Just like tennis rackets, there are a wide variety of pickleball paddles and for the beginner, it's easy to get overwhelmed.
You’ve got costs ranging from the $20 big box store paddles all the way to the boutique, limited-edition $300 mini releases. If you’ve played a bit of pickleball, fallen in love with the game and want your first proper paddle, you’ll find yourself most pleased with the $100 price range.
Why Start With A $100 Paddle?
At the $100 pricepoint, you’ll get a paddle that performs like a pickleball paddle should.
You’ll do away with the wood and plastic offerings at the drastically lower price ranges, and find yourself with a paddle constructed 90% as well as anything else out there. With a honeycomb core and a shape and weight that falls well within a pickleball standard, your $100 paddle will give you a “pickleball response” off the paddle-bed that will more easily allow you to transition to a top end paddle when you so desire.
These $100 offerings will play very standard across paddles, but not in a bad way.
Because they are meant to adhere to the widest variety of players, they won’t necessarily feel amazing at any one thing, but rather perform decently well in every aspect. That extra 10% of performance is what separates the best with the rest.
Moving Up to $200
It’s once you increase your price range to the $200+ paddles that you’ll find greater performance variety, and an ability to hone in on your desired spec, and paddle response.
After playing the game for a while, you may find yourself wanting to experiment with some of the more expensive paddles out there. Welcome to the world of top end paddles.
These paddles will have more exotic materials, but also have a greater variety of shapes, lengths, weights and thicknesses. It’s a combination of all those factors that will lead you to your preferred paddle, but finding it does not come overnight. You can research and guess as to what might work for you, and in some cases, that might be enough.
The #1 best way to find your first top end paddle, is to demo.
Demoing paddles alongside each other is the best way to get a feel for the differences in response. You’ll find incredible variety in spin potential, touch and power when trying paddles at the $200 price range, and eventually, you’ll find what works for you. Here are some of the best options we have found at these respective price points.
Head Spark Elite - $65
At $65, the Head Spark Elite lies quite a bit under the $100 price range. In all honesty, this paddle performs just as well as any paddle up to $110.
With its basic honeycomb core, you’ll feel the pickle ball respond off the paddle bed significantly better than with any paddle under this price. The Spark Elite is long and heavy, and that’s what sets it apart to some of the other paddles in the $100 price range.
Usually, an introductory paddle will be light, and with a shorter profile to give beginner players a safe sense of maneuverability. This paddle will be excellent for those players with a background in racket sports, but there are better options for those of you just learning to hit a ball.
Selkirk SLK Atlas - $110
While Selkirk SLK Atlas is quite a bit more expensive than the Spark Elite, I don’t actually think it performs any better from a technical standpoint.
The honeycomb core is similar, and neither the technology nor the materials are any better than the Head counterpart. The SLK Atlas is simply much better in the hands of a true beginner. Because it is both shorter and lighter than the Spark Elite, it will be significantly easier to swing. It also has a slightly bigger head size when compared to the Spark Elite. That makes the sweet spot of the paddle more forgiving and user friendly, another positive that lends itself well to players new to racket sports.
Selkirk Amped Invikta - $195
It’s a bit difficult to suggest paddles at the $200 price range, because, as mentioned earlier, this is where your personal preference will come into play, and demoing is almost a must.
Paddles like the Selkirk Amped Invikta will provide more seamless transitions out of the basic $100 offerings. The Invikta is thick, like most of the cheaper paddles on this list, which means the ball will respond similarly off the paddle bed. What you will notice almost instantly, is a significant improvement in feel with the Amped Invikta.
The fibreglass top sheet and more intricate honeycomb core make the paddle significantly more responsive, as well as spin friendly. You’ll have much more control over the ball with an Amped paddle, while maintaining similar sensations to the cheaper paddle you have gotten used to.
The Invikta is also extended, a word used in the industry to distinguish long paddles. With an extended paddle, you’ll have more put away power and purchase over the pickle ball, but it comes at a maneuverability cost. Again, personal preference will dictate what you chose, and there are some fantastic top end shorter paddles.
Gearbox GX5 Power - $195
The Gearbox GX5 Power is a perfect example of a shorter paddle that will be significantly more maneuverable than anything extended. Not only will the shorter length make it feel lighter in your hand, but the thin, edgeless profile of the paddle will make it slice quicker through air.
Of course, you will sacrifice the put away power of a longer paddle, but many out there find they prefer the feeling of total control, and quick reactions from their paddle of choice.
The GX5 Power is also on the complete opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the Amped Invikta, in terms of feel and response. Its thin, stiff, carbon construction makes the ball rocket off the paddle-bed with loads of power and spin, but far less touch and control than its Selkirk counterpart. The difference in feel is noticeable instantly, and demoing these two paddles back to back will show you which style you prefer. Because they are so different, there will be paddles in between the two that may end up suiting your game more, but there is no better way to hone in on your preferences than demoing such distinct paddles.
Starting with a basic, $100 paddle is great. It will force you to develop proper technique before you become reliant on your expensive paddle, and the addictive response you feel every time you hit the ball. When you do decide to make that leap, there is nothing more important than going through the steps, demoing the paddles, and narrowing down your search until you find the one.
Stop by the store to demo now, or buy your intro paddle at racketsandrunners.ca.