I am a firm believer that it is best to go with a top of the line paddle right up front. These paddles typically range from $150 - $250. Now you might be thinking to yourself "why would she be recommending a total beginner to get a $200 paddle?!" My reasoning is very simple... I see people all the time buying a $100 paddle because they are just getting into the sport. Then a few months later after they have become totally hooked on pickleball (and trust me, you will become hooked!) they upgrade to $150 - $250 paddle. To me that's silly because now you are into the paddles for $250 - $350 when you could have just spent that up front.
However, I totally get that everyone's thought process and finances are different so I am here to break down the best paddles for beginners based off price.
Best Paddles for Beginners Under $100
There are quite a few options when it comes to paddles under $100. However, there are only two that I would highly recommend. There are some that I will list that qualify as honorable mentions but something I wouldn't personally buy. If I were to buy a paddle under $100 it would be one of the following two.
I LOVE this paddle. If you can get over the funky and crazy designs of the paddle I promise you will love it as well. It has a thick core so it will absorb the shock of the ball better than thinner paddles, which in return makes it more arm friendly. It has a longer handle which is great for extra reach or for people with a two handed backhand. It has a generous sweet spot which is the most important thing as a beginner making it more forgiving and giving you more surface area to hit the ball.
The ABSOLUTE BEST thing about this paddle is the texture on it. The texture on this paddle is literally INSANE. It is so rare to find a paddle with this amount of texture, especially under $200. The only paddles that have close to the same texture is the Selkik Vanguard Line (A $200 Paddle) and the Engage Pursuit Line (A $220 Paddle).
Why do you want texture you might ask? SPIN , of course! Texture allows you to put more spin onto the ball. It will also give you more control because the ball spends more time on the paddle creating dwell time for better ball placement.
This is a close second to the Erne paddle. This was the paddle that Ben Johns, the number one pickleball player in the world, used until he went to Joola. It has pretty much every quality I listed above with Erne (not quite as much texture). The only downfall about this paddle is the texture wears off a little quicker than other paddles.
Honorable Mentions: Gearbox CP7 Paddle, Engage Trident Paddle, Babolat RNGD Power / Touch Paddle, and Paddletek Phoenix Genesis
Best Paddles For Beginners Under $150
The world of better quality paddles really opens up once your budget is at $150. I have 2 paddles in this price range of $100 - $150 that are great for beginners and that I really enjoy myself.
The Selkirk Amped line has 3 different paddles, the Epic, S2 and Invikta. I don't recommend the Invikta for beginners, it is a more narrow paddle giving you more reach but with not as generous of a sweet spot. This paddle is typically used by players of higher levels.
The Epic and S2 are the perfect paddle for a beginner. These two paddles are basically identical, the only thing that differs between the two is the length of the handle. The Epic has a slightly longer handle than the S2. The Epic is better for men or someone that might have a two handed backhand... or someone that just enjoys a longer handle. The S2 handle is shorter; however, that isn't a bad thing... because it is slightly shorter you get a little more face on the paddle.
The Amped line really has it all... it has a honeycomb core that offers great control, power and feel. It has vibration dampening technology offering an arm friendly option. It has a fiberflex surface offering a confident hold on the ball. The Amped line really has it all.
I also would argue that out of all the paddle manufacturers that Selkirk hands down has the best quality. They are the OG's in the pickleball paddle world and it shows in the quality of the paddle they put out.
This paddle has so much right with it that it's no wonder why it's one of my favorite paddles under $150.
First off, quality. I love Selkirk for their quality but my second favorite paddles for quality control are the tennis racquet companies that have moved into the pickleball world as well. Listen, tennis has been around FOREVER. These companies know what they are doing! Even though they are new to the pickleball world they are going to put out a better product, with more research behind it then 95% of all the other companies.
Second, I love the texture on this paddle. It has way better texture then all other paddles in the $100 - $150 price range. Coming from a lifetime of playing tennis, having texture on a paddle is super important to me and a must. I want to be able to put spin on the ball and since paddles don't have strings that bite into the ball, texture is the only way to achieve that.
It also has a thicker core at 15mm so it is going to be an arm friendly option where the paddle absorbs most of the shock of the ball.
Best Paddles Under $200
We are almost there, top of the pickleball paddle food chain. We are at a budget now of $200 and this is when the big boys come out to play. We have some major competition at this price point. I have 3 paddles I really like at this price point for beginners, and LOTS of honorable mentions.
This paddle is THE REAL DEAL. It's the only paddle that we sell (out of any price point) to come with a lifetime warranty. That just speaks for the quality level I was talking about earlier with Selkirk.
There are many different models in the Vanguard line 2.0 line but the only two I would recommend for beginners are the S2 and Epic, just like the Amped line. These are going to have the most generous sweet spot for beginners.
Now let's talk a little more about this paddle. It has a quantum-carbonfiber and pro-spin texture face offering you unbeatable speed, control and spin. It also has a great core making it arm friendly and control oriented.
Have you had any type of arm injuries in the past? Maybe surgeries? A history of tennis elbow... or should I say, pickleball elbow? Of are you just trying to prevent any arm issues?
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above then this paddle is for you. It is HANDS DOWN the most arm-friendly paddle on the market. What makes it so arm-friendly you might ask? Sand! Yes, you read that right. This paddle (just like ProKennex Tennis Racquets) has a sand material in it. When you pick this paddle up give it a shake, you will hear what I am talking about. This technology absorbs the shock of the ball when it hits the paddle preventing the vibration from transferring to your arm.
It is a thinner paddle so this will also give you more power. Another unique thing about this paddle is that it is thin giving you amazing power but still arm friendly. Thinner paddles tend not to be arm friendly at all but because of ProKennex technology that doesn't apply to this paddle.
It has a good face size offering a generous sweet spot for beginners and more forgiveness.
I LOVE this line. Again, I think Head offers superior quality then other companies. I also like the fact that this line is arm friendly due to it's thicker core and also has great texture giving you both spin and control.
This whole line is very friendly for beginners with the face size of the paddle. The Gravity Tour (typically used by men due to its weight) and Gravity Tour Lite (typically used by women due to its weight) are great for players of all levels all the way from beginner to advanced. The Gravity Tour LH (stands for long handle) is also great for beginners but really ideal for tennis players coming into pickleball or people with a two handed back-hand.
The Gravity Tour SH is my FAVORITE. This is the perfect paddle for a beginner, period, end of story. The face on this paddle is HUGE, it would be almost impossible to miss the ball. Look at a photo of this paddle and you will see what I mean. Now, this paddle isn't for everyone because the handle is so short. Coming from a lifetime of playing tennis I thought this would be a big issue with me but to be honest I didn't even notice while playing. I love this paddle.
Best Paddles Under $250
Ok, here we are! Top of the pickleball paddle price point. The choices are a little slim once you get above $200 but there are some gems.
I could go on and on about why the Hyperion CFS paddle is great for players of all levels... from it's foam filled core to absorb the shock of the ball, textured face to give you more spin, generous sweet spot for more forgiveness, thicker core for more control... But all I really need to say is that Ben Johns designed this paddle himself to play with. If it's good enough for the #1 Pickleball Player in the world, then it's good enough for us!
The Pursuit line from Engage has been a hot seller since we first got them a few years ago. This paddle is a direct rival to the Selkirk Vanguard 2.0 line. I personally prefer the Vanguard 2.0 over the pursuit in terms of quality but the Engage definitely has the upper hand in cosmetics. Playability wise I find that they are extremely similar.
Engage has a lot of different shapes in this line but the two that I would recommend for a beginner are the Engage Pursuit MX 6.0 and the Engage Pursuit EX 6.0. These two will have the most generous sweet spot which is what you want/need as a beginner.
The MX has a longer handle then the EX so if you want that extra length from your handle you would want to go with that. They also both come in a 6.0 version... Engage Pursuit EX, Engage Pursuit EX 6.0, Engage Pursuit MX, and Engage Pursuit MX 6.0.
The 6.0 model offers a thicker core perfect for people looking for more control, feel and arm-friendliness. If you are wanting more power though go with the regular EX or MX.
Honorable Mentions: Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Paddle Line
Thanks for staying with me while we went down this crazy rabbit hole of pickleball paddles. There are so many great paddles on the market, these are just my favorite! Have fun out there and dink responsibly.