CHOOSING PICKLEBALL PADDLE
Pickleball is an addictive game that requires skill, precision, and fitness! It has grown to become one of the most popular racket games in the United States with thousands of people enjoying a game of pickleball every day. It is a ton of fun and can be played by people of all ages.
Having the right equipment is essential if you want to do well on the pickleball court. The most important piece of equipment you can buy is a high-quality pickleball paddle. Choosing a paddle you enjoy using will greatly improve your results on the court and your overall enjoyment of the game.
Unfortunately, choosing a pickleball paddle isn’t always simple. There are dozens of paddle manufacturers and hundreds of pickleball paddles for sale. Each paddle has a unique combination of size, weight, materials, and construction. It is easy to become confused by all of the choices!
This guide will simplify the process of choosing a pickleball paddle by explaining the most important considerations when choosing a paddle. We’ll then share some great paddles for players with different playing preferences and skill levels.
Pickleball Paddle Weight
Weight is one of – if not the – most important factors when choosing a pickleball paddle.
In fact, you can put weight in the same category as “feel.” How does the paddle feel when you pick it up? How does it feel when you have been holding it through an entire game? How does it feel when you swing it?
Pickleball paddles range anywhere from 6 ounces to 14 ounces, and the weight will affect the power and control.
A lighter paddle gives you more control but less drive. Conversely, a heavier paddle gives you less control but more power and drive. Perhaps most importantly, a heavier paddle can cause elbow strain and fatigue in your arm. You may want to start with paddle that is not too heavy until you build up more strength, however it is a bit of a Catch-22: less arm strength means you will need more help driving the ball with any real power. Therefore, consider selecting a mid-weight paddle between 7 ounces and 8.5 ounces. You may still be tempted to go light, but consider this: the lighter the paddle the more energy and swing you will need to hit the ball with force, which can inflame an injury or cause more pain.
Pickleball is very much a game about reflexes and instinct. Because the game is played at such a rapid pace, the feel of the paddle in your hand and its responsiveness are incredibly important. How does it feel when swing the paddle? Does it feel responsive when volleying? Does the paddle feel great when you first pick it up? How does it feel at the end of the game?
Milliseconds matter in pickleball! A heavier paddle might take a split second longer to move, which could change affect your game. If you are an older player with slow reactions, you might be better off using a light paddle that allows you to move quickly.
Pickleball players have different techniques. Some players prefer to minimize how much they move their arms, while others use more of their body. If you prefer to not move your arm as far when placing a powerful shot, try a heavier paddle. You will be able to obtain more velocity with less movement.
Once you have been playing pickleball for a while, you will develop a preference for playing certain shots. You might realize you are better at high speed power shots or discover you are a dink master! Once you have identified what your strengths are weakness, you can get a paddle that either compensates for the weak parts of your game or makes the strong parts of your game even better. For example, if you are highly skilled at dinking, you could try a light paddle to improve this aspect of your game. If you struggle with power shots, you could try a heavier paddle to compensate for it.
Pickleball Paddle Grip Size
Choosing a paddle with the correct grip size for your hand is another important consideration. If you have a paddle with a grip that is too short or too long for your hand, you are more likely to lose your grip. It can also affect how comfortable you are during the game.
In general terms, paddles with longer grips can give you a little more stability, while shorter grips can give you more control over your shots. It is also easier to achieve spin on paddles with a shorter grip. It is often worth trying paddles with slightly longer or shorter grips to see how it affects your game.
Here is a simple rule-of-thumb for grip selection:
- Short players (under 5’2”) usually do well with a 4” grip
- Medium sized players (between 5’3” and 5’8”) usually do well with a 4 ¼” grip
- Large players (above 5’9”) usually do well with a 4 ½” grip.
If you are unsure about which size to go for, opt for the shorter one. It is also important to have a paddle grip thickness that feels snug in your hand. If you are used to holding tennis rackets, you might prefer a thicker handle. If you often play badminton, you might like a narrower handle. Again, experiment with a few paddles to find the right handle thickness for you.
The grip on pickleball paddles can also vary. Some paddles use thick gel padding to reduce vibrations. Others have a rubbery surface with lots of tack to help the player keep a firm grip on their paddle. You can change the grips on some paddles, while others have the grip cemented into the paddle’s handle. It’s worth experimenting with different grips to find one that you enjoy using.
Pickleball Paddle Hitting Surface Size
Pickleball paddles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This is because the official requirements for pickleball paddle sizes are quite flexible. For a pickleball paddle to comply with the official pickleball rules, it must have a combined width and length of no more than 24”. That means you can have very wide/short paddles that are 8” by 16” or narrow/long paddles that are 5” by 19”.
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