Jump on the Pickleball Bandwagon With One of These Actually Pretty Paddles
Turn heads on the courts with chic checks and bright stripes.
Published Jun 7, 2023 1:00 AM
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Not long after interior designer Leanne Ford dropped pickleball paddles in her signature monochromatic flourish, we knew it was time to get behind the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. Pickleball participation has doubled since 2022, and Ford’s collection quickly became a Domino bestseller. Ever since, new design-forward paddles have popped up in droves. So if you’ve decided this is your year to finally take to the courts (or you’re on the lookout for fancier gear), we’ve put together a growing list of brands offering actually chic equipment, from classic checkerboard prints to pastel palettes, and even matching balls and bags, below.
Material: Fiberglass | Dimensions: 15.67-by-7.8 inches or 16.5-by-7.5 inches | Price: $$–$$$
What we like:
- 20-plus designs to choose from
- Offers cool collaborations (but they quickly sell out!)
- A few fun color choices in an elongated paddle style
- Free 30-day return window
- A bit pricey
Why we chose it: Our top pick for fresh pattern choices, and you can always count on a new collab.
Based in Austin, Recess could be pegged as the turbocharge behind cool pickleball gear, thanks to its bright striped and print-covered paddles. But aside from its original stock, we now keep tabs on the brand for its designer collaborations following its partnership with Leanne Ford. (Note: Expect these to cost a little more.) The latest limited-edition releases include India Hicks, Gray Malin, and customizable furniture brand the Inside’s best-selling painterly print, Jade Cherry Blossom. It’s become so popular that you can shop the paddles at a range of design-leaning retailers aside from Recess’s own website, including Anthropologie (where it’s in such demand, the two colors are on back order), Free People, Sugar Paper, and more. All of the collab-focused creations are intended for casual play with the classic paddle, but there are a few simplified designs for intermediate players looking to up their game, too. The 512, for example, is a little longer with a grip size of 5.6 inches.
Material: Fiberglass | Dimensions: 15.65-by-7.7 inches | Price: $$–$$$
What we like:
- Build your own set for a discount
- Customizable options, down to monogramming your matching bag
- Ideal for beginners
Why we chose it: For a preppy, bold stripe, we turn to Tangerine.
Chunky, ombré, graphic—if your go-to pattern is stripes, we recommend shopping from Tangerine’s straightforward collection. Our favorites include Northeast Harbor for a cheerful dose of sunshiny yellow (first covered as a Friday Fave) and Provincetown’s Pendleton-like appeal. The brand was created to provide a casual-chic option for family-friendly fun, making it a great choice for first-timers, especially considering reviewers describe the paddles as being “lightweight” and having a “buttery soft grip.” Our favorite feature is the fact that you can opt to complete the whole look by bundling your purchase with a matching canvas bag in similar colors; it offers up a plethora of functional pockets and compartments to store water bottles and sunscreen, too.
Material: Fiberglass | Dimensions: 17.4-by-8.39 inches | Price: $$–$$$
What we like:
- Ships with free canvas tote bag
- Option for extended handle size
- Limited design choices and palette
Why we chose it: A compliment magnet that’s actually used by intermediate to advanced players.
Picklish’s paddles aren’t scooped up just for looks. An extended-grip handle means these are designed for more advanced players in mind, and the polymer core offers “great power and control” that one shopper comments has proven “better than all my friends’ paddles, and they’ve been pickling for about a year.” The $80 price tag is worth it if you really care about how cute your paddle is, and reviewers share that the splurge coincides with the number of compliments they’re guaranteed to receive wherever they play.
Material: Carbon fiber | Dimensions: 17.4-by-8.39 inches | Price: $$–$$$
What we like:
- Female-founded brand
- Classic and pro paddles
- Also available on Amazon
- Pro paddles aren’t as aesthetic
- Only 4 designs
Why we chose it: Playful patterns that serve up serious retro vibes.
For punchy palettes, Nettie takes the cake. The brand was born out of the pandemic, and you can choose between four quirky graphics that nod to the 1960s origin of the sport. Dubbed a “double threat,” one reviewer writes, “These look and play great on the court.” Another adds, “Stylish fun for the whole family! The paddles are great; have a comfortable grip; and are softer, fun, and distinctive-looking.” And if you go all in on a set, you can also pick up sweatbands and a pack of four balls—and save $100.
Material: Graphite, carbon fiber | Dimensions: 16.5-by-7.5 inches or 15.75-by-7.8 inches | Price: $–$$
What we like:
- Affordable for the quality
- Pro series, performance, and sport options that are tournament-ready
- Top-performing paddles have limited styles
Why we chose it: Performance paddles in designs that don’t lean too sporty—all priced under $100.
If you’ve been playing pickleball for a while, we’d wager that you’re ready to make an upgrade to your paddle of choice. We’ve noticed that most premium paddles promise to improve power, spin, or control but are less good-looking. Holbrook products, however, are more subdued and include a few subtle patterns that promise not to interfere with play. The Mav Pro, with a thickness choice between 13 and 16 millimeters, is the clear favorite of shoppers. And as one reviewer so aptly puts it, “This is one of those paddles that feels perfect from the first moment you pick it up. Perfect balance of control and power. Perfect grip comfort. If you’re looking for something new, the Mav Pro is definitely worth a try.”
Material: Carbon fiber | Dimensions: 15.55-by-7.9 inches | Price: $$$–$$$$
What we like:
- Long handle
- Trendy color scheme
- Simplified choices that can also be personalized
- Most expensive option on our list
Why we chose it: The two paddles to choose from are simple, streamlined, and sophisticated.
Short Court only makes a couple of designs but does them well. Appealing specifically to the tennis-turned-pickleball crowd, these paddles come in a reversible color combo of mint and grass green paired with a white or black border and grip. “A very well-made paddle that is comfortable to play with. The textured surface, size, and weight make it a great paddle for all levels of players,” one review reads. Another shares, “These are solid paddles that perform well and are so classy-looking, you enjoy picking them up to go play.” Multiple others agree that these come well packaged, intriguing them to try out additional gear on offer, from the embroidered tote to the short grips.
Material: Fiberglass | Dimensions: 15.5-by-7.8 inches | Price: $$–$$$
What we like:
- Fast shipping
- Fun range of playful designs
- Classic and performance options
- Some shoppers warn they’re on the heavier side
- May scuff easily
Why we chose it: For play that feels like vacation.
For a lot of us, recreational activities are the epitome of rest and relaxation. If that’s the vibe you’re looking for when picking up your pickleball paddle, On Holiday was made for you. Each of its six colorways embody a popular destination—Palma, Casablanca, Havana, Cabo, Ibiza, and Monte Carlo—and include a branded grip for more power behind a swing and tan tape. Our favorite review reads: “My mom started playing pickleball this year; I bought her this and she went bananas.”
More Pickleball Paddles We Love
How We Chose These Products
When putting together our list of the best pickleball paddles, we went for brands offering a range of actually chic designs. We prioritized patterns and color palettes atypical in the sports world, so our picks are geared toward more casual, recreational play versus professional competitions, but still had to come approved and tested by the USA Pickleball Association. (The group does include more than a few brands that offer the best of both worlds, but design is the name of our game.) As far as materials go, we tried to stick to paddles made from either fiberglass, carbon fiber, or graphite as a measurement of quality, and referenced reviews of shoppers who’ve successfully played with the paddles IRL to ensure our favorite looks delivered on both form and function. We recommend checking back here often, as we plan to keep this one updated when new products inevitably pop up.
Our Shopping Checklist
Materials and Shape
In comparison to your standard tennis racket, the shape of a pickleball paddle is smaller yet not as teeny as those used for ping-pong. Most on our list are made from some sort of composite material and finished with a cushiony foam bottom all wrapped up in grippy tape. While this guide focuses almost exclusively on how the carbon fiber, fiberglass, or graphite surface of these pickleball paddles look, nearly every single one of our favorites does come equipped with a honeycomb core. The main differences in construction comes down to whether you’re an advanced player, looking for something a bit more professional, or totally cool with a casual tool designed to work for all skill levels.
Storage and Care
In-between matches, brands recommend storing the paddles covered. Most ship with a canvas case, and there are plenty of travel-friendly bags you can buy. (Just make sure you don’t slide it into the same pocket that houses your keys or something sharp that could scratch the face.)
Brands also recommend giving your paddle a regular cleaning; the grippy handle, especially if it’s in a light-hued shade, can quickly discolor over time from sweat, dirt, and grime. Simply wipe it down with a towel before stashing it away.
Q: How long do paddles last?
Depending on how often you play and maintain the paddle, it can last anywhere from one to five years, according to paddle manufacturer Selkirk.
Q: Where can I play pickleball?
If your local park doesn’t have a pickleball court—the Places 2 Play database is a great resource to find somewhere near you with permanent lines and/or nets—you can transform any hard, flat surface that’s about 30-by-60 feet (as recommended by the U.S. Pickleball Association) into one if you have a pop-up net.
The Last Word
Everyone and their mother is playing pickleball these days, so don’t get left behind—there are plenty of chic paddle choices and new styles drop all the time, so there’s no better time than the present to get in on the craze. Case in point: Soon after debuting India Hicks’s limited-edition patterns, Recess released paddles adorned with Gray Malin’s famous photos of beachgoers just in time for summer. Now it’s easy to show up to play with a personal paddle this season.