Welcome to the Pickleball Paddles Plus Paddle Selection Guide
Trying to figure out which Pickleball paddle is best for you?
Just started playing? Looking for another paddle? Help!
We know it can be difficult in deciding which Pickleball paddle is best for you and your playing style. There are many factors to consider when selecting a paddle that suits you best.
Below, we've put together some short segments to help you decide on the best pickleball paddle for you.
How do I know which Pickleball Paddle weight to select?
A few things to consider when selecting the proper Pickleball paddle weight are: age, strength, and paddle head speed.
Older players tend to prefer a heavier paddle. Seems backwards... but it's not. This takes into consideration paddle head speed. A heavier paddle will allow you to use the paddles weight when returning the ball. A heavier paddle doesn't require a harder swing... a lighter paddle will require a faster and harder swing to return the ball.
Take this into consideration with placement. It's harder to "place the ball" if you're concentrating on hitting the ball harder to get it over the net or keep it in play.
A heavier paddle will require more arm strength to move it around quickly, and may lead to muscle fatigue more quickly when playing for extended periods of time. In turn, a lighter paddle will require less arm strength to move the paddle itself, but again, will require more strength to hit a ball fast passing shot (for example).
Paddle Head Speed:
Here, we're referring to the speed with which the paddle is moving when hitting the ball. Hard hitters, or "bangers" prefer a lighter paddle because the paddle itself will help slow their shots slightly, decreasing the odds of hitting a ball long (out of bounds). Light hitters prefer a heavier paddle, letting the paddle do more of the work in returning shots from near the baseline.
How do I know which grip is best for my hand?
A few things to consider when selecting the proper Pickleball paddle handle/grip are: handle length and grip size/style.
Keep in mind that with some models, a longer handle will be compensated for by shortening the paddle face to keep overall paddle weight reasonable. Former tennis players who are prone to using two handed back-hand returns may consider playing with a longer paddle handle to facilitate that grip style. Finally, some players state the longer handle provides better overall paddle balance and allows the paddle to feel less "head heavy."
There are typically two categories of handle thickness - thick and thin. A thin grip handle paddle is best for smaller hands, obviously, taking into consideration paddle control and grip comfort. A thick grip handle offers more comfort for larger hands and may offer more control for players with greater arm strength. Also, a thicker grip handle is normally cushioned, which helps to absorb some of the impact shock from hitting the ball, reducing arm muscle fatigue and joint injuries over time. For this reason, a thick grip may be best for those who are susceptible to tennis elbow or arthritis.
How to decide which grip size is best for your hand size:
If your finger doesn't fit then your grip is likely too small. If there is a large gap, your handle may be too thick for your hand size.
- Hold the paddle like you normally hold it while playing.
- With your opposite hands index finger, place it between the heel of your hand just below the thumb and the longest finger of the hand that's holding the paddle. It should fit comfortably in this gap.
"But I don't have a paddle yet!
If you don't have a pickleball paddle handy, you can also measure your grip size using a ruler. With your hand open and fingers extended, align the ruler with the bottom lateral crease of your palm and measure to the tip of your ring finger. Compare this measurement with the handle circumference specs for the paddles you're interested in.
Keep in mind, it is far easier to increase handle thickness (circumference) on most paddles than to reduce it. In fact, the majority of today's paddle handles cannot be reduced in size. If you find your hand to be between grip sizes, go with the smaller size and add an overgrip to arrive at the ideal fit. A typical overgrip will increase handle circumference by about 1/16 of an inch.
We also recommend you replace your grip regularly. A fresh, properly wrapped grip provides you with better paddle control and increased playing confidence! In the end, select the grip which gives you the best control when hitting the ball. The paddle should not slip or twist in your hand when hitting the ball.
Graphite or Composite Paddle Faces:
- Depending on the manufacturer, graphite paddles tend to weigh slightly less. The weight difference is so small it isn't even noticeable in most paddles. It is widely accepted that a graphite paddle offers more ball control, and some players state the ball "pops" off the paddle faster with a graphite face.
- On the other hand, many players prefer paddles with composite (usually fiberglass) hitting surfaces because they tend to impart more kinetic energy back into the ball, resulting in more perceived power behind each shot. The heavier weight of a composite-face paddle emboldens this power claim, as heavier paddles always strike the ball harder.
When comparing graphite and composite paddles it is best to compare models from the same manufacturer side by side; for example, compare the Onix Z5 Graphite to the Onix Z5 Composite. The comparison is less direct, due to differences in manufacturing techniques, when graphite and composite paddles from different makers are considered.
Polypropylene, Aluminum, and Nomex Cores:
- Polypropylene (PolyCore) paddles feature the latest technology in paddle cores. A polymer, or plastic blend, honeycomb layer comprises the base layer of the paddle. It's quiet, absorbs a bit more energy from the ball which allows a split second longer contact with the paddle face, which results in more and better control of the ball. There isn't much to complain about when it comes to a poly core paddle, which is why this new technology is quickly becoming the standard.
- Aluminum core paddles utilize what was the most popular core technology for a long time. They're durable, and sometimes quite light (though not always) which allows players to manuver the paddles with ease. These paddles often "ping" when striking a ball, which some players appreciate for the audible confirmation of a well-hit shot. Other players find the sound distracting, and even disapprove of playing against competitors still using aluminum core paddles. Make not mistake, however. There are still some fantastic aluminum core paddles on the market, particularly those offered by the like of Onix and Engage.
- Nomex paddle cores utilize a technology which has been in use in the sporting goods industry for quite a long time. Nomex is basically a cardboard-like structure, dipped in resin, dried to a durable finish, and sandwiched between two paddle faces of a different material. Today, Nomex core paddles are seen as "old school" as other technologies are surpassing it in popularity, which means you can pick up an excellent paddle for half the price of a comparable poly core paddle without sacrificing playability.
Summary - what do I do now?
Ask to borrow a paddle from another player, ask why they chose that particular paddle, and about their playing style. Pickleball players are well known for their friendliness and helpfullness, so don't be afraid seek as much input from experienced players as you can. We're all on the court to help each other out, and grow our love for our beloved game with the funny name!
Remember, everyone is different. So try many paddles and get comfortable with them before moving to another. First impressions are not always indicative of long-term playability, comfort, and the satisfaction you might get from putting away the perfect shot (which takes time).
You've discovered your perfect paddle when...
Believe it or not, it's not until you've lost a couple of games with a paddle, and have still enjoyed playing with it, that you can be sure you've found the right one. It's also best to lose those games to someone you really hate losing to as the ultimate test. If you can lose games to your mortal pickleball enemy, and come away looking down at your new paddle with a big smile on your face, congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a pickleball weapon you'll enjoy weilding for many games to come!
CHECK 'EM ALL OUT HERE!
Pickleball Paddle Selection Guide