You've discovered the game of Pickleball, and are ready for choosing a paddle - but where do you start? Choosing a first paddle can be confusing. Composite or graphite paddle? What about a wood paddle? How about fiberglass paddles? We'll break it down in this paddle guide so you will know how to choose a pickleball paddle.

A Guide on Choosing the Right Pickleball Paddle

In its short life, pickleball has shown remarkable growth. The combination of relatively simple rules, small physical footprint, and minimal required equipment make it a game easily playable by many people. The most complicated piece of equipment is the pickleball paddle.

A wood paddle was the first. The inventors made them from simple materials on hand. Quickly, the demands for something lighter, stronger and where players could generate spin created an entire industry. Today there are many manufacturers using space age materials and new ones are coming on the market regularly.

The Basics

By the official rules of the game from the USA Pickleball Association, the total of length and width cannot exceed 24 inches with the length not exceeding 17 inches. There are no limits on thickness or weight. There are substantial restrictions on the surface so it cannot, by itself, impart spin on the ball. Therefore, holes, dimples, rubber, sand or other rough texture are prohibited unlike ping pong or platform tennis for instance. There are no restrictions on materials, but you cannot make your own paddle.

Paddle Construction: Core & Surface

Core - other than cheap, solid wood paddles, all paddles have some kind of honeycomb construction. This is to manage the weight while still providing the stiffness a paddle needs.

Three materials are used- Nomex, polymer, or aluminum. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Polymer has grown to dominate with approximately 81% of the market.

Paddle Material
Surface & Core

Surface (or face): This is made from one of three materials: fiberglass, graphite, or carbon fiber. (A note for you science nerds: graphite and carbon fiber are basically the same material but use two different processes to manufacture. This creates different results on the surface.) The face will wear out first with fiberglass paddles the most vulnerable. Power and control also come from the face. Graphite paddles are hugely popular.

Any of these can be applied to any of the core materials listed above.

You should consider your preferred combination of core and surface material to find your perfect paddle construction.

The Grip (Handle) - Just like a Tennis Player

While the handle’s construction will affect how vibrations are felt, the paddle grip which goes over the handle really impacts players. Getting the right size, like a tennis player needs, is key. But unlike tennis, there are not as many choices in a grip size.

Therefore, a player may have to apply overgrips or find a thinner grip to get the right grip size depending on their hand size. The shape of the grip is a personal preference. Common shapes include ridges or are flat and/or are wrapped.

Does the shape matter?

It might. Most paddles are fairly standard between 15.5 and 16 inches in length and have the standard paddle shape. For some experienced players, a full length, 17 inch paddle that is narrower helps them reach those tougher shots. However, they tend to have smaller sweet spots requiring a higher skill level to use. There are also oblong shapes and some with the corners at the end rounded off or cut off. These types of pickleball paddles help players who struggle to get shorter, lower shots like dinks and drops.

Paddle Shape

What to Consider when Choosing a Pickleball Paddle

There are six factors to consider when purchasing a pickleball paddle, after you've determined your ideal paddle construction: price, weight, grip size, experience level, fitness level, and design.

#1 - Prices for decent paddles start around $50.

Cheap, solid wood paddles are less expensive. However they are typically heavy, noisy, won’t last, and won’t help you build your skills. At the high end, paddles can approach $200.

#2 - The weight of the paddle should be your single biggest consideration.

An ounce or two can make a big difference in many ways.

Paddle Weight

Weight can be broken down into three categories: a lighter paddle, mid weight paddles, and a heavier paddle. Review the pros and cons of each to find the best fit for you and your play style.

Lightweight (7.2 oz & under)

If you like lighter paddles, you like a finesse game. You like ball control above all else. Paddles in this category allow the hand to hit the ball short and/or with angles. Substantial wrist action creates a style of play creating winners. Maybe you are a control freak on the court and your game proves it.

  • More control - less power.
  • Better for newer hitters.
  • Can cause injuries if swing is hard.
  • Good for volleys and dinks.
  • Common for doubles players.

Midweight (7.3 oz - 8.4 oz)

Pickleball players who want both power and control will gravitate to this weight. Many skill levels use these. Here, both control and spin are part of the game.

  • Balance of power and control.
  • Popular with different styles of play.
  • Used by players with various fitness levels.
  • Can minimize injuries.
  • Largest range of model choices.
  • Best option for players not sure about what to buy.

Heavyweight (8.5 oz & up)

A heavier paddle is often the domain of power hitters who like to hit the ball with authority. Someone who is a tennis player coming into pickleball will want a heavier paddle but that could be a mistake until they can get control in the power game.

  • More power - less control.
  • Popular with singles players.
  • Regular play can injure the elbow or other locations.
  • Good for slams and passing shots.
  • Often used by professionals.

#3 - Find the right sized grip.

You use the same process as for a tennis racquet grip size and our How to Measure Grip Size guide is especially helpful for this. If you can’t quite find the right grip circumference in the range of grip sizes, buy one size smaller and follow our guide on Increasing Grip Size.

#4 Understand your playing ability and experience.

If you are a raw beginner, buying a heavy paddle made for professionals and advanced hitters will probably have a smaller sweet spot therefore frustrating the rookie. The opposite is also true. An experienced player will not get the results they expect from a lighter paddle due to the lesser power.

#5 - Understand your general fitness and strength levels.

Its important to do a candid reality check. While there isn’t as much running as in tennis or squash, pickleball is still a sport requiring exertion. Buying a pickleball paddle that is too heavy could result in injury. The whole objective of pickleball is to have fun and get some exercise.

#6 - Color and design scheme do not impact the player using the paddle.

There are some people who believe that having a color that blends in with the color of the ball and the color of the surroundings will affect the competition’s ability to make clean contact with the ball.

Get Out and Play!

More quality choices means good news for consumers even if it creates a bit of confusion. New courts are opening up. More and more people are playing regardless of age, size, physical condition, gender, or previous experience in sports of any kind. Adaptive pickleball groups including wheelchair players and groups for veterans are growing in number every day. You too can have fun playing pickleball. And you can start today. is here to help you whether you are a beginner or an advanced professional or anything in between. This paddle guide is a good starting point. Check out our Getting Started with Pickleball guide, or contact us with questions. We love to help!


Ready to find your own perfect paddle?