Pickleball paddles are not “one size fits all.” As you play and develop in the sport, you become more aware of technique and how a paddle can help you improve your game. It’s been shared during commentary of pro matches how Ben Johns is able to defeat an opponent using a flip flop instead of a paddle, but we all know that he’s an anomaly. The pickleball paddle scene is exploding- so many options in weight, thickness, handle length, surface, and colors!
There’s a plethora of research out there on pickleball paddles and please take time to explore before making a purchase. Your game and wallet will thank you. Obviously the weight, surface shape, and material are very important when choosing a paddle, but this article is going to take a slightly different “spin” on that research. Today, I will offer you information and suggestions about the best pickleball paddles for smaller hands.
When you’re holding onto that paddle, whether it be for a power or control shot, the point of contact to your hand is obviously the handle. Should a 6’ 3” player have the same paddle as a 5’ 3” player? Does it matter? Most likely those two players will have a different hand span, so they will hold onto the paddle in different ways. Although the same paddle could work for both in certain situations, it also may benefit a player with a smaller hand to purchase a paddle with a smaller grip.
If your hand is littler, you’ll more than likely gravitate toward a handle with a smaller grip circumference. Grip circumferences start around 4” and ranges all the way up to 4.5”. That may not seem like a big difference, but when holding onto that paddle- it is! A grip between 4 inches and 4-1/8” is ideal for a littler hand. The good news is, if you start smaller and want to add some cushion and circumference, you can always build up your handle with an overgrip. For more information on that, check out Never Underestimate an Overgrip.
So what exactly are some paddles that would be good for a smaller hand? One of narrowest handles will be found on Gearbox paddles. These actually measure UNDER the 4” circumference at 3-5/8”: the Gearbox GX6 Control Paddle and the Gearbox GX6 Power Paddle are both great options. For a slightly shorter handle with the same circumference, look into the Gearbox GX5 Control Paddle. These paddles have a soft feel in your hand, but can really pack a punch when hitting the ball. Some Gearbox owners also report that having this thinner handle can help with wrist action; especially in shots where they roll or add spin to the ball.
Getting a little bigger in circumference would the 4-1/8” range. Still perfect for a more compact grip. Diadem paddles fall into this category; the Diadem Warrior, the Diadem Icon, and even the Diadem Team paddles. With the Warrior, a 19mm core thickness gives the player an incredible solid and stable feel. Before the Warrior, this wasn’t achievable without an enormous grip, however, the Taper Tech molded handle has allowed the Warrior to have a comfortable and slim grip size. The Diadem Team paddles are perfect for players starting out in the wonderful world of pickleball. Not only do they offer the smaller grip size, which would be ideal for a younger player, they also come with a VERY affordable price tag.
Joola is making a huge entrance into the pickleball scene. One of the paddles they offer with a slimmer handle is the Soliare CFS 14. Not only is the grip size 4.13”, but the carbon-forged handle provides maximum flex for additional power and comfort. Also, anti-slip ridge grip creates an optimum hold performance. All of the Joola paddles have a similar handle feel; although the Vision and Hyperion measure in at 4-1/4” grip, they mold to your hand. In all honesty, I do not currently own a Joola, but my plan is to switch very soon. I played with the Hyperion today and felt so natural in the way I held the paddle- most of the time I have to remind myself during play to “loosen my grip” to nail those third shot drops and dinks. That was a non-issue when I held the Joola.
Picking the right paddle is a very personal choice. Remember, we are only focusing on one aspect right now. Finding that perfect handle has to pass the “Goldilocks” test- it has to be just right. If your grip is too small, you’re going to want to squeeze tighter to prevent slippage while playing. If your handle is too large for your hand, this can put stress on your wrist and arm. Both having a handle that is too small or too large can lead to stress, often resulting in pickleball elbow.
The best advice I can offer would be to get your hands on these paddles- literally. Try them out, see what feels best. Royal Pickleball has several ambassadors that can help you demo a paddle. Reach out to an ambassador in your area for more information. Playing a game with a paddle vs. reading about it can make all of the difference! Be aware of the pressure that you are putting on the handle. Can you relax your grasp without the paddle slipping around? Can you use your natural grip without having to readjust between points? We all know there are PLENTY of other aspects of pickleball to focus on without having to worry about how your paddle feels in your hand!