The Ultimate Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide

The Ultimate Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide

WHAT PICKLEBALL PADDLE SHOULD I BUY?

This question is asked by many players every day.  Yes, there are many paddles to choose from, and no, you are not alone if it feels overwhelming.  At Pickleball Superstore we’re here to help.  That's why we wanted to publish this The Ultimate Pickleball Paddle Buying Guide.  Enjoy this guide and let us know if you have any questions or if we can assist in any way.

Let’s get started.,,

To try and make things less confusing, we’ve broken down the key components of purchasing a pickleball paddle into the following sections:

  • Pickleball Paddle Purchasing Overview
  • Pickleball Paddles for Kids
  • Pickleball Paddles for Beginners
  • Pickleball Paddles for Intermediate Players
  • Pickleball Paddles for Advanced Players
  • Pickleball Paddles for Tournament Play 

But before we get into all of these details, here are some overall guidelines to consider as you conduct your research.  To simplify things, there are pickleball players who prefer control, those who prefer power and those who enjoy playing a balanced style.  The Control vs Power bullets below are generalizations, however they do help provide some directional guidance.

CONTROL vs POWER

  • Most Control = short handle, 16mm core, wide-body shape, carbon surface
  • Balanced = standard handle, 14mm core, personal preference shape, hybrid surface
  • More Power = long handle, 13mm core, elongated shape, fiberglass surface

  

PICKLEBALL PADDLE PURCHASING OVERVIEW

Each pickleball paddle has relatively six characteristics to get comfortable with when purchasing a pickleball paddle:

  • grip size
  • handle length
  • paddle shape
  • paddle weight
  • paddle thickness
  • paddle composition

Pickleball Paddle Grip Size

There are a variety of pickleball paddle grip sizes: 3 5/8” to 4 1/2”.  There actual sizes depend on the manufacturer and the paddle – some brands like GEARBOX will use 3 5/8” and 3 15/16” pickleball paddle grip sizes mainly – whereas JOOLA pickleball paddles come in 4 to 4 1/4” grip sizes mainly.

Be sure to look at the specs of the pickleball paddles as you research your purchase.

Pickleball paddle grip size is a personal preference – you need to experiment with different paddles to find out what feels the best in your hand.  The size of your hand can play a big part in deciding which grip size to purchase.  If the grip size is correct, you should be able to place the pointer finger on your opposite hand between your fingertips and your palm.  When in doubt, start with a small grip size as you can always add a layer or two of overgrip to your pickleball paddle.

TIP: the smaller the pickleball paddle grip size, the more range of motion will exist with the wrist.  This can result is more spin and power potential.  Be aware though, playing pickleball is not about the wrist when hitting most shots, especially at early skill levels.

Pickleball Paddle Handle Length

In addition to grip size, is handle length.  Some paddles have short handles and other have longer handles.  The length of the handle has an impact on overall weight balance and feel of the pickleball paddle in your hand. 

TIP: If you prefer a two-handed backhand, look for handle lengths around 5.5”.

TIP: The longer the handle the more power and spin you can generate.

Pickleball Paddle Shape

We’ve narrowed down the pickleball paddle shape options to four: wide-body, elongated, round and long-body.  A variation to the pickleball paddle shape can be whether there is an edge guard or if the pickleball paddle is edgeless.

Wide-Body Pickleball Paddles

The wide-body pickleball paddle shape is very common.  It tends to have a larger sweet spot and less weight in the head (top) of the paddle.  This is a very popular shape for people who are new to pickleball along with those who have a tennis background.  The CRBN2, ONIX Evoke Premier, Wilson Juice and GRUVN-S are some wide-body shaped pickleball paddles.  There are many options in this category.

Elongated Pickleball Paddles

Similar to the wide-body shape, the elongated shape is one of the most common pickleball paddle shapes.  Due to the longer paddle length, this type of shape can carry additional weight balance in the “top” of the paddle.  This shape allows for a bit more court coverage due to it’s length and many times elongated paddles also have a longer grip length – desired for players with two-handed backhands.

Round Pickleball Paddles

Round pickleball paddles are not as common as wide-body and elongated pickleball paddles, however these do exist and have some variation to them, depending on the manufacturer.  Feedback about round pickleball paddles is that they can be a bit “faster” at the net.  Again, many times shape comes down to personal preference.  The ProKennex Ovation, DIADEM Icon and GRUNV-R are some round pickleball shaped paddles.

Long-Body Pickleball Paddles

Long-body pickleball paddles are one of the least common, however they do exist.  They are much longer and have a smaller center sweet spot.  The Wilson Juice XL is one of the most commonly used long-body pickleball paddles.  You may see this paddle being used more during singles matches as it gives the player a longer reach for maximum court coverage.

Edgeless Pickleball Paddles

For some, edgeless pickleball paddles like the DIADEM Icon, ProKennex models, GEARBOX models or the Engage Omega Evolution Elite are highly preferred.  Many players love the feel and maneuverability at the net.  They definitely have a different feel than pickleball paddles with edge guards.  Playing with edgeless and edge guard paddles is the only way to really get a feel for the difference and whether you prefer then or not.

TIP: The downside to edgeless pickleball paddles is that they are more prone to chipping and cracking due to the lack of protective support.

  

Pickleball Paddle Weight

Pickleball paddle weight normally vary from 7.0 oz to 8.6 oz.  That may not look like a large variation, however weight makes a big difference in the type of preferred shots a player likes to make.  Pickleball paddle manufacturers will segment their paddles into four groups: feather weight, light weight, mid-weight / standard weight and heavy weight.  Youth pickleball paddles will usually weigh around 5.2-5.5 oz.

Featherweight Pickleball Paddles (7.0-7.4 oz)

Featherweight pickleball paddles are quite light to the feel in your hand.  Players who prefer lighter paddles tend to enjoy paddle speed and maneuverability. This can help with battles at the net and a touch / dink style game strategy.  Also, featherweight pickleball paddles typically come with a smaller paddle core – this helps reduce some of the paddle weight.

TIP: some more experienced pickleball players purchase featherweight pickleball paddles and add pickleball paddle weight to specific places on the paddle for personal preferences.  For instance, have a lighter paddle with weight on the head of the paddle to improve groundstrokes and / or topspin.

Lightweight Pickleball Paddles (7.5-7.8 oz)

Featherweight pickleball paddles are not as common as lightweight pickleball paddles.  Much of the same guidance carries over from featherweight pickleball paddles to lightweight pickleball paddles.  The main benefits players enjoy are around paddle speed and maneuverability, but also control and swing speed.

Midweight / Standard Weight Pickleball Paddles (7.8-8.3 oz)

Midweight pickleball paddles, also known as Standard Weight paddles, are the most commonly used paddle weight.  This can be because most pickleball paddle manufacturers make paddles in this weight range, however it’s also because this range feels pretty normal to players.  One variation in midweight pickleball paddles comes with the shape of the paddle.  As mentioned in the section above, the weight balance of a wide-body shape varies from that of an elongated shape.  It’s about weight distribution based on the shape.

Midweight pickleball paddles tend to be balanced in their power, control and stability.

Heavy Weight Pickleball Paddles (8.4+ oz)

Heavier pickleball paddles tend to be used by players who want more power over control.  Players who suffer from “tennis elbow” or other tenderness usually move away from heavier pickleball paddles down to midweight or lightweight paddles.

  

Pickleball Paddle Thickness

Pickleball paddles can range in thickness from around 11mm to 19mm in size.  On the thinner side, paddles include DIADEM Icon and ProKennex models.  On the thicker side is the DIADEM Warrior.  Like the other attributes of selecting the best pickleball paddle for yourself the thickness of the paddle does play a role in the feel of the paddle in your hand.

For instance, the CRBN 13mm pickleball paddles provide more power and spin whereas the CRBN 16mm pickleball paddles provide more control and feel.  Players who enjoy “banging” and power will gravitate to the 13mm, however players who play more of a feel and reset strategy have a hard time controlling the 13mm shots.  Those shots tend to “pop” off the paddle differently than when the same player uses the 16mm paddle.

The paddle core and thickness affect the performance of the paddle more than the facing of the paddle. So pay close attention to these elements of the paddle when you’re doing paddle research.  If you are an aggressive player that likes to attack the ball, then you’ll like thinner polymer core paddles.  If you prefer control over power, then you’ll like thicker 16mm polymer core paddles.  If you want something in the middle, then you’ll like polymer core paddles at or around 14 mm thick.

 

Pickleball Paddle Composition

As you can see, many characteristics impact the type of pickleball paddle you purchase. Pickleball paddle composition is another critical element to understand – both the core and the surface of the pickleball paddle.  Pickleball paddles are described consisting of wood, aluminum, nomex, polymer, carbon fiber, fiberglass / composite, graphite and a hybrid combination.

Nomex Core

The loudest and hardest of core materials, nomex core pickleball paddles are great for a player looking for added power that’s not concerned with the noise level of their paddles.  Given so many noise complaints by non-pickleball players, nomex core pickleball paddles are not common.

Aluminum Core

A lightweight and soft material, aluminum core pickleball paddles are a lightweight option that benefits touch players.  Again, aluminum core pickleball paddles are not very common as the most common core is plastic / polymre.

Polymer Core

Polymer is the most common core material used by brands. Pickleball paddle manufacturers reference the core of the paddle as polymer, poly, polypropylene, or something similar to that. The material is essentially just a really hard plastic.
 
Polymer is durable, quiet, and offers a good balance of power and touch which is why it is the most popular core material.
 
Not all poly cores are equal in quality. You’ll see $30 paddles with a poly core and $200 paddles with a poly core. The more expensive paddles are using a higher quality polymer that doesn’t breakdown as easily and gives you a more consistent feel across the face.
 
Other than the quality of the polymer, other things you’ll see when the core material is described is core density. A higher density core uses smaller honeycomb cells so more of them are packed into the paddle. This gives the paddle a harder, firm feeling and offers more power compared to bigger celled cores. Unless a brand calls out that they are using a higher density core then you can assume they are using the standard bigger honeycomb cells.

Fiberglass (Composite)

Fiberglass used to be the most common material but carbon fiber has taken over. Of the three common facing materials listed here, fiberglass offers the most power. You’ll see it called composite sometimes, so just know that composite is the same thing as fiberglass.

Fiberglass is not as stiff as carbon fiber and graphite, so it acts as a sort of trampoline that takes the energy from the ball and transfers it right back. Because the material is not as stiff, it will also diminish the size of the sweet spot compared to carbon fiber and graphite.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is known for having better feel than fiberglass, but a little less power. It is a very stiff and durable material. Because the material is so stiff, the energy of the ball at impact is spread throughout the entire face and into the handle. This gives you better feel and a larger sweet spot but will take some power away because less energy is transferred back to the ball.

Graphite

Graphite is a type of carbon fiber that is a little more cost effective for brands but plays very similarly to a carbon fiber face. It is also known for having better feel than a fiberglass face and produces a similar amount of power as a carbon fiber face. From my testing of paddles, it’s hard to tell the difference between a graphite and carbon fiber face.

Hybrids

You’ll see some brands use a combination of the three materials above that will produce performance based on the characteristics of the materials mixed.

Paddle Face Grit

Spin can be a very important part of someone’s game and grit plays a role in the spin a paddle can generate. There are two main types of grit you’ll see out there. You’ll see spray on or painted grit. This grit has a sand paper like feel to it and often wears out very quickly. Then you’ll see grit that is built into the facing material. This grit tends to last longer and produce more spin.

TIP: over the past year, 2021-2022, we’ve seen a continuous movement to manufacture pickleball paddles with a honeycomb polymer core and a carbon friction surface with built in grit.  The carbon friction surface is highly desired by many players for its performance and ability to increase spin of the ball during play.

 

PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR KIDS

We love seeing kids play pickleball.  It’s the future of the sport and honestly, it’s just super fun to watch.  When selecting a youth pickleball paddle for kids, grip size and weight are critical.  A heavy paddle will many times cause a “late hit” because it takes a bit longer to move the paddle into a hitting position.  An incorrect grip size along with a heavy pickleball paddle can also put extra strain on the youngsters wrist, elbow and shoulder joints as well.

And let’s not fool ourselves, the best pickleball paddle for kids also has to look AWESOME!

SHOP PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR KIDS

 

PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR BEGINNERS

As one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, pickleball is attracting new players every month.  As a beginner, finding a paddle you enjoy may take some time.  We recommend beginners demo their friends pickleball paddles and spend time getting a feel for grip size, weight, shape and composition.

Because there are so many pickleball paddle options, try a variety of them.  Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to zone in on a brand or type you enjoy.  This process is also part of the skill development you’ll need as a new pickleball player.

SHOP PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR BEGINNERS

 

PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS

Intermediate pickleball players have a wide range of skills and styles.  This is probably the largest group of pickleball players.  If are an aggressive player that likes to attack the ball, then you'll like thinner polymer core paddles. If you prefer control over power, then you'll like thicker 16mm polymer core paddles. If you want something in the middle, then you'll like polymer core paddles at or around 14mm thick.

SHOP PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS

 

PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS

Advanced pickleball players have spent time playing with paddles and have typically found what they like.  Many advanced players add pickleball paddle lead weights, overgrips and other adjustments to make their pickleball paddle suitable for their playing style.  And a portion of advanced pickleball players will earn themselves a pickleball paddle sponsorship – which is always exciting.

SHOP PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS

 

PICKLEBALL PADDLES FOR TOURNAMENT PLAY

The USAPA is the main governing body currently for many tournaments, but not all leagues or tournaments will require this certification.  If you are going to be a tournament pickleball player, look for the USAP Approved logo on the pickleball paddle.  It’s never fun to prepare yourself for a tournament to only have your paddle banned by the referee when they conduct a paddle review prior to the first serve of the match.