Choosing A Pickleball Paddle
Browse our Paddle Models to find a paddle perfect for you. If you are new to the game, or looking to upgrade, we have a great selection of paddles to help you have fun and compete. Pickleball, Inc. makes a variety of paddles. Paddles are made from a variety of materials, and are available in a variety of weight ranges and shapes. Below is a quick primer on how to select a paddle, and what to look for in terms of construction, materials, and play characteristics.
A Quick History of Pickleball Paddles
When our founders created the game back in 1965 with their friends on Bainbridge Island, their first paddles were made of wood. For the first 20 to 25 years of the sport paddles were made entirely of wood. But like many technology innovations, paddle evolution also was influenced by Seattle area high-technology companies. Seattle is also known as "Jet City" because of it being the birthplace of Boeing, and pickleball caught on with some local engineers with access to high-technology, ultra-light aerospace materials. In the 80's and early 90's, a revolution took place levering honeycomb panels sourced from the aerospace marketplace, and machined into the shapes of paddles. Edgeguards, grips, face materials, and paint were added, and a new generation of what we know of today as "composite paddles" was born. This is the genesis of the modern pickleball paddle; composite aerospace materials which are exceptionally strong, and exceptionally light.
Composite Pickleball Paddles
The term "Composite Pickleball Paddle" is really a term to denote a paddle that has been constructed from a combination of materials, generally an open-celled honeycomb core covered with one or more face materials which are built up into a surface that is what actually comes in contact with the ball. Think of this concept very much like how mattresses are made. There are various types of mattresses. Some are simply foam with an outer surface. Others have inner springs, with layers of foam, cotton batting, and an external fabric. There are even ones where it is just a plastic filled with air to create that cushion. In Pickleball, the number of various materials that are combined to create a paddle is exceptionally diverse, allowing a wide variety of paddles to be crafted from an endless combinations of core materials, face materials, and exterior treatments.
When you are looking at paddles here on Pickleball.com, we will refer to the construction of paddles from the perspective of the material used to make its "Core" (the inside honeycomb structure of the paddle), and its "Face" (the material bonded to what is the material used to make the internal honeycomb structure), and what kind of face material is used to finish the outer skin of the paddle. Below is a quick explanation of the most popular materials used, and how they affect the feel and shot making capabilities of paddles.
Pickleball Paddle Cores
During the last 25 years, composite paddles have evolved to include four basic types of cores. This core material is part of what gives any particular paddle its unique ball feel, sound, and sweet spot. It impacts how much "touch" or "control" you have, and how much "power" or "pop" a ball has when you hit it. Except for wood cores, almost all paddles are built around an engineered composite panel that features a honeycomb structure. These panels are cut into a vareity of shapes, and finished with a variety of surface materials to meet the needs of various players,
Polymer Core Pickleball Paddles.
These honeycomb cores are made from a class of "poly" style polymers (such as polyethylene, polystyrene, etc.), and the honeycomb structure provides strength, while the polymer keeps weight down. These polymers tend to be a little flexible,meaning that the core compresses a tiny bit during impact with the ball. The amount of compression (also known as deflection) is governed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). Because of the slight amount of energy absorbing capacity from the poly material, they absorb energy well, and this translates into paddles that tend to have a softer touch. Our Tracer and Champion LTE(insert link here)paddles use this type of core, and they are prized by players who want a paddle that allows them to execute a control style game. These cores tend to be quieter, and provide very good feedback when a ball strikes the sweet-spot on the paddle.
Nomex Core Pickleball Paddles.
Nomex is an aramid polymer related to nylon that is used in a variety of aerospace and industrial applications that require durability, light weight, and flexibility. Race car driving suits, firefighter jackets, and military flight suits are made from nomex, and the material is also used in a number of structural applications when formed into a honeycomb panels in sheet form. The product is extensively used in the aerospace industry to construct things like the floors of commercial jetliners. Compared to Poly cores, a Nomex core tends to be stiffer, allowing a player to impart more power on a shot. The physics suggests that a nomex paddle absorbs less energy than a poly core, which results in a paddle more quickly returning that energy back into the ball. When combined with a the certain types of face material, paddle makers are able to create a paddle that has power attributes from the nomex core combined with shot softening characteristics of certain face materials (like Graphite - more on that below). We've used this combination of core and face material in our Champion Graphite Series (insert link here) and our Elite Series Paddles (insert links="" here=""). Nomex paddles tend to play stiffer (and a little noisier) than Poly, but they can be lighter as well. They are preferred by players who wish to add some power to their game, while maintaining a nice level of touch. Since they are stiffer than Poly, they tend to have consistent reliable sweet-spots.
Aluminum Core Pickleball Paddles
. Like Poly or Nomex cores, Aluminum cores are structured using a series of small honeycomb shapes crafted with hexagonal shaped walls built out of ultra thin aluminum. These cores play similar to Nomex in that they are stiff, and return an high percent of energy into the ball, making them perfect for players looking for more power. There is a unique sound to aluminum paddles, with a loud pop that is distinct when you strike a ball on the sweet spot of the paddle. They tend weigh in a bit heavier than Nomex or Poly paddles, and they tend to work best in combination with a fiberglass face. This combination of materials tends to create an extremely power oriented paddle. We make a couple aluminum core paddles including the popular Champion Aluminum (insert link here).
Wood Core Pickleball Paddles.
This is where it all started, with plywood sheets cut with a jigsaw into the shapes we still tend to use today. Wood core paddles tend to be very, very heavy - as much as 25% to 75% heavier than Poly, Nomex, or Aluminum composite paddles. They tend to provide decent power, but less touch or control than composite paddles. They are inexpensive, and very durable - perfect for use by recreational, scholastic, and institutional programs. Since 1972, we have sold hundreds of thousands of wood paddles, including the world's most popular paddle ever - The Diller. Used by generations of school kids to learn the sport, these paddles are a great way to introduce someone to the sport at a small fraction of the cost of a composite paddle. Our versions of the paddle utilize a specially designed plywood that uses species of wood that are lighter, yet durable. We carefully sand and finish our paddles to make them comfortable and durable.
Pickleball Paddle Faces
In composite pickleball paddles, the core tends to be the most influential component that defines how a paddle feels in your hand when you strike a ball, but it is also heavily influenced by the layers of face material that create the flat surface of the paddle. This face material is bonded to the core during the panel construction process, and it impacts how much energy is absorbed, how large a sweet spot is created, and how much weight is added to a paddle during construction. Since this face material also is the contact surface to the ball, it defines how much "movement" a player can impart on ball, affecting the spin a player can place on ball. With modern composite paddles, there are four general types of face materials used - Graphite, Fiberglass, Poly, and Hybrids.
Graphite Pickleball Paddles
When many people hear the term "Graphite Paddle", they think that the actual paddle core is constructed from Graphite, but that's not the case. In a graphite pickleball paddle, the Graphite layer is applied over the top of a core (like Nomex or Poly), adding a specific set of attributes to the paddle. Graphite is a carbon fiber material, and because of this you will also hear these paddles referred to as carbon fiber paddles. The reality is this: Graphite is ultra light, and ultra stiff. It helps keep paddles ultra-light, which players looking for control and touch prefer, while its stiffness helps spread the energy of a ball strike consistently over a larger area of the paddle. Graphite paddles tend to transfer the feel of the ball strike over a larger area of the paddle, and hence transfers that energy to the player's hand in a way that players can get a better feel of the ball on the paddle face. Many of the worlds best players now play with paddles that combine a Graphite Face with a composite core.
Fiberglass Pickleball Paddles
In the past few years, fiberglass has become a more popular face layer used in paddle construction. Pickleball Inc was an innovator with the release of our the use of Fiberglass in such paddles as our Legacy, Venom, and Tracer models. In these instances, we have used a variety of different core materials in combination with the fiberglass face to craft paddles with unique playing characteristics. Fiberglass faced paddles tend to have a couple unique characteristics to them. First, because fiberglass is a bit more flexible than graphite, if tends to concentrate the energy of the ball on a paddle core. Because of this, players describe the fiberglass paddles as having more "pop" than graphite paddles. Secondly, as we have found ways to properly texture and treat the fiberglass finish layer to meet USAPA guidelines, we have been able to produce paddles with a lightly textured feel that some players prefer to help "work" a ball during a shot.
Poly Faced Paddles
The innovative use of various polymer (plastic) outer layers has revolutionized paddle construction in recent years. It has enabled us to craft new, lighter paddles that are more durable. Even just a few years ago, paddles were finished on our outer face with screen printed or painted surfaces. We've found that for certain types of paddles, using a poly face can improve the durability of the paddle, allowing it to look as good as it plays for a much longer period of time, while also imparting unique play characteristics. We have worked to bring technology from other sports (like skiing, and hockey) where durability is highly prized into Pickleball to create some high performance paddles that will hold up exceptionally well. Because we are able to digitally print on these materials, we are creating vibrant designs that players love.
Hybrid Pickleball Paddles
Pickleball Inc. has been an innovator in the design of paddles that improve your confidence as a player. One of our most recent efforts has been to combine multiple face materials to create a hybrid paddle that merges together the characteristics of different face materials when they are "built-up" on top of a particular core. Our latest Champion Graphite Series 2 and our Champion Graphite X paddles are great examples of this design philosophy. These paddles start with a composite core, and then use combinations of graphic with poly face materials to create truly high performance paddles that players love.