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Pickleball Paddle Guide for Beginners

by Trey Sizemore | Last Updated:   July 18, 2020

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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.

Paddle Composition

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.

Surface

The outer surface of the paddle will usually be one of the following:

Core

Paddle Weight

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. 

Grip Size

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

Paddle Size/Shape

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.

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Trey 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.