In the pickleball world, there are hundreds of paddles to choose from. I know what it’s like to shop endlessly for pickleball paddles. Believe me, I am a self-declared pickleball paddle nerd. I want to get my hands on as many paddles as possible. I’ve worked tirelessly to develop a methodology for myself that helps me choose a pickleball paddle. Today, I’m going to share the whole thing with you so that you can choose a paddle that’s right for you.
Choosing a paddle doesn’t have to be difficult. At first, having to choose a pickleball paddle to use seems like a daunting task. But once you break it down into multiple parts, it becomes easier. Keep in mind that even though I have my own process that I’ll outline below, you don’t have to follow it exactly. Do what you will. If you like using a paddle that’s 5 oz heavier than what you should be using, then so be it!
Before we begin, I’m going to assume that you’re looking into a buying a standard sized pickleball paddle. If you’re new to pickleball or you’re not a very advanced player, then you’ll want to stick with the standard size of 7 3/4″ – 8″ wide. If you want to use a long board paddle, the following principles will still apply.
3 crucial factors for choosing a paddle
Ok, let’s get into it. There are three major factors to consider when choosing a pickleball paddle.
The list above is slightly misleading without me letting you know about how important each one is compared to the others. The weight of your paddle far outweighs the other factors for choosing a paddle (pun absolutely intended). Don’t get me wrong, choosing the right core and handle size for you is an important step, but it’s nothing compared to weight.
Weight, weight, weight!
Having the proper paddle weight for you is the most important factor for choosing a pickleball paddle. The reason is that it’s one of the only physical requirements that exist in pickleball. It’s like saying “you have to be this tall to ride the rollercoaster”. If a paddle is too light or too heavy for you, it can potentially mess everything up.
But how will you know if a paddle is too light or too heavy?
A number of problems will crop up with you’re using a paddle that is too light for you. The first sign that appears is that may start missing shots that you typically don’t miss. I’m not talking about missing shots that are difficult. I mean completely whiffing; even on serves. These are the kinds of whiffs that leave everyone laughing, but is also a clear sign that your paddle is a bit on the feathery side.
When you use a paddle that’s too light for your strength, you can occasionally miss shots because you’re swinging faster than you usually do. Similar to swinging too early in baseball, you will miss the ball entirely. It’s hilarious, but not so great for your win/loss record.
Another symptom of a light paddle is that your shots aren’t as powerful as they could be. I say “could” because when you play with a light paddle, you may be thinking to yourself “that shot should have been harder than that”. If you notice that your shots are less powerful than usual, or you think that you could be hitting them harder, then you may be using a light paddle. You may be leaving a lot on the table. Remember, power is all about paddle weight.
I’ll talk more about this later, but using an aluminum core paddle can be a major cause of this. The aluminum just doesn’t have as much strength behind it like nomex or polymer. If you happen to be using an aluminum core paddle, switching over to polymer will help immensely.
It’s really easy to tell if a paddle is too light for you, but it’s a bit harder to tell if a paddle is too heavy. There are a few specific markers that you can look for though.
The most significant consequence that can result from using a heavy paddle is that you may begin to experience wrist and arm fatigue. You may find yourself rubbing your wrists or even your arm after a day of pickleball. If these symptoms aren’t normal for you, then it could just be the paddle.
Make sure you see a doctor if the symptoms are even worse than that, or if it’s a consistent pain in your elbow. That could be a sign of the infamous tennis elbow injury.
Another sign that can appear from using a heavy paddle is that you’re hitting your overhead smashes out behind the baseline. Overhead smashes are fun shots to do. They’re even more fun when you have a powerful, heavy paddle in hand. But if the paddle is too heavy then you may hit them completely out of the court, instead of at the opponent’s feet.
The reason this happens is because you’re not able to get enough wrist action going in order to angle the paddle downward. Since the paddle is too heavy for you, the swing you make will go a bit slower than usual. That increased time can equate to the angle of the overhead smash being pointed towards the baseline instead of downward. Try using a lighter paddle and you will notice a remarkable difference in the consistency of your overhead smashes.
It’s true that the heavier your paddle is, the more power you’ll have behind your shots. But this is only true to an extent. If the heaviness of the paddle gets to where you can hardly use it correctly, then what power you could get out of it no longer matters.
It’s a great feeling when you’ve finally found a paddle that works well for you. Everything seems to fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. That is where you want to be. Once you find out what weight is great for you, then you can move on to customizing your pickleball paddle experience beyond that.
But how do you find out your preferred paddle weight exactly?
How to find your paddle weight
Finding out what paddle weight is great for you will not be a difficult process. Let’s go into some details.
The first thing you should do
Note: If you don’t own a pickleball paddle, then move on to the next step.
The first place to start is to weigh the current paddle that you have. Using a kitchen scale or something similar is the best method. But if you don’t have one, then look up your paddle on the internet. Find out how much it weights, or an average weight of some kind. Keep that number in your head or write it down somewhere. This number is going to help you figure out where your weight range is.
Try out tons of paddles
The next step is to try out as many paddles as humanly possible. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
- Some locations have extra paddles for use. Just ask to see if they have some.
- Find a fellow player who has a few extra and ask to try them out.
- Find a pickleball teacher in your area who would be willing to let you try a few.
- Find a pickleball nerd like me who has an entire bag of them for people to try. Don’t judge me.
Getting your hands on as many paddles as possible will turn you into a more educated pickleball player in terms of pickleball paddle choices. You will have a wider range of knowledge and will be able to tell the difference between most paddles.
But it will also help you find your weight range. Most people’s weight ranges are typically anywhere between 7.2 – 7.8 oz. My personal range is 7.5 – 8.1.
Whenever you try out a paddle, write it down. Find the weight or average weight online then write that down as well. Eventually, you will have a list of paddles and their weights. Ask yourself which ones were the heaviest and which ones were the lightest. Check those 2 numbers Congratulations, that’s your paddle weight range? You’ve now eliminated a whole ton of paddles from your shopping list!
Which paddle core?
The next factor to consider isn’t as important as weight, but it still remains a decision that has to be made.
Nomex, aluminum, polymer; which one do you choose? Let me just make it super easy for you.
For the most part, a polymer paddle is going to be the best choice for you. There are some niche cases where a nomex or aluminum paddle would work well for you. Head over to my article about paddle cores to check out more.
Getting a handle on it
The last characteristic to think about when choosing a pickleball paddle is the handle.
It’s not as important as the other factors, but there are a few mistakes that can be made here.
Most paddle handles are anywhere between 4” to 5”. The 4” paddles are typically for people with smaller or wider hands. The 5” paddles are either for tennis players or men who have big hands. If you are a tennis player with a 2 handed backhand, then you’ll definitely want to go with the long handle. But there’s also grip circumference to consider as well.
Standard grip circumference in pickleball is around 4.25”. Most people are fine with this size. But if you have a large hand, then you may want to go up to 4.5” or even greater. For women, being anywhere between 4” and 4.25” should work fine for you.
Keep in mind, this should be one of the last things to think about when you’re choosing a paddle. Most manufacturers have multiple options when it comes to grip sizes, so you should be mostly covered.
Also, don’t worry about the grip tape when you buy a paddle. You can easily change this later on if you don’t like it. I’ll have a guide all about this coming out soon.
I make paddle recommendations all the time to friends or just random pickleball players that I meet. It’s very easy for me to make recommendations to them because I can easily observe their overall situation. Although I can’t do that as much over the internet, I can at least give you a few things to look at.
If you’re looking for a light paddle for you, then there are some great options for you out there. My absolute favorite light paddle is the Paddletek Phoenix LTE. This is such an amazing paddle, even at only 7.2oz. It plays fantastically and it’s light. The grip circumference is a bit smaller than usual, making this a fantastic option for women. If you want some more details you can read my review of it here.
The standard weight range in pickleball is around 7.6 oz. This is where one of the popular pickleball paddles in the world sits; the Paddletek Tempest Wave. This paddle is legendary, and for good reason. Another great option would be the Paddletek Element. It’s another great all-around paddle that’s especially great for tennis players.
If you want a beefy paddle that has plenty of power and strength to it, then you’ll be looking for a heavier paddle.
Selkirk to the rescue!
They have made a lot of really great paddles that are for the aggressive player. I have played with a few of them including the 30P XL Enrique Ruiz and the incredible AMPED Epic. These paddles weight around 8 oz, being on the upper side of the weight range. Believe me, they will give you plenty of power to leave your opponents in awe. But you must have the strength to use them properly!
I hope that this guide has been useful for you! If you have any questions about paddles, then please feel free to leave a comment below!