Let me share my own story with you in the hope you do not repeat the same mistakes I made choosing a paddle when deciding to start playing pickleball.
I fell in love with pickleball the very first time I was introduced to it at my daughter’s grade 7 “show the parents around” day. I knew instantly that I could enjoy this sport and work around my arthritic knee. I had been a skier, runner, tennis and volleyball player but had come to a bit of a standstill in sports due to arthritis. Pickleball lit me up and I was excited to embark on learning this new game.
I started playing at the local recreation centre where the organizer was able to lend new players like me a spare paddle to play with. In hindsight, these were cast off paddles from other players, probably cracked, but what did I know? After attending these drop-ins for a while, I saw that a lot of the players seemed to be playing with a Head paddle purchased at Canadian Tire for $80, so I thought that is what I should buy too. I played with that paddle type (three paddles) for 2 years, not realizing there was anything different or better. It was okay….and it was “banger ball” that everyone played in those early days of the game anyhow. The paddle seemed fine. Again, what did I know?
As my game improved, a friend asked me why I was playing with such a low quality paddle. He handed me his Paddletek paddle to try, and I could not believe the difference between his and what I had been using. Right away, the main difference I experienced was in the control and the power that his paddle offered.
I was hooked. Paddletek forever!
In early 2022 and to my great delight, I got sponsored by Paddletek, one of the largest paddle manufacturers in the world located in Michigan, USA. Their sponsorship includes my paddles, gear, and clothing each year.
They gave me 6 different demonstration paddles to carry to my lessons/ camps so that my students can systematically try them out. If they like one, I carry new ones with me to sell and they can walk away with it, sometimes even down to their preferred colour! (Purple, blue, or green.) This is a really nice service to offer, and I think students appreciate it.
Like a mattress, a paddle wears with use and will need to be replaced regularly, after approx 1000 games or every 2-3 years. The replacement paddle you choose in 2-3 years may be different from your original purchase as your game will have evolved, and you will understand better what you want from your equipment. I don't recommend buying a used paddle because the warranty does not transfer and you can not always tell if there is internal damage. It is best to bite the bullet, pay the money and buy a new one.
Choosing a better quality paddle from the start gives you an edge to learning and improving. Rather than picking a paddle off a sports store shelf, or buying one from Amazon sight unseen, it is important to try a few demonstration paddles systematically, with real time comparison to make sure the one you choose feels good in your hand. You will find that paddles do vary… a lot! If you get the chance, have a high level player or a pro like myself hit balls from the non volley line to your forehand at the baseline trying one paddle after the other as shown in this video.
Here is what I think you should consider when choosing a paddle that suits your needs….
1) What is your budget?
If you are a newer player, there is no need to spend upwards of $200 for a paddle because you don’t yet know what you want the paddle to do. Are you going to be a “touch” player or are you going to like to hit the ball hard? Getting to the touch game and away from “banger ball” takes time, training, and knowhow. And the right paddle.
The price of a paddle does not mean better technology. Paddletek sells the Bantam EXL because they produce and sell so many, they can keep the price down. Pros Kyles Yates and Irena Tereshenko play with this paddle. A higher price does not automatically mean a better paddle, as most consumers would think.
Paddletek paddles that I carry range in price from $100.00 - $295.00.
2) What is the ideal weight of your new paddle?
The weight of a paddle is a personal preference, but I recommend to play with the heaviest paddle that you are comfortable with. Mine is 8.4 ounces and I love it, but this weight is considered to be quite heavy.
Paddles can be bought between 6-14 ounces. This is a huge variance.
Why is this important?
It is important because the weight of your paddle will affect your power and control of the ball.
A lighter paddle will give you more control and more speed when swinging but less power.
A heavier paddle will give you more power.
A good range for most players is between 7.5 and 8.4ounces, considered mid-weight.
7.5-7.9 ounces suits new players. Adding 1/10 of an ounce will make little difference and will have no effect as to how the paddle plays. It is like adding a penny to the paddle face. It is nothing significant.
3) What Paddle Shape would be best for you, traditional/standard or elongated?
The location of the sweet spot on a paddle is important to know and to try and hit each time. When you hit it, you will feel the "pop" or "life" of the paddle. The shape of the paddle determines the sweet spot.
-The sweet spot found on a traditional/standard paddle is closer to the hand and easy to find.
-Elongated paddles give you more reach, but their narrowness is less forgiving and harder to play with. There is more paddle area but with a tougher sweet spot to hit. For an elongated paddle, the sweet spot is correspondingly smaller and there is more dead space. Studies have shown that beginner and intermediate players should stick to a traditional paddle shape for this reason.
4) What is the paddle made of?
What is the face of the paddle made of? This choice depends on what you want the paddle to do and when.
Graphite vs Fibreglass
Graphite adds energy and puts the player in control. It activates sooner and with soft shots, puts more power back into the ball, absorbs more energy, and allows the player to be in control and more active.
Fibreglass refers to glass proxy or Q10. It does not activate a soft shot, and it takes a lot of energy to get the paddle to do that.
Most players play with a combination of glass proxy and graphite to get more power.
The thickness of a paddle is similar to the differences between a graphite vs fibreglass face.
The thicker paddle gets, the more energy it takes to activate the core.
Most players want a combination of power and touch.
5) What is the Warranty?
Like any sporting equipment, pickleball paddles can be defective. Be sure to buy one from a well reputed company that has a warranty and stands by it. Read the reviews.
Paddletek’s warranty is the best in the industry. They have a limited lifetime guarantee against any manufacturer defect. You register your new paddle with them within 14 days of purchase, and the warranty is in effect.
Pickleball is a relatively inexpensive sport in comparison to others, so I am a true advocate of getting good equipment off the start. A quality paddle that fits your needs is a big key to it all. I hope this article helps raise your awareness to the process. May you have many good games with your perfect paddle!