Lightweight Pickleball Paddles
While certainly open to debate, many observers see Roberto Duran as the finest lightweight boxer of all time. While the crown for best lightweight pickleball paddles is yet to be decided, there are many characteristics that make for a great lighter paddle.
There are certain players that should be playing with lightweight paddles. But like everything else surrounding a pickleball paddle, feel counts for a great deal. And that is quite a personal evaluation indeed.
Importance of Paddle Weight
As we discuss in our Buying Guide for pickleball paddles, the weight of the paddle is probably the most important consideration in deciding on the right paddle for any player. In addition to total weight, the weight distribution is also important.
There are three classifications for pickleball paddles.
1. Lightweight Paddles - Generally thought to weigh less than 7.3 ounces, lightweight paddles provide the most maneuverability, particularly with a smaller grip size.
2. Mid-weight Pickleball Paddle - Weighing in from 7.3 to 8.4 ounces, this is where power and control meet. Of all the paddles made, the midweight paddle is the where the largest number of choices exist.
3. Heavier Paddles - Usually for advanced players, a paddle in the weight range above 8.4 ounces is often the best paddle for power shots and for tennis players who play pickleball at a high level. Heavy paddles though, can help trigger tennis elbow in players not as well conditioned as the experienced player who can tolerate the extra weight.
In tennis, the discussion of "head light" vs. "head heavy" is a very big deal. Because pickleball paddles are much shorter than tennis racquets, this is not as big a factor, but it is still relevant.
In a head light paddle, you will normally be able to have more wrist action allowing the paddle face to create more spin and therefore more control. The head heavy paddles are thought to create more power.
A good rule of thumb is that weight distribution closely tracks total weight. Light weight paddles are more head light than mid weight paddles which in turn are more head heavy as is a heavier paddle.
5 Groups Who Should Play with a Lighter Paddle
A lighter weight paddle makes sense for newer players so they can start out with a faster swing speed. And since they will hit plenty of shots outside the center of the paddle, finding a pickleball paddle with a generous sweet spot will really help balls to go where the player wants them to.
2) Players with Tennis Elbow
If you have ever had tennis elbow, you know how painful it can be. Lighter paddles are less likely to cause this condition or to cause it to reoccur.
There is a big exception to this though. A lightweight paddle may allow some players to have a faster swing speed. And this can also cause inflammation in the arm.
As a result, a mid-weight paddle will sometimes be the better option. The best pickleball paddle for bad elbows, however, will never be a heavier paddle.
3) Those Seeking Fantastic Ball Control
For the average player, the lighter weight range will allow better control. And there are some players whose playing style relies more on placement than on more power so they should also seek a paddle with a light weight.
4) Those Trying to Improve Reaction Time
The quick play at the kitchen line is a challenge for many players but a serious issue for those whose reaction time has been compromised due to injury or age. Light weight paddles may help a bit here.
5) Those Who Need a Small Grip Size
Smaller hands generally need a small grip size and a light weight paddle is more likely to be a better fit than mid weight paddles.
Paddle Components Impacting Paddle Weight
Polymer Honeycomb Core Material
The days of the heavy cores are all but over with a poly core paddle now dominating. The space age polymer core has almost completely taken over from aluminum cores that had a tendency to pit and dent. Nomex cores are still popular in some circles.
While some would argue one way or the other, the truth is face materials of every kind will impact paddle weight depending on the thickness more than anything else. For instance, a thicker composite paddle will be heavier than a thinner graphite paddle.
But thicker graphite paddles will generally result in a heavier paddle than thinner composite paddles. Pickleball paddles with a carbon fiber surface (similar but not identical to graphite paddles) may be the exception as this incredibly strong and light material is likely to create a lightweight paddle or at least at the lighter end of mid-weight models.
Some players have adopted an elongated paddle to give them a bit more reach. The trade off is the smaller sweet spot and as a result is rarely seen in lighter paddles.
Grip Circumference and Grip Length
A smaller grip size will weigh less than a medium grip which will weigh less than a larger grip. This is partially the explanation why you will see the best pickleball paddles advertising a weight range rather than a specific, particular weight.
Grip length will also impact the weight range and the weight distribution. Tennis players with a two handed backhand often seek a longer handle in pickleball.
What About Wood Paddles?
Wooden paddles go back to the very beginnings of pickleball as it does with many racket sports. The founders of pickleball built paddles out of the materials they had on hand and had fun playing the game.
But a solid wood paddle weighs in at relatively hefty paddle weight so a player looking for a light weight paddle is unlikely to find it with wood.
However today, a high quality paddle will certainly have a honeycomb core of some kind like a polymer core material to reduce weight and improve the responsiveness of both indoor and outdoor balls. These cores also improve the ability of average players to put some spin on the ball.
Therefore, a wood paddle is really only for the "one off" game like at a party or for someone who simply picks up a paddle to try out pickleball. Wooden paddles are extremely inexpensive so they can also play a role in settings like schools or senior centers where play is likely to be at random times by casual players. Other than these circumstances, other paddles will make for better options.
Who Makes a Light Pickleball Paddle?
While mid-weight paddles dominate the offerings of many paddle makers, it is not hard to find a lightweight paddle. And new models are coming on the market all the time.
Prince makes several models in the light weight range. And while this niche is new for Prince in pickleball, they have made lighter tennis racquets for years. Really worth a look.
Engage is not a big name known to the general playing public. That is a shame as they make exceptional quality paddles worth a strong look in this weight range.
Head, of course, is a 500 pound gorilla in racquet sports. They have a research department that has designed quality lighter composite pickleball paddles.
Players rave about the Baddle offerings including those with a small grip that is ideal for those with smaller hands. A small grip is very helpful to maintain control and to help prevent arm injuries for those with a history of this problem.
What About Price?
Lightweight paddles have a wide range of prices. But be very careful about buying paddles under $60 as many of these models do not advertise a true weight range. While it may not seem like much, a paddle that weighs 7.1 ounces will play much differently than a paddle weighting 7.5 ounces all other things being equal.
Shop With Us
In addition to a huge selection of paddles up and down the weight range, take a few minutes to check out all the great deals on men's and women's clothing. And while you are at it, be sure you have a good pair of pickleball or tennis shoes (not running shoes) that can help you move quickly and purposely around the court.
A pickleball bag will help you keep your pickleball gear organized and protected from the bumps and grinds of larger bags. There are backpack and duffel options available to fit your own needs and sense of style.
Do you have questions? Call us. Sometimes all the choices in paddles can be confusing so our in house experts can help you get the perfect paddle for you.