Choosing the right pickleball paddle can be difficult even for the most experienced of players.
When it comes down to it, though, choosing a paddle can be as easy as determining your preference about four paddle characteristics: composition, weight, grip, and size/shape. Having a paddle that meets your individualized needs will greatly improve your overall levels of comfort and performance.
With that in mind, let’s get into what you need to know about choosing your pickleball paddle.
When discussing paddle composition, we are primarily discussing the surface of the paddle and the core. Wood pickleball paddles will be uniformly wood for the surface as well as the core. Composite and graphite paddles refer to their surface material and will have several options for the core.
The outer surface of the paddle will usually be one of the following:
- Wood – these are original pickleball paddles. They tend to be the cheapest option and also the heaviest.
- Composite – composite here is usually either fiberglass or carbon fiber for the surface. The cores can be aluminum, polymer, or a rigid nylon material called Nomex. These paddles are lighter and tend to be more expensive than wood paddles. This is the best compromise for beginners between weight, performance, and cost.
- Graphite – graphite paddles will have a thin, graphite surface material and similar core options to composite paddles. These paddles are very responsive, lightweight and also tend to be the most expensive.
- Wood – usually heavy and dense providing more mass behind your shot but at a cost of higher weight
- Aluminum – light-weight option that tends to sacrifice power/pop on the ball
- Polymer – sacrifice power to have a paddle that is more quiet than other core materials. More for players desiring higher levels of control than increased power
- Nomex – light weight and highly durable core. Tends to make the paddle ‘louder’ than other core materials
To start with, you need to determine how heavy you will want your paddle to be. Heavier paddles will give you more power and ‘pop’ to your shots, while lighter paddles will give you more control and are easier to maneuver.
If you have any upper body injuries or are prone to tennis elbow, you may also want to choose a lighter-weight paddle. Try out a few paddles, if possible, before buying. When in doubt start with a mid- to heavy paddle, between 7.5 to 8.6 oz.
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The grip size of the paddle is the second most important aspect of your paddle. If you have a grip that is too big, your paddle is prone to slip and you may experience elbow problems as a result.
Smaller grips also allow for more wrist action, and thus more control, but some may find they grip their paddle too tightly with smaller grips..
Here is a little chart to help you determine what grip size would work best for you. When in doubt, though, choose the smaller of the sizes.
|Height||Grip Size (Inches)||Grip Size|
|Under 5’2”||4 Inches||Small|
|5’3” to 5’8”||4 ¼ Inches||Medium|
|5’9” and taller||4 ½ Inches||Large|
While paddles can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they tend to fall into two main categories. The square group and the long, rectangle group.
Regardless of the shape, the total size must fall within the USAPA guidelines. These rules state the combined length and width, including any edge guard and butt cap, shall not exceed 24 inches. The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches.
The more ‘traditional’ square paddles tend to have a roughly equal height and width of the paddle face. This makes the paddle a good ‘all around’ choice for players that want to maximize the hitting area in all directions.
The elongated paddles are markedly taller than they are wide and tend to be used during singles matches where the extra reach comes in handy.
For beginners, it’s best to stick with a traditional square paddle design that will serve you best in the majority of cases.
Your Next Steps
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do when choosing a paddle is not get intimidated by the pickleball jargon. Pickleball is all about having fun and being active. You’ll figure the rest out as you go along.
Need more information on how to get started? Check out our comprehensive Pickleball Beginner’s Guide.
Trey SizemoreTrey Sizemore is the founder of pickleballhut.com, and the host of the 'Dinking Out Loud' podcast. Trey has been playing pickleball for several years and loves helping others discover this great game and improve their skills. Trey has launched several online resources with the goal of helping players of all levels improve their game through multi-format instruction.
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