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  • Writer's pictureNed Patton

There are More Sports than Basketball and Football?

Yes there are, and I’m going to talk about them. This post is about sports and sports equipment made using composites where the sport isn't football or basketball. Composites have made their way into sports equipment in a big way, so this is a subject useful to talk about because most people can relate to it. And of course, composites are ubiquitous in sports equipment because they are light weight, strong, stiff, and long lasting materials. In other words, they have made significant inroads into the entire sports world – for the right reasons – and it is because they are the wonderful materials that they are.

According to SMI Composites (, composites in the sporting goods industry will

have a value of $4.8 Billion by 2024. They go on to state that 7 out of 10 of the most popular outdoor and recreational activities now use composite material gear and equipment.

Most of you that ski know that composite skis have been around for a very long time – dating back to the 1970’s with fiberglass. Since then, of course, carbon fiber skis have come to completely dominate the market. So have carbon fiber ski poles. And so have carbon fiber snowboards. Now even ski boots are being made using carbon fiber. These boots are lighter, give the skier better edge control, and flex in the right places to make them comfortable to wear for the avid downhill skier.

Water sports in particular have adopted composites in a big way. Surfboards and paddleboards have been made using fiberglass for years, but recently carbon fiber paddleboards as well as carbon fiber paddles have made their way to the top of the market. Carbon fiber surfboards have also become all the rage because they are lighter, stiffer, and they create what surfers call “spring” which is the ability of the board to flex in a way that makes the ride faster. There is even a company now that is using recycled carbon fiber aircraft parts to make eco-friendly carbon fiber surfboards.

And, of course there are carbon fiber kayaks, water skis, water polo paddles and canoes, fishing rods, and more. And for you competitive sailors out there, carbon fiber masts and booms have made it into the sailboat racing scene recently. As have carbon fiber hulls and decks. These carbon fiber hulls are common in very high performance multihull sailboats, which also have tunable carbon fiber masts that give the serious racer that edge around a race mark. And, their deck ropes, halyards, etc., are all Spectra® today because this newer ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber is stronger than nylon, doesn’t stretch like nylon, is completely impervious to seawater, and floats! Spectra® is one of the newer strings (fibers) that is making its way into lots of sporting equipment because it has the highest strength per gram or pound of fiber than any other fiber. Climbers almost all use Spectra® ropes.

Tennis rackets have also been made of several materials since the original wood racket days. Aluminum rackets were very popular for years because they were lighter and springier than wood rackets. Then carbon fiber rackets came along and they outperformed even the lightest, strongest aluminum rackets. Now they are almost required for competitive play, and most of them have come down in cost to the point where the serious amateur probably is using one.

Even pickleball paddles are made using carbon fiber. If you don’t know what pickleball is, check it out on the web. It’s a game that is like ping pong played on a badminton size court with a net that is only about 3’ high. It looks like a lot of fun. The ball looks like a whiffle ball, and you have to serve it underhanded – no overhand serves like in tennis. I didn’t know about it until I saw the pickleball courts in Sunnyvale’s Las Palmas Park.

As you can see there are all sorts of sports that have adopted the use of what used to be called "high performance" composites, as in carbon fiber epoxy and carbon fiber thermoplastic composites. Composites have effectively taken over the sporting goods industry, and that has happened in just the last 20 years or so.


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