In the last few years, all across the U.S., pickleball courts have been popping up left and right — and rightfully so. The sport, which is somewhat akin to a giant game of pingpong or a tiny game of tennis, is incredibly fun, it's highly accessible for all ages, and let's be real: it's a ton of fun. So if you're thinking of getting into it this summer, we spoke to pickleball expert Katy Luxem, the CEO of Big Dill Pickleball, on the best pickleball paddles for all levels.
What is pickleball?
Pickleball involves a small court, paddles, and a plastic ball with holes in it.
It was invented in 1965 near Seattle, according to USA Pickleball. You can play singles or doubles, and it starts with the ball being served with an underhand swing, diagonally, to the opposite service square. On the first serve, it must first bounce once. Then, you can hit it back and fourth, only volleying from 7 feet from the net, and only letting it bounce one time, max.
The server continues serving for the entire game, alternating sides each time until someone wins.
Pickleball scoring isn't nearly as confusing as scoring for tennis is — each game is scored by the serving team, and each game is generally played until someone gets to 11 points (with each win earning 1 point). But, there's a catch. The winning team must be up by at least 2 points, meaning if it's a close game, you'll have to kick it into high gear, to get that W.
How to decide which pickleball paddle is right for you:
When you're looking to buy your first paddle, Luxem says the best paddle for beginners isn't the priciest — it matches your abilities and playing style.
"The Big Dill Pickleball Co. Original Paddle or Big Dill Pickleball Co. Infinity Paddle are both great options because they are USA Pickleball approved and are a step up from basic paddles," she tells us. "They're lightweight, comfortable in your hand for all ages, and can grow with you from beginner to tournament-level play."
Each type of paddle is made from different materials, and she says each type works for different playing styles. As a pro, Luxem opts for the textured Flight Pro XL — but each one is great for varying reasons.
"Our Infinity paddle is ideal for power and pop because it's made of fiberglass and has a wide-body design," she says. "Our Original paddle is great for controlled shots, dinking, and durability because it's made of carbon fiber."
"Our high-end Flight Pro XL is made of special, rough-surface composite fiberglass and it has extra length, making it ideal for spin, grip, and reach," she adds. "Our wooden paddle sets are perfect for casual players, such as families and kids that play a few times per year."
So regardless of the brand, keep in mind that each type is good for different players — pricey doesn't make for a great game. Other brands we love include Recess Pickleball, Play Nettie, and Play Paddles.
Looking to improve your game? Look no further.
Luxem says that while some may get caught up in getting stylin' gear, what matters most to improve your game is your mindset.
"Pickleball gear is cool, of course, but in the end, the gear doesn't make the player. It's the other way around. What makes you a better pickleballer is straight-up practice and attitude," she says.
Make sure to keep cool, learn from others, and most importantly, have fun.
"To improve your game, go for consistency and control. Most points are made off someone else's mistake, not an amazing shot," she adds. "I love to meet and play with all kinds of people and my favorite partners are always encouraging, friendly, and have the basics (like third-shot drops) nailed. Lastly, don't forget to have fun! That's why we all got into pickleball in the first place."