When picking a pickleball paddle that's right for you, you'll want to consider control, power, weight, material, and style. If you have the budget, graphite paddles are a lightweight option with excellent performance. Other players may opt for a heavier paddle that provides more power.
Factors to consider when picking a pickleball paddle
Before choosing a pickleball paddle, you should identify your style of play will influence your choice of paddle. If you are someone who focuses on dinks, you may choose a different paddle from someone who volleys hard. For example, many tournament professionals like Ben Johns choose a heavier paddle with a polymer surface to have both power and control over shots.
Control vs Power
Professional players who can control their shots are typically more successful than those who rely on just power.
If you are already a powerful player, consider getting a paddle that will support your control over the ball. If you tend to play with great control, you may need a heavier paddle that can add extra power to your shots. The weight of the paddle determines the balance of power and control.
Paddles have a weight range from 7oz for lightweight paddles (great for beginner players) to 8.5oz for the heaviest paddles (better for advanced players). New players benefit from selecting a lighter paddle that is easier to swing and provides better accuracy and wrist action. Using a paddle that is too heavy will cause you to become fatigued quickly.
The medium-weight paddle offers a good combination of power and control. It can be used by players of all levels.
Heavyweight pickleball paddles
To generate more momentum, players who prefer power over control tend to use a heavier paddle.
A heavy paddle allows you to apply more power to the ball, but it requires effort to reach that speed, and the power comes at the expense of some control.
A pickleball paddle’s material can also influence its performance. Materials commonly used in pickleball paddles include:
- Wood – cheapest and heaviest option.
- Graphite – expensive and lightweight, with excellent performance.
- Composite – a middle ground between wood and graphite. Available in different weights and prices.
Wood pickleball paddles are the cheapest and most durable option, but they are also the heaviest and least technologically advanced pickleball paddles.
Prices are lower because they are easy to produce. Beginners who are seeking an inexpensive pickleball paddle often use wood paddles.
A composite or graphite paddle is recommended if you intend to play pickleball frequently.
Competitive pickleball players frequently use graphite paddles. Graphite pickleball paddles, even low-end ones, are generally more expensive than paddles made with other materials.
A graphite pickleball paddle typically weighs between six and nine ounces. As well as being lightweight, graphite paddles are also known for their ease of control. You should consider graphite if you want to make precise shots and control your game.
Composite paddles consist of a fiberglass or carbon fiber surface and a composite core. There are two types of cores: polymer and aluminum. As an alternative, Nomex, a rigid nylon, can be used for the core.
An advantage of composite paddles is that they feature a textured surface that assists players in generating more spin on their shots. Composite paddles are considerably lighter than wooden models, making them easier to handle.
Pickleball paddle cores are generally made from three materials: aluminum, Nomex, and polymer.
Pickleball paddles with aluminum cores are strong and lightweight. If you value maneuverability and control, consider a paddle with an aluminum core. Their downside is that they lack power compared to other core types.
Nomex Honeycomb Core
Nomex honeycomb cores are made from a material that resembles cardboard. It is dipped in a special resin and arranged in a honeycomb pattern to ensure durability. Nomex paddles are popular with both pros and recreational players, and they provide both power and precision. A downside is that they tend to make a loud sound when making contact with the ball.
Polymer cores are made from a special blend of plastic and are quieter than other paddle options. For players who want to keep the noise down, either due to personal preference or because they live in a gated community, paddles with polymer cores provide a more muted sound than other paddes.
Polymer cores lack power compared to Nomex cores because the polymer core absorbs some of the power of your shots. If you prefer control over power, a polymer paddle may be a good choice.
Pickleball paddles vary from under $20 to more than $200.
Your price range is determined by your budget and by how much you intend to play.
- Budget ($20-$50): You may require a pickleball paddle in the $20-$50 range if you’re a new pickleball player and aren’t sure if you’re ready to commit to the sport yet. In that situation, budget paddles can do the job.
- Midrange ($50-$150): If you plan to play pickleball more frequently (for example, once or twice a week), a midrange paddle is worth the investment since the quality of the paddle will influence the quality of your play on the pickleball court.
- Premium ($150+): Once you’ve decided to take your pickleball game seriously and invest in coaching or training, you should upgrade to a premium paddle that fits your playing style. Don’t upgrade too soon, as early on in your pickleball career you don’t yet know the playing style you prefer.
Pickleball paddles are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. The three most common types of paddles are standard, elongated, and long-handle paddles.
For paddles to meet USAPA requirements, the length of the paddle’s face can’t exceed 17 inches, and the total paddle length (including edge guard and butt cap) can’t exceed 24 inches.
Standard pickleball paddle
Standard pickleball paddles are 16 inches long by 8 inches wide. This shape allows you to achieve a balance between reach, power, and control. The high surface area allows increased ball contact, making them an ideal choice for beginning players.
Elongated pickleball paddles
The length of a long pickleball paddle is typically between 16 and 17 inches. The elongated shape provides greater reach, power, and spin, though it also provides less control. This shape is preferred by many singles players.
Long-handle pickleball paddles
Players with a two-handed backhand often prefer paddles with longer handles, which make backhand shots more comfortable.
Edge guard vs Edgeless paddles
The paddle edge guard is a piece of material that wraps around the paddle. The advantage of an edge guard is that it helps to protect your paddle from damage. However, if a ball hits the guard, it may affect your shot.
Some players prefer edgeless pickleball paddles over edge guards. A paddle without an edge guard provides the widest playing surface without the risk of a ball being missed. Continuous use, however, can result in chips and dents due to the absence of an edge guard.
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