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The Complete Guide to Buying Your First Long-Term Pickleball Paddle

Choosing your first real pickleball paddle can be tough! There are so many brands, shapes, weights, and materials to choose from. This detailed guide will answer all your questions.

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Table of Contents:

pickleball paddles on court

What is a long-term paddle?

Deciding on your first long-term paddle is a rite of passage. It means you enjoy pickleball enough to take it seriously and keep playing in the future.

You're a genuine picklehead now.

If you read to the end of this guide, you'll have a good feel for how to pick a paddle. And we can find you a paddle that can last you years!

Choosing A Paddle: The Basics

If you just want quick tips, here's what you need to know about buying paddles:

  1. Avoid paddles under about $60 if you know you'll keep playing regularly. They are low quality and break quicker, and won't have good power or control!

  2. Try to avoid super wide or super long paddles. Look for a traditional square shape.

  3. Try not to go under like 7.2 or over about 8.5 ounces. The 7.8-8.2 range is best.

  4. Differences are subtle, but there are control versus power paddles.

  5. Pick a paddle that addresses your weaknesses rather than boosts your strengths. The former will make you better in the long run, the latter is more of a temporary fix.

Shop for the best pro style paddles on Amazon today.

For info on starter paddles, read on for general rules of thumb. If curious, continue onward...

pickleball net

What is a starter paddle?

Most pickleball players start off as a beginner, learning the rules and just hitting around.

Most new players don't need advanced technology. They just need to learn the ropes.

Even those who come from tennis and are "good" immediately still will not always know their pickleball play style until they have played for several months.

A "starter" paddle refers to an affordable paddle for like $100 or under, meant to hit with and learn the game as a low-risk investment.

Picking a Starter Paddle

The best starter paddle is your call. But we can give you some guidelines to consider.

These paddles will simply "get the job done." They won't be the best for control, for power, for spin, for anything. They'll still be good enough to learn with. They also won't break the bank.

Best paddles for beginners

You can browse Amazon or any pickleball retailer for basic starter paddles.

If you want to go one step up for something a bit more modern and durable, check out this guide on quality starter paddles for newer pickleball players. While not the most elite options, these are still solid and will serve you well as you continue learning the game.

pickleball players

Pickleball Paddle Mistakes

It's easy to make mistakes when picking a paddle. There are so many factors to consider.

And as a newer player, sometimes you don't even know what you're even looking for in a paddle. How do you decide what really is the best pickleball paddle for you?

If you pick a paddle you don't like, it's not your fault. It's just a difficult decision with a lot of info swirling around. We can at least try to simplify the choice a bit with these considerations.

Paddle Mistakes to Avoid:

Don't pick a too-heavy paddle and overhit all your shots, while also sacrificing hand speed.

Don't buy a paddle just because a pro uses it. They would be good with any paddle!

Don't continuously cycle through cheap starter paddles indefinitely.

Don't only consider honeycomb paddles, even though they've been the standard for years.

Don't switch paddles too frequently. Give each one a serious trial run of at least a month.

[View the top-rated paddles on Amazon today]

Does style of play matter?

Yes. Here's one of the most classic examples: You might not know until you've played for 3-6 months whether you prefer a one or two-handed backhand.

If you do a one-handed backhand, then all paddles are in play. But if you do a two-handed backhand, you might want a longer handle. So it's good to know in advance.

Also, a power player may want a power paddle, a control player may want a control paddle.

Or, a power player may want the control paddle, because they are already good at power, and every player can use more control. And vice versa for control players.

pickleball tournament match

Pickleball Paddle Selection FAQ:

How much should I spend on my first pickleball paddle?

Consider your first pickleball paddle as an investment. Though it may not last you five years, it should be able to last a year or two even with frequent play.

You are investing in quality and reliability. Avoid the garden variety paddles under $60.

Do you need the $300 paddle? No, not necessarily. There are excellent, modern paddles in that range, but you do not need to spend that much to find good quality.

Your best long-term options will run over $100. Here are our top picks in that range. Look at the $100-250 range for a paddle that can last 100-250 sessions, probably more.

How often should I replace my pickleball paddle?

Paddles break. If yours breaks within months, you should contact the manufacturer, supply photos and anecdote, and they'll often replace it so long as you are not at fault.

Sometimes paddles don't break, but they go dead. You may want to replace your paddle once a year if you play a lot. Treat yourself! You'll have a nice spare.

[Browse the most durable pickleball paddles on Amazon]

pickleball paddle with balls

Are thin or thick pickleball paddles better?

This will probably be an eternal debate. Thin and thick paddles each have pros and cons.

Thinner paddles tend to have more pop, as they are like a backboard. Thicker paddles tend to have more control as they are more of a cushion that absorbs the ball's energy.

Edge guard or edgeless pickleball paddle?

This too is up to personal preference. There is no right answer.

Realize though that the trend is shifting towards more edgeless paddles. There used to be virtually none, and now there are many prominent edgeless paddles.

Some edgeless paddles are manufactured all as one piece, which is newer technology.

Players will tell you that edge guard or edgeless paddles change the sweet spot, but the only real way to decide for yourself is to try out each kind.

How heavy should my pickleball paddle be?

Players are going heavier with their paddles in the modern pickleball era.

At the same time, you don't want to go too heavy or your game will suffer.

As a general rule of thumb, 8.0 ounces is about average now. Upwards of 8.5 is still common. Anything below 7.5 is considered pretty light. Your hands will be quicker, but you will lack the power that players have when they swing a heavier paddle.

Pick a paddle you like first. Then you can add tape to increase the weight to your liking.

Best Pickleball Paddles (2023)

Below are the top performing paddles, with descriptions so you can get a quick idea of what paddles are known for. There are many great brands and a wide variety on the market.

[Buy the best pro-grade paddles on Amazon today]

Best all-around (good at everything)

selkirk pickleball paddle

Best budget option (economical, balanced feel)

selkirk slk halo paddle

Best overall value (best for the price)

franklin carbon stk paddle

Best power (you will crush the ball)

prokennex black ace paddle

Best control (to move the ball around at will)

gearbox pickleball paddle

Best buzz (what everyone is hyping lately)

joola pickleball paddle

Best thin core (for power and maneuverability)

gearbox cx11 pickleball paddle

Best thick core (for steadier feel and sweet spot)

crbn pickleball paddle

Best lightweight (for quicker hands)

engage pursuit pickleball paddle

Bottom Line

By now have a full framework for what it means to have a long-term paddle, and what considerations you should make in the modern pickleball scene.

Now you can worry less about choosing your paddle, and focus more on playing the actual game, improving, and having fun!

Shop for the best pro-grade paddles on Amazon today.

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