Growing up as a kid in North Carolina, one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood were the Pickleball contests my family held every weekend.
Well, Pickleball wasn’t as popular back then as it is today. And our neighbors would look on in surprised while we played a sport that was neither tennis nor badminton.
But perhaps what awed them even more than the sport, was the fact that my brother was able to beat me every time we played.
However, I got more and more involved with it as I kept trying to beat my brother. Every time he bested me he would come over and say “tough luck Russell’. Well, it was from him that I learned most about Pickleball and their special paddles.
And since then my fascination turned into a full-time hobby that I consistently nurtured for years.
In this guide, I’ll be giving you the best pickleball paddle reviews and how you can choose the right one.
So, give it a read!
My Top 7 Best Pickleball Paddles
To be completely honest, back when the sport didn’t gain much momentum, Pickleball paddles came in minimal shapes and sizes. But in recent times, its booming popularity has created a market that led to multiple companies investing in the manufacture of paddles.
Hence, Pickleball paddles are as various as there are customer needs. And if my time running a sports goods store has taught me anything, is that when it comes to a paddle, size, and weight is not everything. One has to keep in mind the core and the build as well.
So, Here I have listed best pickleball paddles you will find in the market.
1. Onix Z5 Graphite Pickleball Paddle
The Onix Z5 is my recommended pick for the day. And as it ensures the highest premium grade quality at a very pocket-friendly rate, I don’t see how anyone can refute me on this.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Onix Z5 is the larger than average sweet spot, which makes the paddle ideal for amateurs and veterans alike.
- The larger sweet spot ensures more strength and spin.
- Weighing at 8.1 ounces, it’s heavier than other paddles, but it’s able to provide a considerable amount of power.
- The Nomex core and graphite exterior keeps the paddle durable and long lasting.
What made the Onix Z5 top my list was its amazing versatility. It’s the ideal paddle for the Pickleball novice who wants to get into the sport.
It’s the one I used when teaching the sport to my daughter, and what came really handy at the time was the large sweet spot. Using it, she was able to hit power shots and curve shots so effortlessly that she took to the sport in a matter of days.
And even though its graphical styling may not be appealing to some of the customer base, let me assure you that the Onix Z5 is probably the best bang for the buck you will find.Pros
- Upgraded contour Gamma grip w/ 4 ¼ “grip size for superior control.
- Large sweet spot area for more natural spin and power hit.
- Crafted from high-performance and quality graphite materials
- Comes with a WIDEBODY design that has an Extra-wide hitting surface.
- Powerful heavy build that does not fall under the heavy paddle category.
- The graphical style may be unattractive to some.
2. Selkirk Prime S2 Pickleball Paddle
Selkirk Sport is a very well renowned name in today’s Pickleball market, and their S2 has been my brother’s go-to for years now. This paddle has a large sweet spot as well, but differs from the Onix Z5 when it comes to the even weight distribution throughout the handle. It is one of the most well-balanced paddles out there.
- At 7.4 – 7.8 ounces this middleweight paddle has a very light and evenly balanced build.
- The polymer core has a great cushioning and provides fantastic grip during competitive games.
- Larger sweet spots allow the ball to pop off its solid surface quite beautifully.
The Selkirk Sport Prime S2 is all about control, and that’s precisely what attracted my brother to it the most. Joseph prefers long drawn out games that tire out the opponents while he swoops in at the last moment to grab the win. And the Prime S2’s light build allows him to do just that.
With superior shot control and grip balance, his hands hardly exhaust, as the grip and design negate much of the strain.
But this light build is a bit like a double-edged sword. Though it allows a new level of shot accuracy and spin, it lacks the appropriate weight for more powerful hits, which can be somewhat inconvenient during the clutch moments.Pros
- Lightweight build for superior shot control
- Perfect fit for intermediate and veteran players.
- Graphite build keeps it durable for longer.
- Polymer core offers greater grip.
- One of the best paddles for competitive pay.
- Light build is not suitable for power hits.
3. Rally NX Graphite Pickleball Paddle
When some of my customers ask me for a paddle with durability, the Rally NX is what comes to mind first. But unlike the other paddles of its class, the Rally NX’s strength doesn’t make it all that heavy. At 0.51 pounds, it’s amazingly light and easy to handle for all category of players.
- Nomex Honeycomb core makes the Rally NX one of the most durable paddles on my list today.
- An edge guard measuring 1/8-inches not only significantly increases the paddle playing surface but protects it from chip damage as well.
- 4 ¾-inches of grip length and 4 ¼-inches of circumference makes the paddle optimal for use in USAPA games.
Like me, if you are in the habit of throwing the paddle every time you miss a shot, then the Rally NX might just be your choice for the day. With a fantastic Nomex Honeycomb polymer build the Rally NX can be your Pickleball partner for years, no matter how frustrating the sport tends to get from time to time.
The thin edge guard protects the edges from chip damage and increases the playing surface, which along with the graphite face provides unmatched shot power and accuracy. The larger surface also makes introducing the sport to amateurs a lot easier.Pros
- The optimal USAPA approved size creates the ideal balance between control and power.
- Thinner edge guard provides for a larger playing surface.
- An extremely durable build of Nomex Honeycomb.
- The build may be lightweight but generates excellent power.
- The lightweight build can put off a few customers, looking for a heavier design.
4. Pickleball, Inc. Venom Pickleball Paddle
Venom bases their Pickleball paddles on the historical wooden tennis rackets that were so very popular during the 1970s and 80s. Each of their models is equipped with longer handles that significantly enhances the control over each shot and allows one to accurately optimize the spin as well.
- A unique teardrop design, that comes with a Nomex Honeycomb core with integrated aramid fibers and phenolic resin for exceptional performance and durability.
- ½-inches of edge guard keeps the paddle edges durable for a more extended period.
- Ultra cushion grip ensures moisture control, and doesn’t allow the paddle to slip out of the hand.
The Venom Pickleball Paddle with its more traditional design can evoke the most adamant tennis lover to try their hands at Pickleball. Its longer handle doesn’t cause any fatigue to the wrists and arms, while its medium category build of 7.6 ounces keeps it light enough for beginners.
And I must say, the ultra cushion grip feels really good in the hand. It has advanced moisture absorbing qualities that doesn’t allow the paddle to slip away and provides more controlled shots.
But unfortunately, the longer handle doesn’t allow the paddle to have an even weight distribution throughout its body, which can lead to varying shot powers as a result.
- Teardrop design with integrated aramid fibers and phenolic resin for durability.
- Reliable fiberglass face for decent shot power.
- Comfort grip for ease of use and accuracy.
- IFP approved for tournament play
- Longer handle compromises on weight distribution.
- A bit more expensive than the other paddles on the list.
5. Paddletek Bantam EX-L Pickleball Paddle
Made with the more veteran players in mind, the Paddletek Bantam EX-L Pickleball Paddle is just perfect for professional purposes alone. It has a very steep learning curve, and the difficulty to master it can put off even the most determined beginners.
- A polymer composite honeycomb core provides a significant amount of shot power.
- The polymer surface is velvet-textured, which puts an extra spin in every shot.
- The larger paddle width and the 8.3 ounces of weight, makes the Bantam one of the best shock absorbing paddles in the market.
When it comes to power, the Paddletek Bantam EX-L Pickleball Paddle has all its competition beat. And it’s all thanks to the composite honeycomb core, which helps the player apply a significant amount of force behind every shot.
What’s even more surprising is the fact that, though it boasts so much power, the paddle is just medium-weight at 8.3 ounces. Not only does it make it light but amazing at vibration absorption as well.
On the other hand, what the Bantam has in power, it lacks in control. With so much force behind a shot, it’s quite difficult to achieve the required amount of accuracy. This is precisely what makes the Bantam a no go for amateurs.
- A unique polymer blend that provides power.
- The weight is evenly distributed to minimize vibrations.
- The surface is cushioned for a quieter Pickleball experience.
- Offers players power without the fatigue.
- Too much power causes lack of shot control.
- Not suitable for beginners.
6. Voltage – Classic 1.0 Model
If length and width are important to you when it comes to a Pickleball paddle, then why not take a chance at the GAMMA Classic 1.0.
It was by far the most popular paddle of choice back at my store, and it was all thanks to its fantastic balance between control power and strength.
- With a length of 15.6-inches and a width of 8.25-inches, the Classic 1.0 is by far the longest and widest paddle in my list.
- The GAMMA Flush Fit Bumper makes up for the lack of edge guards and provides a stronger resistance against chip damage.
- It even comes with a PB contour grip that allows for the ideal moisture free grip even under the harshest conditions.
Creating the perfect balance between shot control and shot power are one of the hardest things for any Pickleball Paddle manufacturer to achieve. But GAMMA does precisely this and more with their Classic 1.0. And it’s not just me who is of this opinion; even in my previous sports goods store, the customer feedback rang the same.
By improving on the paddle length and width and providing it with a fit bumper and PB contour for grip, GAMMA was able to achieve quite a unique product which not many of their competitors were able to. But these premium features is what makes the Classic 1.0 so very expensive for the average buyer.
- Unibody handle for fantastic control.
- The fit bumper flush edge reduces the probability of errant shots.
- Great moisture resistant grip.
- One off the more well-balanced paddles in the market.
- Too many features make it expensive.
- Graphite face is not equipped with enough cushioning, hence leading to loud sounds when hit
7. Amazin’ Aces Graphite Pickleball Paddle
Though a professional paddle that comes with USAPA approval for meeting and exceeding all standards. The Amazin’ Aces Classic Graphite Pickleball Paddle is as loved by the veterans as it’s coveted by amateurs, such as my sister Beth.
- 0.93-pound heavy paddle category build that seamlessly allows power shots with every stroke.
- Softcore hitting surface generates enough control for improved shot accuracy.
- A combination of the polypropylene honeycomb core and a graphite face makes for more cushioning for a quieter playing experience.
A few years ago Beth was suffering from a minor heart condition, and the doctor recommended that she take up a ‘low impact’ sport to have it regularly exercised. Well, Joseph and I suggested that she join us for Pickleball every weekend. ‘That stupid game?’ was the reply she came up with. But, needless to say, once she got in, she found it very hard to get out.
The Amazin’ Aces Classic soon became her paddle of choice. She really loves to power hit, and the 0.93-pound paddle allows her to do just that. And unlike the other heavy category paddles, the Amazin’ Aces allows for control as well with its soft core surface.
- One of the best in low budget paddles.
- Boasts a significant amount of power over a majority of its competitors.
- Though heavy, the soft core allows perfect control.
- Edge guard provides maximum paddle playing surface.
- The rubber batting surrounding the paddle can peel off after a significant amount of use.
Pickleball Paddle Buyer’s Guide
With the varieties in shape, size, and core in today’s market, picking the right Pickleball paddle that can suit your needs has never been so difficult. But here are a few pointers I learned over the years that you should keep in mind, before making that paddle purchase.
The core of a paddle is its backbone; the most essential part which determines if the paddle is going to be lightweight or heavier when gripped.
There are 3 cores which are by far the most popular.
- Nomex Core.
A nylon based polymer, the Nomex Core is known for its industrial flexibility and lightweight design. It is created by dipping a honeycomb framework into polymer resin, which then is left to cool down and harden.
Nomex paddles are incredibly light yet durable, but they are somewhat hard and noisy when compared to other cores, because of the lack of the cushioning effect.
- Aluminum Core
The Aluminium Core is all about weight, power and heavy hitting. And just like Nomex cores this is also structured using honeycomb shapes, but are instead featured in aluminum hexagonal walls and not polymer resin.
Aluminum core though heavy and lacks control, can be ideally balanced out with improved accuracy by the use of a fiberglass face. Not only will this enhance the durability but the shot accuracy as well.
- Polypropylene Core.
A much more recent core of choice, but steadily growing to be the more popular. The Polypropylene core is primarily picked to create paddles which excel in both durability and lightweight properties.
As the material is very soft, the inner structure of its build tends to be more flexible with the right amount of bounce. The soft surface also creates a cushioning effect, that makes the paddle less reflective and allowing it to have more contact with the ball and grant the player a significant amount of control.
The material used in the making of a Pickleball paddle determines its deflective attributes. Here are some of the most used to look out for:
A polymer paddle is made out of a combination of plastic and resin. They are well known to be quite lightweight and durable and are the most affordable variants of Pickleball paddles that one can find today.
Polymer paddles are much more popular among local sporting clubs, who cater primarily to amateurs and casual gamers. They are absolutely unfit for professional players as their performance pales in comparison to graphite and composite builds.
When the sport came into being, the very first Pickleball paddles were made from wood. The initial paddles were quite simplistic having just functionality in mind, but over the years the wooden build was refined, leading to more sophisticated designs.
Today, wooden paddles are attributed with features such a wrist straps and ornate grips for control. Plywood has also been replaced with hardwood for more durability and hitting power.
For a lot of professional Pickleball players, graphite is the material of choice. A graphite paddle is not only lightweight but amazingly responsive, allowing the player to make strong yet extremely controlled shots.
And if you’re a fan of dinking, then a graphite paddle will be able to suit your desires the best. Its amazing stroke accuracy when coupled with a small edge guard for a bigger hitting surface is unmatched when it comes to performance.
Composite paddles scream ‘hi-tech’ with every shot. Made out of an amalgamation of a variety of materials, these professional grade paddles are one of the most expensive in the market and are absolutely the best when it comes to performing on the professional stage.
The use of different materials ensures the best in durability and Pickleball experience. Some of the most popular materials used are:
- UV-resistant vinyl
- Polymer Surfaces.
Other Essential Features
Even though the build material and core are the most fundamental aspects of a Pickleball paddle. There are some other features that (something I learned the hard way) should be considered as well.
- Paddle Size
The preferable size for any paddle should not generally exceed more than 24-inches. Hence you should be looking out for paddles that measure 8 by 16 inches or 5 by 19 inches for short and long paddles respectively.
These measurements ensure the optimal balance for any paddle, and the wider hitting area is always appreciable for a beginner. Whereas for professionals the longer paddle that provides a better grip is much more optimal.
Paddles that are extremely lightweight require a faster reaction time and swing speed than the heavier ones. This is precisely why beginners prefer to use the heavier variants, as owing to their higher deflection, lesser strength and lower reaction speed is required for power hitting the ball
Lightweight paddles are highly prevalent in pro-play, while in the amateur scene it’s more of a doubles pick while the heavier paddle is used in singles games.
- The Grip
A lot of the shot accuracy and control banks on the paddle having the right grip. If you ask me, it’s crucial to try avoiding grips that are either too long or too short. A grip should always compliment your hold and should be of the same size as your palm.
Though a longer grip might provide more paddle stability and the shorter might promise more control. But in my experience, it’s always better to go for a grip that fits in your hand just right.
A durable product always ensures value for money.
As I have already discussed core and material durability previously, I would like to put a bit of emphasis on the sturdiness of face finishes. When it comes to the hitting surface of a paddle, a face finish is as important as the core.
From graphite to plastic, wood, and composite, a paddle face can come in many varieties. But it’s essential to choose the one that comes with ultraviolet inhibitors, which can minimize discoloration and sun damage.
When it comes to paddle deflection, USAPA has set standards which forbids a paddle to have a trampolining effect. For example, if the paddle you want to choose weighs around 3 kg, then the ball deflecting off of its surface should not bounce further than 5000th of an inch.
Paddles that offer more deflection has more spring in the core, and generates more power for lesser the effort. But this, in turn, can compromise a lot on accuracy and control.
Might not be as important as the other features to most, but I am still mentioning it either way.
If you live in a somewhat noise sensitive area, then choosing a paddle that generates a lot of sound during the game can be extremely inconvenient to those around you.
In such cases, it’s best to avoid paddles that use Nome cores and go for a polypropylene one, which also has a foam center for extra cushioning and noise reduction.
- Edge Guard
Edge guards, as the name suggests, keeps the edge of the paddle safe and resistant to chip damage. A medium sized edge guard is the most ideal, though the larger ones can provide a wider hitting surface than usual. But a wider guard can make your paddle relatively heavy and impact your overall Pickleball performance.
- Picking a suitable color.
Color to me doesn’t matter too much when it comes to a Pickleball paddle, but it is everything to Beth. She loved getting her Amazin’ Aces in brightly colored patterns, as it was a part of her gameplan. She would often say; ‘it’s a strategy to distract my opponents and make them miss their shots.’
No matter how attractive a composite paddle might feel, it more often than not is beyond the budget of a casual gamer. So it’s important to stay within your price range and go for the best paddle deals that are currently available in the market.
Making the Right Choice.
My list on paddle core, material, and features might help you to decide which pickleball paddle suits you the most. But if I were you, before cashing in my credit card, I would ask myself the following questions.
- What is my Skill Level?
Identifying ones skill level is important. Whether you are a professional or an amateur, will decide the paddle you should go for.
As an amateur myself (even after playing for so long, sigh!) I tend to shy away from the more professional grade paddles, even after I try so hard to convince myself that a composite will make me a better player.
So, I have been sticking to my wooden paddle with Aluminum core for years now. If I had not assessed my own skill, I would have never been able to decide on the most essential features.
- Which Shots Do I Prefer the Most?
As I am more of a power hitter, a lightweight design is rather secondary to me. I like my paddles to be on the heavier end of the scale, with more the bounce the better.
Choosing the right paddle for my preferences allowed me to improve on my style significantly. And over the years I have been able to not only improve on my shots but on my accuracy as well.
- Do I value Control or Power?
Because of my preference for power, I tend to lean more towards paddles that are not only heavier but have shorter handles as well.
As Joseph covets control, he finds lighter paddles to be more in his taste. I should also add here that he also prefers longer handles with a moisture resistant grip for great accuracy.
- Am I an Indoor or Outdoor Player?
I love playing outdoors, and that’s exactly why I go for paddles that have an UV-resistant coating for their face finish. It significantly minimizes the risk of discoloration and sun damage.
But if you’d instead prefer Pickleball as more of an indoor activity, then choosing a paddle that lays more stress on edge guard can be the ideal way to go.
- Do I Value Price Over Premium Quality?
This can indeed be a tough choice for many. With cheaper paddles you have the option of replacing them quite easily when they get damaged. And with the more expensive ones, replacing them can be an issue, but they last significantly longer. So, it comes down to personal preferences really.
From the core to the material to grip and handle, choosing the right Pickleball paddle that fits your unique needs is never an easy task. But I hope my guide today was able to light some of your way to a decision, if not all of it. Also, do take a look at my recent post about Pickleball Nets, Pickleball Shoes, and Bags.
Till next time!