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Buy a "Starter Paddle"? A Pickleball Pro Weighs In

It's important to pick a paddle you like. But it's hard to know what you like until you've played for a while. One pro discusses why a starter paddle makes sense for most new players.

starter pickleball paddle

If you are an experienced player looking for more in-depth insight into the pickleball market, here are some free paddle guides for avid and serious players:

To learn more about starter paddles for newer players, read on...

What is a starter paddle?

A "starter paddle" is a paddle that is relatively inexpensive and not customized, with neutral qualities. Not too long, heavy, or unique, meant for those just starting to learn the game.

These paddles provide a basic level of performance and durability. It sounds boring, but starter paddles allow newer players to learn the game. Meanwhile they are affordable, allowing players to wait to invest in a pricier paddle down the road.

Starter paddles may not have advanced features like an oversized sweet spot or a textured surface for added spin. But there are long-term benefits to not having advantages!

Starter paddles are a great option for those who are getting started with pickleball and want to learn the game without breaking the bank. They offer a means to practice and improve your skills, and can be a stepping stone to more advanced equipment later.

Who should use a starter paddle?

My first paddle was $50 and made by Gamma. It was traditional shape, and good enough quality to not break for a while, but it was not a truly elite paddle.

However, with it I got a solid half-year of play, at which point I understood my strengths and weaknesses and my style of play quite a bit better.

I could then buy my next one, an Engage paddle, which I was confident was a good fit for me. It was a different material, shape, and weight. I knew what I was looking for, which I wouldn't have known before.

I knew it was a match as soon as I took a swing. I was a more experienced player by then.

I would not have known the difference had I tried both paddles on day one. However, a year later, I was grateful I began with a starter paddle as it let me learn the game naturally.

From there I did change paddles at times, but I had a better idea of what I was looking for. A starter paddle helped me be an informed consumer later on. I learned the game the right way and avoided a custom paddle that affected my preferences too early on.

View the latest paddle deals on Pickleball Central today.

Starter Paddle Benefits

Learn the Game

When you're just starting out, you're still figuring out your style of play. Are you a power hitter or a finesse player? Do you like a round paddle, a long paddle, or an edgeless paddle?

These are all questions that can only be answered through trial and error. As you develop your skills, you'll be better equipped to choose a paddle that complements your style.

Save Money

Pickleball paddles can be pricy. While there are some high-end paddles that offer superior performance, they can also cost hundreds of dollars. Read: Best Paddles $150 or Less

For most new players, this kind of investment doesn't make sense. By opting for an economical paddle, you can learn the game for cheap. Once you've developed your skills and have a better understanding of your game, you can upgrade to a higher-end paddle.

Avoid Overthinking

Choosing the right pickleball paddle can be overwhelming. There are so many options available, and each one offers different benefits.

As a new player, it's easy to get caught up in analysis paralysis, spending more time researching paddles than actually playing the game. And there are so many variables.

By opting for a starter paddle, you can avoid this and just gain experience instead.

Customize Later

Some players are drawn to hyper-customized paddles with unique specifications. If you play for long enough, it may make sense eventually to make these choices.

For most new players, customization isn't necessary. In fact, they can harm progress. By opting for a traditional paddle, you can focus on developing skills without worrying about how your paddle is affecting your game.

[Read: Men's and Women's Pickleball Style Guide 2023]

Pickleball "Starter" Paddle FAQ

Does every company make a starter paddle?

Most of the major paddle brands do make a paddle that qualifies. These paddles will be the regular squarish face shape, probably a honeycomb core, and roughly 8 oz.

You're not seeking a cheaper paddle on purpose. It's more that companies tend to provide at least one baseline option. It will be less flashy and their top-shelf paddle may be "better."

But the point of a starter paddle is to know for later which high-end paddle you want to buy later on when you understand yourself better as a player. And it may be with the same brand as your first paddle, or it may not be!

Click this link to view a full range of starter paddles on Amazon.

How much should a starter paddle cost?

Try not to buy paddles under $50 as they tend to break quickly, and you'll end up paying more in the long run as you replace broken paddles.

Look for the $75 range, give or take, and $100 if you feel comfortable. At these price points you can find a sturdy and reasonable paddle to play with and feel confident in.

View the latest paddle deals on Pickleball Central today.

How long should I play with a starter paddle?

At least a few months. As you continue getting better at pickleball, you will realize what you are stronger and weaker at within the strategy and technique.

With that knowledge, you can look for paddles that helps some aspect of the game or just feels right in your hand. Most players should look for a paddle that helps weaknesses. If you are a control player, you may want a paddle that helps with power. And vice versa.

You will also find out other preferences, such as handle length and weight.

Can I just buy a pro paddle immediately?

You can, and there's nothing wrong with it.

But it may affect you as you learn the game. It might make you slightly better quicker, but it might come at a small price.

There could truly be benefit to playing with a neutral paddle to begin with. Not too heavy, not too powerful, not long or round or anything weird. Just a baseline paddle.

Bottom Line

By choosing a starter paddle, you can focus on building your skills without worrying about whether you have the "right" equipment.

A starter paddle makes sense for most new pickleball players. It allows you to learn the game, save money, avoid over-analysis, and develop without external influence.

As you hone your skills and gain experience, you can always upgrade to a higher-end paddle that suits your playing style. But for now, keep it simple and enjoy the game!

Click blue links above to browse on Amazon.

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