It’s 2023, and everyone’s playing pickleball. And with so many new people playing the sport, there are tons of paddle options flooding the market as companies old and new rush to get a piece of the pie.
While that’s awesome to see, this phenomenon also has its pitfalls. Because there are literally hundreds of paddles available that simply aren’t good. And unsavvy buyers are gobbling them up, unknowingly.
You don’t want to be unsavvy, of course. And you definitely don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on a mediocre paddle.
You also don’t want to make researching pickleball paddles a full-time job. You just want to get out on the court with an awesome paddle that totally wows you and helps you fall even more in love with pickleball.
Which is why you’re here. Smart move! Because I do make researching and testing paddles a full-time job (don’t worry, I love it). And I have some excellent, well-curated paddles on this list for you that I’ve hand-picked after testing dozens of paddles over hundreds of hours.
How I compiled this list
I collect and test pickleball paddles daily while keeping up to date on what other paddle enthusiasts are playing with. As a result, I have a deep understanding of a wide range of paddles, from beginner-friendly to advanced.
For this best beginner paddle post, I’m focusing my selections around a handful of paddle characteristics that will best support beginning pickleball players.
Beginner paddle characteristics I look for include:
- Quality. Beginner is not synonymous with cheap. Most cheap paddles aren’t great performers, and beginners benefit from a paddle that performs well. If you purely want a cheap paddle, you should check out my best paddles under $50 post. The best paddle from that post did make this list, but the rest of the paddles on this list are above $50. Many on this list occupy my best paddles under $100 rankings.
- Controllability. A paddle with strong control is essential for beginner players. You’ll need to learn how to dink, drop, and avoid pop-ups as you learn the ropes. I prefer thicker paddles for beginners for this reason, as they’re more easily controlled than thinner paddles. All of the paddles on this list provide solid control.
- Comfort and balance. You of course want a paddle that feels good in hand. You also want a paddle that’s balanced and not too light, too heavy, or top-heavy.
- High spin production. Now, I don’t think that a beginning pickleball player should necessarily be trying to put a ton of spin on the ball right out of the gate. But a paddle that produces spin with ease will make adding small amounts of spin to shots naturally, helping you learn how spin affects the game.
Now, let’s move ahead and dive straight into my list of the top 5 top beginner paddles for 2023.
1. Ronbus R1/R2/R3
- Price: $120 ($100 with code DASHPB)
- Paddle type: All-court
- Where it excels: Feel, sweet spot, control, spin, weight, balance, price
- What it lacks: The power output of a thermoformed paddle
- Read the full Ronbus R1.16 Review
Ronbus is a newer paddle company that’s been garnering favor for selling outstanding paddles at affordable prices.
Ronbus’s original R.16mm paddle line continues to be my go-to recommendation for beginner players that want top-notch quality without breaking the bank.
The Ronbus has excellent control, spin, and plenty of power. It has a large sweet spot that’s forgiving for beginner players, limiting points lost through mishits. I’ve recommended this paddle to a lot of new players and have only heard positive things.
The paddle comes in three shapes:
- The R1.16 is the most popular. It comes with a rounded aerodynamic shape that’s quick in hand.
- The R3.16 is a more traditionally shaped elongated paddle that gives a bit of extra reach with a higher sweet spot.
- The R2.16 is a less popular shape that’s shorter and wider. It has a large sweet spot and most resembles a ping pong paddle.
You can pick up the R.16 line paddles with a $20 discount using code DASHPB.
At $100 with a code, the Ronbus R.16 line rivals last year’s most popular paddle, the $220 Joola Hyperion CFS. I prefer my Ronbus over the Joola. The Ronbus is that good.
2. Vatic Pro Prism V7/Flash
$99.99($89.99 with code DASHPB)
- Paddle type: All-court/Elongated
- Where it excels: Top-tier spin, control, and build quality, length for reach
- What it lacks: Thermoformed power
- Read the full Vatic Pro Prism V7 Review
- Read the full Vatic Pro Prism Flash Review
Vatic Pro exploded into the pickleball paddle scene in late 2022. After experiencing huge success with their thermoformed paddles, Vatic released one of the best paddle lines for beginners in 2023: the Flash Paddle series.
The Vatic Pro Prism line uses some of the latest and greatest tech, including a unibody build, foam-injected edges, and a premium Toray T700 carbon-fiber paddle face. And Vatic somehow is selling these for under $90 with a discount code. This is an absolute deal for such a high-quality paddle.
The Prism paddles are plush and controllable, which is perfect for newer players while offering high durability and a raw carbon fiber paddle face that delivers top-tier spin.
The Prism line includes two paddles: the elongated Prism V7 and the hybrid-shaped Flash. The V7 is an elongated paddle with great reach and power, while the Flash’s rounded hybrid shape is excellent for hand speed.
Just like the Ronbus R1.16, the Prism series directly competes with the premium Joola Hyperion CFS. And, like the Ronbus, its performance is right up there with the Joola while being $130 cheaper.
3. Niupipo Explorer
- Paddle type: All-court
- Core thickness: 13mm
- Total Length: 16″
- Grip length: 5.24″
- Grip size: 4.5″
- Avg. Weight: 8.0 oz
- View on Amazon
The Niupipo Explorer is a budget paddle that’s a perfect fit for beginners who want to keep their spending as long as possible without sacrificing quality.
It features a honeycomb core, a fiberglass face, and a wide body that provides above-average sweet-spot performance.
While the paddle is cheap (under $35 with the current coupon on Amazon), it won’t perform as solidly for most beginners as the other paddles on this list.
This is in part due to its thinner core (13mm) and fiberglass face. While providing excellent pop and power, these attributes make it a more difficult-to-control paddle. It’s best suited for more confident beginners that favor an aggressive style of play.
It’s also worth noting that the Niupipo Explorer features a large grip size, which makes it unideal for players with smaller hands.
Overall, the Explorer is a solid paddle, and by far the best in its price range. It is a great step up from your standard low-cost beginner paddle.
4. Hudef Viva Pro
$99($89 with code DASHPB)
- Paddle type: Power/All-court/Elongated
- Where it excels: Power, pop, spin, touch, long handle
- What it lacks: The forgiving control of a non-thermoformed paddle
- Read the full Hudef Viva Pro Review
Thermoformed paddles have become quite the rage in 2023. Many are hitting the market and their power and versatility make them a popular choice for pickleball players.
I wasn’t sure that I’d be recommending any thermoformed paddles on this list, as they are typically quite expensive and best suited for intermediate to advanced players.
But, the Viva Pro paddle that was recently released is an excellent choice for beginners looking to purchase a powerful and capable paddle.
The Viva Pro is a second-generation raw carbon fiber paddle. 2nd Gen. paddles are hot-molded unibody thermoformed with edge-foam injection and a T700 raw carbon fiber face. Gen. 2 paddles offer more power than their raw carbon fiber predecessors.
Hudef’s Viva Pro paddle is the best paddle for beginner pickleball players because it has a soft enough touch for beginners to control the ball with and, at $89 with code DASHPB, it isn’t going to break the bank.
It’s the cheapest thermoformed paddle on the market and is perfect for a beginner that wants to add power to their game without sacrificing the development of their control game.
5. Joola Essentials
- Paddle type: All-court
- Core thickness: 12mm
- Total Length: 15.5″
- Grip length: 4.75″
- Grip size: 4″
- Avg. Weight: 8.2 oz
- View on Amazon
Boasting a number of sponsored players, Joola has quickly become a household name in pickleball. The Joola Essentials paddle is an affordable well-constructed honeycomb paddle that’s excellent for beginner players.
Its fiberglass surface gives it plenty of power and pop. It does lack spin and has a small handle that’s best for players with smaller hands that do not favor double-handed backhands.
How to Choose a Beginner Pickleball Paddle
Pickleball paddles vary a lot in materials, lengths, grip lengths/sizes, and of course, price.
As a beginning player, you’ll want to pick a paddle that’s best for you based on a number of factors.
Your style of play is important to consider when making a choice. Do you like the soft finesse game that focuses on dinking and precise shot placement? Then a control paddle is a great choice for you.
Or are you a power player that wants to overwhelm your opponent with speed and hard-driving shots? A power paddle will serve you well.
You also want to assess any special needs, such as paddles that give you some extra reach if you are shorter, or paddles that reduce vibration if you suffer from tennis elbow.
Of course, price plays a role. It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend $100 investing in a sport that you’ve only just started playing. My personal take, though, is that you should pay to get get a paddle that helps you perform your best as a beginning player.
You can always sell a paddle if you decide that you don’t like it. There are many pickleball paddle buy/sell Facebook groups, for example.
As your skills grow, you might decide to upgrade to an intermediate paddle. You can read my post here for a list of the best pickleball paddles for intermediate players.
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- Beginner Pickleball Tips to Upgrade Your Game (2.0-3.0+)
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- Worst Pickleball Tips – Ignore Them to Improve Your Game
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