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Pickleball Paddles: Ultimate Guide – How to Choose the Right Paddle

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Pickleball paddle

So, you’ve decided to pick up pickleball or take your game to the next level? Great! To do that, you’re going to need the best pickleball paddle. This buyer’s guide will teach you everything you need to know about pickleball paddles so that you can select the one that is best for YOU. We will cover topics such as materials, weight, grip size, and more. By the time you finish reading this guide, you will be an expert on paddles and be ready to purchase your very own!

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Have you ever seen someone playing pickleball and thought to yourself, “That looks like a lot of fun! I should try that?” If so, then this guide is for you!

Pickleball is an enjoyable sport that can be played by people of all ages and skill levels. The game is similar to tennis but is played with a paddle and a plastic ball on a smaller court.


If you’re thinking about giving pickleball a try, then you’ll need to purchase a new paddle. But with all of the different paddles on the market, it can be tough to know which one to choose.


That’s why we’ve written this guide—to teach you all about paddles so that you can select the one that is best for YOU. We will cover topics such as materials, weight, grip size, and more.

This guide will provide you with the knowledge of the elements that make up a paddle and how they affect performance. Furthermore, you will know how to select a paddle that fits both your playing style and level.

What are the Different Parts of a Pickleball Paddle?

Before we get into how to choose the best pickleball paddles, let’s first go over the different parts of a pickleball paddle. This will help you to understand the terminology that is used when discussing paddles.

The face of the paddle is the part that hits the ball. It is often made of a different material than the rest of the paddle and can be textured to help with grip.


The edge guard is a strip of rubber or plastic that runs along the edge of the paddle. Its purpose is to protect the paddle from wear and tear.


The handle is the part of the paddle that you hold onto. It is usually made of wood and has a textured grip to help you keep hold of the paddle.


The core is the inner part of the paddle. It is typically made of a honeycomb structured material and helps to make the paddle lighter and more comfortable to hold.


Now that you know the different parts of a pickleball paddle, let’s move on to discussing the different materials that paddles can be made from.

What are the Different Materials Used to Make Pickleball Paddles?

Pickleball paddles can be made from a variety of different materials, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. To understand the materials used in pickleball paddle construction, we’ll need to look at both the core and the face surface.

Paddle Core

At the heart of every paddle is the material between its two surface layers. The inner core is usually built of a honeycomb design with hollow cells between the face surfaces.

Illustration of honeycomb core interior of a pickleball paddle

Illustration of honeycomb core interior of a pickleball paddle

As with paddle thickness, the core material will affect both the power and feel of your swing. The core also affects the noise level of the paddle.

The most common core materials are:

  • Polymer – Plastic blend and comprises 95% of today’s paddle cores
  • Nomex – Fiber paper coated with resin
  • Aluminum – Made with lightweight aluminum

Polymer Core Paddles

Polymer core paddles, which also include polypropylene, are durable, quiet, and offer a good balance of power and touch which is why it is the most popular core material. A polymer honeycomb core is a little heavier material and is known for power. But like all core materials, the combination of core materials, surface materials, and other construction factors will affect the performance of the paddle.

Nomex Core Paddles

Nomex, a DuPont trademarked product, has a firmer core than polymer and therefore delivers the most power and ball speed. While it provides plenty of power, Nomex cores have a harder feel and offer less control. Nomex core paddles are also noisier, which deters some players from purchasing Nomex. For serious singles players or novices seeking strong, easy strokes, this core is ideal.

Aluminum Core Paddles

Players who need a light paddle that they can control well should consider an aluminum core. These cores are not as durable as others but provide good performance wanting more maneuverability. Paddles with an aluminum core are not as loud as Nomex core paddles, but louder than a polymer core paddle.

Other Cores

The exception to the majority of today’s pickleball paddles, Gearbox makes a paddle constructed of 100% carbon fiber. We will see what new developments may appear on the market, especially as noise concerns become an issue with communities close to pickleball courts.

Core Density

Another consideration in evaluating core construction is the density of the honeycomb structure. Higher-end paddles usually have a denser (smaller) honeycomb pattern and provide a firmer feel with more power.

Paddle Surface

The paddle’s surface is the layer that makes contact with the ball. The paddle surface affects feel, power, touch, and spin.

Surface Composition

Most pickleball paddles have one of these four surfaces: graphite, fiberglass, carbon fiber, composite, or wood. Each type of surface offers different properties in terms of power, touch, spin, and noise.

Graphite Face

Graphite is a smooth, hard surface that provides good power and ball speed with little effort. It also gives players good control and feel for the ball.

Fiberglass Face

Fiberglass is a smooth, hard surface that is very similar to graphite. It provides good power and ball speed with little effort. Fiberglass also gives players good control and feel for the ball.

Carbon Fiber Face

A carbon fiber face is smooth and very durable. Due to the smooth surface, it offers the least amount of spin.

Composite Face

Composite surfaces are made of a combination of materials, typically graphite and fiberglass. This combination gives players the best of both worlds: good power and ball speed with great control and feel.

Wood

Wood paddles are made of, you guessed it, wood! They are the heaviest and cheapest paddle. The main downside to wood paddles is that they lack power and ball speed. You will generally find these in beginner sets and are only recommended as the best paddle for budget seekers.

Surface Texture

Once you’ve decided on the type of surface you want, you’ll need to decide on the paddle’s surface texture. The three most common textures are smooth, textured, and perforated.

Smooth

Smooth paddles have a completely smooth surface with no raised patterns or holes. This type of paddle offers good power and ball speed with great control. Smooth paddles are also the quietest type of paddle, making them the perfect paddle for players who don’t want to make a lot of noise on the court.

Textured

Textured paddles have raised patterns or holes on their surface. These patterns or holes help increase spin and control. Textured paddles are also quieter than smooth paddles, making them a good choice for pickleball players who prefer control without making a lot of noise.

Perforated

Perforated paddles have small holes drilled into their surface. These holes help increase spin and control. Perforated paddles are also the quietest type of paddle, making them ideal for pickleball players who don’t want to make a lot of noise on the court.


Keep in mind that not all pickleball paddles on the market are USAPA approved for tournaments. As per USAPA regulations, “the paddle’s hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart excessive spin on the ball.” That doesn’t mean that there can be no texture but it must meet the regulation standards. Check out the USAPA Equipment Standards Manual for more information.


Additionally, reflective surfaces are prohibited by the USAPA as are pictures and text on the paddle that are not in good taste.


If you want to play in sanctioned tournaments check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure the paddle is USAPA-approved.


Now that you know the different materials used to make pickleball paddles, let’s move on to discussing weight.

What is the Ideal Pickleball Paddle Weight?

The paddle weight will affect how easy it is to swing the paddle and how much power you can generate. As a general rule of thumb, lighter paddles are better for beginners. They are easier to swing and offer more control. Heavier paddles are typically used by more advanced players as they require more strength and generate more power.

The weight of the paddle is measured in ounces with the average weight between 7 and 8.5 ounces. There are no weight restrictions for play. Paddles fall into three general weight categories:

  • Light: 6.7 to 7.4 ounces
  • Medium-weight: 7.5 to 8.2 ounces
  • Heavy: 8.3 to 8.5 ounces

If you’re not sure what the best weight is for you, a medium-weight paddle in the middle range is suggested. If you want more weight later, you can apply lead tape to your paddle.

What is the Ideal Grip Size for a Pickleball Paddle?

Another important factor to consider when choosing a pickleball paddle is grip size. Paddles are made with a specific grip size so you will need to select your paddle based on the manufacturer’s specified grip size for that paddle.


The ideal grip size for a pickleball paddle will depend on the size of your hand. The grip should be comfortable in your hand and not too big or small. If the grip is too small, you will have a hard time holding onto the paddle, and if it’s too big, it will be difficult to control.

Grip Sizes

Grip sizes generally range from 4 inches to 4.5 inches, with 4.25 inches being the standard medium size.

  • Small: 4 – 4.125 inches
  • Medium: 4.125 – 4.5 inches
  • Large: 4.5+ inches

How to Measure Grip Size

To measure grip size with the ruler method, bring your paddle hand fingers together and align a ruler’s edge with the bottom horizontal crease of your palm. Then measure to the end of your ring finger; this is your grip size.

Illustration showing how to measure your hand to determine pickleball paddle grip size.

Illustration showing how to measure your hand to determine pickleball paddle grip size.

If you are between sizes, it is usually best to go with the smaller size because you can always add an overgrip later if needed.

What are the Different Shapes of Pickleball Paddles?

The shape of a pickleball paddle can have a big impact on your game. It affects the size of the sweet spot, power, and reach. Paddles come in three basic shapes:

  • Standard: 16 inches by 8 inches
  • Wide Body: 15.5 inches by 8.5 inches
  • Elongated: Longer than the standard, usually 16.5 to 17 inches
 
Illustration of standard shape and elongated shaped pickleball paddles

Illustration of standard shape and elongated shaped pickleball paddles

Choosing the Right Shape

The following are some basic pointers for selecting the proper paddle shape:

  • Standard paddles are generally preferable for novices because it has a balance of reach, power, and sweet spot size.
  • Wide body paddles are great for beginners who want a larger sweet spot and are willing to sacrifice a little power and reach.
  • Elongated paddles are better suited to advanced players since they produce more power and spin but have a smaller sweet spot. The elongated shape also makes it ideal for singles matches since they give a longer reach.

The US Pickleball Association specifies that the combined length and width of the paddle (including the edge guard & butt cap) can’t exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm).

What is the Ideal Handle Length?

The handle length is the distance from the bottom of the grip to where it meets the paddle face. This varies between 4.5-6 inches. The ideal handle length will depend on your goals and style of play.


NOTE: While a longer handle, will generate more power and more spin, according to US Pickleball Association standards the combined length and width of the paddle (including edge guard & butt cap) can’t exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm). So every inch in handle length means less surface area of paddle face. The trade-off between gained power and spin will need to be weighed against the loss of paddle surface. Because of this, a longer handle is typically reserved for advanced players.

What Is The Ideal Paddle Thickness?

The feel, power and control of your stroke are significantly influenced by paddle thickness. The average paddle thickness is 11-19 mm.

 

The thicker a paddle, the more it will absorb the ball’s energy which gives it a softer feel. Additionally, this results in a large sweet spot, providing more control. This makes a thicker core paddle more attractive to beginners.

 

Thinner paddles will result in less shock absorption upon impact with the ball. Paddles thinner than 14 mm generally create more power since less force is being absorbed by the paddle itself. More advanced players typically prefer paddles on the thinner side.

 

If you’re unsure about what thickness to purchase, go with a thicker core paddle (14 to 16mm).

FAQ

How Much Do Pickleball Paddles Cost?

The ideal price for a pickleball paddle will depend on your budget and preferences. If you want a high-quality paddle that offers good performance, then you should expect to pay between $50 and $250. If you are looking for a cheaper paddle that is still suitable for recreational play, then you should expect to pay between $25 and $50.

Where Can I Buy a Pickleball Paddle?

Pickleball paddles can be purchased from a variety of different retailers, both online and offline. Some of the most popular pickleball paddle retailers include Amazon, Walmart, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

When Should I Replace My Pickleball Paddle?

You should replace your pickleball paddle if it is starting to show signs of wear and tear. If the face of the paddle is starting to crack or chip, if the grip is coming loose, or if the paddle is otherwise not performing as well as it did when it was new, then it is time to replace it.

How Often Should I Clean My Pickleball Paddle?

You should clean your pickleball paddle after every use. Simply wipe down the face of the paddle with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or grime. You can also use mild soap if needed.

Selecting the Right Pickleball Paddle

Choosing the right paddle can make a big difference in your game. With this buyer’s guide, you should be able to find one to suit your needs and preferences. Just remember to consider factors such as material, weight, grip size, shape, and price when making your decision.


Do you have any pickleball paddle tips that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!


Pickle On!

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