When it comes to pickleball paddles, there are two common materials you will see paddles made of, wood and aluminum. If you don’t know much about pickleball paddle materials, you may be wondering, what are the differences between the two materials? and which type is right for me? Here’s Wood vs Aluminum Pickleball Paddles.
A Brief History of Pickleball
Like many of the world’s great inventions, pickleball accidentally came about. Former congressman and lieutenant governor Joel Pritchard invented the game with his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum one afternoon at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA.
The group wanted to play badminton but could not find the shuttlecock. So they improvised. Finding a perforated plastic ball, they lowered the net to ground level and fashioned some impromptu paddles from leftover plywood.
In other words, they created the game by stitching elements from several different games: hard paddles like ping-pong, played on a badminton court with a tennis-style net using a Wiffle ball. This Frankenstein approach gave the sport its name.
According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”USApickleball.org
This earliest version of the game had no actual rules and simply provided a means to hit a ball back and forth over the net. Little by little, the activity gained structure, eventually establishing rules that cobbled together tennis and ping pong elements with a few minor tweaks.
From those humble beginnings, the sport has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, gaining the most popularity in the US and Canada. Barney McCallum founded the first official pickleball company Pickle-Ball, Inc., in 1972, fashioning the first wooden paddles using a bandsaw in his basement.
By 1976, the sport had gained nationwide popularity in the US, with Tennis magazine publishing an article called “America’s newest racquet sport.” The first tournament took place that year in Washington and has only grown from there.
In 1984 the first official Pickleball association was formed with the express intent to organize and grow the game. Today the sport is not just a hobby but a staple of physical education curricula across North America. Courts have begun to crop up in Europe and Asia as well.
What is the Best Pickleball Paddle Material?
Wood and aluminum are both popular materials for Pickleball paddles. I would like to note, though, that there isn’t a definite winner between the two. This is because the “best” material will depend on the person. Depending on play preferences and style, one material is better than the other.
Wood Pickleball Paddles
Before diving into wood vs aluminum pickleball paddles, we need to take a look at why you would want to purchase a wood pickleball paddle.
Wooden pickleball paddles are very durable; however, they’re heavy. This is why many people avoid wooden pickleball paddles these days, mainly because technology has surpassed wood as the material of choice for paddles. However, if you are new to pickleball and want to try it, wooden paddles are a good option. Also, if you have children who want to play, wooden paddles work well since they’re such durable options.
Additionally, if you want to have extra paddles on hand for guests or participate in clubs where you need to share a large number of paddles, wooden paddles are a good option since they’re inexpensive. However, suppose you’re an individual who plans to play pickleball on a regular basis. In that case, I recommend you don’t go with a wooden paddle and use a lighter graphite pickleball paddle instead.
Pros and Cons of Wooden Pickleball Paddles
There are some pros and cons of using wooden pickleball paddles. Here are some of the things you should consider before making a purchase:
- Wooden pickleball paddles tend to be less expensive than other options
- Wood pickleball paddles are more durable. They last longer than composite and graphite pickleball paddles
- Wooden pickleball paddles offer more power, which can help you return the ball easily
- Wooden paddles are heavier than graphite pickleball paddles. They tend to weigh around 10 ounces or more. This weight can put a significant strain on the wrist.
- It’s harder to control shots with wooden pickleball paddles
- Modern-day technology provides us with paddles that have unique features that can help you during a game
Aluminum Pickleball Paddles
Aluminum pickleball paddles feature a lightweight aluminum core shaped in a honeycomb design. The light weight of aluminum core pickleball paddles makes it one of the best options for players that want to exceed when at the net. Aluminum core pickleball paddles are much weaker than most other pickleball paddles you can purchase today. This is because of the lower weight of the material. Paddles with aluminum cores are terrific options for players with finesse and who are willing to sacrifice power for control.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum Pickleball Paddles
Many pickleball players prefer an aluminum core pickleball paddle for a variety of reasons. Although the aluminum portion of the paddle is light and rigid, the paddle itself provides exceptional levels of touch and feel.
- Graphite paddles are more light and rigid than other paddles. This is good because it provides a softer touch when it comes in contact with the ball.
- Aluminum paddles are easier to swing. This is because they weigh 7.5 ounces, and Nomex paddles also weigh 7.5 ounces. So even though these paddles are the same weight, they won’t feel that way when you swing them. The aluminum paddles feel so lightweight because of the aluminum cores.
- Response and feel is something aluminum paddles are pretty good at; that’s also what makes them fun to play with!
- Their lightweight feel is great, but it does limit these paddles from providing enough power.
- This paddle is loud, not as loud as Nomex paddles, but still very loud. So if you have a noise ordinance in places you play, you may want to reconsider an aluminum core paddle.
- There aren’t tons of aluminum core paddles on the market. However, there are several to choose from. While this may seem like a good thing, this can be problematic because it can be very easy to get sucked into buying a paddle that looks good. It looks good, but it may not perform well.
Paddle Features to Keep in Mind
Of course, if you’re reading this article, you’re most likely looking specifically for information on wood vs aluminum pickleball paddles, so you may be okay with compromising in some areas. However, I’m still going to share other features you should keep in mind as you search for the right pickleball paddle.
If there’s one vital feature that you should pay attention to other than control, it’s weight. Weight determines how the paddle feels when you’re holding it and affects how well you swing.
Pickleball paddles can range significantly in this area, from six to fourteen ounces. Lightweight paddles are those under 7.3 ounces, while medium ranges from 7.3 ounces to 8.4 ounces. Anything over 8.5 is considered heavy.
Every pickleball player’s goal is to take accurate, controlled shots, and finding the proper grip is paramount to achieving that goal.
There is some debate about long vs. short grips. You’ll hear that longer grips offer more stability while shorter grips deliver greater control. But in our humble opinion, the grip should be neither too long nor too short. For most people, a good rule of thumb is that it is roughly the same size as your palm and comfortable to hold.
The paddle’s width is another feature to consider, as it influences how well you can hit the sweet spot. In most cases, paddle width should not exceed twenty-four inches.
Some pickleball paddles have edge guards or protection for the edge of the paddle against chips and damage. Most people prefer medium-sized edge guards, though others use large sizes, increasing the hitting surface. The trade-off with large edge guards is that the pickleball paddle’s weight increases, which may not be something you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know wood vs aluminum pickleball paddles, you may still have a few questions. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or have some pickleball experience. You should learn as much as you can about paddles.
Here are some common paddle questions.
How Long Do Paddles Last?
The lifespan of a paddle depends on the materials and construction. For example, if the paddle’s interior is thin and the exterior is too smooth, your paddle may not be suitable for long-term use. However, it can be good to get you started.
You should also consider the area between the paddle and handle crucial. That can be a weak spot on a lot of paddles, and that can cause your paddle to break even when the surface is still usable.
If possible, feel the paddle and inspect the edges and the handle. Then, you can determine if it’s durable enough to last through many games.
What Paddles Give You More Power?
Heavier paddles have the most power. While lightweight paddles can be easier to hold and maneuver, they won’t be as strong.
You can also look for super-heavy-weight paddles for even more power. But if you just need an average amount of that, you can get a medium-weight paddle.
What Paddles Offer More Control?
While a larger paddle is more powerful, you may sacrifice control. Smaller and lighter paddles are better for players who need to respond quickly in a game.
You should look for a lightweight or medium-weight paddle for more control. A smaller head can help reduce the overall weight so that you can have more control over your shots.
Can a Good Paddle Help a Beginner?
Many things can help beginner pickleball players, and the right gear is essential. You don’t need the most expensive paddle, but you need a good quality one that won’t break the first time you use it.
As a beginner, you may want to start with a lighter paddle. While it won’t be as powerful, it won’t strain your wrist. Once you play more, you can decide if you want a heavier, more powerful paddle.
How Should You Hold Your Paddle?
While playing, try to keep your paddle near your chest. That will help improve your reaction time so you can make more shots early.
You should also consider stretching before you play. Many pickleball injuries are preventable by warming up. Start by walking or jogging around the court, then stretch your wrists and arms to help avoid fatigue.
Make sure your paddle feels comfortable and secure in your hand. If the handle feels too short, you may not have the best pickleball paddle. On the other hand, it shouldn’t feel like you have to strain to hold the paddle securely.
Pickleball is a unique sport that is more accessible to a broader audience than other forms of exercise. This sport combines elements from badminton, tennis, and ping-pong in an easy-to-understand manner. This makes it suitable for those in a wheelchair, mature adults, and families with members of all ages.
The decision can be difficult if you’re trying to choose between Wood vs Aluminum pickleball paddles. Despite the similarities between both, the two are starkly different when it comes to gameplay. Whether you choose wood or graphite, you’re bound to improve how you play over time. Both paddle options offer an ideal way to enhance striking power and grip strength.
Hopefully, this guide helped you understand Wood vs Aluminum pickleball paddles. Do you have a graphite or fiberglass pickleball paddle? If so, what do you think of it? Please let us know in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!
Looking for more? Here are some other articles I put together:
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