My Strong Recommendation – MAKE SURE THAT ANY PADDLE PURCHASED IS APPROVED BY THE USAPA. It should say so on the paddle surface!
The title of this post represents the question I am most asked when I conduct an Introduction to Pickleball workshop. The problem is, there is no simple answer. I can explain what it is that a player should consider, but I can’t select a paddle for them.
THE MAIN THING I tell everyone is that the paddle has to feel good in your hand. Everything else being equal, that is a major consideration. The other thing I always tell players, especially beginners, is that when playing pickleball…
“I have 99 problems, but my paddle is not one!”
Seriously, if you are just starting, as long as you purchase a paddle in the middle price range and from a reputable manufacturer, the paddle is not going to be a significant advantage or disadvantage. Learning to watch the ball until it hits the paddle and learning the soft game will be much more important.
Nevertheless, it is important to know what to look for when purchasing a paddle. New players are often shocked that some paddles can cost $150 and many cost between $50-$100. When I first began to play, I bought a paddle closer to the lower range, i.e $70.
Once I learned the game and understood more about paddles, I purchased a second paddle in a higher price range. I can now play with either paddle and although I do like the more expensive paddle better, it is only slightly better (in my hands) overall than the less expensive paddle.
None of the above gets to the nitty-gritty of paddle selection which is probably why you began to read this article. Lucky for us, there are some excellent resources.
Watch the video below for the basics and then we will go on to more specifics:
Here are some important considerations and details:
Paddle Weight – The paddle has to feel comfortable. Believe me, when you play a lot and you are holding that paddle for many games, it can begin to feel heavy even though it only weighs between 6 oz – 8+ oz.
Here is a general rule to consider:
For an average height and weight person, a mid-weight paddle of between 7.3 – 8.0 ounces would be a good start.
For smaller or less strong person, a lightweight paddle between 6 ounces -7.3 ounces would be acceptable.
For larger and stronger people, a heavyweight paddle of 8.0 ounces or above would be a target area to consider.
Grip Size – Another consideration is the circumference of the grip.
What many experts recommend is to grip the paddle as though you were shaking hands with it, i.e. the continental grip.
The Continental Grip
Notice in the above picture how the “V” of the hand is in alignment with the center rib of the handle and the middle of the edge guard. This is the correct Continental Grip.
After holding the paddle with the Continental Grip, using the non-gripping hand, slide your index finger between the curled tips of the finger and the thumb as indicated in the picture below:
It there is a comfortable fit of the finger in the space (as shown), then the grip is the correct size. If it is too tight a fit, then a larger paddle grip would probably be better. If the space is too large, then a smaller grip should be considered. The one caution almost everyone will give is that if you are between grip sizes, buy the smaller size which can always be increased with an overgrip. Keep in mind, however, that your mileage may vary.
There is a second method using a ruler which is explained on Pickleball Paddles Plus+ – Paddle Buyers Guide I am not sure this is a better way to assess the grip size however.
Once a player understand which weight and which grip size they need, they have to decide which style/shape. If you are more or less a beginner, I recommend the standard paddle shape of 15 3/4 long x 7 7/8″ wide. This was the most popular paddle several years ago and I firmly believe this is where a beginning player should start.
NOTE – If you are a former tennis or racquetball player and you are going to use a two-handed backhand, you will probably want a different shape paddle that offers a slightly longer handle, i.e. 5 inches long or a bit more..
What material should be used in the construction of the paddle?
Paddle Surfaces (the cover):
Composite/Fiberglass – Good general paddle with a somewhat smaller “sweet spot”, but does not always hold up as well 
Graphite – Retailers suggest that this is very popular . Lightweight and has good touch and feel and prhaps offers the best control. Some reports indicate these are prone to crack if dropped so get one with an edge guard. BTW, I have dropped my graphite paddle with edge guard a number of times with no damage.
Carbon Fiber – Good combination of power and control (probably the most expensive). This seems to be the new darling of the Pros.
 Pickleball Paddles: A helpful guide with feedback from a big-time paddle company and 3 5.0 Level Pros.
Paddle Core (The inside)
Polymer – Most popular, inexpensive and quiet with a good combination of power and touch.
Nomex – Powerful, but loud. If you live in an area that is concerned about pickleball noise, this is not the paddle for you.
NOTE – The article referenced below strongly indicates that there have been problems with the aluminum core. I personally have no first-hand knowledge, but I didn’t include that option here. Caveat Emptor!
There are a number of online retailers that will sell quality paddles at a fair price and some of them offer to exchange the paddle if you are not satisfied; you pay return shipping. This seems like a good deal to me.
Many players will lend you their paddle to “try” for a game or two. This is a great option if you are not shy. Ask politely and most will be glad to offer you the opportunity. This is a good way to take a paddle for a “test drive.”
Another option would be to go to a sports retailer near you that has pickleball paddles and try them in your hand. See which one feels best. Check if they have a return policy if you don’t like the paddle.
If you are relatively new to pickleball and want more information about paddles, this is another excellent source that I suggest you read:
Welcome to PickleballCentral’s Pickleball Paddle Guide
NOTE – If you decide to purchase through Pickleball Central, you can use this code – ARJRoss – to receive a 5% discount. [ I don’t receive anything via purchases form Pickleball Central. They support pickleball and I have purchased through them and they have been very reliable.]
I have used paddles by the following manufacturers and they have been very good: Paddletek, Selkirk, Onix and Z5. This is not an exhaustive list, just those with which I have experience.
For the more scientific, research-oriented or advanced player, if you want a deeper understanding of pickleball paddles, construction, benefits of various surfaces, cores, deflection tests, etc., then look no farther than this article:
Pickleball Paddles: A helpful guide with feedback from a big-time paddle company and 3 5.0 Level Pros.
This is probably more than you wanted to know, but now you have good information. Remember, for most casual players, the paddle most likely will not be your major problem!”
Join the USAPA
At the start of this article, I recommended that paddles be approved by the USAPA. The USA Pickleball Association is the governing body for pickleball in the United States. They are instrumental in fostering the Ambassador program which helps promote and facilitate pickleball across the country.
They test equipment to make sure it meets their high standards and this helps every player when they purchase pickleballs, paddles, etc. that have the USA Approved designation.
Please consider joining the USAPA and supporting the organization that supports our wonderful sport!
Join the USAPA – Click HERE for More Information
Picture Courtesy of Pickleball Magazine and the USAPA
Now get out there and play!
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