There are many factors to consider when selecting a paddle that suits you best. Below are some suggestions to help you decide on the best pickleball paddle for you.
- Paddle Weight – First, and probably most important is the weight.
Heavier – a heavier paddle will allow you to use the paddle's weight when returning the ball. A heavier paddle doesn’t require a harder swing. A heavier paddle may require more arm strength. Light hitters prefer a heavier paddle. Based on my experience, beginners should choose a midweight paddle in the 7.5-7.9 range. Also, tennis players converting to pickleball generally prefer a heavier paddle (i.e, 7.9oz and up). Tennis racquets weight 9oz on the extremely light side to 12oz on the heavier side. Tennis players are used to generating swing speed and can handle a heavier pickleball paddle.
Lighter – A lighter paddle will require a faster and harder swing to return the ball. A lighter paddle will require less arm strength. Hard hitters/bangers prefer a lighter paddle. In my experience, racquetball players converting to pickleball prefer lighter paddles. If you hit with a lot of wrist-snap (like racquetball and badminton), you will want to consider a lighter paddle that will allow you a faster wrist-snap in pickleball.
Another consideration about weight – If you are bothered by arm injuries, consider a midweight paddle over a light paddle. The more weight you can comfortably handle the more stress the weight of the paddle will take off of your arm. You won’t need to swing as hard. The paddle absorbs the blow, not your arm. The more stable the paddle is upon striking the ball, the easier it is for your arm.
- Paddle Grip – Second factor is how well the grip fit your hand
Handle Length – A longer handle length will shorten the face of the paddle. Former tennis players who are prone to using two handed backhands may prefer a paddle with a longer handle. Some players think the longer handle gives them more balance in the paddle. Ping pong players who are used to choking up on their paddle, often prefer a shorter handle on a pickleball paddle.
Thin or Thick – A thin grip handle is best for smaller hands. A thick grip offers more comfort and may offer more control. A thicker grip handle is normally more cushioned and helps to absorb some of the shock from hitting the ball. A thick grip may be best for those who are susceptible to tennis elbow or arthritis.
Note: I would refer you to my last blog about how to select the right size grip. Plus options for adding cushioning and moisture absorption with overgrips.
- Material - Graphite, Polymer, or Fiberglass? What is best? It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Hitting surfaces are generally either graphite, a polymer composite, or a fiberglass composite. Depending on the manufacturer, graphite paddles tend to weigh slightly less. Some think a graphite paddle offers them more control. Some say the ball pops off the paddle faster with a graphite paddle. Some players prefer the composite paddle because of the popping sound that comes from the paddle when hitting the ball. When comparing graphite and composite paddles... it's best to compare the same brand paddle side by side, ex. Engage composite with Engage graphite. It's hard to compare a graphite and composite paddle from two different manufacturers.
There are some new great innovations on the market for paddle faces. Engagepickleball has developed a liquid graphite face that bonds with the core of the paddle making it all one piece providing a firmer feeling strike on the ball. Selkirk has developed a new fiberglass face called fiberflex.
Both graphite and fiberglass provide enough roughness to generate good spin on the ball.
Paddle Cores - Most paddle cores are made of a composite material. A composite core paddle material is made of varying material... which may include: carbon fibers, aluminum, aramid, polymers, fiberglass and resins.
Polymer cores are the most popular. They provide a softer feel upon striking the ball. They are much quieter than the aluminum and aramid core paddles. Most communities with noise requirements provide a list of “allowed” paddles and they are generally polymer core paddles. Polymer cores also provide more power. It’s my opinion the industry at this point is headed more and more toward polymers.
Aluminum core paddles were the first innovation after wooden paddles. There are fewer and fewer aluminum core paddles on the market. Aramid is a special kind of fire-retardant aluminum used in the aircraft industry. It is a very hard material which creates a very high decimal pop and a very solid feel when striking the ball. Both aluminum and aramid provide a very hard paddle with a big pop on impact.
What about the extra-long (elongated) paddles? These are a good choice for people with knee or hip problems that prevent them from bending over to reach balls low to the ground. I am 5 ft 2in and find the longer paddle gives me more reach into the kitchen, to get to balls hit over my head, and even allows me to reach balls driven away from me more often than with my older square paddle.
Now what do I do next?
TRY IT – Ask to borrow a paddle or use a demo paddle provided by your club. Play and lose 2 games with that paddle. If you still love the paddle after losing...Congratulations! You've found your paddle! There really is no substitute for feeling the paddle in your hand and hitting a few balls with it. If the place you play doesn’t have a demo program, have them contact me and I’ll be happy to work with them to get a variety of demo paddles for you and your buddies.
Go to https://pickleballtown.com/product-category/paddles/ to find the Pickleball Paddle that's right for you.