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How Much to Spend on a Pickleball Paddle

The Wilson Tour BLX pickleball paddle is one of our top selling models.
In the past six years, we have watched the retail prices for pickleball paddles climb from an average of about $40 per paddle to $200.00 and more.

Does this make sense? Not really.

What you are seeing reflected in these price increases are poor choices made by pickleball paddle manufacturers. Rather than making their paddles in large numbers in factories, they are choosing to make them in small numbers locally. The result isn’t better paddles, it’s costlier paddles.

Paying $200 for a pickleball paddle doesn’t make anybody a better pickleball player. It just makes them poorer. The truth is that a good player is just as good with a $20.00 wooden paddle as he is with a $200.00 graphite paddle.

What has been driving pickleball paddle prices rapidly upward over the past few years is marketing. A tiny number of overpriced lifestyle brands have convinced some very gullible people that a few cosmetic changes make their paddles worth a lot more than they were charging just a year ago.

These manufacturers are now making paddles for less than they ever have while at the same time charging distributors more for each and every one of them. In order to sustain this unsustainable business model, these “lifestyle brands” have convinced a large group of retired people to peddle their paddles for little or no return. In other words, they are using cheap volunteer labour to put more money in their own pockets.

Capitalism is great, of course. We are big fans of it ourselves. However, there are times when things get completely out of hand and this is one of them.

Wilson Pickleball Paddles

Wilson makes reasonably priced pickleball paddles suitable for all levels of play.

Luxury pickleball paddles are nice, but they are not necessary and using one certainly doesn’t make you a better player. Wilson, one of the world’s leading racquet manufacturers, offers a line of paddles that are perfectly fine for use at all levels.

The Wilson Profile and the Wilson Tour BLX are best for beginner to intermediate players, while the lightweight Wilson Energy and Wilson Surge paddles are suitable for intermediate to advanced players.

None of these four paddles are expensive. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices range from $80.00 to $120.00 but virtually every store who sells Wilson pickleball paddles sells them for less.

So consumers how have a choice. They can spend $200.00 on a luxury paddle or they can spend the same amount and get a perfectly suitable pickleball paddle AND a pair of court shoes.

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Best Pickleball Paddles?

Wilson Profile is our best selling paddle.
As Canada’s largest pickleball supplier, we answer a lot of questions about pickleball paddles. The question we hear most often is this: Which pickleball paddle should I buy?

There are certainly lots of choices out there. So this is a pretty general question. The way we answer it depends on whether the person to whom we are speaking is a recreational player or a competitive player.

Recreational pickleball players, we will explain, tend to expect their paddles to last forever while competitive players don’t. Competitive players understand that even the best paddles wear out and break down over time. So durability is not usually a major issue to them.

Recreation players, on the other hand, tend to care a great deal about durability. In fact, some of them seem to believe that a pickleball paddle is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase.

Racquet Selector For a full list of racquets in this category, please check out our ONLINE RACQUET SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.

For players in this category we usually recommend 2G pickleball paddles complete with edge guards. we also recommend that they choose a brand well-known for durability, such as Wilson.

Although they look a little old fashioned compared to sleek, modern, edgeless 3G pickleball paddles preferred by competitive players, the edge guards on 2G paddles perform an important function — they protect the most vulnerable part of the paddle from damage.

Are we saying that 2G paddles will last forever?

No, we’re not. Many of the 2G paddles made by US manufacturers have cardboard cores — sometimes call “composite” cores. If one of these “composite” paddles is in your bag when you have a major water bottle leak, the cardboard may suck up the water and permanently damage your pickleball paddle.

Sadly, no pickleball paddle will last forever. The best you can do is to go with trusted brands and to ask questions about warranties.

Racquet Selector For a full list of racquets in this category, please check out our ONLINE RACQUET SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.

Pickleball Paddle Warranties

Wilson, the largest sporting goods manufacturer in the world, offers a one-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects on its Xcel, Profile, Surge and BLX Tour paddles. Pickle-Ball Inc, the world’s oldest pickleball manufacturer offers at three month warranty on their whole line.

Ask the person you are buying the paddle from how they handle warranty issues. If you are buying paddles from some guy selling them out of his bag, chances are that you won’t get warranty protection when you need it most. However, if you are buying your paddles from a legitimate retailer, you can expect a higher level of service.

Here at Racquet Network, all Wilson warranty issues are dealt with right in our Calgary store. No shipping is necessary for local customer. However, with Pickle-ball Inc paddles, the customer has to ship the defective paddle back to the manufacturer in the US at their own expense.

That fact, combined with the polymer cores in all Wilson pickleball paddles, generally leads us to recommend Wilson paddles to recreational players for whom durability is a major concern.

Racquet Selector For a full list of racquets in this category, please check out our ONLINE RACQUET SELECTOR. You can sort by sport, gender, brand, size, weight, balance and more.
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2G Pickleball Paddles Get a Second Chance

Wilson Tour Pro is a standard 2G pickleball paddle with a polymer core
It seems hard to believe, but people have been making pickleball paddles since 1964.

The first generation of paddles — now known as 1G pickleball paddles — were carved out of wood in garages in the US Northwest. Paddle manufacturers were few and far between into the early 1980s, so many players who wanted them had to make their own.

The 1970s and 1980s saw the birth of a new generation of pickleball paddles (2G) made up of layers glued together and finished with a plastic edge guard that runs around the entire perimeter of the paddle. By the mid-1990s this format dominated the industry and virtually all pickleball paddles were made this way.

The early 2000s saw the development of 3G paddles which were similar to their 2G forerunners but which lacked the characteristic edge guards that distinguish 2G paddles from other generations. The problem with the earliest 3G paddles was a lack of durability. They were lighter and faster than their clunky 2G ancestors, but their exposed edges made them more susceptible to damage.

A further problem with early 3G paddle designs was that their light-weight and brittle foam cores deteriorated rather quickly. In some cases, brand new pickleball paddles sounded like mariachis just a few weeks out of the package. Fortunately for 3G fans, Wilson Sporting Goods solved those issues with the development of a nomex honeycomb core that stands up much longer than the foam cores in early 3G paddles.

Problems with some 3G paddles in the 2009-2013 period drove many 3G converts back, resulting in a resurgence in popularity for 2G paddles. For 2G paddle manufacturers like Pickle-Ball Inc. this offered a second chance to prepare for the massive changes that were about to take hold of the pickleball manufacturing industry.

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Pickleball Myth #1 – Paddles Have a Sweet Spot

The Wilson Tour BLX pickleball paddle is one of our top selling models.
We used to keep track of the number of times that customers came into our store asking for a specific pickleball paddle because they heard it has “a bigger sweet spot.” However, it happened so often that we stopped counting long ago.

In fact, pickleball paddles do not have a sweet spot. The term “sweet spot” applies to stringed racquets. It is the part of the string bed that stretches to the maximum depth and then propels the ball forward using the stored energy in the strings. Since pickleball paddles are solid, they cannot have a sweet spot.

The closest one can come to a sweet spot on a pickleball paddle is the center of mass. The center of mass is a point representing the mean position of the matter in a body or system.

On a pickleball paddle the centre of massed is a fixed and mathematically definable point. It cannot be made larger or smaller. Therefore it is not possible for one paddle to have a larger sweet spot than any other.

In order to harness the maximum amount of mass and energy available on any shot, the striker must hit the ball with the paddle’s center of mass. The further away from the center that contact is made, the more energy will be lost.

Hitting the ball with the paddle’s center of mass becomes more important as paddles become lighter. Since lighter paddles have less mass, off center hits are weaker. The more off center they are, the weaker the shot becomes.

With heavy paddles, off center hits are less of an issue. If a paddle is heavy enough, even shots that come from near the outer edge of the paddle will still harness a significant amount of energy, which is exactly why we recommend heavier paddles for beginners.

Players who want to maximize the transfer of energy into the ball through a paddle’s center of mass will have to practice hitting the ball in the mathematical center of the paddle. Those who can only do this inconsistently (beginners) should opt for heavier pickleball paddles.

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Why Thicker and Heavier is Better for Beginners

Wilson Profile
Racquet Network is one of Canada’s oldest pickleball retailers. As one of the country’s original pickleball dealers, we have been selling pickleball equipment on and for longer than most Canadians have been playing it.

Some of the staff on our coaching team have been certified by Pickleball Canada since they first started certifying instructors back in 2010. In the years since then, our team of instructors has taught hundreds of hours of pickleball lessons on top of thousands of hours of tennis and squash lessons.

The vast majority of people who take lessons from our instructors are beginners. In the years since we first started teaching racquet sports (2004), our team has taught more than 10,000 beginners how to play tennis, squash and pickleball. So it is safe to say that when it comes to beginners, we know our stuff.

As a group, our coaching team can confidently assure you that beginners in all racquet sports have a number of things in common. First, they have slower swings than intermediates or experts. They hit balls off center more often. They are slower to react, they tend to hang back rather than move forward and they generally grip their racquets too firmly.

Indeed, regardless of the sport, coaches in all racquet sports can watch new players move progressively through small stages from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Some players progress quickly; some slowly. But as they progress, their coach will see certain things happen. Their swing speed, foot speed and reaction speed will all accelerate. Their ability to receive the ball and middle it on their racquet/paddles will increase. Their grips will relax and they will recognize opportunities to move forward and attack.

This is true of all three sports — tennis, squash and pickleball — and any coach who teaches all three will tell you the same thing. There are fundamental differences that separate beginners from intermediates from advanced players. When you understand these differences you will understand why beginners struggle with equipment made for intermediates and experts.

Consider this one concrete example: racquet/paddle weight. In all three sports, beginners benefit from heavier racquets and paddles in a number of ways. First, beginners rarely hit the ball in exact center of their paddle or racquet. Intermediates, by contrast, do it much more often while advanced players do it consistently.

Hitting off center reduces both power and accuracy. So to help offset these common beginner level errors, a good coach will recommend a heavier racquet or paddle. Eventually, these beginners will learn to middle the ball more consistently and will not need a heavier racquet/paddle to cover up their mishits, but in the meantime, they will enjoy more success.

Hitting off center is not the only common beginner issue addressed by heavier racquets/paddles though. As mentioned above, beginners have slower swing speeds. They also hesitate to move forward, primarily because they lack experience and therefore the ability to anticipate what is about to happen. This combination often means that beginners are forced to hit the ball over longer distances than intermediate or expert players. Once again, heavier — and in the case of pickleball, thicker — equals more power. More power, in this case, helps to overcome some deficiencies in beginner level strokes and movement.

As any credible coach will tell you, there is no question that heavier, thicker paddles are better for beginners than lighter, thinner paddles. The same is true for grip size. Thicker grips are better for beginners than thinner grips.

Thicker grips provide more traction than thinner grips. Traction lock the paddle in place and prevents it from turning in the player’s hand when the ball is hit off center. Traction also allows the player to relax their grip. And finally, thicker grips reduce the occurrence of tennis elbow — the most common injury found in new pickleball players.

So as coaches, there is no doubt about the paddles that we recommend to beginners in our store. Our goal is to put a paddle in their hands that will maximize their enjoyment and minimize their chances of suffering injury. So in all three sports — tennis, squash and pickleball — this means a heavier racquet or paddle than we would recommend to an expert.