The choices for pickleball paddles is endless and getting more complex everyday. That is why I wanted to Share this article from The Dink, Pickleball newsletter. It highlights the key features to consider as you look for a new paddle.
Our recommendation for a very good paddle for an Intermediate player looking to improve is the Gamma Havoc paddle. Find it on our PB Sets page.
Buying a Paddle in 2023: What to Know
By The Dink Media Team • 29 Jun 2023
Pickleball’s growing popularity has prompted paddle manufacturers to produce a wide range of choices, catering to different playing styles, preferences, and budgets.
One report says the global pickleball paddle market is worth about $150 million dollars, likely much more currently since that study was conducted in 2021.
A market this size contains far too many options for players to choose from without guidance – which is why we’re here to help.
Whether you're a beginner seeking a paddle for control and maneuverability or an advanced player looking for power and spin, there is a wealth of options to suit your specific needs.
Choosing a pickleball paddle
With so many paddles on the market and many more launching each month, determining the best pickleball paddle for you is daunting.
Many manufacturers use their own marketing terms that may add to the confusion.
To make things a little easier, you should consider the three primary factors which impact a paddle’s performance: weight, material composition, and grip size.
Pickleball paddles range in weight from 6 oz. – 14 oz. Paddles are typically divided into three weight classes:
- Lightweight pickleball paddles: (>7.3 oz.)
- Midweight pickleball paddles (7.3 oz – 8.3 oz.)
- Heavyweight pickleball paddles (8.5+ oz.)
But which weight class should you buy? The answer depends on your stature, physical capability, play style, and desired result.
In general, lightweight pickleball paddles offer these advantages:
- Increased Maneuverability and Quickness: One of the primary advantages of a lightweight paddle is enhanced maneuverability. With less weight to handle, it becomes easier to maneuver the paddle quickly and react to fast-paced shots. This agility allows for faster adjustments, quicker shots, and improved court coverage, especially during rapid exchanges at the net.
- Reduced Fatigue and Arm Strain: The lighter weight of the paddle can contribute to reduced fatigue and strain on your arm during extended play. This can be particularly beneficial for players who have a tendency to develop pickleball elbow.
However, lightweight paddles do have their disadvantages:
- Reduced Power and Control: With less weight behind your shots, it becomes more challenging to generate the same level of force and speed which comes pre-loaded into heavier paddles.
- Limited Shot Stability and Dampening: The lighter weight of the paddle can make it more susceptible to vibrations and shocks from impact with the ball. This can result in reduced shot stability and a higher chance of mishits. The lack of dampening properties in lightweight paddles can cause more vibrations to be transmitted to your arm, potentially leading to discomfort or increased risk of injury, especially during prolonged play.
Can you see where we’re going with this? Heavyweight paddles offer the inverse benefits and drawbacks.
Additionally, heavier paddles are generally more durable due to their construction and materials.
They can withstand rigorous play and frequent impacts without suffering significant wear and tear. This durability can be advantageous for players who engage in intense gameplay or for those who prefer paddles that can withstand heavy usage over extended periods.
The pickleball paddle’s face and core can be made of several different types of materials, each providing their own set of advantages to players.
Paddle face materials consist of:
- Fiberglass – heavy and powerful, but not as strong as other face materials
- Graphite – thin and light for quick action and enhanced control
- Carbon Fiber – similar to graphite, but more durable
Paddle core materials consist of:
- Polymer – soft with large honeycomb cells; great power but sacrifices control
- Nomex – harder and denser for long-lasting performance; louder with less power but great control
- Aluminum – similar to Nomex; greatest feature is superior control
- Carbon – many paddle brands have started creating paddles with carbon cores
A technique that’s taking paddle technology by storm lately involves foam injected cores, the process of injecting foam into the edges and/or core of the paddle in order to increase its longevity, expand its sweet spot, and add some rebound to its handling.
Paddle Grip Size
Pickleball paddle grip sizes range from 4 – 4.5: small (4 – 4.125), medium (4.25) and large (4.5).
Too large a grip size may cause slippage or turning in your hand and can lead to elbow problems.
It’s always better to start small and build up to a larger grip size. Smaller grip sizes also allow for more wrist action and added spin.
Once you wrap your head around the above three factors, it’s time to consider one more important quality of a pickleball paddle: its swingweight.
We could get pretty deep in the weeds here, but think of swingweight as the amount of force a paddle exerts onto our hand/wrist/arm as we swing it through the air.
This is an important element to consider when buying a paddle because different designs ultimately affect the user’s ability to lift and maneuver it. Excessive weight on one end of a paddle may help players with strong arms but hinder those with smaller arms and different abilities.
What’s more, the wrong paddle paired with excessive use may bring about pickleball elbow sooner than if a user had purchased a paddle with the right swingweight for them.
Many players are on the courts for several hours at a time. Playing with a pickleball paddle that swings too heavy can spell trouble for the small muscles, tendons, and joints in your hand and arm.
Swing the paddle loosely from left to right. Then do the same with another paddle, figuring out which one feels heavier (think about it as the resistance you feel when you swing the paddle).
The problem is that most manufacturers don’t provide any data or comparisons about their paddles’ swingweights. That means you’ll have to try a paddle for yourself to see how it feels after a few games.
While you should never buy a pickleball paddle just because it’s what the cool kids are playing with, there are some assumptions you can make about today’s most popular paddle brands based on their reputation within the community:
A word about buying paddles online
We wouldn’t presume to tell you exactly how to shop, but there are some important factors to consider when buying a pickleball paddle online.
Authenticity is important, as is supporting pickleball-focused brands. If you can buy either from a legitimate pickleball retailer (like Fromuth) or directly from the brands themselves, that is the safest bet to ensure you’re buying quality products.
Wherever possible, it will benefit you to try before you buy. This should go without saying, but it’s often difficult to access a company’s trial policy, if they even have one.
Keep in mind that a lack of try-before-you-buy programs does not signify a low-quality product, especially if the company is newer or smaller-scale than others on the market. Larger paddle brands tend to have TBYB policies, but that is not always the case. Similarly, many smaller brands aren’t able to accommodate that yet, but some do.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding a paddle that feels great to play with and provides you the value you expect out of it. Eventually, you may have to adjust your expectations as the technology (and your game) improves.
Keep an open mind and you’re sure to match yourself with the best pickleball paddle for you.