New Pickleball Players - Hold Off on Buying a New Paddle

How to Avoid Spending up to $1,000 to Find the Right Paddle

New Pickleball Players - Hold Off on Buying a New Paddle graphic - The Pickleball Broadcast

New Pickleball Players - Conduct Research Before Buying a New Paddle

How to Avoid Spending up to $1,000 to Find the Right Paddle

Selecting your first or second pickleball paddle can be a daunting task.

First, you may not be sure if pickleball is for you. Who wants to spend a couple to several hundred dollars on equipment that you'll only use a few times?

Second, it seems that every court has a really good player who plays with the oldest or cheapest paddle. So, does the paddle make the player? Not necessarily... But when it comes to ourselves, it's certainly convenient to blame the paddle versus the player, isn't it?

It seems that many newer players invest $600 or so before they find the right paddle for them personally.

Everyone is eager to provide advice, but this advice is often biased based on their preferences, mechanics and budget and not yours... For instance, many players recommend lighter paddles to avoid potential wrist, elbow and shoulder issues. Also, people say women should have lighter paddles with smaller grips and men should have heavier paddles with larger grips.

Well-meaning paddle advice has not worked well for me... Lighter paddles tend to create joint issues for me whereas heavy paddles don't. And, my very tall male partner and I are walking examples of the opposite of common advice. He likes light paddles with small skinny handles and I like heavy paddles with thick handles. Go figure.

Here are some tips to help you make the right choice for yourself:

  1. The very best advice anyone could give you is "try before you buy." If possible, try out different paddles before making a purchase. This will give you a better idea of what feels comfortable and suits your playing style. The good news is that many players have several paddles in their bags and won't mind you checking out one of theirs. The bad news is that it often takes players up to two weeks to know definitively if a paddle is going to work for them or not...

  2. Choose according to your skill level. If you are a beginner, you may want to choose a paddle that is more forgiving and has a larger sweet spot. Advanced players may prefer a paddle with more control and power with the current trend leaning towards power paddles.

  3. Consider weight, size and shape. We discussed this earlier. Paddles come in different weights, sizes and shapes. Lighter paddles are easier to maneuver, while heavier paddles provide more power. The size and shape of the paddle head also affects the sweet spot, ability to control and power. Shorter players and singles players tend to gravitate towards elongated paddle heads for reach.

  4. Determine which paddle face material you prefer. The paddle face can be made from different materials such as composite, graphite, carbon fiber, fiberglass or wood (wood is rarely seen on the court). Also, there are advancements in paddle technology and a variety of core materials as well. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, so do your research to find what works best for you.

  5. If relevant, make sure it's approved. Today there are hundreds of paddles that have been approved by the USA Pickleball Association. Sanctioned tournament players MUST play with a USAP approved pickleball paddle. Purely social/recreational players aren't required to play with USAP approved paddles, but their HOA or community may require them to play with an approved QUIET paddle.

  6. If important to you, also consider manufacturing origin as well as customer service reputation and warranty info. Some players insist on playing with American-made paddles. And, as you can imagine, if you do have an issue with your paddle, you do want to do business with a company that stands behind their products. customer service

Research, research, research

At the end of the day, it's often about how your paddle feels and how it performs in your hands. Remember, take your time and choose wisely to protect your time and budget.