When the 2024 PPA Tour begins this week in Palm Springs, Calif., the Vulcan VPRO Flight will debut as the league’s new official ball.
As volleys have become faster thanks to enhanced paddle technology and player skill, Vulcan has designed a ball intended to extend rallies by reducing the speed of play.
“The style of play in pickleball is drastically different than it was two years ago,” Lucia DiGiacomo, general manager at Vulcan Pickleball, told NoVolleys. “You have all these awesome tennis players coming in [and] changing the style of the sport. Paddle technology has really changed the way the game is played as well. There’s so much power in these paddles, which is a cool thing but we were running the risk of changing the game almost a little too drastically.”
Vulcan’s ball will replace Onix Pickleball’s Dura Fast 40, the previous official ball of the PPA Tour. Indeed, Onix touts its Dura line as being “the fastest ball made in the sport” on the ball’s product page.
More entertaining points
With Vulcan’s new offering, broadcast viewers and live fans can expect upcoming PPA Tour gameplay to produce longer and more engaging points, according to DiGiacomo.
“I think for the spectator, it’s going to create a sport that’s a little bit easier to watch because it’s not like these super fast hand battles that are just over instantly”, she said. “We wanted to create something that pulled in the reins a little bit on the power and speed that’s happening on the pickleball court.”
“If the ball is flying too fast off the paddle when players are 14 feet apart at the net, that becomes a little bit difficult to watch”, DiGiacomo continued. “When you have a ball that reacts better off these hot paddles and tones it down a little bit, it creates that beauty we all love in pickleball.”
A year in the making
Vulcan has been developing its new ball for over a year while getting testing feedback from professional players.
“Our ball is really consistent and doesn’t go out of round, so that’s a huge benefit,” said DiGiacomo. “We’re creating a dynamic where the pros are able to play in a way that’s not solely reliant on who has the most powerful paddle. It becomes more about skill and hand-eye coordination, and it allows for the player that should win the point to win the point.”
New ball protocols introduced by the PPA Tour this year will see fresh balls put into play for each pro match.
Vulcan already has ties with the PPA — It is one of four brands to serve as the official paddle of the PPA Tour, and it sponsors two tour pros, Jay Devilliers and Tyler Loong.
The VPRO Fight is being sold online at Pickleball Central and Vulcan’s website. Select local retailers will begin selling the ball in March before major retailers such as Walmart offer it later this summer.
A six-pack of the VPRO Flight can be purchased now for $24.99, which is nearly double Onix’s listed online price for a Dura Fast-40 pack of four balls.
Will the MLP follow?
The X-40 made by Franklin Sports has been the official ball of Major League Pickleball, the team-based professional tour that’s agreed to merge with the PPA Tour. If the merger finalizes, DiGiacomo is not sure if MLP would also adopt Vulcan as its official ball, but would welcome it.
“We have a great relationship with both entities, we’re very excited that they’re joining forces. We don’t know whether or not we’d be able to be the ball of MLP,” she said, adding, “if that ever came up to us as an option, obviously we would love to do that.
“It makes sense for the pros, simply because [the merger structure includes] a PPA event and then two days later at the same venue, MLP will start. So it makes sense for the pros to play with the ball that they played with at PPA two days prior to play with the same ball in MLP, because a ball does play differently and does affect the play and the style of the game.”