In a previous post we discussed five important criteria for buying a pickleball paddle: weight, length, power vs. control, color and grip size. In this post we are going to talk about the most important aspect of a pickleball paddle that you need to understand in order to choose the right paddle, and that is the material from which it is made.
Pickleball paddles are generally divided into three categories based on material:
Why Choose a Wood Pickleball Paddle
When pickleball was initially invented paddles had a very easy design, and they were made of wood. Over the years, wood pickleball paddles became a lot more advanced, incorporating fancy grips and wrist straps. The makers also started using plywood as an alternative to hardwood, which made for a much lighter paddle.
Today you will certainly still find many wood paddles around. They remain a popular material because they are cheap, dependable, and durable. The major downside of wood pickleball paddles is that they are heavy. Some can weigh up to 11 oz. Wood paddles remain a great choice for players just getting into the game.
Almost all wood paddles list for under $25 no matter where you buy them. So if you are looking for cheap pickleball paddles you should consider wood paddles. In all honesty, I would not recommend buying a wood paddle unless price is your prime consideration. At the courts in our community we keep a handful of wood paddles in a locker by the courts, and I have used them just to see how they play. Without sounding disparaging, you get what you pay for. Here are a few examples of cheap wood pickleball paddles and pickleball paddle sets.
Pickle Gear Wood Pickleball Paddle Set:
Picklegear makes a few paddles that are worth looking into if you want a wood paddle. This pickleball paddle set gets 3.4 out of 5 stars. Not bad for a wood paddle. Price: $14.99. This set comes with two wood paddles and four pickleballs. These are lightweight paddles (8.6 oz.). 1-year warranty.
Diller Pickleball Paddle Set:
Here is another option. These Diller paddles get 4.4 out of 5 stars. Excellent value too. For $27.99 you get two paddles and four pickleballs. The lightweight paddles come with safety wrist strap and wrapped perforated cushion grips.
Graphite Pickleball Paddles from $50 to $150
Graphite pickleball paddles are a popular choice with competitive and professional pickleball players because they are incredibly light, responsive and strong. They have a honeycomb design inner core with a thin graphite skin on the outside. The inner core is normally made of aluminum, Nomex or polymer.
Generally speaking, graphite pickleball paddles give you outstanding control and are amazing for dinking over the net. They are also good for finesse shots as well as power shots. Keep in mind that when we use the term “graphite” we are talking about the face of the paddle.
A good example of a paddle with a graphite face is the Champion Graphite Pickleball Paddle. It gets 4.5 out of 5 stars and is an excellent choice for just about every skill level offering an even and predictable response, solid feel and a great mix of power and ball control. It has a 4 1/8″ performance grip that naturally wicks moisture and enhances paddle and ball feel and feedback. This Champion model retails for $69.99.
Moving up in price bracket, here is another paddle with a graphite face: the Escalade Sports Onix Graphite Phantom Pickleball Paddle. This Onix paddle is not inexpensive priced at $99.99. It has a graphite face and aluminum core and is considered a wide body. It is known for great touch and power, making it a very versatile paddle. Available from 6.9 oz. to 7.3 oz., the Onix Phantom is considered lightweight.
The most popular paddle in my community in southeast Florida and on the playground courts where I play in New Jersey is the Onix Graphite Z5, which has a graphite face with Nomex honeycomb core and wide body shape. The cost is $78.63, or it can be purchased as a pickleball paddle set with two pickleballs and a sling bag for $119.59.
This is one of the few paddles that get a 5.0 out of 5 star rating. According to the manufacturer, Onix, the Z5 pickleball paddle is their most popular paddle because of its outstanding touch and ball control while still delivering concentrated power in a medium-weight design for all-around performance.
The last graphite paddle I want to highlight is the PaddleTek Tempest Wave. It has a graphite face with a polymer core. This is a very interesting combination because the graphite provides a quick pop off the paddle’s face, while the polymer core is considered a quiet core material and is excellent for a control game.
The Tempest Wave, like many other paddles, is suitable for play in noise-restricted communities. The paddle gets 4.6 out of 5 stars and sells on Amazon for $149.99. It is considered one of a handful of pro pickleball paddles from which to choose.
Choosing a Composite Pickleball Paddle
A composite pickleball paddle primarily consists of a fiberglass hitting surface or face and a composite core. As discussed previously, the core can be made out of Nomex, polymer or aluminum. There are more composite paddles than any other type on the market. Let’s take a look at two composite paddles, one suitable for a professional or advanced player, the other suitable for a beginner or someone unwilling or unable to spend a lot of money on a pickleball paddle. Both are good pickleball paddles and worth the money.
An innovative composite paddle that is very popular with advanced players is the Pro-Lite Rebel PowerSpin Composite Pickleball Paddle. It sells for $104.99 and receives 4.4 out of 5 stars. The Rebel PowerSpin has a comfortable handle wrapped with ProLite’s comfort contour grip. It has an extra-long 16-inch reach, perfect balance and light 7.7-8.3 oz. weight.
Rebel’s polymer core and textured fiberglass hitting surface with PowerSpin control is good for soft touch or power shots.
A less expensive composite paddle that is suitable for beginners or those who don’t want to spend a lot of money for a pickleball paddle is the Selkirk Sport NEO Polymer Composite Ultimate Starter Paddle. It retails for $50. The NEO gets 3.5 out of 5 stars, but this is deceiving.
Most of the reviewers had very favorable comments about the paddle, but there were a few advanced players who gave it thumbs down. Overall it’s an excellent paddle for the average pickleball player. The surface is a composite; the core is made of polymer. The NEO fills the gap in the pickleball paddle market between the starter wood paddles and the premium honeycomb paddles.
Here are a two other highly rated composite paddles worth looking into if you want a composite paddle: The Gamma Sports paddle get 5.0 out of 5 stars and features a textured composite face to amplify the power in your game and help the ball pop off the paddle. The Niupipo paddle, which also gets 5.0 out of 5 stars, has a large sweet spot and balanced weight distribution for superior control and placement. It has a cleanly wrapped, perforated, sweat absorbent, micro-dry smooth, cushioned and nicely stitched handle, which is advantageous for professional control.
So in this article we have examined pickleball paddles based on the materials from which they are made: wood, graphite and composite. If at all possible you want to try out each type of paddle before purchasing one because they each have a distinctive feel. Complicating matters, of course, are the other criteria we discussed in a previous post: weight, length, power vs. control, color and grip size.
Certainly, if you are a serious pickleball player you have a lot of research to do in order to choose the paddle that suits you best. Please, though, don’t drive yourself crazy. It’s not like there is only one paddle in the world that is right for you. There is a good chance there are dozens of paddles that will work for you.
Although I hate to bring this up now, there are two other factors you will need to take into consideration: paddle core and paddle deflection – both of which we will discuss in another blog post.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please feel free to comment below with your opinion, suggestions or experiences. I look forward to hearing from you.