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Pickleball is a relatively new sport that is gaining more and more participants of all ages. That's why most amateur players have very little experience when it comes to shopping for equipment.
The most expensive and crucial piece of gear for enjoying pickleball is undoubtedly the racket (more commonly called a paddle). To help you choose the right paddle for you and your playing style, we have prepared this practical buying guide.
Of course, nothing replaces the experience of trying out different types of paddles to eventually find your niche, but this guide still introduces you to the main criteria that can influence the choice of a paddle: price, materials, weight, face shape, and the length and thickness of the handle.
The price of paddles is strictly related to the quality of the materials used. At Pickleball Town, the paddles we offer are made from either composite or graphite (see next section for a comparison).
There are several grades and types of composite that can influence the price of paddles, and graphite paddles are slightly more expensive than high-end composite ones.
COMPOSITE VS. GRAPHITE
Keep in mind that the choice of paddle material can very well be a matter of personal preference. However, the different characteristics of each of these materials can also appeal to very different styles of players.
Composite, as its name suggests, is essentially composed of a mixture of several fibrous materials. This mixture allows manufacturers to manipulate the level of rigidity and texture of the paddle’s surface. Thus, composite offers a more responsive surface than graphite, resulting in a more explosive ball exit velocity. The textured surface of the composite also allows the player to apply more spin on the ball.
On the other hand, graphite is generally lighter than composite and provides a stiffer and smoother surface. It is the preferred surface for the majority of professionals because it offers a better feel of the ball in hand. However, its lightness also produces less powerful paddles for shots from the back of the court. The properties of graphite favor touch near the net, as the ball exit is typically softer with less spin.
That being said, both materials can produce all types of shots when employed by an experienced player. It is beginners who benefit from relying on the different strengths and weaknesses of composite and graphite to adapt their paddle selection to their game.
A common attribute of all high-end paddles is a honeycomb polymer core. This is a material that adds durability and feel to the paddle's face, and both graphite and composite paddles can be equipped with this feature. This type of core is highly sought after by elite players.
You will notice that some manufacturers indicate the exact weight in ounces of each paddle on the packaging. Others will indicate a weight range from lightest to heaviest possible for each specific model.
However, know that weight is by far the least important criterion to consider when purchasing your paddle.
This is because most models display possible weight differences of 0.5 ounces at most, and the majority of players will only feel a difference of one ounce more, or less.
Moreover, the more experienced the player, the less the weight of the paddle is likely to affect their game. However, pickleball veterans are more likely to feel small weight differences, but they generally know what they are looking for when shopping.
In short, if you find that your arm gets too tired after your matches, you may consider reducing the weight of your paddle. Otherwise, there is no reason to change.
In conclusion, since all the paddles we sell are made of composite or graphite, they are all relatively lightweight, so do not obsess over the weight of the paddle when making your selection, and especially, do not let the weight of a paddle prevent you from buying the one that otherwise suits you perfectly.
SHAPE OF THE FACE
When you’re in front of our imposing pickleball paddles wall, once you get past the shock caused by our unmatched selection, the first thing you notice is that there are several different shapes of hitting surfaces.
Some paddles are wider, others are longer vertically, and the latest innovation is that some are now made without a plastic edging (edgeless).
To understand the reason for this range of paddle shapes, you must first understand the importance of the "sweet spot" (or optimal hitting zone) in pickleball. Pickleball being a sport of great precision, controlling the trajectory of the ball is crucial to the success of any player.
Hitting the ball on the sweet spot allows for better control of both the speed and direction of the ball. A ball hit outside this zone has very little chance of going where the player intended. This zone is located somewhere in the center of the surface and varies in size depending on the level of quality of the paddle. Higher-end paddles tend to have a larger sweet spot.
Logically, paddles with a wider surface favor a player who likes to brush the ball (apply topspin). The larger sweet spot gives them the best chance of hitting the ball well on most of their shots, as the swing is vertical, from bottom to top.
On the other hand, paddles with an elongated surface favor players who like to cut the ball to give it lateral spin, as this surface shape gives them the best chance of striking the ball on the sweet spot.
As for edgeless paddles, their only advantage is that they are lighter. However, be aware that they may be less durable, as the function of the frame (or edge) of the paddle is to protect it against impacts and friction on the ground.
The final criterion for selecting a paddle is the length of the handle. The standard length of most handles is adequate for the vast majority of people, as it is designed for the average hand, just like a ping pong paddle.
For players with wider than average hands or for those transitioning from tennis to pickleball, some models offer the option of a longer handle. These allow for a more comfortable grip for stronger players or help tennis players better adapt to pickleball, as they are used to hitting the ball further away from their body.
Regarding handle thickness, it is mentioned in the product description of most of our paddles, with the average ranging from 4.125 to 4.375 inches in circumference. Players with larger than average hands will appreciate a thicker handle, while the opposite is true for those with smaller hands.
The handle thickness can be modified by adding an overgrip or by changing the original grip. We also sell replacement grips (or overgrips).
The important thing is to choose a thickness that allows for a good grip without having to increase pressure with your fingers, as tension in the forearms is the number one enemy of performance in pickleball. For the same reason, it is also very important to change your grip when it loses its adherence.
As for the brand, rest assured that we offer you all the best manufacturers in the pickleball industry: Selkirk, Paddletek, Onix, new kid on the block Joola, and more. The choice is yours!