Whether you play pickleball at your local country club or in the empty lot next door, the paddle you’re using can make all the difference in the sporting experience. Here, we take a look at the top brands of paddles, pros/cons of each, materials and styles.
In reviewing the 5 Best Pickleball Paddles we will give the highlights of the 5 top-rated paddles in the marketplace and select one that will be named our “Editor’s Choice”.
Then we’ll offer some background and technical information that’s helpful in choosing the right paddle for your needs and preferences in our Buyers Guide section.
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Pickleball Paddles
Best Pickleball Paddles
There isn’t much room for improvement in the design, performance and quality of the Paddletek Tempest Wave. It is frequently used by national competitors.
Graphite Polymer Honeycomb Composite construction make it generally a lighter paddle, but not at all passive when it comes to ballstrike performance. Large radius corners give this paddle the very best aerodynamic performance in the sport. It’s our Editor’s Choice and with good reason.
The Paddletek U.S. Open Pickleball Championships – Official Paddle model shown in our review is functional identical to previous models of the Tempest Wave. I confirmed this directly with Doug Clark at Paddletek. For more on their products see: www.paddletek.com
An even lighter paddle because of its 100% graphite / Nomex construction, the Rally Graphite is another great performer. A durable graphite face with Nomex paddle core construction means the best of both worlds.
We like this paddle a lot for recreational and competitive play. According to the manufacturer “The strong graphite face will provide consistent dinks, lobs, and volleys.” And the Rally Graphite claims to be the best pickleball paddle for spin.
The Rally Graphite has a nice leather-wound handle. It’s a professional looking and built paddle.
Moving up in weight at 8.6 oz. and down in price is our 3rd choice – the Upstreet Graphite Pickleball Paddle. Upstreet’s polypropylene (PP) honeycomb core is a unique cell structure. The core has 3 layout patterns as compared to 2 orientations found in other honeycomb.
As a result of their honeycomb design, Upstreet believes the PP honeycomb pickleball paddle composite provides optimum mechanical performance. No question, the paddle performs well.
If you’re a beginner to intermediate player this paddle will perform to your level of play. It’s good value for the price.
For those pickleball purists who still love the feel (and the sound) of the wooden paddle, here’s a non-nonsense fun option. Wolfe has made this paddle for decades and it hasn’t gone out of style.
The XFire is claimed to to be the highest quality wooden pickleball paddle on the market. It’s made of 7-ply maple for superior strength and engineered for balance and stability. It has a full Gamma tape-wrap grip and a rubber handle endcap. XFire weighs 11 oz.
In yet another creative combination of construction materials, the Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge is a graphite & fiberglass blend face combined with a super-strong aluminum honeycomb core.
This paddle is “rimless” meaning there is no guard around the edges. Some prefer this style reminiscent of the older ping pong paddles. It has an ultra cushiony grip for max performance when sweating. The Amazin’ Aces Bainbridge weighs 7.9 oz.
The Buyer’s Guide to Pickleball Paddles
Pickleball is a fun new sport for competitive athletes and young families alike. Only established in 1965, the sport is still evolving and coming into its own. Today the sport is well-supported by its organizing and governing body, The USA Pickleball Association. See: www.usapa.org for more information. Also check out Pickleball Magazine.
If you haven’t heard, there is a resurgence of interest and players in pickleball all over the USA and the world for that matter. Its growing popularity may have something to do with average age of players interested in the sport, and it may be that the physical demands for pickleball are not as great as those of tennis. Therefore, more people can play – and have fun at any skill level.
As such, there is new equipment constantly coming onto the market, and it can get confusing as to what equipment to buy. The following article breaks down the origins of pickleball, the types of pickleball paddles that are on the market, and how to select the best pickleball paddle for you. No fads, no gimmicks – just the facts.
If you’re just starting out in this sport, and you learned in a backyard you probably first experienced wooden paddles. For their durability and low cost of construction, wooden paddles are common in beginner sets.
As you progress in skill level, advanced materials like aluminum and carbon fiber, combined with grip-giving surface materials, will take you to the next levels of pickleball competitive play. We want you to experience all that the sport of pickleball has to offer.
Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines qualities of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. The sport was originally developed by three business-savvy family-men, who were trying to entertain their families but lacked the full equipment of one racquet sport. They utilized a badminton court and net, ping-pong paddles, and a plastic perforated ball.
The sport has evolved into a world-wide phenomenon, with rules and equipment all its own. Pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors, as singles or doubles. A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court: 20 X 44 feet. It has similar striping to a tennis court, with right and left serving markers, and a 7-feet no-volley zone by the front of the net.
Most importantly, pickleball paddles are unique: they are larger than ping-pong paddles, but smaller than tennis racquets, are generally made up of three layers: the top face, core, and bottom face. The faces and core are normally made of different materials. The type of pickleball paddle you use can make all the difference to your game.
Pickleball Paddles: Complete Overview
The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) has strict requirements around paddle material and size. Stringed racquets, or paddles that produce a trampoline-like effect, are strictly prohibited. The paddle materials, sizes, and other features we cover are generally accepted by the IFP, but we highly recommend checking with them before purchasing a specific brand.
Pickleball Paddle Material: Bottom and Top Faces
All graphite pickleball paddles are made of a combination of graphite and epoxy – no paddle is made of just graphite. Epoxy gives graphite the movement it needs to be shaped and molded into a paddle form. There are different grades of graphite and different types of epoxy, so graphite paddles can range hugely in terms of durability and quality.
PRO: Graphite faces typically mean a light paddle that is strong and offers longevity. They are excellent for players who want maximum ball control.
CON: Due to the light nature of graphite, these paddles lack power and require more physical exertion to drive the ball. These paddles can also be expensive, since graphite is a relatively new technology.
The first official pickleball paddles were wooden. Wood paddles generally fall in the heavyweight category, weighing around 8.5 – 9.5 ounces. These heavy paddles allow players to hit the ball farther with minimal effort, but lack the control that some of the newer technology offers. These paddles are wooden through and through – the core is wooden as well.
PRO: Wood paddles are one of the most cost-effective paddles on the market, since there isn’t any expensive technology behind it. They are also durable, which means you don’t have to buy a new paddle anytime soon.
CON: These paddles can be seriously heavy. If you have delicate wrists, you might want to consider another option. If you’re looking for a lot of control over ball maneuverability, you’ll also want to look elsewhere.
Typically called composite paddles, these pickleball paddles have top and bottom faces primarily made of fiberglass. A relatively new technology, these paddles can be more expensive than wood paddles, but not as pricey as graphite paddles (normally). Composite paddles will often have a UV vinyl laminate coating for protection.
PRO: These paddles offer a nice balance of power and control for the weight and size.
CON: These faces aren’t as durable as graphite or carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber pickleball paddles aren’t as common as graphite, wood, or composite ones. They can be pricey, but they are durable and give off lots of ball control.
PRO: Very durable – even more so than graphite faces. It also offers great ball control and maneuverability.
CON: As with any light paddle that allows for ball control, the trade-off is a lack of power.
Pickleball Paddle Material: Cores
Except for wood pickleball paddles, all paddle cores are made up of a material in a honeycomb pattern. This gives off the perfect blend of strength, durability, and bounce.
Nomex was the first type of material to be put into a composite pickleball paddle. It is a cardboard-like material dipped in resin, which is very lightweight. Nomex is the hardest core material, and therefore the loudest, but it also gives the ball a great “pop.”
PRO: Nomex core paddles are tried, tested, and true. If you are nervous about new technology, this is a great core material to go with. These paddles will last you a long time and give you excellent control.
CON: Due to the hard, dense makeup of these paddles, they can be loud. As the material is light, it packs less power than other cores (like a polymer core).
Polymer cores are the latest technology in pickleball paddles. In fact, this core material was developed specifically for the game of pickleball. It’s a soft plastic blend that is incredibly quiet. It also gives you lots of control.
PRO: If you get distracted from a noisy racquet, this is the solution for you. It’s the quietest paddle on the market.
CON: Paddles with polymer cores lack power.
Aluminum Core Pickleball Paddles
Aluminum core paddles aren’t as quiet as polymer paddles, but less noisy that nomex paddles. Most aluminum core paddles are in the “lightweight” category, and have fiberglass faces.
PRO: These paddles have a great amount of control and maneuverability.
CON: You need to exert lots of energy to drive the ball.
Pickleball Paddle Weight
Pickleball paddles can range from 6.5 up to 9.5 ounces, depending on the material the paddle is made of. The weight of your paddle will greatly impact your game: lighter paddles give you more control, but less power. This means you need to exert more energy when you swing. Heavier paddles require less energy to drive the ball farther, but they give you less control over ball maneuverability.
Pickleball paddles that are 6.5 – 7.2 ounces are considered lightweight.
Most lightweight paddles have a fiberglass, composite or lightweight aluminum core, and graphite faces. Lightweight paddles are ideal for players that want control over their hit, and don’t mind using physical force.
Paddles that are 7.3 – 8.4 ounces are considered middleweight.
Many players like using middleweight paddles, as they combine the ability to control the ball with power. You can find middleweight paddles in almost any pickleball paddle material.
Heavyweight paddles are between 8.5 – 9.5 ounces.
These paddles offer a lot drive with minimal effort. Of course, the trade-off comes with less control over the ball. Heavyweight paddles are typically made of wood.
Pickleball Paddle Grip Size
Paddle grip is incredibly important to your game. If your paddle grip is too big or small, it can cause you to drop your paddle, or worse, cause injury.
Paddles with a Small Grip
Pickleball paddles with a small grip have a circumference of 4 inches. This size is perfect for smaller women and younger players. Generally, players 5’2” and under should use a paddle with a small grip.
Paddles with a Medium Grip
Most pickleball paddles have a medium grip: 4 1/8” – 4 ¼”. This is a safe size to go with for the average player. Individuals between 5’3” and 5’8” are recommended to use this grip size.
Large Grip Paddles
The largest grip you can find for a pickleball paddle is 4 ½”. If you are a taller individual – 5’9 or over – a large grip is probably the right choice for you.
Pickleball Paddles Edge Guards
Some players love paddles with edge guards, others hate them. Here are the pros and cons for pickleball paddle edge guards:
PRO: You don’t have to worry about dropping your paddle, or diving for a close shot. You can play as hard as you want, and know that your paddle is protected. Your paddle is less likely to de-laminate (or have the face detach from the core). Edge guards can add years to the life of your paddle.
CON: Edge guards decrease the total hitting surface area, so you have a smaller paddle to work with.
Most edgeless paddles have protective tape in place of an edge guard. It’s barely noticeable, and doesn’t impact your play. On the flip side, it also doesn’t protect your paddle that well.
Selecting the Right Pickleball Paddle for YOU
To summarize, you want to look at the following criteria when selecting a pickleball paddle to purchase:
- Paddle material (face and core)
- Paddle weight
- Paddle grip size
- Paddle edge
Consider the Type of Pickleball Player You Are
Playing with an Injury
Back, shoulder, or upper arm injuries: Stay away from lightweight paddles. They require more energy exertion, which can easily lead to muscle inflammation, overextension, or other injuries that can exacerbate existing conditions. Try a wood or composite paddle that weighs at least 7.3 ounces or more.
Wrist injuries: Stick with a lightweight paddle – they are the least stressful on your wrist, and are the least likely to contribute to paddle fatigue. Aluminum core paddles are an excellent lightweight option.
Level of Expertise
You’re a beginner: Wood paddles are the best for beginners. They cost the least, so don’t love with the sport, you aren’t out too much money. They also pack the most power, so you don’t have to exert a ton of energy as you’re learning. You might not have a ton of control over the ball, but when you are trying to get the basics down, it doesn’t really matter.
You’re an expert: Graphite paddles have an excellent balance of power and control, and are worth the money if you play often. You’ll be able to feel the difference.
Type of Play
You play singles: You need to hit the ball more often than those that play doubles, so durability to something to seriously consider when selecting a paddle. You also need to hit the ball farther than those that play doubles. Larger, heavier paddles will be better for your game than small, light paddles.
You play doubles: Pick a paddle with control. Graphite paddles, or a paddle with a nomex, aluminum, or polymer core are great options.
We hope that the Buyers Guide has helped you to understand some of the many characteristics of equipment and types of play that you can experience. Good luck and enjoy the sport of pickleball.