How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle

Choosing a pickleball paddle isn’t rocket science, but it’s not that straightforward either. Some folks live and die by the equipment they use when playing sports.

I am not one of those people. 

While not the best athlete on the planet, I’ve never felt the need to have the best tennis racket, baseball glove, or hockey stick. Instead, I’m a firm believer that the correct form coupled with regular practice will give you the best performance. Good equipment is just the cherry on top of an already delicious dessert.

However, in a game like pickleball, where consistency is king, I do wonder if more emphasis needs to be placed on choosing a paddle when compared to other sports.

Your initial thought might be, how confusing can choosing a pickleball paddle be? After all, pickleball is a relatively new sport. But we are living in the age of accelerated manufacturing; there is no shortage of paddle choices. Some companies specialize in the sport, some equipment is coming from tennis manufacturers, and other businesses are getting in on the lucrative action. There is serious money to be made in America’s fastest-growing sport!

How to Pick the Right Pickleball Paddle

The right way to choose a paddle is to analyze your needs first. Here are a few questions you should answer before making a purchase.

What Is Your Level of Play?

The paddle that is most attractive to you might not match your needs–so taking a good long look in the mirror and being honest about your game is a great starting point. A beginner doesn’t do themselves any justice in buying an advanced paddle–and the same is true in reverse. Determine your pickleball skill level here.

While there are many nuanced differences between paddles, a rule of thumb is that heavier rackets mean more power and less control; lighter equals more power and less control. 

How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle

Official pickleball rules do not have a technical paddle weight limit, though there are length limits. Most paddles range between 6oz – 14oz, and a majority appear to be between 7oz – 9oz.

When choosing a pickleball paddle, you should also consider your fitness level and any previous injuries. Needless to say, a heavier pickleball paddle could lead to arm strain, injury aggravation, and quicker fatigue–especially for pickleball beginners who haven’t developed good form. 

What’s Inside?

The core material that comprises your paddleball paddle is an important aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked. Generally, there are three types of core constructions: aluminum, polymer, and Nomex.

Paddles with aluminum are common; they are lightweight and offer control and spin but do sacrifice power. 

Polymer core construction is for the power player and has been growing in popularity. This type of paddle also mutes the sound of the ball a bit, which can be a Godsend for players irritated by the loud noise striking a pickleball ball makes.

Lastly, Nomex core construction is known for its durability. It is also the material used by many original paddles and is considered a must by many pickleball purists. A honeycomb pattern cardboard-like material and is dipped in resin and placed between two faces, creating a paddle that can last the test of time. 

Grip It. Grip It Real Good!

Similar to tennis rackets, pickleball rackets have varying grip sizes. For example, my hands are on the smaller side, and I use a 4 3/8 grip for tennis. I have found the grip size to translate over well to a pickleball paddle. 

The grip also needs to be comfortable. It might sound foolish, but you will be holding the paddle for an extended period of time. It’s important not to get a too narrow grip, or you will find yourself holding the paddle too tightly. During my first pickleball lesson, the instructor reminded me to hold the paddle loosely for more power, control and spin–he was right! A tight grip can also lead to elbow problems, and if you’re playing or considering pickleball, you’ve probably abandoned tennis to avoid elbow strain!

If you are unsure what grip size to go with, consider these methods to help you choose.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

Price matters. Our pragmatic readers who are new to the sport will likely want to start with a low- or mid-priced paddle. The more adventurous types will want to spend big bucks out of the gate. 

One of the significant price factors is what material the paddle is made of: wood, composite, or graphite. Generally, wood is the cheapest, followed by composite and then graphite.

What Type of Pickleball Player do You Aspire to Be?

The type of player you are will help inform the paddle you should choose. If you want power, then choosing a heavier paddle is a better option for you. But, if you want to spin, then you will want to go with a lighter paddle. As with all sports equipment, your mileage may vary! With so many factors, the best advice is to stick with a paddle you can afford and works for your game. Get experimental but do not overthink it!

And remember, if all else fails, blame your paddle! 😉

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