Tips for choosing your paddle
All paddles have elements of power and control, this guide aims to help you find the right balance.
You may choose to accentuate your strength and choose a paddle that adds to your own power. Or you may be looking for a paddle with great control to help you put a shot precisely where you want it. Or, as a control player, you may want a power paddle that hits hard and helps you get the ball down.
Ultimately, it is your style of play that will lead you to choose the type of paddle that suits you best.
# Power and control
Manufacturers design pickleball paddles using a variety of materials and technologies to add elements of power or control and it is the combination of these factors that results in specific playing characteristics on the court.
The main factors that affect power and control are
- Elongated shape
- Heavier weight
- Longer handle
- Fiberglass surface
- Thinner Core
Power paddles tend to have narrower, more precise sweet spots and provide better feedback.
- Wider or rounded shape
- Lighter weight
- Traditional length or shorter handle
- Graphite or carbon fiber surface
- Thicker core
Control paddles tend to have wider, more consistent sweet spots, which provide more accuracy.
The grip circumference is more a matter of comfort. You need to find the grip that best suits your hand size.
The shape of the paddle influences the game in many ways, determining the size, placement and shape of the sweet spot.
All manufacturers follow the USA Pickleball specifications for paddle shape:
- Size: the combined length and width, including any edge protection and end caps, must not exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm)
- The length of the paddle shall not exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm)
- There is no restriction on the thickness of the paddle.
As a general rule, the longer and narrower the paddle, the higher the sweet spot on the face. The higher the sweet spot, the further away it is from your hand (more leverage) and the faster the contact point on the face moves when hitting the ball (more power).
A paddle with rounded corners allows for a wider and more consistent sweetspot (better control).
Also increasing the surface area of the paddle with a longer or wider face and a shorter grip can combine to increase the size of the sweet spot (better control).
The weight of a paddle has a great influence on power and control.
- The heavier the paddle, the more power it will have.
- The lighter the paddle, the faster you can position it for your next shot, which increases control.
If a paddle is too light and you have to swing harder to generate power, or if a paddle is too heavy, you risk injuring your arm.
The optimal weight is therefore different for each player and is the weight at which you swing a paddle that does not sacrifice hand speed and does not require you to exert too much effort to generate power.
For most players, this weight is between 7.4 and 8.3 ounces (210 and 235 grams); the best way to determine the optimal weight is to test several paddles or try adding weight (lead tape) to your paddle.
The length of the handle is important in determining how high up in the paddle and how far from your hand the sweet spot is.
The longer the grip, the higher the sweet spot which means that the speed of the paddle head is higher at the sweet spot when making contact with the ball, which translates into more power.
A shorter grip not only moves the sweet spot down the paddle (closer to your hand), but it can also make the sweet spot larger and the performance of the paddle more consistent for better control.
The type of face is important in determining the power and control characteristics of your paddle, it determines how much energy is absorbed or returned to the ball. The face is the largest part of the paddle and is in direct contact with the ball, it is the face that largely determines the performance of the paddle.
Graphite and carbon fiber are harder materials and absorb energy, allowing the ball to stay on the face a little longer and giving you more control over your shot placement.
Fiberglass is a softer material, it flexes and produces a trampoline effect which returns more energy to the ball resulting in more power behind your shots.
The cover of your paddle is also important to improve spin. Most of the spin on a ball is generated by the player and the trajectory of their shot. A paddle increases spin through friction or adhesion.
- The rougher the face of a paddle, the more friction it generates.
- Grip occurs when the face of the paddle is smooth but sticky, allowing the paddle to "grip" the ball for spin.
USA Pickleball tests paddle faces to ensure they are within the regulatory limits of roughness and grip.
The main elements of the core that influence the power and control of the paddle are the material and thickness.
Most paddles are made with a honeycomb polymer core.
- The harder the polymer used, the more energy is absorbed by the core.
- The greater the absorption, the wider the sweet spot and the more uniform the feel over the face of the paddle (better control).
- The softer or more flexible the core, the more energy is reflected back to the ball, creating more pop (more power).
The thickness of the paddle works in the same way as the material.
- If the core is thick, energy is absorbed (better control).
- If the core is thin, the energy is returned to the ball (more power).
There are no regulations on the thickness of paddles.
There are a few less common ways in which cores are designed to affect paddle performance. Solid Span Technology (SST), for example, uses graphite for the core. Some paddles use a hybrid of materials to mitigate performance. And some manufacturers use cushioning materials in the core to alter the location, size and shape of the sweet spot, resulting in slight differences in the feel of the paddle.