There are so many paddle manufacturers, and we certainly don’t try to include them all here, especially those we know nothing about. Since no money is involved for us, (except spending it on paddles, of course), we can tell it as it is, or at least as we think it is. Most on our list are truly our personal favorites, the rest we know about and have played with but just haven’t gotten around to owning yet. We are admittedly both paddle junkies (especially A.J., who supplies half the people in his clubs with only slightly-used paddles during the course of any one season) and so we change fairly often. We are both hoping against hope that eventually we’ll be able to buy a game along with the perfect paddle, but that’s another story entirely.
As background, many of these are small companies making their own paddles right here in the U.S. (Again, like PaddleTek, shown above, who started in Arizona in the pickleball heartland, or Engage, a relatively new company with interesting new technology.) Shown below are links to a few of the folks who we are liking these days.
Onix (now part of Escalade Sports)
Pickle-Ball, Inc. (direct link, or call Al Hager, below)
Pickleball Now (now part of Escalade Sports)
POP (direct link, or call Al Hager, below)
Pro-Lite Sports (direct link, or call Al Hager or Pickleball Rocks, below)
Distributors and other Vendors usually sell a variety of paddles and are only occasionally specific to one brand. A couple of vendors who we know and trust are listed below.
1. Al Hager is a local vendor in Casa Grande, AZ in the winter and elsewhere (Ohio and points East) in the summer. Al usually carries three or four brands of paddles (currently Pro-Lite, Onix, Pickle-Ball, Inc., and POP) and can usually facilitate overnight delivery. He’s particularly knowledgeable about the construction of paddles. He will ship anywhere. The Bear’s phone number is (419) 619-1122.
2. Mike Rains is a local vendor in Casa Grande, AZ in the winter and Bend, Oregon in the summer. He is a distributor of PaddleTek and a good guy, as nice or nicer than the Bear, no offense, Bear. His phone number is (503) 351-4588.
3. The Racquet Shoppe, in Bend, Oregon, is a little place that rocks big-time when it comes to selling paddles AND court shoes AND great outfits AND..well, you get the idea. Lisa and Sabrina, who own the shop and run it jointly, are both big fun and great supporters of pickleball in the Bend area. We recommend them highly and they ship to anywhere. Brands of paddles they have recently carries have included Pro-Lite, Onix, Pickle-Ball, Inc, and we think now PaddleTek among others. Call Lisa or Sabrina at (541) 647 1117
4. Pickleball Central is one of the premier providers of various lines of paddles as well as balls, equipment, jewelery and more. We recommend them not only for their nice products but also because they absolutely rock at providing world-class customer service. Believe it! Or check it out for yourself! But read our page with an interview with Managing Partner Anna G. Copley.
5. Pickleball Rocks is actually the parent for several very interesting companies that indeed sell some of the best clothing for pickelball, paddles, Simon Ball Machines and other neat stuff but in addition provide support for a number of worthy causes…providing sets of beginner paddles at virtual cost is only one thing. Check out our page about them.
Anyway, buy a paddle from any one of these folks and you’ll be well-served. But what should you look for? It’s hard to know what you’ll like longer-term until you’ve played for awhile, and the differences between the paddles in playability really is pretty significant, but today we personally prefer a paddle with a graphite skin (for hit and feel), an aluminum honeycombed core (for lightness and durability), and a grip that allows us to hold the paddle with the edge of the paddle pointing right down at the “V” between our thumb and first finger (in tennis this would be called the Eastern Grip) while still having about 1/4″ of spacing between our thumb and the rest of our hand.
A.J.’s current favorite today, btw, is an Onix Evoke. He owns three, two with graphite skins and one with the composite skin, which is the yellow one shown below. They are slightly top-weighted, are fairly light at about 7.1-7.6 ounces, with the composite skin being the heaviest. One is shown below.
However, he has recently ordered a Selkirk 200 P, and so the search for the perfect paddle continues.
Irene is currently also using an Evoke, and carries a PaddleTek Pro as well, which, being a slightly heavier paddle at about 8.3-8.5 oz. works well for wind-days for her. It looks similar to the newer PowerPlay shown below.
And about that grip…resizing a pickleball paddle to make it slightly larger is possible, but resizing to make it smaller is more difficult typically. Re-gripping with (for instance) a Wilson cushioned grip, ribbed or smooth, will increase grip size a little…about 1/16″. You can increase that a bit by putting a couple of layers of cloth tape or specialty grip materials (normally made for tennis racquets and sold in roles in tennis shops and in big-box sporting-goods stores and even at WalMart!) underneath the normal grip. The other option is to take the normal grip and simply overwrap it, with either one of the “condom” grips (you will know why we call them that when you see them), or, better, use the tacky white tape sold in roles. Whatever you use, you should plan on changing grips once or twice a season, probably, to keep them tacky and fresh.
These days a quality paddle will probably cost you $70-100 and will last a couple of years. Then it will develop dead spots, and maybe you’ll need another one, or it won’t and you won’t, but you’ll buy a new one anyway, just for fun. (Authors’ aside: We each buy six to ten new paddles a year but when we played golf we used to buy lots of different clubs, too…at a much higher cost. You cannot buy a a game in golf, pickleball, fly-fishing or anything else, but it’s fun to keep trying. And sometimes, albeit rarely, it really does make a difference to change if for no other reason than to get a different feeling to the paddle…that alone can help you “see” the ball better – you pay more attention – for awhile.)
Buy a paddle from most on-line retailers and you may be able to return it, certainly if defective but additionally (in some cases) just because you don’t like it. Paddle-Tek, for instance, offers virtually a no-questions-asked replacement policy even after you’ve used a paddle for a month or more. At this writing they will only ask you what you’d prefer. Crazy!
Recently the “big boys” (e.g. Wilson) have begun to manufacture paddles, too. We cannot yet recommend their attempts as much as some of the other paddles are seemingly made with more care and attention….perhaps because in Wilson’s case they chose to have their first pickleball paddle made in China? We do have a bias towards American-made, we must admit. Anyway, we have recently heard better stuff about Wilson’s more recent attempts, Chinese-made or not…so we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?