Without going into a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of every pickleball paddle on the market, I do want to provide you with some general guidelines on how to select the right paddle for you and your game. Essentially, there are five criteria that you need to look at when purchasing a pickleball paddle:
- Power vs. Control
- Grip Size
In this post we are going to discuss the first five: weight, length, power vs. control, color and grip size. Oh, shucks, you might be saying to yourself, what about material? There are a wide variety of materials now being used for pickleball paddles – wood, graphite and composite mostly – I need a lot more time to go into detail about them and discuss their pros and cons, then offer suggestions as to how to determine which material is right for you. Sorry, I’m leaving that for the next post.
How to Choose the Right Weight Paddle?
Pickleball paddles generally range in weight from 6. 8 oz. (about the weight of a softball) to 14 oz. (almost the weight of a can of green beans).
The benefit of a lighter weight paddle is that it is much easier to maneuver especially when you’re up at the net engaged in a rally of quick volleys.
The drawback of a light paddle, conversely, is that you might experience more of the impact in your arm and elbow, as there is much less mass to counter the impact of the ball striking the paddle. Although it is not as pronounced as in tennis, the impact is definitely there, and it is something that you have to consider when choosing which paddle to purchase.
I use a light paddle, which I purchased on Amazon; it’s called the Element Paddletek paddle
Its fairly light at 7.4 to 7.6 oz. I’m short at 5’5” and weigh only 125 lbs. so I feel comfortable with a light paddle. Two very important features of this paddle are (1) it has an extra large playing surface with minimal weight and (2) its light weight allows for speed and maneuverability at the net.
Unlike a light paddle, a heavier paddle provides more “oomph” and can add a little extra speed or power to your slams and hard shots. You have to be careful, though, because heavier paddles are not optimal for controlling soft shots such as the dink or the lob; they require more effort because of the heavy weight of the paddle. Two selling features of heavy paddles are (1) they offer more pop from the base line and (2) they provide excellent power for players with good ball control.
So what’s the bottom line on pickleball paddle weight? Well, it depends – I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I think if you play Ping-Pong or are accustomed to using your wrist to execute your shots you’ll most likely prefer a light to medium weight paddle. If on the other hand you play tennis and are comfortable with the weight of a tennis racquet in your hand you might prefer a heavier paddle.
If you don’t have a pickleball paddle already – perhaps you’re borrowing one from a friend – you should consider purchasing one or two used pickleball paddles: one light and one heavy. Play with these then determine which one suits you best.
If you are impetuous like me you will just go out and buy a paddle online before trying it. The problem is of course that there are so many pickleball paddles on the market it is nearly impossible to know how to choose the one best for you. To help you make a better-informed decision regarding weight here are a few excellent paddles in each weight class: (a) light to medium and (b) heavy. I hope you find this helpful.
Paddletek Phoenix LTE (Light)
GAMMA 2.0 (Medium)
Onix EDGE KZ1502 (Heavy)
Onix Composite Phantom (Heavy)
How to Choose the Right Length Paddle?
The regulations for the dimensions of any pickleball paddle are based on the entire length x the widest width. Many paddles add length to the face by simply shortening the length of the handle, keeping total length and width the same. This is true for the majority of wide-body and oversize paddles. There are a number of professional pickleball players on the tournament circuit, however, who play with a paddle that has a very narrow face so that it can incorporate an additional inch or so of length.
Matthew Blom, winner of the 2015 Open Men’s Doubles at the USAPA Nationals and winner of many other regional and national pickleball tournaments, introduced a much longer paddle than had traditionally been used in competitive pickleball. The paddle is thinner and longer, which gives it an extra “whipping motion.” If you’re thinking of purchasing this kind of paddle beware that it requires much better accuracy for precision ball placement.
These types of longer paddles are called elongated paddles. They have two practical benefits for serious players: (1) They provide longer reach to get to volleys, making it easier to reach balls that otherwise might land in the kitchen. (2) They can generate paddle head speed as a result of the added distance from the handle to the center of the paddle head (or sweet spot) when you strike the ball. Don’t let this fool you, though, because the extra distance also makes the paddle head feel a bit heavier and less maneuverable at the net. Here are examples of highly regarded elongated paddles:
Onix Summit Graphite
We suggest that you opt for a traditional, wide-body or oversize paddle head and not the extra-long paddles unless you are an advanced paddle-sport player who always hits the ball cleanly and doesn’t need extra width. At any rate, be sure your pickleball paddle meets USAPA recommendations, particularly if you are interested in playing in a tournament: “The combined length and width including any edge guard plus butt cap shall not be more than 24 inches.” Currently, there are no restrictions on weight or thickness.
How to Choose between Power and Control
Many paddles – including fiberglass-faced, graphite and cork-centered – will certainly give you lots of “pop” for a small amount of effort. This of course is advantageous for getting the ball over the net: you simply stick out the paddle in front of your face or wherever, and the ball will bounce off the paddle and possibly go where you want it. The drawback, though, of having a paddle with so much pop is that it is harder to control where the ball goes. We’ve all experienced just sticking the paddle up to meet the ball and not knowing where it is going to end up.
My advice on whether to choose a paddle that is advertised as a power paddle vs. one that is billed as a control paddle is that if you’re a tournament player and you are working on developing sophisticated dinking techniques, go for a control-oriented paddle instead of a power paddle. If on the other hand you usually play from the back of the court (which of course you shouldn’t) or want optimum speed with minimum work, a paddle with a lot more power could be right for you. As with our answer on weight…it depends.
If you are an avid singles player, then definitely choose power over control since singles is less reliant on dinks or drop shots than on power shots.
Here are two examples of good power paddles:
Paddletek Power Play Pro
Rally Graphite Power 2.0
Here are two examples of good control paddles:
Inspired – EXCEL
Does Color Matter?
I think this is funny, but believe it or not there are some professional pickleball players who deliberately use yellow paddles because they think a yellow paddle – to go along with a yellow t-shirt – makes it difficult for their opponents to see the ball when it bounces off the paddle. Enough said about choosing a color for your pickleball paddle. I suggest you pick a paddle based on criteria other than color. Just in case you’re looking for a yellow paddle here are two suggestions:
Paddletek Phoenix Pro
Onix Graphite Z5
How to Choose the Correct Grip Size
In my mind grip size is not all that important except of course you don’t want a paddle handle so large you can’t wrap your fingers around it or so small that your fingers overlap too much. Here are two images from Tennis Warehouse that show you how to determine your correct grip size
This final image, which is from Pickleball Central, shows the actual grip sizes (from 4” to 4 ½”) indicating which are small, medium or large.
As I suggested earlier if you are a beginner any paddle would work; there are many good used pickleball paddles available on eBay and other websites. If you are an advanced or professional player, by all means, do your homework and choose the best paddle for your game. There are sites online with lists of paddles: Best Pickleball Paddles, Best Rated Pickleball Paddles, Best Pickleball Racquets, etc. You will be amazed at how many pickleball paddle reviews you can find online. If you buy your paddle at a local store you might even be able to try one out before you have to purchase it. I have done this with tennis racquets in the past; it might work for pickleball paddles too.
There is one other criteria that you will have to take into consideration when purchasing a pickleball paddle, and that is the material from which it is made. For the novice this might not mean much, but for seasoned players it is very important. In a future blog post we will dive deep into the pros and cons of the various materials and try to guide you to the best paddle for your game.
I hope you found this article helpful. I would love to hear from you.