You might just buy whatever the pros are using. Not a bad idea – if the pros are performing well and winning tournaments, at least you know it’s possible with their paddle.
However, their paddle might not fit you or your playing style! You’ll do much better with something that fits than something the pros happen to be using, which is why we’re going to show you how to choose the right pickleball paddle.
The things that matter most when choosing a pickleball paddle are weight, grip size, and price, especially if you’re working on a tight budget and don’t have the same sponsorship opportunities – yet! – that the top-level players benefit from.
Paddle weight is super important. If you choose something too heavy, you’ll get tired fast and aggravate or cause an elbow injury. And if you choose something too light, you’ll have the same problems because you’ll have to put more energy into your swings! When you pick up a paddle, take a few swings and see how it feels in your hand.
Pickleball paddles can weigh anywhere between 6 to 10 ounces, and sometimes more. Paddles weighing less than 7 ounces are generally considered too light for the average adult. People with arthritis, a pre-existing injury, or tennis elbow should choose a paddle between 7.5 to 8 ounces. Other adults can choose a heavier paddle so long as it fits their comfort and fitness level. That said, many pros also use paddles between the 7.5 and 8 ounce range.
Generally speaking, players who want to drive the ball will be happy with a paddle that leans on the heavier side. More mass means more power. On the other hand, those who play with more control and finesse will find it easier to do so with a lighter paddle.
New players tend to overlook grip size when choosing a paddle, but it’s just as important as weight. A correct grip circumference should be one that doesn’t slip in your hand or cause wrist, forearm, or elbow pain. And it definitely shouldn’t make you drop the paddle in the NVZ when you volley!
Beyond those things, grip size is mostly about what you’re comfortable with and how you want to play. You might choose a smaller grip size for more wrist snap, spin, and control. And you might choose a larger grip size for stability.
There’s an unofficial height test that you can use to determine your grip size. If you’re under 5 feet 2 inches choose a 4 inch grip, if you’re between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 8 inches choose a 4-1/4 inch grip, and if you’re 5 feet 9 inches or taller choose a 4-1/2 inch grip.
|If you’re…||Choose a…|
|under 5’2”||4” grip|
|between 5’3” and 5’8”||4-1/4” grip|
|over 5’9”||4-1/2” grip|
Most paddles have grip circumferences between 4 and 4-1/2 inches. They increase by 1/8 inch increments. If you’re deciding between two sizes, go with the smaller grip. You can always add an overgrip to increase the circumference, but you can’t make it smaller.
Paddle prices vary by material: wood, fiberglass, and graphite. Wooden paddles are the most affordable. You can get one for as little as $10 to $15. They’re heavy but durable, which makes them perfect for recreational or school use.
Fiberglass and graphite paddles cost between $50 and $200. If you’re new to the game and don’t want to spend a ton of money on your first paddle as you figure things out, pick an inexpensive fiberglass or graphite paddle right away rather than wood. Otherwise, you’ll quickly feel the heaviness of the wood weigh you down, and the game won’t be as enjoyable as you imagined.
Paddle Materials Explained
You might be wondering, “What’s the difference between fiberglass and graphite?” Graphite paddles are generally lighter than fiberglass paddles. As you now know, lighter paddles give you more control, so the general perception is that graphite paddles give you more control than fiberglass paddles.
In reality, it’s hard to compare actual performance. There are a ton of other variables like paddle weight, thickness, shape, surface texture, core material, grip size, the type of ball you use, etc. What we can say is that both fiberglass and graphite are strong and lightweight. You can’t go wrong with either material.
Speaking of core material, fiberglass and graphite pickleball paddles have a core made of either Nomex, polymer, or aluminum. When someone talks about “fiberglass” or “graphite” paddles, they’re actually talking about the material that’s used for the facing. But in fact, paddles are made out of a core material that’s covered with a face material.
Does core material matter? There’s a general perception that Nomex and aluminum cores are stiffer (and louder) and therefore allows players to impart more power in their shots, while polymer cores are softer (and quieter) and allows players to play with more control and finesse.
But we wouldn’t get too caught up with choosing paddle materials. Just because you buy a polymer core paddle, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to hit powerful shots! Let’s put it this way: if Roger Federer played with a wooden tennis racket, he’d still beat us! A paddle is only as good as the hand holding it. Stick to choosing one based on weight, grip size, price, and what feels good in your hand.
How Long Do Pickleball Paddles Last?
How long a paddle lasts depends on how often you use the paddle and how you care for it. People who play daily can expect to replace their paddle in one year or less. But those who play a couple of times a week can expect their paddles to last around three years. This only applies to high-tech paddles. Wooden paddles, on the other hand, will last many more years.
One Last Thing: Paddle Shape
You probably noticed that pickleball paddles come in different shapes and sizes. If this is your first paddle, you should purchase one with a classic shape. That way, you can see what works and what you’d like to change or add to your gear, such as a longer paddle. Most players, though, will stick to classic-sized paddles that are roughly 8 inches wide and 15-1/2 to 16 inches long.
Time to Play!
Once you know what to look for, choosing a pickleball paddle is easy. Most people will choose a graphite or fiberglass paddle that weighs between 7.5 and 8 ounces, has a grip circumference that’s between 4 and 4-1/2 inches, and has a classic paddle shape.
As long as you choose something with the correct weight, grip size, and is within your budget, you’ll be happy with your choice!
Have Fun Out There!