4 Best Pickleball Paddles For Outdoor Fun

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Chances are you’ve seen the courts popping up at local parks, campgrounds, or community centers. (It’s the sport that looks a little like ping-pong and a little like tennis.) But what exactly is pickleball and how do you play? Consider this your pickleball primer.

The Backstory

Pickleball was invented on a rainy summer day in 1965. “It was strictly an accident,” says Barney McCallum, one of the game’s inventors. A few families had gathered for a picnic at a cabin on Bainbridge Island and the pent-up kids were driving their parents a little crazy. Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell handed the kids a set of ping-pong paddles along with a ball and suggested they play on the badminton court outside.

A long time later, the kids hadn’t come back. When the adults went to check on them, the kids were still playing happily on the badminton court. For the parents, that set some ideas in motion. McCallum went home that night and built new paddles that were slightly bigger and heavier than ping-pong paddles. When the group went back to play the next day, they lowered he badminton net and created the initial rules for the game. It was an instant neighborhood hit.

After that, the game quickly spread by word-of-mouth and by 1976, it gained national attention when Tennis magazine pronounced it “America’s newest racquet sport.” Almost a decade later, the sport had its own governing body for the first time—the USA Pickleball Association. Today, it’s estimated that more than 400,000 people play the sport at schools, community centers, parks, and senior centers around the country. Want to be one of them? Read on!

The Game

Pickleball was inspired by other racquet-based games (tennis, table tennis, and badminton). For a detailed guide to the rules, head here. Otherwise, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Pickleball is played on a hard court that has the same dimensions as a badminton court. (That’s 20′ by 44.’) You can set up a pickleball court on a tennis court using a temporary net (Two pickleball courts fit inside one tennis court) or you can find a place near you with designated courts. Here’s an easy way to search.
  • Pickleball can be played as singles but doubles is more common. The rules and playing area are the same no matter what.
  • Each player needs a pickleball paddle, which is larger than a ping-pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racquet. You’ll also need a ball. (More on gear below!)
  • Like tennis, pickleball begins with a diagonal serve, but unlike tennis, the serve must be underhand. The serve must also bounce on each side of the net before the ball is considered in play. (This is called the “no volley” rule.)
  • Teams can only score points when they have the serve. The first team to 11 wins.

The Gear

When choosing the best pickleball paddles, the three most important factors to consider are weight, grip, and shape.

  • Weight: Paddle weights range from 6-14 ounces. The right weight for you is a matter of personal preference but consider that lighter weight paddles offer more control and are easier on the wrist and elbow, while heavier weight paddles offer more power and allow for deeper shots.
  • Grip: Ideal grip size is usually related to height. Pickleball Central has a helpful guide for figuring out the right grip for you.
  • Shape: These days there are two pickleball paddle shapes: wide-body (classic) or elongated paddles. The latter is a newer design and is usually for more experienced players.

This set from Amazin’ Aces gives you and a partner everything you need for your first game (except for an opponent): two graphite/polymer paddles, four balls, and a carrying cases.

This pair of graphite paddles come with soft-grip handles are all lightweight for easy handling.

Though many paddles today are made from graphite or composites, the first pickleball paddles were made from wood like these. This 4-paddle set (ball included) is great for beginners from kids to seniors.

This single paddle is made of graphite and comes with a sweat-resistant grip and neoprene carrying case.

This elongated paddle is for more experienced players. Its provides players with extra reach and greater precision in angled shots.


Looking for more outdoor fun? Check out our guide to 5 Fun Outdoor Games For Camping