I’d appreciate your decision to change your paddle because you know you can no longer keep playing with a borrowed/cheap paddle and blame the wind for the loss but when you key “best pickleball paddle” in Google search, you’ll get hundreds of paddles carrying the same title and buzz…you’re confused and overwhelmed. I get that. Surprisingly, there’s one paddle that fits all. It’s the Onix Z5 that suits any player from beginner to pro. But of course, everyone can’t be limited to just one paddle. So, unlike on other websites, I’ll take you on a ride, show you the best ones in the market, ask you a few questions about you, and tell you which one is your true soulmate paddle for pickleball.
Not every paddle is for everyone, though. I’ll further guide you on factors, i.e. gripping style, the ball-handling, spinning mechanism, and time management, plus how to make it stay durable for as long as you want. Because I believe, the best paddle makes the best pickleball player.
So, What is the Best Pickleball Paddle?
Well, before you decide, be aware that the best pickleball paddle has;
- A thicker core polymer honeycomb core. Usually between 0.6 to 0.8 inches.
- Highest quality surface material with a good life span. Textured is a plus.
- The tackiest grips with sweat-resistant and cushioning abilities.
- A generous sweet spot and a bigger surface area.
- Provides you with a delightful blend of power, control, and finesse.
- Is durable and complements your skill level to help you become the best player.
I’ve been playing pickleball for 14 years, and just a few paddles lived up to my expectation. Among them, one of my favorites is Onix Z5, which provides you with balanced control and power. Its accuracy and shot placement are amazing in both slow and heated games. In competition, I’ve Paddletek bantam EX-I, which showcases technologies at a level the advanced player idealizes.
1. Babolat RBEL Power – Best for Aggressive Hitting in 2023
Babolat has its expertise in making the first ever natural gut string that dates back to a century and a half–in 1875. It’s a renowned name we all have been hearing since our childhood. In fact, Pure Aero was my favorite racket, I grew up playing tennis with it. In pickleball, Babolat is merely an infant.
They floated their lineup in 2021 with 3 paddle series, i.e., MNSTR, RNGD, and RBEL. All of them are mid-range paddles priced between $80-$150–which is just one reason to try them all out, the brand name is still the first that drew my attention. After excessive use, the only paddle that lived up to my expectations is the RBEL (Power model), and here are my views about the paddle.
- The surface is composite. The skin is fiber but the supportive material is definitely fiberglass which makes the paddle boost explosive power on the shots–even the dinks feel rock solid!
- It feels heavy though–you can’t play for over an hour with it “constantly” but in the tournament situation this beast shows its claws in getting the other side paralyzed.
- The quality is ridiculously rigid. Abuse it, throw it away, and duh! No scratch.
- It’s a “Reacher”, though. Besides being a violent tool, it has a 16” length with standard tennis racket-style handles that come in handy to play an almost missed volley.
- Compared to its touch version, it still has the feel for lob shots and groundstrokes so I’d always go with the power model between them.
- Enables extra reach
- Robust responsiveness and feel
- Top-notch paddle built
- Best combo of power and feel
- Edge guard takes more than enough surface
Although I appreciate the edge guard, I’m not much touched by it. It’s thick and sometimes interrupts in–when I’m near the NVZ. I overcame that by using continental grips and it’s not much of an issue, especially for double’s games and volley battles. For spinning, let’s look into…
2. TMPR Tantrum LX | All-around spin & pace
TMPR is an emerging brand, since 2018, handled by a small family group. They offer 3 series composed of dedicated paddles for control, power, and a duo of both. Across all these series, they’ve defined shapes: Tantrum, Oculus, Expanse, Rave and Ascend. It seems like TMPR is Paddletek and Selkirk at once–merging the specialties of both lineups, but they’ve made significant progress with it, in just 4 years.
I took Tantrum of the LX series—the all-around series and here’s what might interest you about the paddle.
- It has curves on the sides which helps in getting the edgy shots played. Anyhow, with Babolat RBEL, the edge guard ruins the pace. However, if you’re a control-oriented player whose main aim is to better the drills and give time to practice, and reduce errors, this paddle definitely is a hit.
- While the topspin of this paddle is a hot topic, I guess you should really try the side one. The complete 24” of this racket in a mid-weight range is a wicked swinger that lets you spin the ball and the opponent will still think they’re receiving a volley.
- It rarely happens though, but the handles left me shaken. They’re tackier and rigid, just behave right to the surface’s movement and maintain control and positioning. It has two sizes available, but I hated paying them an extra $7 for a large grip (4.5”).
Well, TMPR described it as a power + Control paddle. I think otherwise. This is 90-10 power and control because of the thick core, heavyweight paired with Fiberglass–it speaks fire when in the hand of a 3+ player having aggression in his passion.
- Enormous power delivery
- Best topsin and sidespin
- Excellent handling of intricate and edgy shots
- Rigid and tackier handles feel
- Graphics might fade after a while
If you’re a spinner, pacer, or a growing advanced player who wants extra from their gear without damaging it, then TMPR Tantrum LX is worth your savings. It also suits well those who’re transitioning from prince response Pro or ProKennex style paddles. Also, the skin is robust, but the graphics seem to fade off after a while, which isn’t much of a deal, but again, “the best is what you’re looking at”. However, the texture stays grainy.
3. JP WinLook – Best Emerging Brand
JP WinLook is one of those rarest brands that keep the budget but maintains the quality. For the price, I gifted these pairs to my niece and now she has hopped over 2 levels in her ladder tournaments–yes they’re USAPA-approved too besides being relatively new. Plus, they really arrived well-packed in beauty bags and duffel covers. Here’s what she loved about it.
- With a 16” enlarged length, the paddle offers a 7.8” wide body. The combo enhances the sweet spot which I missed in the previous Paddletek paddles quite just 7 ¾” in width.
- The fiberglass surface takes the power and ball touch to the height of ecstasy, while the honeycomb core balances it–making it perfect for medium-paced rallies and dink practices.
- Its skin responds to the ball contact like the south pole does to the north pole in a magnetic bar. It handles well those slow-paced shots that you think just gonna hit the ground. The timing is amazing.
- 5.2” elongated handles give much room for both hand placement and self-power boost. And besides being large-sized paddles, they feel so lightweight that even 2-hour play doesn’t cause any strain.
- They’ve textured grips so they absorb sweat, but also feel cozy and comfy on the hands.
- Elongated handles
- Provides finesse and touch
- Responsive and spin-friendly
- Not much power-oriented
When I tried these paddles, I found the control and finesse to be an actual plus. It could handle my intricate clock shots and cross-arc spins without charging me of out-of-the-bounds errors. The power, somewhat, is lacking to suit a 5+ player. So, if you’re a starter or an intermediate player, or a woman who needs an extra hand to work on the faults and overhands, this might help grind some classy dinks and volleys in the nets, but for the pro like me, I’d recommend looking into something like Prince Response Pro, ProKennex Pro Speed, or the TMPR Tantrum LX.
4. Onix Z5 Graphite Pickleball Paddle | Top-Notch Construction
Onix Z5 features a Nomex honeycomb core, with a graphite surface, and cushioned grips, and gives off a significantly generous sweet spot–all of which contribute heavily to enhancing your skill as a better player.
- Among the two core options in Z5, I’d easily rank up graphite, which comprises added power, pace, and accuracy; and possesses additional spinning abilities compared to the composite one.
- The paddle surface is 0.3 inches wider than the standard-sized (15”x8”) pickleball paddle. Its wider surface always gives me a favorable position, as it serves as a defensive shield, plus helps me with easy back-and-forth.
- The graphite model has a greater ball-biting ability. Per my experience, I typically have 3-5 seconds of contact with the ball. With consistent reactiveness, it gives an edge for volleys, groundstroke, and slow-paced drives.
- Although the paddle performs well in closed court, they’re prone to damage under high UV rays, which is why I don’t recommend these paddles for Outdoor courts.
Per my expertise, Z5 is a versatile paddle with a long lifespan and the ability to bear the beginning level of battling. Even if I played with it for 2-3 hours non-stop, the paddle would still stay reactive to the ball, which had been missing in my previous wooden paddles. Its gripping is fine, but after 3 months, I recommend upgrading them to have a better holding and control mechanism.
- Stands against wear and tear
- Widest body
- Consistent performance
- Enhanced power and control
- Grips need to change after a while
Conclusively, Onix Z5 is a considerable choice for players transitioning their skills from beginners passing their intermediate and becoming well-advanced players. The compatibility of this paddle, giving you substantial time management in getting pro with those pro shots, is all you need in your initial stage.
Here in this video, Alex & Mike explains the paddle shape and its reactiveness.
5. Paddletek Bantam Ex-l | Best-Advanced Level Pickleball Paddle
9.4/10 – Our Score
7.8 to 8.4 ounces
Body Material Type:
15 ⅝ Inches
7 ¾ inches
Expert or professional
The Velvet textured polycarbonate surface elevates Paddletek Bantam Ex-l, to be a revolution to the average graphite/composite surfaces. Composed of Bantam PolyCore honeycomb core, makes it 5 times more resilient to carry spin and drive shots exceptionally!
The top three key features in the paddle I noticed are:
- They improvised the pace up to 3 times for powerful volleys and overhand shots.
- Thumb placement is tackier, and allows easy placement of fingers and palm, through 5” longer handle.
- Spins out of this paddle are intricate enough to trick your opponents.
The cake? Bantam Ex-l, being UV-resistant, keeps up the maneuverability for both open-and-closed courts. The velvet texture, besides reducing the weight, shock, and vibration, enhances the feel and touch of the paddle.
The cherry on top? They’re easy to handle and fit just perfectly in the hand, thanks to the padded grips. Plus, the gripping guide is covered in Paddletek Bantam Ex-l, so you may get yourself aware of ways, you can benefit from it.
Although they’re 15 5/8″ larger, their width is a bit compromised. You might not get to experience a good sweet spot in this paddle, that you may otherwise have, in the Onix Z5. Despite this drawback, the paddle effortlessly makes the best pickleball paddle for advanced players, through its ball-holding ability and excellent responsiveness.
- Incredible spin
- The best touch and feel
- The tackiest grips
- Added power
- Elongated handles
- Contracted sweet spot
While considering this, you should know that they are not a good “control” paddle. The pace is immense and only an advanced player can handle and benefit from it. So, if you’re a mid-level player or someone who has just started playing pickleball, just move to the next review. In other cases, you’re good at going with Paddletek Bantam Ex-I.
6. Niupipo Carbon Fibre Paddle – Best Intermediate-Level
9.4/10 – Our Score
Body Material Type:
15 ⅝ Inches
4 1/8″ (Small)
With control, power, and forgiveness in a 1:1:1 ratio; Niupipo Carbon Fiber Paddle successfully wins the attention, of intermediate players, to the recreational advanced ones. And since I care a little too much about the price, so it was another factor trying these paddles out as they cost me half of the price of my Z5.
The carbon fiber graphite combination results in a resilient surface and a 30% diminished surface, which helped me get over my injuries and wrist aches, and in the meantime, professionalized my game with accuracy and speed. I’ve been playing with this paddle for 10 months and during this whole time, has helped me a lot in getting those overhands handled with a soft spin, which I usually miss in other composite paddles. An interesting fact? It possesses a more remarkable forgiveness ability to complement medium-level players, who need more of a control mechanism to level up.
In the compartment of power, Niupipo:
- Is 15% thicker than the average honeycomb core, resulting in fewer dead spots over time, and increased power and pace.
- Vibration and shock are bottomed to zero, plus you’ll have a good pop effect too, thanks to the layer of fiber over it.
- Reduces ball deflection up to 80%.
Although, the paddle carries 8 ounces. They still feel lighter somehow. This is because the handles took up 80% of the weight, leaving the surface lighter. Because of this feature, I’d consider them a good option for intermediate as they can stay strain free while using the weight in producing power. Check out my in-depth review of Niupipo Carbon Fibre Paddle for its size guide.
- No wrist ache
- Perfect blend of power, control, and spin
- Excellent weight distribution
- Sturdy grip design
- Limited to one color only
The grips are perforated with a 4-4/5 circumference that fits perfectly in my hand (I’ve larger hands). Its sweat-resistant abilities come in handy in keeping the grip tackier. Even the Sun failed to loosen that up! I played my professional games with it for over a year, and I still don’t find any need to replace the grips. The holes in it, though, serve as ventilation and further allow more powerful paddle management throughout the game.
7. Gamma Neocore Pickleball Paddle – Best Weighting Mechanism
Gamma Compass instantly reminds me of Green Bay Packers, which easily wins against its tough rival. It’s impressively elongated to its competitive models, with 16 5/8” height, and a pleasant sweet spot. Besides, what makes them comprehensive is the textured surface–combining all the facets of other models in the series.
The core is 25% thicker than ordinary polymer honeycomb cores. It comes with added strength and power, to send the ball at max height while staying in the bounds–and that’s the level of accuracy I’m a fan of! In fact, I’ve played with this paddle in my backyard, which is full of grass, and even won several rallies against my neighbors.
I’ve played with 15+ advanced-level paddles, and all of them have an average of 8.0–8.2 weight. Playing with Compass instantly makes me notice the lightweight, where I found them to be 7.7 ounces only. With this weight, Gamma Compass ranks as one of the most lightweight pickleball paddles, besides being an advanced one. In this lightweight, it gave me extra reach with its 6 inches tacky handle, which further took up most of the weight of the paddle. Resultantly, I had more power and domination in the game while I could stay in control with zero fatigue and arm strain.
- Elongated shape
- Eliminated aches and strain
- Easy to maneuver
- Large soft spot
The next thing that grabbed my attention was the larger-than-normal handles, having measured 6 inches. It excessively increases control, as I could use both my hands with it. The handles possess most of the paddle’s weight, which adds power to the paddle too. Moreover, they arrive with a Gamma honeycomb cushion grip that won’t let your hand get tired, no matter how long you play the game. As a result, you’ll have more power and domination in the game while you can stay in control with zero fatigue and arm strain.
The key- points that summarize the paddle are:
- Without stepping ahead, it helps to achieve reach with its massive 16 5/8” length.
- Complements tennis players and natural pickle ballers alike, with 4 1/4″ long handles.
- Reduces arm stretches and soreness through its lightweight; despite being elongated.
- Can be used alternatively for power, spin, and stability.
8. The Prince Response Pro | Best Tournament-Level Pickleball Paddle
Prince Response Pro, besides being the favorite of Simone Jardin, is excellent for defensive play, especially when you start as a serving player. The added power you need to face powerful shots, coming from the non-serving side, gets ensured with its 8 1/4 wide textured UV-coated fiberglass surface.
Inside the surface is the 9/14 polymer honeycomb core. The structure has closed cells, that keep the ball deflection, at a minimum. While the paddles come with this enormous power, it still is USAPA-approved.
As per the weighting criteria, their range is 7.1 to 8.3 ounces, with the following individual benefits to each.
- 7.1 to 7.5 oz. is lightweight. The core that comes with it is slicker, though it significantly reduces fatigue. As per the reports of 2021 by a survey of local courts and ladder tournaments, over 500 plates have eliminated tennis elbow with this paddle.
- For finesse playing, and the right placement of complex shots, 7.6 to 7.8 oz. is a perfect choice.
- The last range left is the 7.9 to 8.3 oz, a powerhouse of 15Mph+ pace. The core and surface are the finest in this contrast with other ranges.
- Incredible bounce and swamp
- Fast and accurate deliveries
- Top-notch forgiveness and finesse
- Flexible weighing range
- Higher velocity for dink rallies
Aside from weight range, there are two different grip options you can get in this paddle. One is 4 ⅛ (possess better cushion) and the other is 4 ⅜, which suits your techniques and styles in accordance with the grip size you prefer.
9. Selkirk Amped Pickleball Paddle | Top-Rated Pickleball Paddle Series
Good news? The Amped series has five descriptive models. Bad news? They discontinued Omni and Maxima, which leaves the 3, i.e. Epic, S2, and Invikta. At a glance, these three models have the following features in common:
- 0.8 inches X5 honeycomb core, which I found to be 5x thicker, than the ordinary 0.6 inches slicker cores. They’re quiet and least prone to have dead spots, with time.
- The surface is elastic, besides reactive. The edges don’t mess up with the ball, and so; it creates harmony to reduce faults.
- The reactiveness is top-notch. So far, It’s the fastest pickleball paddle, I tested at a 10 mph pace. It quickens up my rallies by ending a 10-minute game in just 8 minutes.
- The hitting area, protected with EdgeSentry edge guard, increases durability.
- The handle has smooth edges that allow tightened grip, and produce extra cushions.
- Although they’ve a fixed-grip size of 4.25 inches, you can customize it to your hand size.
In terms of models:
- 8 inches wide, 10.5 inches extensive surface area, carries a wisdom that helps you control the ball better with advanced shots i.e. short angled from even side, dink escape, etc.
- Similar to Invikta, the handles measure at 5.25–providing exceptional control and reach.
- They’re control-oriented with a 9 inches medium-sized sweet spot.
- S2’s excellent for a spin, thanks to the 4.5 inches short handle.
- Measuring 10 inches, S2 has the largest ever sweet spot compared to all the models, which enhances the touch, feel, and ball bouncing ability of the paddle, besides significantly reducing the mis-hits.
- I might express their spin, power, and pace in a 40-30-30 ratio.
- 6” grips rank for the longest handles, which ultimately makes itself the best choice for former tennis players.
- Forehand shots are a piece of cake with their 11 inches mighty length.
- Its longest height works wonders in quick games.
- Invikta carries power on its surface with which you can achieve sharper angles with less clearance.
- Incorporates revolutionary technologies
- Professional-level playability
- Beast of power and spin
- Less control-oriented than others on the list
If I had to choose one among the three models, I’d go with the Invikta, not because I’m a former tennis player, but because it’s the most comprehensive model that Selkirk ever produced. Selkirk Invikta is a paddle you can opt for tournament play, for spin tactics, and for pickleball drills. This thing is a beast!
10. Engage Poach Advantage | Best All-Around Pickleball Paddle
The Engage Poach Advantage, by integrating the highest quality fiberglass polymer composite surface and Variable Release Technology, beats the limitation of the one-skill paddle and wins for an all-around racket that fits anyone despite any skill level.
The paddle seems elongated though, but the element that makes Poach Advantage elevated, from ordinary to the best pickleball paddle, is the wider body. It’s the only paddle that I found ending up as the widest with its 8 inches width, besides being 16 inches in height. With it, I had the reach while I could enjoy the bouncy sweet spot simultaneously.
The core structure in this paddle is in small, and broad cells alike–giving the weight falls into two categories. Mine weighs 7.6 that I got from 7.5 to 7.8. It feels so lightweight and allows me to play a little longer. The 7.9 to 8.3 range is considerable too, but I’d go with Paddletek bantam EX-I in this range, as they provide a better surface in that weight criterion. The lightweight range has large cells with more pop, and the rest of the range is with more vibration-dampening abilities, weighing between 7.9 to 8.3 oz.
Overall, engage poach is the best pickleball paddle because:
- It, concurrently, supports tennis elbow players and power-conscious freaks, with its broader weight range of 7.5 to 8.3 oz.
- To beat the summer heat, the Perforated Cushion grip rescues, with its sweat-absorbing characteristics.
- The elongated and wider paddle shape stabilizes the stance with extra reactiveness and reach. I love how I could stay in my position whale ace both volleys and dinks.
- Minimum to zero vibration when it contacts the ball.
- Technological features lie in the 6-Layer Paddle Skin and ‘Black’ core–backing you up with enormous power.
I further tested the internal core of the paddle as it says 6 layers. Although I had to sacrifice my paddle, the findings were really worth it. They actually have 6 solid layers inside them. The cell of the honeycomb structure was 2x larger, and I reckon they used a great quality adhesive that it took me to move mountains to open it.
- Helps in tennis elbow
- Industry-leading paddle core
- Sweat-resistant grips
- Elongated with wide-body
- Usually out of stock
If that was not enough, the paddle further surprised me with its current state. I opened them after 13 months of use. The structure has no dead spots; I was expecting a few, though. The layers were sturdy too. However, the fiberglass became sappy after completing its durability period, yet you may still use it for casual play.
11. Uteeqe – Best Beginner Level Pickleball Paddles
Uteeqe paddles have been making significant progress in the pickleball industry for 2 years. 3000+ novice players have made their transition from beginner to intermediate with this paddle. Reason? You can handle complicated shots, with impressive placement and time management, on the strength of its control-oriented core and textured graphite surface.
Uteeqe offers control and power in a specialized, simultaneous manner. I witnessed the slicker core giving the ball the right direction on the opposite side of the court. Not to mention, it was the paddle with which I could overcome 80% of my out-of-the-bounds’ fault. The textured surface makes it possible to try excelling in spins and backhand shots. Overall, the forgiveness of this paddle is significant as well.
The next thing that caught my attention was the USAPA approval they possessed. Being 15.8 inches longer and 7.9 inches wide, their shape resembles that of Paddletek Bantam EX-I. Furthermore, the contour grips constantly wipe away sweat, which improves your game profusely. My Uteeqe paddle review will give you a clearer guide on its size features.
In a nutshell, Uteeqe pickleball paddles provide:
- Reduced unforced errors and kitchen faults with perfect shot placement.
- Accurately forms the spins with edged transparency, so your opponents can keep guessing forever.
- Improvises paddle positioning profusely, due to the contour-shaped grip design. Well, the contour grips fit fine, but I prefer wearing pickleball gloves for a tackier feel.
- You can aim for extra reach toward the nets with its 5 inches elongated handle.
- Helps reducing faults
- Spin-oriented surface
- Elongated design
- Contributes decreased power
Conclusively, the 70–30 ratio of control and power in this paddle plays a significant role to groom a player toward a higher level.
12. Prokennex Pro Flight – Best Durability & Healthy Lifespan
ProKennex Pro Flight is a top-leading pickleball paddle since 2021. The reason for their rapid growth in the industry is indeed the performance they provide on the court.
ProKennex Pro Flight:
- Features Toray T700 Carbon Fiber material that currently is the highest quality material in providing optimum power and ball bounce.
- The hitting area has a Diamond Frost micro-texture coating, making it comparatively rougher than ordinary fiber/ graphite textured surfaces. This helps in powerful top spins and backspins
.and I’d rather go for the ProKennex than the Paddletek when the game is about higher spins.
- Incorporated with Kinetic technology–resulting in reduced fatigue, ball-contacting shocks, and vibration.
- Cloud Core technology increases pop and reduces weight.
- Although the surface is 7.6″ wide enough. I like the paddle better off without the Air-O-Guard system, for the way I get
,. It’s replaceable though, so I put it back when not in use–a top-tier flexibility though!
The weight of this paddle is improvised, mainly because of the large cells of the honeycomb core. Although the paddle feels extremely lightweight, the weight of the paddle isn’t fixed. They usually arrive between 7.3 – 7.6 oz. Mine weighs 7.5 oz.
- Best power hitting surface
- Wind resistant
- Lightweight and improves tennis elbow
- Replaceable edge-guard
- Expensive and not for beginners
It does make a good paddle for power and spin. However, the control factor is what I missed in this. The pace is more than necessary, which otherwise, is a plus when you’re against a highly professional player. All-in-all, ProKennex Pro Flight makes itself a substantial investment for any spinner, whether playing in the daytime or nighttime.
13. YC DGYCASI – Best Carbon Fiber Pickleball Paddles
YC DGYCASI sits with Uteeqe paddles, in terms of their performance, with 5 times decrease in price–making them a more attractive choice for beginners and young players alike.
It arrives with a polymer honeycomb core, with its vibration-dampening abilities up to the mark. Plus, the elasticity is great. Per my findings, the core isn’t as thick as other high-priced polymer cores on the list, however, the closed cells and sturdy polymer coating make the paddle last longer for a maximum of 1 year.
The shape of the paddle is what I think is different. Its 10.5” x 7.8” surface makes up a good sweet spot in a square shape to hit the forehand shots and nicely deals with the overhead shots coming from the other side. Combined with the handles of 4.9 inches, results in 15.6 inches of the overall length. This suitable length helps cover the distance toward the nets easily. In the YC DGYCASI Pickleball Paddles review, I’ve further highlighted how you can improve spin and overheads with this paddle.
The design of the grips is diagonal, which I think is best for the continental grip type. With the diagonal grip design, it complements the continental grip type the best. You can play underhand shots quite effectively and enhance your balance with dink shots. I never needed gloves and overgrips, the material’s sweat-resistant and tacky that already guards against wrist fatigue and soreness.
To sum up YC DGYCASI, here are the key facets:
- It has a honeycomb core enclosed in a carbon fiber material for balanced control and finesse.
- Square-shaped surface with a generous sweet spot.
- Diagonal-designed grips with a massive increase in tackiness and sweat-resistant abilities.
- Generous sweet spot
- Perfect shot placement
- Tacky grips
- Not enough thick core
Top questions to ask before buying a Pickleball Paddle:
In my playing career, I came through hundreds of paddles. To bring the best pickleball paddle, I played with 47 paddles and it took me a good 7-month period to conclude. Well, I narrowed it down to 13, yet the numbers are still overwhelming to you. Of course, there’s no paddle that fits all.
What paddle will fit my skill level? What should I choose: power or control? Is spin necessary? What role does weight play? How will the paddle help me become a better player? And the list of questions continues in your head. So, let’s end this game of guessing and let me answer the top 8 most concerning questions by which every player will know what’s actually “The Best” for them.
What’s your playing style?
The playing style will resolve at least 40% of the confusion. Your playing style can be hard and powerful, like Andy Roddick’s; or, it can be just slow-paced dink rallies, where you fear getting hard strokes, overheads, or for medical reasons, have a tennis elbow.
In the first case, you need a power paddle paired with control. This is because you’re naturally an aggressive player. A power paddle will complement your playing style, but you need control so you don’t run into faults by hitting the ball with illegitimate power delivery. Your best options are composite paddles with greater graphite/carbon count. Midweight is a plus, though. Paddles like the Prince Response Pro are best for you.
For slower ones, the choice is merely personal. You can get a control-oriented paddle to keep your natural game or may try to excel in some power shots and use them in your favor interchangeably with soft shots. The middle way? Graphite paddles. They’re control-oriented, plus return a good power delivery if you try harder strokes with them. However, be considerate about the weight. The more weight it carries, the more powerful it’ll get which in return will cause shot placement errors for you.
What skill level are you on?
Skill level is pickleball’s own game rating criteria for how good or bad you’re in it. Besides, I also refer to the player’s ability and the time he/she takes to grasp the game. In pickleball 0.5 to 2.0 is beginner, 2.5 to 4.0 is intermediate and from 4.0 to 5.0+ are advanced level players.
If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend you some plywood pickleball paddles to practice in your backyard. They’re well-budgeted and get you a hang on to some of the most intricate shits in the game, and though, you can also generate and learn how to play power shots, override the opponents, and make the rallies speak fire. One drawback, however, is their weight, and they often cause tennis elbow problems. So, if you can afford it, get a polymer or graphite paddle with a large-celled honeycomb core. The goal here is to get a lightweight paddle with a smooth surface. Onix Z5 Graphite and Uteeqe are two of the best beginner pickleball paddles.
Coming to intermediate, the goal is to improve the pace, reduce errors, and not be doomed down to the beginner’s zone (the worst nightmare of any intermediate). So, here you need a well-blended paddle. For example, a composite paddle with 70% count of carbon fiber and graphite or other material in 30% so you can practice controlling the pace and misalignment and practice backhands and dual-hand shots, you’d need in the final stage. Though you may want to stay on that pace and here you can combine the control per your wants. Go for the power and materials responsiveness only if you want to boost your game. And for power-boosted games, look for the carbon fiber paddles or the ones offered in the ProKennex lineup for speed; one of which you’ll find here (Prokennex Pro Flight).
Finally, if you’re an advanced player, the foremost thing you need is “consistency”. Everything else comes after that. At an advanced level, your playing style might be pretty clear to you. You may be a power-hitter, dink-freak, crazy spinner, or a bit of all. The favorable option for you is simple: choose the paddle per your game style. But the consideration should be on the feel, responsiveness, and the quality of paddle. Spend on the highest quality graphite factors and customize per your requirements; textured for spin and finesse, elongated for volley-oriented games, and heavy-weight to generate a power boost. Paddletek and Engage will be the top brands for you.
How often do you play?
The question is closely related to the durability of the paddle. Although, It’s really free from the skill level. You can be a 5.0 player and play 4 hours a day while you might be playing in the 1.0 rookie’s squad and still feel like playing for 20 minutes 3 times a week, hardly.
Ever since the evolution of the pickleball machine, it’s not new to see players getting a round of 2-3 hours daily. While your paddle should be the gear that should come last to wear out. For this, you need to look at the construction of the paddle, or more precisely the core. Aluminum or Nomex is good for long-hour practices since they’re built sturdily. Good news? These paddles are also cheaper. Opposite to that, if you’re a “malingerer” or someone who just likes to catch on with pickleball while being enrolled in different sports, durability isn’t much of a concern. You can get away with an under $50 paddle. Material can be carbon fiber or polymer.
Do you play casually or you’re in Clubs/Tournaments?
Pickleball is more like a local community sport with mixed age groups, and it’s no surprise you might be the one playing with your grandchildren in your backyard. For you, the category unveils hundreds of options. A lightweight, mid-weight paddle with great finesse is where to place your eyes. Even if your budget ranges between $50-$100, you’ll get a good range of graphite and composite paddle pairs. Here I took Gonex, JP WinLook, and YC DGYCASI for casual but quality play.
For clubs and actual “athletes”, the options come down to very few paddles. Power is compulsory, for which the core should be thick and the surface should hold the ball well. And yes, you’d need to increase the budget otherwise you’ll forever wonder why you can’t get on your opposites. And I didn’t mean spending a ton and getting an “advanced paddle” on the first ladder. Nay, never does that. Depending on your skill, narrow down your options, and then choose the paddle with the right blend of elements, i.e., control, power, or forgiveness.
Do you prefer power or Control?
Yikes! I wish it was Messi vs Ronaldo so I could decide easily. It’s been the most heated war and beginners are the ones who pay the price. Because both are equally hyped and you don’t know what are the outcomes and consequences of each; because benefits are with both.
In a power paddle, your shots will go a little harder on the opposite side. Sometimes, you hit in nets, and sometimes, the ball goes over the head of the opposites. While out of the bounds will be casual with you if you were too intrigued with the word “power” and got a paddle with zero finesse. Similarly, control paddles are for dink rallies, and soft games, and serve you in your improvement era. These paddles don’t give the ball much pace, the deflection and ball bounce will be in “control”, so you can play your original game. Calculate these consequences and you’ll know which one you want: power or control?
In the middle of these both, there are paddles with control and power, both. These are best for players who have some sort of racket background. Only then you can get the best of both worlds. Otherwise, the paddle will be a ropeless skipping rope–no practical usage!
What’s your sports background?
Sports background matters a lot when you’re choosing what’s the right paddle for you. You can be a maiden, debuting your sports career with pickleball, or most likely, you’ll be a tennis player. The choice for both these cases differs in how the paddle is going to align with your play.
With no experience in any racket game, you want to look within yourself and identify your gaming style; either you want to be a smasher or a patient player. Here you may start off with a polymer paddle or a wooden one. Graphite can be an option if you have a good budget and are assured that you want to give in to the game.
I recommend players with other backgrounds choose the paddle that depicts their original game’s gear. For example, elongated paddles resemble tennis racquets, so it’s what you need in your game. Wide-body and lightweight is for badminton players. Wooden paddles for table tennis, and standard shape for paddle ball players.
What’s your court type: indoor or outdoor?
Indoor and outdoor games are like the earth and the sky. Too cliche but trust me, you never want to play with an outdoor paddle indoors or otherwise. The reason is the different construction of Pickleball courts. Already, the court size is like Pluto in the Solar System. All in all, the sound is a factor that concerns both indoor and outdoor courts. But specifically inside the 4 four walls, the paddle sound turns 4x. In fact, the sound is the sole reason people stop playing pickleball. You don’t want that in your backyard even if the Green community doesn’t reach you and ban your paddle. Fortunately, manufacturers like Paddletek, Engage, Selkirk, gamma, and Onix have launched their sound-proof paddle series, featuring a honeycomb core.
What you also need is responsiveness. Indoor pickleball games don’t require much power and pace. Control is much in a need because often the shots make people question and stare at you weirdly. The requirements for an outdoor game go a long way. On a basic level, it should be UV protected, have tackier grips, be responsive, and be a bit heavier. Aerodynamic shapes (teardrop pickleball paddles) can be your cheat trick when the wind has got the game dominating.
Are you a single or double player?
Single’s life isn’t the most fun? No, I’m actually talking about Pickleball. No puns intended. Well, single’s game is all about getting a traditional or elongated paddle, depending on your game style. I’d better like the elongated because it gives me reach to overpower the opponent, make my best shots in the last minute, and never run into a missed volley.
In the otherwise situation, an elongated paddle is the last thing you want (if you don’t hate your partner). The worst scenario–is your partner’s crying because you slam him/her while poaching the shot. The goodness turned to guilt. Of course, you don’t want that and you better know what are your best picks for the shape that doesn’t harm your buddy.
What size grip for pickleball paddle should you choose?
A perfect pickleball paddle but the wrong grip size = An explosive equation. A big part of the control factor relies on holding the paddle, which the paddle itself needs to fix snugly in your hand. Now, how’ll you know if the paddle will fit snugly in your hand or not? Relax, I’ve gone nowhere. I’ve figured out two methods that’ll get the best grip size for you.
Consider your height. The taller you are, the more the circumference is required for effective control. Here are my estimates that’d help you:
- 5’2 or below: 4 inches (small)
- 5’3 to 5’8: 4.25 or 4 ¼ (medium)
- Above 5’8: 4.5 inches (large)
Based on your height, you can measure the grip size, and so far, it’s the easiest, most authentic, and most popular one. The other method is tactical. If you don’t mind, check my article on “buying consideration for pickleball paddle” and you’ll know more precisely.
How much should you spend on the paddle?
Price is the Vandal Savage of all factors; it never dies, alternates things, and even makes you give up on your liking. Yes, you can’t ignore it, but the chances to make it in your favor are still there because the game you’re in, is luckily the most flexible sport on the earth. Where it has the paddle worth $400, it still gives you the option to check to mark your gear list within $15.
In fact, there’s a mid-range. A $50 to $150 list has most of the top-notch and popular Graphite paddles. You may get Prince Response Pro, Onix Z5, any from the Paddletek Bantam and Genesis series, and a lot more. From $10 to $30, many plywood paddles are at your doorstep. $30 to $50 is for casual and family fun plays and you’ll get composite paddles in this. I’ve covered many “quality” paddles in this list. Beyond $150 starts the elite list, the winning paddles, and the win title gets your name popular in the USA for the best player of pickleball. The price does give you quality, and it speaks for itself, but only where you’re sure you’ll get what you’ve ordered. Wood paddles, in this case, are a safer investment, besides being cheap. You get a graphite or carbon fiber paddle, and the risk of getting a ruined surface, rougher than necessary, worn-out core is always there. In fact, there are just a few paddles that come as they’re described. That’s why I always brag about “brand matters”.
What factors & features make the Paddle best for you?
Now that you know the answers to your wildest queries about pickleball. It’s time I should introduce you to the ins and outs of a paddle, its construction, and how it’s built. Remember, the more you know, the better you can make a purchase and perform in court.
Pickleball Paddle Construction
Pickleball paddle construction involves three factors: material, core, and handles. The better the construction, the more quality of the game you can play, and the longer it’ll last. So, may I introduce the secret of winning, your majesty? (Not that I hated saying it)
Material is the front surface of the paddle that’ll decide the reactiveness and responsiveness regarding the ball’s contact. For the material, you’ll be given 5 options; wood, graphite, polymer plastic, fiberglass, and composite. However, these aren’t limited to just these 5. There are other “less common” materials that several brands have patents of. For example, Paddletek has Velvet textured paddles and you’ll see no paddle with that same material. ProKennex uses Diamond Frost micro-texture coating on the surface over carbon fiber. So, it varies from brand to brand’s peculiarity of what they specialize in.
Pickleball was initiated with a wooden paddle. If it was 1970, I’d agree that wood makes the best pickleball paddles. Now it’s 2023, and they feel like cardboard or some ugly ping-pong paddles. Today’s wooden paddle uses 7-ply construction which takes down the weight to several ounces compared to the first-ever paddles introduced in the game. They weigh between 9 oz to 13 oz, which still is heavier. Unless you’re really tight on budget and want to start out the game, it’s okay to go this way. Otherwise, let’s move to…
Have you heard of spin-cast fishing reels? They’re the cheapest ones made of plastic, made for kids and noob anglers. Plastic paddles serve the same purpose. Polymer plastic is a 2nd-grade material. These paddles generate enough control, and if you’re a power player, you’d already be going to 3 out of 5 matches, if not all.
Composite paddles are a secret doorway that keeps you safe from wooden and plastic paddles while not asking you much of your pennies. These are a mix of different materials such as aluminum, graphite, UV, vinyl, or fiberglass. 62.4% of pickleball paddles today are composite ones, and the reason for their popularity is: they weigh much–neither on paddles nor on pockets.
Graphite is the ElClásico of all materials. Their supremacy prevails. They’re the lightest, sturdiest, and what you wanna call–the Peyto Lake in Canada. The weight range starts from 6 to 7.5 oz. Graphite paddles are best for intermediate to advanced players. In fact, many beginners can start off their career with it, if the budget allows. Because the flip side is: they’re the expensive ones. Also, textured graphite surfaces are the market-leading spin paddles for their best ball-holding ability.
Fiberglass is a little heavier. An average fiberglass paddle is 7.8-8.3 oz. It’s mostly used on the coating of the carbon surface, which makes it generate more speed and response. These are speed oriented with less forgiveness and can be very helpful when you need an extra edge when the dinks turn to hard-stroke volleys. There you’ll witness the magic of a fiberglass paddle.
In a nutshell:
- Wood: inexpensive, overweighted; for beginners.
- Graphite: lightweight, expensive, power-oriented; for intermediate to experts.
- Carbon fiber: lightweight, control-oriented, and fairly expensive; for all skill types.
- Fiberglass: mid-weight, pacier, affordable; for power hitters.
- Composite: a mixture of the above matters + fiberglass/UV resistant vinyl, highly budget-friendly; depends on skill type.
If you’ve made up your mind for wooden paddles, go blind for the core concerns or maybe just jump to the secondary factors from here. In the rest of the material, however, there exists a core. And like it’s, it’s the actual backbone of a pickleball paddle. Core destroys, paddle ends. It’s that simple.
The core of a pickleball paddle is a honeycomb structure with cells having variable sizes. The closed-cell cores are heavier and produce much speed. In its comparison, large-cell cores are much preferred for their lightweight and control features. The core is then dipped into one of the following materials, which further alternate the outcome of a paddle.
Just remember: the N is Nomex stands for Noise. I mean, not that they are the worst. In fact, you’d be surprised to know, the famous Onix Z5 has the Nomex core, and it’s USAPA-approved. It was the only reason I spent my weekends searching out what this little Nomex thing actually is. I found out, it’s a nylon-based polymer that is a hard-like cardboard material dipped in resin. The resin makes the paddles extremely durable, ensuring their quality. And they’re famous for their lightweight, extended power-plays, and of course, their durability.
Aluminum paddles are rigid, and all about power and aggression. They are the most durable pickleball core materials out there with minimal wear and tear. It’s hardly a case that an aluminum core got dead spots. Most 4.5+ players would go for the aluminum core with a fiberglass surface to achieve maximum speed. However, these cores are rare. Franklin Jet is currently the only aluminum paddle, and it weighs 12 oz.
Good things come last, nay? Believe it or not, it’s definitely the case here. Polymer cores rule the existing lineup of pickleball paddles under the title “Best”. They take the sound to zero and in turn elevate power, finesse, and forgiveness. It’s like the all-in-one, and as far as I’ve played with them, I bet they’re famous for the right reasons. However, the only drawback it holds is the price. Otherwise, you’re getting the best of the best.
Whether you play indoors or outdoors, the grips must be the tackiest of all. Cushioned EVA is a quality-checking criterion. Most of the paddles today come with sweat-resisting abilities, which is a plus if you’re an outdoor player. Also, see the adhesive where the handle connects the surface. Chances are, you’re an aggressive player and couldn’t control the anger after losing the match, and now your paddle is suffering. A good quality paddle, otherwise, would handle the rage and don’t crack easily.
The secondary factors aren’t the ones that directly affect the game. However, may–to some extent–change the entire course of the paddle’s performance. So, let’s enter the end game!
Pickleball paddles are as lightweight as 6 oz and as heavy as 15 oz. It’s also the control vs power debate. Lightweight paddles are easy to maneuver, but they don’t generate power. For the arm strain and tennis elbow, lighter paddles are a much wiser choice. On its against, heavier paddles are synonymous with power paddles. Remember, F=MA? It’s the same formula here. Although, heavier for big guys who play with much energy and are least prone to injuries. Well, there’s no such thing as the best weight of a pickleball paddle, but I formulated the best range based on the skills, style, and preferences of a player. It’s 7-8.5oz. Anything more or less should be considered very carefully, because the concerning factors will be extreme.
Pickleball might be like tennis but it has its own uniqueness, and having different shapes is one of its legacies. In this game, you’ll witness many shapes. Per the official count, there are currently 3 pickleball paddle shapes offered;
- Standard / Wide-body
Standard / Wide-body:
- Per the measurements, they’re 15” x 8”.
- They’ve got the largest sweet spot.
- Best for: defensive play, spin, soft games, and double’s play.
- Elongated paddles have a tennis-like shape and they’re 16”-17”. The width fluctuates between 7”-7.7.5”.
- It enables extra reach to play overheads and NVZ-closed volleys.
- Weight will be higher than the traditional.
- Best for: former tennis players, power-hitting, and volley battles.
- The large length may be on the surface, which is best for spin.
- Longer handles instead of surfaces are for ex-tennis players. Longer handles measure between 5-6”.
- Has an aerodynamic shape.
- The weight is on the top which makes the handle lighter and thus, the ball carries more power than you put it to.
- Has a narrow sweet spot, yet a wilder top area.
- Best for: outdoor pickleball games under bad weather conditions, top-edged shots, and speedy shots.
Edged or edgeless?
Answer this. Do you prefer durability or an increased surface area? If first, edged paddles will probably live up long and ultimately live up to your expectations. The edge guards protect the coatings from wearing out and hold the entire material together. However, sometimes edge guard messes with the spin and cross-cut shots, which shifts the attention to edgeless paddles, which are sleeker and further give more space on the surface. Edgeless paddles are also lightweight.
Need both of them? Choose Prokennex replaceable Air-Guard paddles. It’ll allow you to play edgeless and cover the paddle when not in use to keep up the durability.
The only worst thing about pickleball is its irritating sound. I mean, are the players dropping bombs on each other? You may always wonder. The problem isn’t in the game but in the paddles. Pickleball paddles are noise-free, you just need to get a paddle approved by the Green communities, and the game will be silent, muted, and more like dead.
Most likely, it’s not mentioned that the paddle is either approved or not, so what you’ll do is: check the core. If it has a honeycomb core, you’re already getting a noise-proof paddle. Nomex and aluminum will sound a lot, despite the power they enable. Let aside wood, which will feel like you’re beating the rocks.
As per the USAPA, the pickleball paddle’s overall measurement should not exceed 24” (length + width). Although there are oversized paddles, you can only play with them in your blackguard or in a family-friendly match.
Plus, each pickleball has to go through certain deflection tests in which they are examined based on the trampoline effect it comprises. As a result, the ball should not bounce more than 5000 inches, otherwise, not only it is unapproved by the USAPA but also you can not equip them for any club-level game. Don’t be surprised if your club authorities take your paddle to the gate.
Deflection is cool. It allows more bounce with a simple hit. That’s fun to play, but it requires a lot of control and accuracy because you’ll end up being super frustrated since it won’t let you hit in the right direction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, what is the best pickleball paddle?
In the end. I’d just say, it’s all about the player’s own skill and mindset that gives him what he aims to get. Though, I’ve helped you enough in every inch related to pickleball paddle, and how you can be wise with your decision. Now it’s your turn to roll the dice, you’ve got the list of the best paddles for pickleball and each intricacy concerning them. To the question of what’s the best pickleball paddle, I’m still unsure. But I think, considering the current odds of the game, it’s the Onix Z5, as it complements the beginners but also never fails in the hand of an advanced player. Despite that, your answer might differ from mine, and it’s okay, we all have different preferences. Nevertheless, I’d like to know your picks and comments on how it aligns/ disagree with my views on it.
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