I’ve taught pickleball since September of 2018 and have tested out many paddles since then. I currently own about a dozen different models/brands of paddles. There have also been several paddle reps that I’ve talked to and tested out paddles from. Here is what I’ve found from testing all the paddles I’ve used along with asking existing players what they like most.
Note: There are affiliate links in this post meaning that I may make a small portion from purchases through these links. The products does not cost you more using my links and it won’t hurt my feelings if you buy your paddle from a different website or physical location. With that out of the way let’s get into….
1. What is the Best Pickleball Paddle for a Beginner?
The simplest answer I give to someone buying their first paddle is to purchase a mid level paddle in the $30-$60 price range. Preferably one that is made of some sort of plastic/graphite/carbon. Basically any type of material other than a paddle with a wooden or aluminum face.
You also want to make sure that it is a USAPA approved paddle if you might play in tournaments down the road. Here is the list of all USAPA approved paddles. Most USAPA approved paddles have the words “USAPA Approved” near the handle. This is now required of new models of paddles being approved, however it wasn’t always so some older models might not say it. You can double check using the approved paddle list link above.
“Why don’t you recommend a Wooden or Aluminum Faced Paddle?”
Wooden paddles seem to wear and tear too quickly for me. They also tend to have a more inconsistent sweet spot in my experience. Aluminum paddles tend to feel extra heavy with less control than their plastic counterparts.
Are Wooden and Aluminum Faced Paddles Bad?
They aren’t necessarily bad and the biggest upside is that they are cheaper than most other options. You can usually find a wooden or aluminum paddle for $10-$20 making it a great choice if you are tight on a budget and just want to have something to hit with.
However, if you want something to last longer and be easier on your arm, then I would suggest the more common paddles (which are typically some form of plastic).
Here are Some Paddles I Would Suggest to a New Pickleball Player
These are what I suggest to my friends and family that ask me about buying paddles. My recommendations here are based on the criteria above along with me looking at the details of the paddle.
This is the paddle my mom bought after my suggestions. She has enjoyed it a lot and has played for about 2 years now.
A great value for a paddle that is tournament ready (USAPA approved) with tons of positive reviews. This paddle meets all criteria I look for when suggesting a paddle to a first time buyer. Here is a set of 2 MX-01 paddles if you have a friend needing a paddle as well. It looks like this set comes with 4 indoor pickleballs (see note about balls below).
The Gamma Micron 2.0 looks very clean to me. It is USAPA approved and has a good price point. If you are wanting a well known name Brand, then this is a good looking entry paddle I would suggest to you.
A Quick Recap of Which Pickleball Paddle to Buy First and What to Do if Your Paddle Breaks on You Shortly after Purchase
My suggestion to new players is to buy any of these that look cool to you (fun colors, interesting shape, etc.) They should all play fairly similarly to each other and I rarely here of a pickleball player complaining about paddles like these when they own and use them.
I want to note that there are plenty other paddles that I would suggest. My advice is to buy a paddle in the $30-$60 price range with good reviews. If you are going to spend more than $60 then I would suggest jumping straight to a high grade paddle (which usually costs $100+. See the “Best Pickleball Paddle for Tournaments” section below.)
One last note, some paddles will break with little use. This should not happen most of the time. Reach out to the company that you bought the paddle from if this happens to you. Most companies are willing to give you a new paddle if yours breaks within a short period of use. It could be simply that you received a bad apple.
What’s the Difference Between the Pickleballs that Come with some Paddle Sets?
You may notice that some pickleballs have larger holes than others. Typically, indoor pickleballs have 26 larger holes while outdoor balls have 40 smaller holes. This is to help with wind resistance when playing outside. You can use them for both but the balls tend to play better in their appropriate conditions.
2. What is the Best Pickleball Paddle to Use in a Tournament?
High quality tournament paddles tend to be a bit more consistent and have a slightly larger sweet spot. If you are wanting to jump in and get a high quality paddle, here are my suggestions.
My best advice for finding a high quality paddle for tournament play is to test several out. Because high end paddles cost $100+ it is best to try out your friends paddles or find paddle reps in your area. A paddle rep is a person that is given a bunch of paddles (say 10-20) by a company with the purpose to demo them out to players. The paddle rep will typically get a commission for selling you a paddle if you like one that you demo.
In my experience with the handful of paddle reps I know, they tend to be fellow pickleball players looking to help out the community. So I’ve never experienced a pushy salesperson type of paddle rep and hopefully you can find nice people to help you demo paddles too.
What if I don’t have a paddle rep or way to demo high end paddles in my area?
If you don’t have a place to demo high end paddles but still want to buy a tournament grade paddle, see what I use and what I hear other tournament players of all levels enjoying.
My First High End Pickleball Paddle I used for Tournament Play
The Bantam EX-L by Paddletek is what I used in my first 5.0 tournament. Here is a mini documentary I made of one of my past tournaments using this paddle. I enjoyed the Bantam EXL’s large sweet spot. A very solid face that was a bit forgiving when hitting off center.
Some of the paddles I play with have quite a few dead spots on them and it feels bad when you hit those spots. The Bantam EXL has a bit more power than a lot of the paddles I’ve tried as well. This means I can actually focus more on accuracy when hitting. Since the power is in the paddle already, I don’t have to generate a lot of energy myself, the paddle does it for me. This was very helpful in my singles tournament that I linked above.
What High Performance Paddles I’ve Seen Other Tournament Players Happy To Use
Here is a list of common paddles and brands that I see friends and tournament players using. They are in no particular order. Click on the link or picture to purchase your own high end paddle.
There is a 13mm version of this paddle as well. The 16mm and 13mm numbers refer to the thickness of the paddle. Ben John’s currently plays with the 16mm paddle from what I have heard. I’ve tested both and the 16mm is a bit heftier but has a little more control to it in my limited practice with both.
I used the 16mm in a few tournament matches and I felt that it was very forgiving. I like the fiberglass paddles like this and the Invikta.
I have used the Pro Kennex Ovation Flight paddle in a tournament. It feels very mobile and easy to use. It hits the ball much more solid than most of the paddles I have used. This is often a good thing but can sometimes make the ball hard to control which is bad for shots like dinking and dropping. Overall I liked the paddle and it was solid. I currently prefer fiberglass paddles because I feel they are better at controlling the depth of my shot.
I bought the Red Gearbox GX5 myself. It is a lighter paddle that I liked with a sweetspot more towards the top of the paddle. It allowed me great maneuverability which I like when hitting sneak attacks at the kitchen.
These are most of the popular pickleball paddles/brands I see used by serious tournament players. If you are wanting to jump right into having the best of the best gear, then one the above paddles is what I would recommend to you. My personal favorite high level brands I’ve played with are Paddletek and Selkirk. I haven’t played with many of the others but have friends that really enjoy those brands and/or see them a lot at tournaments.
3. What Pickleball Paddle is Easiest on My Arm/Shoulder/Elbow?
The PROKENNEX Paddles have been highly recommended to me by players that have past and current injuries. I’ve known several players who had tendinitis or other issues that say they really like this brand of paddle. Apparently they were designed for players with pre existing injuries in mind.
I haven’t personally used this brand of paddle yet but I’ve heard enough people with arm issues recommend them that I wanted to let you know about them as well.
Here are a few of the PROKENNEX paddle models. You can see which shape/size/color looks best for you:
- PROKENNEX Oviation Speed (Blue)
- PROKENNEX Oviation Speed (Red)
- PROKENNEX Pro Flight
- PROKENNEX Oviation Flight
The wind resistant design of the PROKENNEX paddles should help your arm be less sore and less likely to sustain repetitive stress injuries such as “tennis (pickleball) elbow”.
4. What Pickleball Equipment Should I Buy to Teach a Group of People? (Gym Class for Example)
I believe Pickleball is one of the best sports to teach in gym class. I also have no doubt it will be a staple in the Special Olympics games in the next few decades. It’s the easiest paddle sport I’ve ever played. It has a very low barrier to entry compared to tennis and other racket sports.
If you are in a position to share this great game with your gym class. Or maybe you know a group of people that want a fun way to improve their social skills while getting better eye hand coordination. Here is what equipment you need to teach them pickleball!
My Pick for the Best Pickleball Set that comes with a Regulation Size Net
This is the best pickleball set I’ve seen. It comes with 4 paddles, 4 balls and a regulation sized net. It also comes with the dimensions of a pickleball court along with chalk that you can use to draw your own pickleball lines. If you want to make more permanent lines, then I would suggest painters tape (note that you would need 66 yards of tape for a full sized court. The recommended size of the lines is 2 inches wide).
Other Inexpensive Options to Teach a Group of People Pickleball
I know budgets for certain places can be tight. So I wanted to point out some other ways to introduce this fun game to others.
Here is a pickleball set which is not regulation size but good to teach the skills of pickleball to a group of kids/adults. Note the balls in this set are best for outdoor use and only comes with 2 paddles. Here is a set that comes with 2 indoor balls and 2 paddles. You could use this as part of a rotation of games where players rotate between stations. This could be used for 2 players to practice hitting pickleballs. You could also buy several sets and spread them out to have more people play at once.
The durability might not be as good as other options but it seems like it should be good enough to last long enough to know if this sport is something you want to invest more in. If you are wanting a few more paddles then you can see my suggestions at the beginning of this post. You could also just get 2 inexpensive wooden paddles like this to have 4 paddles (though the net is half the size of a regulation net so you might only need 2 paddles per net.)
Reminder – These inexpensive pickleball sets are not regulation size but should be great for introducing people to the skills of the game (particularly for children’s PE classes). Just know that buying these inexpensive options means you would be focusing on the basic skills of hitting the pickleball. Which is great for gym class or a fun driveway past time.
Wrapping Up My Suggestions on Which Pickleball Paddle You Should Buy First
I covered a lot of different options for first time buyers. Most players go for the entry level $30-$60 paddles and they work great. A few players want to buy the best of the best paddles starting out and that is fun too! Hopefully you have plenty of options to choose from now.
If you know anyone that would enjoy teaching pickleball to a group of people, let them know about the options listed above as well. I truly think pickleball can improve the quality of life to lots of various people. I know I’ve witnessed that with my mom learning to play.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!