When buying a pickleball paddle, the first thing you want to look at is weight, dimension, and material. Then you can start breaking down your paddle into whether you want to prioritize power or control, as well as determine your grip circumference.
The average weight for a paddle is going to be around 8 oz and fluctuate above and below that number. Painting with broad brush strokes, anything at 9 oz is usually too heavy and anything under 7 is usually too light.
“For weight, somewhere in between 7.5-8.3oz is a good range,” says Johns.
Dimensions can be tricky but the basic configuration most new players will want to use is called a “wide body paddle” according to Carl Schmits, Managing Director of Equipment Standards & Facilities Development for the USA Pickleball Association. “This configuration is easiest to maneuver and is also good for a controlled, more defensive style of play.
Paddles that are close to 8″ wide and 16″ long fall within the wide body category.” Schmits continues, “Players that have well-developed stroke mechanics from other sports may be most comfortable with paddles having a longer shape (between 16″ and a maximum of 17″) and some with a longer handle will better facilitate two-handed backhands, an increasingly common grip used very successfully by tennis converts.”
Carbon fiber and fiberglass composites are the two most common materials used in high-quality paddles, as they been shown to help players deliver speed and spin on the ball. A good pickleball paddle should also have zero dead spots, meaning when you make a quality hit on the ball it doesn’t randomly underperform and fall flat, so nearly all materials used in the paddle’s construction take this into consider. “When it comes to the material I like to look for a polypropylene core with a fiberglass or carbon fiber face,” says Johns.
A good pickleball paddle is usually thick, as brands can use the space to add their own technology to limit the odds of there being any dead spots. One popular interior makeup is a polypropylene core (also called honeycomb core design) which is a type of interior webbing that’s made into a honeycomb shape to ensure the paddle is evenly balanced.
Last to examine is the type of surface used on the paddle. Some paddles will have their own textured surface, thus making it easier to put spin on the ball. A few surface materials used for textured surfaces include carbon fiber and graphite.
POWER VS. CONTROL
Similar to how you might shop for a driver in golf, your pickleball paddle is going to have a formula of power and control that works for you. A power paddle will have a tight sweet spot and deliver a shot with more pop, while a control paddle has a larger sweet spot that’s softer but allows for more consistent returns.
For a power paddle, look for something tighter and more compact in all areas of the design.”Paddles that have thinner cores, like a 13mm-14mm, have longer configuration, and typically made with fiberglass faces will return more power, although hitting the ball with heat is as much a result of an efficient kinetic chain than anything,” says Schmits.
If you want a paddle with more control, a design with maneuverable dimensions and a carbon fiber face (as opposed to a fiberglass face, which is harder) is recommended. “I’d look for at least 8” of width on the paddle head and for a thicker core that’s 16mm+ or 5/8”+,” says Johns.
When we asked our team of experts about grip circumference, they all agreed it was certainly just as important as it is in tennis. They also noted there are fewer options when it comes to shopping for specific grip sizes (most brands use a standard 4.25″ size). What you will find is most pickleball paddle grips will vary from just under 4″ and no bigger than 5.5″.
John Crowley Sr., the Sr. Category Merchandising Manager of Paddles at Pickleball Central, recommends starting with a smaller grip first (when picking between two paddles) and then adding an overgrip if needed. “Very few manufacturers offer different grip sizes and materials, so customizing with an overgrip wrap is the best way to build up the grip to a comfortable size,” added Schmits.