Starting Pickleball? Here's The ONLY Gear You Really Need

Starting Pickleball? Here’s the ONLY Gear You Really Need

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The basic equipment needed to play pickleball includes a pickleball paddle, pickleball, and a pickleball net. Paddles are typically made of lightweight materials like graphite or composite polymers. Balls have holes and come in indoor and outdoor varieties.

Nets are similar to tennis nets but lower – 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. Courts can be lined on any hard surface. While special shoes aren’t required, court shoes provide needed traction and support. With just a paddle, ball and net, pickleball can be played anywhere by people of all ages and abilities.

What is the Minimal Gear to Start Playing Pickleball?

When you’re first learning pickleball, you don’t need much gear – just the essential equipment to get up and running. Here’s a look at the bare minimum items to play:

Pickleball Paddle

You can’t play the game without a paddle! Pickleball paddles are roughly the size of ping pong paddles, but have a larger surface area. Paddles are lightweight, weighing between 7 and 14 ounces. Many recreational paddles weigh around 8 ounces. Materials vary, with graphite, polymer, fiberglass and wood options. Look for a wider grip size of 4 1/4 inches if you are new to pickleball. Paddles run anywhere from $20 for basic wooden ones up to $150+ for high-end graphite. But you can find quality starter paddles for under $50.

Pickleballs

You’ll need official pickleballs to smack back and forth. The plastic balls have a distinctive perforated surface and range from .78 to .935 ounces. Indoor balls are made of quieter material. Outdoor balls stand up to pavement and wind. A pack of 3 costs around $5-10.

Portable Pickleball Net

To divide the playing area, you need a pickleball net. Nets are 20 feet wide and hang at a height of 34 inches at center court. Complete portable net systems start around $60. Some attach to existing tennis nets. Others use a lightweight aluminum or steel frame with easy setup.

Smooth Surface

Pickleball is typically played on any hard, flat surface at least 20 x 44 feet in size. Driveways, basketball courts, tennis courts, and playground blacktop all work well. You can even DIY-paint temporary pickleball court lines if needed. Indoors, set up a net on any gym or multipurpose room floor.

With just these 4 items – paddle, balls, net and surface – you’re ready to start learning the basics of pickleball!

Shoes

Specialized pickleball shoes are not essential when you’re first learning. However, sturdy court shoes with good traction do enhance performance and safety on the court once you start playing more. Opt for cross trainers or tennis shoes over running shoes, which lack the needed lateral support. Expect to spend $50-100 for quality athletic court shoes.

Pickleball Gear for Serious Beginners

Once you’ve gotten a taste of pickleball and want to up your game, investing in a few additional pieces of equipment can help take your skills to the next level.

Better Pickleball Paddle

As your skills progress, you’ll benefit from a higher quality, more responsive pickleball paddle. Look for a midweight (8 oz) or lightweight (7 oz) graphite or fiberglass/polymer paddle with a comfortable, tacky grip. Paddles in the $50-100 range will offer improved power, control and durability. Brands like Pickleball Central, Gamma, Selkirk, Onix and EXceed are excellent mid-priced options.

More Durable Outdoor Balls

Outdoor pickleballs hold up better under intense play. The Dura Fast 40 is a top-selling outdoor ball, resisting dents and holding its shape longer. Expect to pay around $20 for a dozen high-end outdoor balls.

Carrying Case

A dedicated pickleball paddle bag lets you safely transport your paddle and balls to the court. Look for a case with padded interior protection and storage for multiple paddles, balls, gear and water bottles. Prices range from $15 for basic bags to $50+ for larger wheeled bags.

Court Shoes

Once you’re playing pickleball regularly, the right athletic shoes make a huge difference in comfort, support and preventing injury. For pickleball, cross trainers or tennis shoes are best. Opt for a flexible sole with adequate heel support. Traction should grip the court well while allowing quick side-to-side movements. Expect to spend $75-150 for high performance court shoes tailored to pickleball.

Comfort Gear

For longer pickleball sessions, comfort items like kneepads, gel insoles, compression braces, sweatbands and gloves help prevent aches and pains while wicking away moisture. These affordable extras range from $5-30 each. A bucket hat also keeps the sun off your face during outdoor play.

With the right starter gear and a few upgrades as you progress, you’ll be ready to impress opponents with your pickleball skills in no time!

Pickleball Paddle Guide for Beginners

Choosing your first pickleball paddle can be confusing given the array of materials, weights, shapes, and price points available. Follow this guide to select a great starter paddle that matches your skill level and budget.

What Attributes Should I Look For In a Beginner Pickleball Paddle?

For new pickleball players, opt for a midweight (8oz) or lightweight (7oz) paddle. Heavier paddles require more strength and control. Lighter paddles provide added maneuverability and quickness. Look for a wider paddle face up to 8 inches for more reach and power. Edgeless paddle designs significantly increase the sweet spot and forgive off-center hits. An oversized grip around 4 1/4 inches makes holding the paddle easier. Finally, choose economical materials like polymer or wood to keep costs down. Advanced carbon fiber paddles come later!

What Are the Best Materials for a Beginner Pickleball Paddle?

Here are the common materials based from least to most expensive:

  • Wood – The most affordable but least durable option. All-wood paddles range from $20-40. Great for kids and recreational sessions.
  • Polymer (plastic) – Combined with fiberglass or aluminum, polymers create a lightweight, budget-friendly paddle resistant to wear. Around $40-70.
  • Polymer Composite – Fiberglass or graphite fibers fused with polymer resins for increased pop and lighter weight. $50-100.
  • Aluminum – Found on tiny travel paddles or heavier-duty budget paddles. Durable but may dent. Under $50.
  • Fiberglass – A step up from aluminum or polymer alone. Mixed with resin for lightweight power. $50-100 range.
  • Graphite – The gold standard for better players. Offers superior pop and touch. $90-150+

For beginners, polymer composite and entry-level fiberglass paddles offer a sweet spot of value, weight, control and durability. Advanced graphite comes later as skills improve.

How Much Should I Budget for My First Pickleball Paddle?

Expect to spend $40-100 for a quality, beginner-friendly pickleball paddle. Here’s what you can find at different price points:

  • $20-40 – Very basic wooden paddles. Super budget polymer or aluminum. Best for young kids.
  • $40-60 – Decent polymer or fiberglass/aluminum-mix paddles. Good for occasional play.
  • $60-80 – Better polymer or entry composite paddles. Preferred for regular play.
  • $80-120 – Quality composite or fiberglass paddles. Responsive for advancing players.
  • $120-150 – High-end composite/fiberglass or entry graphite. For experienced players.

While costlier graphite paddles tempt new players, cheaper polymer composite or fiberglass paddles suit beginner needs until skills develop and weaknesses identify. Don’t over-spend until your game matures!

How Do I Find the Right Pickleball Paddle Size and Weight?

Follow these tips to find your optimal paddle size and weight:

  • Length – Look for a paddle face 2-3 inches wider than your handspan, typically 7 1⁄2 – 8 1⁄4 inches long. Extra length = extra power!
  • Weight – Midweight 8 oz paddles suit most beginners. Heavy paddles tire your arm. Super lightweight lacks control. Shoot for 7 to 8.5 ounces.
  • Grip Size – Measure from the base of your palm across your fingers. For pickleball, add 1⁄4 inch. Typical grip sizes run 4 to 4 1⁄2 inches in circumference.
  • Grip Shape – Oval grips allow forehand and backhand shots without repositioning your grip. Avoid sharply angled handles better suited to tennis.

Don’t obsess perfection initially. Comfort and control matter most. Test different paddles to find your best fit, then upgrade from there.

Top Pickleball Paddle Brands for Beginners

All major pickleball brands offer paddles tailored to new players. Here are some top manufacturers to consider at entry-level price points:

  • Amazin’ Aces – The Echo line provides fiberglass paddles under $60. Good for recreational play.
  • Engage – The Encore line features affordable, lightweight composite designs. Under $100.
  • Gamma – Their Fusion paddles blend control and touch for beginners. $60-80 range.
  • Onix – The Starter series offers fiberglass paddles sized right for newcomers. Around $50-70.
  • Pickleball Central – The Starter line includes budget-friendly graphite models like the Right Pickle. $60-80.
  • Rally – This brand focuses on user-friendly paddles for all levels like the Tyro Pro. $70-90.
  • Selkirk – The Amped S1 paddles provide an affordable graphite intro. Around $80.

While you’ll sacrifice some durability and precision at lower costs, these trusted brands deliver quality, control and usability perfect for beginners. Don’t pay extra until your skills demand a high-performance paddle.

Do I Really Need Special Pickleball Shoes as a Beginner?

Pickleball-specific shoes are not essential when first learning the game. However, the right athletic shoes do help maximize your performance and safety once you start playing more seriously. Here’s what to know about pickleball shoes for beginners:

  • Sturdy cross trainers provide the best combination of support, traction and protection for pickleball’s quick starts and stops.
  • Tennis shoes also work well, but some trail running shoes lack needed lateral support.
  • Avoid flat-bottom running shoes designed for straight ahead movements vs side-to-side play.
  • Opt for a flex groove sole and adequate heel cushioning. Traction should grip smooth courts.
  • While court shoes cost more, investing in quality aids progression and prevents injury as your skills and intensity increase. Expect to spend $50-150.
  • Cheaper general athletic shoes work initially for recreational play. But upgrade footwear as your feet and game get more seasoned.
  • Major brands like ASICS, New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Babolat and K-Swiss make shoes tailored specifically for the motions of pickleball.

So don’t worry about special footwear as a casual beginner. But soon enough, your toes will thank you for choosing shoes designed to meet the demands of pickleball!

Pickleball Clothing and Gear Tips for Beginners

Beyond the essential paddle, ball and net, what other gear and attire should beginner pickleball players have? Here are useful tips for new players on dressing comfortably plus optional extras that can enhance play.

Pickleball Clothing

  • Opt for lightweight, breathable athletic clothing that allows free range of motion. Shorts and polo shirts work well.
  • Quick-dry fabrics help wick away sweat during active play in warmer weather.
  • Bring layers like long sleeves or pants to wear over shorts/shirts as it gets cooler.
  • Sturdy, athletic shoes provide needed support once playing more frequently. Tennis or cross trainers are best.
  • visored hat or cap shades your eyes from sun glare.
  • Sunglasses also reduce harsh sunlight while tracking the ball.
  • For cold conditions, layer with long sleeves, fleece pullovers, warm socks, gloves and a beanie.

Helpful Pickleball Gear & Accessories

  • A basic over-the-shoulder paddle bag holds your paddle, balls, phone, towel and water.
  • Knee pads relieve pressure and pain when moving quickly on hard courts.
  • Gel insoles add needed cushioning and support.
  • A large water jug keeps you hydrated during play.
  • Towels to wipe hands and soak up sweat between points.
  • Overgrips or gloves improve paddle grip and absorb moisture.
  • Ball tubes securely hold outdoor balls when not playing.
  • bucket hat shades your face from the sun’s glare.
  • Compression braces & sleeves provide warmth and joint stability if needed.

Don’t go overboard buying every accessory in the beginning. Start with athletic wear, quality shoes and a paddle bag. Add comfort items over time as you play more regularly.

How to Find Places to Play Pickleball as a Beginner

Once you’ve got your starter gear, it’s time to find places to play pickleball and others to play with! Here are tips for beginners on locating courts and connecting with fellow players:

Search Local Community Pickleball Courts

  • Parks & rec centers – Many parks now paint dedicated pickleball lines on tennis courts and convert underused basketball courts. Check municipal sites.
  • Community centers – YMCAs, senior centers, schools and community rec buildings often open up their gymnasiums for pickleball play.
  • Churches – Lots of churches combine pickleball and fellowship by converting parking lots or indoor gymnasiums into pickleball courts.
  • HOAs – Homeowner associations looking for amenities may build dedicated pickleball courts for residents.
  • Clubs – Local racket clubs and athletic clubs are meeting demand by building outdoor pickleball complexes.
  • College campuses – Schools with tennis facilities are adding pickleball courts for broader recreational play.

Don’t be afraid to call around asking about public pickleball courts near you. Many now exist but aren’t always publicized well!

Search Online for Local Pickleball Groups

  • Meetup.com – This website connects users locally through group events and activities like pickleball. Search for pickleball groups in your city or town.
  • Facebook – Search for pickleball-related groups on Facebook based on your location. Great way to find regular local games.
  • Club/Org Sites – Check the websites of area country clubs, athletic clubs, senior centers, etc. to look for pickleball happenings.
  • Google Search – Search “pickleball near me” and scan results for local pickleball communities not on major platforms.

Joining local online pickleball groups is a fast way to find times/places to play and connect with fellow beginners also wanting to learn.

Ask Friends Where They Play

Don’t forget the power of old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ask around your neighborhood, workplace, church or social circles to discover if anyone plays locally. Often fellow residents have the inside scoop on regular nearby games open to newcomers. Getting introduced through an existing player also eases joining organized play as a beginner.

So explore every avenue – both online and in real life – to uncover the ideal spots and groups for you to start playing pickleball regularly to develop your skills and enjoyment of this fun sport!

Common Beginner Pickleball Questions Answered

New to pickleball? Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions from players just starting out to help you hit the courts with confidence.

Is pickleball hard to learn as a beginner?

One of pickleball’s biggest appeals is its quick learning curve compared to similar net sports like tennis. The compact court size, simple rules, close net and lightweight paddle allow beginners to pick up the basics in just a session or two. Focus first on consistent, back-and-forth dinking instead of spiking. You’ll be rallying away in no time!

What are the best tips for pickleball beginners?

Start by mastering the dink shot, keeping the ball low over the net. Move up to easy volleys then add controlled groundstrokes. Don’t go for fast smashes until your accuracy improves. Focus on ball control vs power. Call faults on yourself to learn rules. Play with others at your level first before veterans. Most of all, have fun!

What common mistakes should pickleball beginners avoid?

Avoid “punching” at the ball on shots vs using a quick snap of the wrist. Don’t grip too tightly or swing too hard. Watch for foot faults over non-volley lines. Refrain from calling too many balls “out” as you learn ball placement. Don’t yell “Mine!” and override partners. Stay in proper court positions. And ignore arrogant competitors!

How can I find fellow beginners to play pickleball with?

Search for pickleball Meetup groups or Facebook pages in your area oriented to new players looking to learn together. Ask about beginner groups at local pickleball sites. See if community centers or athletic clubs offer intro lessons or round robins pairing you with peers.

Resources:

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