A pickleball player's number one sidekick is none other than their paddle. Without a pickleball paddle, there would be no pickleball - and let’s be honest, that would be no fun.
A pickleball paddle is the most important gear you need to play the game, so you want to make sure that your paddle is the best.
USAPA describes the paddle as smaller than a tennis racket but bigger than a ping pong paddle. Pickleball paddles started as wood paddles, but thanks to new technology, paddles have evolved over the years to be more powerful and durable.
When picking out your perfect paddle, there are many factors that you need to take into consideration. Read on to see how different core and surface materials, weights, shapes, and other paddle factors can help you decide which paddle is perfect for your needs.
Paddle Core Material Type
When looking for the best pickleball paddle, you need to consider the paddle’s core. The core gives you control and power when you swing and hit the ball. The paddle’s core can come in four different materials - wood, polymer, Nomex, and aluminum.
Wood paddle cores are generally the best option for pickleball beginners. A wood paddle core is the least expensive option but is the heaviest and offers less playability.
Polymer paddle cores are a honeycomb core made from an advanced plastic blend called polypropylene or PP. A polymer paddle core is the most popular choice for players because it has an excellent blend of control and power and it’s quiet, which makes this core great for residential communities.
A Nomex paddle core is a DuPont Nomex paper coated honeycomb core that has a heat resistant resin coat on top. Nomex paddle cores are considered one of the original cores aside from wood cores. When a ball hits a Nomex paddle core, it has a lot of pop but with a stiffer feel than wood and polymer cores.
As expected, an aluminum paddle core is made from aluminum honeycomb core. An aluminum core is strong, light, and has loads of power. Players know the aluminum core for its good touch around the net and its classic pop sound.
Paddle Surface Material Type
The paddle surface is what the paddle is made from. There are four paddle surface options that players can choose from.
A wood paddle surface is made from wood, and just like the wood paddle core, it’s the perfect paddle choice for pickleball beginners. Wood paddles were the first paddles ever created for pickleball. Wood paddles are easy to find and inexpensive.
A paddle surface that is made from graphite is durable and powerful, so you will have an easier time hitting the ball. Graphite paddles are ultra-light and ultra-stiff. Players looking for control and more energy to get the ball across the net prefer graphite pickleball paddles.
A polycarbonate paddle surface is made from synthetic resin. Just like graphite, polycarbonate is a durable paddle surface choice; however, polycarbonate paddles are lighter than graphite paddles. Many pickleball paddle factories and stores prefer polycarbonate paddles because the resin makes the paddle long-lasting.
A composite paddle surface is made from a combination of materials like fiberglass and graphite. Most non-wood paddles like graphite and polycarbonate paddles can be considered a composite paddle.
An edge guard is a piece of material wrapped around the paddle’s face to keep the paddle from chipping. The majority of pickleball players have paddles with an edge guard to protect their paddle from damage. However, there are pros and cons to having or not having an edge guard on your paddle.
A paddle with an edge guard may last longer, but the guard can throw off your game. An edge guard creates a slight lip around the edge of the paddle. If a ball hits the guard, it can cause a miss-hit shot.
Having a paddle without an edge guard gives the paddle a consistent flat surface that provides the widest playing surface without the risk of a missed ball. However, without an edge guard to protect the paddle continuous use can lead to chips and dings on the paddle.
A paddle’s weight plays a huge role in your search for the best pickleball paddle. When looking for a pickleball paddle, you want a paddle light enough to provide enough power, but not too heavy where the paddle is unwieldy.
Lightweight paddles weigh between 6.5 to 7 ounces. A lighter paddle will give you more control and better maneuverability. Light paddles are the perfect choice for a person who needs a paddle that provides less stress on their elbow or shoulder. While playing with a lightweight paddle, you reduce power and drive. Due to the reduction of power, you need a strong wind to help hit long or hard shots.
Midweight paddles weigh between 7 to 8 ounces. Most pickleball players use a midweight paddle because it has a nice blend of power and control from both a lightweight and heavyweight paddle. Midweight paddles are easier to find at stores or online.
Heavyweight paddles weigh 8 or more ounces. A heavier paddle will give you significantly more power than a lightweight paddle. With a heavier paddle, there is less effort to hit the ball harder and deeper. But, with great power comes great negatives. A heavyweight paddle gives you less control and a slower swing. Since you have to add more force with a heavier paddle, constant use can increase fatigue. Also, a heavy paddle is not recommended to players with elbow and shoulder injuries because continuous playing will add more stress to those injuries.
A paddle’s weight and grip go hand-in-hand when looking for the perfect paddle. The grip on a paddle will give every move you make a distinctive feel. A smaller grip allows more wrist action making it easier to put a spin on the ball and improve control. Whereas, a larger grip eases the strain on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints while still increasing stroke stability.
One of the easiest ways to figure out grip size is your height. For people under 5’2”, a paddle with a 4” grip is the most comfortable. For players between 5’3” to 5’8”, a paddle with a grip between 4 ⅛ “ to 4 1⁄4” works best. And, for players who are 5’9” or taller, a paddle with a grip of 4 1⁄2” or more is their best choice. Don’t be afraid to feel and test out different grip sizes to discover your right fit.
The shape of a pickleball paddle is all about preference when you play. Most pickleball paddles are 8” wide by 15 ¾” long. There are two other shape options in paddles - oversized paddles and elongated paddles.
An oversized paddle adds length to the face of the paddle and shortens the length of the handle. An elongated paddle adds tremendous length to the face of the paddle while shortening the handle. Many experienced players go for an elongated paddle to add reach.
Once you have the basic understandings of what you are looking for in a paddle, you also have to take into consideration a few other key components. For example, if you are playing a USAPA tournament.
According to the USAPA site, you must meet specific requirements revolving around size, roughness, and deflation to play in a USAPA tournament. Here at Amazin’ Aces, we have a few USAPA approved paddles like Signature, Cambria, and Emerald.
Another key point to always remember during your search is to select a paddle that fits your budget and skill level. Generally, paddles can range from $10 to $150 depending on the brand, material, and personalizations. It’s up to you to decide which paddle fits your skill level and budget.
For more pickleball paddle information, check out our paddle guide. With your new paddle in hand, it’s time to hit the courts and play some pickleball. Plus, learn more about pickleball and how to play: