The recent pickleball craze has been great for the players since there are lots of new options for pickleball gear but also makes it more difficult to choose between so many paddle options. The technology and materials used are also rapidly changing, making it hard to keep up with all the different paddles coming out.
Pickleball paddles generally have a core material and a facing material. The cores are typically made of either, Nomex®, polymer or aluminum. They’re all designed in a honeycomb fashion, where air pockets between each wall create cells, reducing the weight of the paddle. You also need to consider the shape, weight, grip size and price.
Nomex is a harder material and is more durable, due to the density of the material and smaller honeycomb cell size. Nomex paddles are louder than the polymer core paddles and have slightly less power but fantastic control.
Polymer is softer and has larger honeycomb cells. It’s quieter and has great power, but you’ll sacrifice some control compared to Nomex and aluminum.
Aluminum has a very similar performance to the Nomex core. However, primarily due to the light weight and density of this material, they don’t have the kind of power you’ll find with polymer. It’s greatest feature is the superior control. The downsides are noise and the ability to dent.
In general, you’ll see paddles made with three types of facing, fiberglass, graphite and carbon fiber. Any one of these facings can be applied to one of the cores mentioned above.
Fiberglass is probably the most common facing you’ll see. It’s not as strong as graphite or carbon fiber but has more power.
Graphite is strong and provides great ball control, but you’ll sacrifice a bit of power.
Carbon Fiber is more durable and provides the ultimate in ball control, but you will lose a bit of power.
Most pickleball experts agree that weight should be the overall top priority when choosing a pickleball paddle.
Paddles range in weight from lightweight (less than 7.3 ounces) to middleweight (7.3 to 8.4 ounces) to heavyweight (more than 8.5 ounces).
Paddle weight will determine the “feel” of the paddle when you have it in your hand and the type of action you will get when you play with it on the court. The weight of the paddle is a personal preference that mostly depends on your fitness level and style of play.
Those extra extra ounces on heavier paddles will start to wear on you, especially if you have injuries like tennis elbow or suffer from arthritis.
Heavy paddles are an easy way to increase the power of your shots. If you’ve been playing pickleball and are looking to increase the force of your drive, go for a slightly heavier paddle.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to improve ball control and touch with precise aim and carefully placed dink shots, choose a lighter paddle. One thing to ask yourself is what are your strengths and weaknesses as a pickleball player and whether you are a power or control player.
It’s essential to pick a pickleball paddle that has the correct grip circumference to match your hand size.
A smaller grip allows for more wrist action, which makes it easier to put spin on the ball and improves control. Increased wrist movement can also add extra power to your serve.
A larger grip will help increase your stroke stability while easing the strain on wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. The caveat here is that using a paddle handle that is much too large for your hand can lead to elbow strain.
If you’ve played or watched tennis or other racket sports, you are most likely familiar with wrapping the grip with “overgrip” or tape to customize the circumference to better match your hand size and personal preference.
If you buy a high-end paddle they will usually come with a premium grip, which adds a level of comfort and also absorbs sweat. However, if your paddle came with an inferior grip or is worn after you’ve used it for some time, you could also consider replacing the stock grip with a new premium grip.
Adding an extra layer of overgrip to your existing grip or replacing the existing paddle grip can help match your ideal size to get a comfortable fit for your hand.
One important thing to remember is you can always increase size by adding an overgrip, but there’s no way to decrease the grip size, so when in doubt buy a size that is one step down and then add an overgrip or tape to match your grip size as needed. Most paddles come with standard grips from 4 to 4 ½ inches.
If you’re under 5’2″, a 4″ grip will due. If you’re 5’3″ to 5’8″, a 4 1/8″ to 4 1/4″ grip will due. If you’re 5’9″ or taller, a 4 1/2″ grip will due.
You can also measure your grip size with a ruler. Measure the distance from the tip of your ring finger, down to the middle crease in your palm. This method is more accurate.
To check if the grip size is correct, grab the paddle with your natural grip. Now slide your index finger from the opposite hand between your fingers and the heel of your grip hand. You should be able to snugly fit your finger without having to move your fingers.
If you have extra space between the heel and your fingers and your index finger isn’t touching, the grip is too big. If you have to move your fingers to get your index finger to fit in the gap, the grip might be too small. If you are choosing between two sizes, choose the smaller size.
Wide Body Paddles
The official pickleball regulation for the dimensions an approved pickleball paddle is based on the length multiplied by the widest width and should not exceed 24 inches (including edge guard and butt cap).
The most common classic shaped pickleball paddle is a wide body measures approximately 8 inches wide by 15¾ inches long.
Many pickleball paddle manufacturers now design oversized paddles by adding length to the face and shortening the length of the handle, therefore keeping the total length of the pickleball paddle the same and within regulation.
Elongated Pickleball Paddle
There is a new pickleball paddle category on the market that includes paddles such as the “Encore Blade” that sacrifice face width to allow for increased the pickleball paddle length to up to 17”.
This is the maximum pickleball paddle length allowed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). This type of paddle would be more of a specialty paddle for a more experienced player looking for added reach.
Part of the challenge with this category of pickleball paddle for newbies is the small sweet spot. The longer, thin paddle shape gives these a narrow sweet spot which makes it harder for novice players to hit consistently.
Although you can drop well over $100 on a good quality paddle there are plenty of affordable options and compared to sports like golf, the total investment in pickleball equipment is pretty low.
Pickleball paddles range from under $15 for the least expensive wood paddles to more than $150 for top of the line graphite and composite paddles.
How Do You Choose?
Consider your style of play, the ball you generally play with, if you’re usually outside in breezy conditions, or you play inside. Are you strong enough to kill a ball without needing extra power? Do you love the soft game and need that nice touch and finesse? Are you transitioning from another racket sport or just starting out?
Use the PICKLRZ catalog to access more than 130 pickleball paddles from ten different brands. The unique filtering system allows you to drill down to the best pickleball paddles for you.