yansak, 12:53pm, Wed. Dec. 26, 2012
Photo courtesy of Christine Chen
When you hear the word "pingpong," certain images come to mind: long, green tables in dusty rec halls; black-and-red paddles with worn-down handles; VFWs filled with old men and mothballs. The perception is bland, and also outdated. Which is why David Lowe, founder of Uberpong, is bringing new style to the sport.

"I looked at the paddles and thought, everyone is playing with red and black paddles and everybody's is the same, yet everybody who plays is different. They should have an opportunity to be able to say, 'This is my paddle and this is what I'm about.'"

Launched on November 30, Uberpong is a company who makes pingpong paddles sporting a variety of eye-catching imagery. Designers from all over the world have participated, including Austin's own Nathan Brown and Clint Wilson. Not of the traditional hardbat style, these artisan-crafted blades have a layer of foam with designs printed directly onto the rubber exterior.

"When you use a hardbat, it's almost like hitting it straight off the wood, and there's hardly any spin," Lowe says. "I know plenty of players who have really expensive rubber, but what happens is if their opponent does as well, and they both put loads of spin on the ball, it hits the rubber and comes off it at funny angles. What we notice with ours [Überpong] is it'll almost neutralize that spin. It acts in a cool way because it's actually easier to play against high-quality paddles." Lowe doesn't say this idly, either. He's used the Überpong design in victory against high-end paddles on many occasions.

The concept was first visualized while Lowe worked for a startup company in England. The office had a pingpong table, and he loved the way it brought people together, but he'd look from his desk and think, "This is a cool game, but it's lacking something." What it lacked was aesthetics, and revolutionizing the paddles is only the first step to changing this.

"We have a lot of ideas for new inventions and innovations around the game, so this is kind of like the tip of the iceberg," he claims. The paddles were chosen first, though, for a very specific reason. "We see them as the heart of the game. That, for me, is the very first thing that should be an extension of you." Not wanting to give too much away, Lowe gave me a wink and spilled only one future idea they're bouncing around, "We're looking into conceptual and experiential things. For example, a glow-in-the-dark table."

Lowe has hopes the paddles will transform the perception of the game. With a new, aesthetically pleasing look, it catches your eye and makes people keen to play. "People will come up to me and say, 'I love these paddles, this would actually make me get back into pingpong.' That's powerful because it made me think; maybe it really is that simple. It's the image of the game; the perception is all wrong."

Come the new year, we can expect a lot from Überpong - more designers are signing up; bars are showing interest in branded paddles; talks of their own venue are under way in hopes of creating a space where a community can form. They couldn't have picked a better city to grow in, either. It seems any bar you visit these days, you find a pingpong table (Easy Tiger, Lustre Pearl, Gourmands, etc). Lighter than pool tables, they're a way businesses can still provide a place to socialize and entertain while not compromising the space.

"There can be a pingpong table one night, a space for a band to play the next," states Lowe with a smile.

There are currently 17 paddle designs available on Überpong's website, and as it grows, so will the options.

"It's almost like when you go out and think, 'What T-shirt should I wear?' What's the rationale behind wearing a T-shirt? Most of the time it's that you want to stand out, and have a different one than others. It's the same concept, and just like an extension of fashion."

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