Lately I have had a lot of discussions around paddle weight and things like, what is the best weight for indoor or outdoor play, what affects the weight of a paddle, why aren’t all paddles of the same model the same weight etc. Here are a few things that should help answer some of those questions.
Paddle weight is an important part of choosing a pickleball paddle. A light weight paddle isn’t better than a heavy paddle and vice versa. It depends on the player and the conditions. If you are looking for a paddle here are some things around weight to factor into your decision.
Why is there such a range in paddle weight for the same paddle?
The short answer is there is always a weight tolerance in the materials that go into the paddle and the slightest change in a couple of the materials affects the finished paddle weight. One of the largest contributors is the core material which can vary by as much as +/- 10% or roughly 0.4 to 0.5oz per paddle. Then there is resin content, grip tape weight, handle blank weight, trim, ink, and even the final finish on the paddle face. So when everything is combined into a paddle things beyond the paddle manufacturer’s control are going to affect the weight of the finished paddle.
How important is the exact paddle weight?
As a reference point 0.1oz is roughly the weight of a penny (0.088oz)
Take 6 pennies, hold your paddle out and place three pennies on the surface. This represents the target weight of your paddle. In the picture below it’s 8.0oz. Add the other three pennies. This represents the high side of the paddle weight range. Notice anything? Now take all the pennies off. This represents the low side of the weight range. Remember the paddle with the 3 pennies is the target weight. Was there a marked difference in the feel of the weight of the paddle from the target weight to either the high or low side of the weight range. For 90% of players the answer is no.
Most players will not notice a change in paddle weight until there is at least 0.8oz to 1.0oz difference. That’s 11 pennies.
So when selecting a paddle if the target weight is 8.0oz and the tolerance is +/- 0.25oz the difference will be virtually unnoticeable.
A Light Weight Paddle is generally anything under 7.2oz
Light weight paddles are known for being more about speed and control and are more suited to players that like to dink and hit drop shots. They also have the advantage of a slightly quicker response time when you are at the net.
There are a couple of drawbacks to a light paddle. You have to swing a lightweight paddle harder to develop power. This can result in more vibration and stress on your elbow wrist and shoulder. If you are prone to tennis elbow, or have smaller wrists a light weight paddle might not be the best option.
Middle weight paddles range between 7.3oz – 8.4oz.
We classify mid weight paddles as between 7.8oz and 8.4oz. Mid weight paddles offer abalance of power and control. They are great at putting a bit more power on the serve and returns without a fast swing. They also provide good control when you want those fineness shots.
Mid weight paddles are often a better option if you suffer from tennis elbow or wrist injuries.
Heavy weight paddles are anything over 8.5oz.
These paddles are used by players who prefer power and are willing to sacrifice a little control and speed. That being said, for older players that may have a slower swing speed a heavier paddle can help as the force exerted on the ball is a function of the mass of the paddle times the speed of the paddle.
One other consideration is if you like to play from the back of the court or play a lot of singles pickleball a heavier paddle with more power will be a better choice.
Where to start.
So a few thoughts. If you come from a tennis background you are likely going to want to start with a mid weight paddle around 8.2oz as it will be closer to what you are used to.
Squash, badminton, table tennis, racquetball you will likely be happier starting with a lighter weight paddle of 7.6oz.
Never played a racquet sport or you are just starting to play pickleball? You are better starting with a mid weight paddle, not too light. Something around 8.0oz will be good. In all likelihood as you start playing you are not going to be comfortable at the net for a while. Having a little more power in your paddle to get the ball over the net from further back will help keep you from getting frustrated.
Playing doubles more than singles? Then a light mid weight paddle will likely be better as play will be faster and closer to the net where reaction time is key. So something around 7.4oz to 7.6oz.
Playing outdoors? A mid weight to heavy mid weight is likely better for contending with the elements. The power from the extra weight can be a huge advantage when hitting into the wind. 8.2oz and up.
Aches and pains? You are likely going to be happier with a mid weight paddle and a little extra power that will let you slow your swing speed and dampen vibrations. 7.9oz to 8.2oz is a good range.
Identify where you will be playing, what type of game you play and assess your physical abilities to narrow down a weight range. Make your target weight the middle of a range and don’t sweat the small stuff.