Paddle Addicts

By Matthew Schwartz
January 23, 2024

Hi. I am Matthew and I am an addict. A pickleball paddle-buying addict.

I wasn’t always this way. I started playing in September 2021 using an el cheapo beginner’s paddle. A month later I bought a $179 name brand model. Played with it for almost two years. Last August while resting with a sore back for two weeks I decided it was time for a new one (a paddle, not a back, though that would be cool).

I’m a researcher by vocation and avocation, having spent 40 years as a television news reporter, the last 20 as an investigative reporter. Three years after retiring I still enjoy doing extensive research before making a big buy. Sometimes too much research and overthinking before deciding.

I wanted the perfect paddle for my style of play. I’m an average player, unofficially at the 3.5 level (player ratings range from 1.0-6.0 and most recreational players fall in the 3.25-4.0 range. I say “unofficially” because I’ve never played in a tournament). I quickly discovered that there is a plethora of social media groups all about paddles: reviewing paddles and selling and trading paddles. There are paddle ambassadors offering discount codes because they get a commission when their code is entered at checkout. I joined several online paddle groups to learn which paddles are popular and why.

There are paddle reviewers with YouTube channels and websites containing spreadsheets that list not only a paddle’s weight and dimensions, but also static weight (how heavy it is on a scale), spin rate in terms of revolutions per minute, swing rate (how heavy it feels when you swing it) and twist rate (how resistant the paddle is to rotation on off-center hits). I read the spreadsheets and watched countless reviews.

Speaking of spin, while researching paddles my head was spinning.

Companies have sprouted up that sell nothing but paddles. According to industry analysts, in 2017 approximately 40 companies sold pickleball paddles. Today, more than 600 sell them. Entrepreneurs know pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport and they’re striking while the paddle is hot.

In 2020, USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, received 171 submissions from companies requesting that their paddles be approved for tournament play. In 2023, the organization received 1184 paddle submissions. A new paddle hits the market virtually every day.  

Selkirk Labs sells paddles for $333.00. Customers have to apply for the right to fork over their cash unless they’re invited. I wonder if anyone is actually rejected.

Numerous paddles from Selkirk, JOOLA and other companies cost $250.00.  The big-name companies charge more in part because they have larger overhead for marketing, including paying pros for endorsements.

I saw some highly regarded reviewers say that many paddles priced at $130 or less have the exact same specifications as those costing much more.


“There are definitely overpriced paddles out there”, said John Williams, a popular and professorial paddle reviewer known online as John Kew. An archaeologist with a Ph.D., Williams regularly uses terms such as “peel-ply technology,” “delamination” and “medial stability.” His YouTube channel, John Kew Pickleball, has about 8400 subscribers (full disclosure: I’m one of them). He says 500 new viewers are signing up every month. His most- watched video, a guide on raw carbon fiber, had 157,000 views.

My biggest takeaway from my research is how many high-quality paddles from smaller companies are reasonably priced. (Including the company I write my weekly blog for, Hudef, which as you can see on this website sells no paddle costing more than $130.00. I wouldn’t be writing here if I believed its paddles were overpriced.)

When I unwrap a new paddle I get excited. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning (in my case on a Hanukkah night). I’m far from alone in buying multiple paddles.


Chris Herring of Little Rock, AR, works as a bank auditor. If someone audited his paddle collection it could take a while. Herring, 45, says he’s spent more than $5000 on paddles since he began playing in September 2022, and estimates he has bought more than 30 paddles. “I enjoy getting new paddles and trying them out. I buy a new one every week or two,” he said.

 “Prior to pickleball paddles it was golf clubs. Buying paddles is much less expensive than golf clubs,” Herring said. If you’ve bought golf clubs you know Chris is correct. And golf course fees are another big expense that pickleball doesn’t have.

Herring said, “I’m just excited to try them out and see if they are better than my current go-to paddle.” He’s a good player, he told me he’s a 4.2. He doesn’t think the frequent paddle changes hurt his game. He says he sometimes switches paddles during a game.

“I don’t feel I’m addicted,” Herring said. “I could go into my bag and pick two paddles and be perfectly content.”


Thai Nguyen of Minneapolis owns 22 paddles. “But I just ordered a new one,” said the 40-year-old mechanical designer. A 3.7 player, Nguyen buys a new paddle once or twice a month. “I like trying out new paddles to know what is out there and how they differ,” he said.

I asked paddle reviewer John Kew the $64,000 question: How much of a difference can a paddle really make?  “I’d say not much at the 3.5 level and below, quite a bit at 4.0 to 4.5, and very significant above 5.0,” Kew said. “You really only need to look at the painstaking effort that goes into paddle regulations to understand how paddle technology can be a game changer at the pro level.”


Braydon Unsicker agrees. He runs a website and YouTube channel called Pickleball Effect. Both have become so popular that the 31-year-old resident of Nampa, ID quit his full-time job as a digital marketer for software companies to do the pickleball thing fulltime.

“Going from a beginners set to premium paddles makes a huge difference,” Unsicker said.” After you make that jump it's about finding the right paddle that fits your game and finding the right paddle does make a difference though it's not as dramatic as getting your first premium paddle. I don't believe there is one paddle that is perfect for everyone but there is one paddle that is perfect for you.”


Robert Harless, 57, owns six paddles and carries five in his bag. The Punta Gorda, FL resident is a 4.25 player and last weekend was testing paddles for the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

“A lot of people are sheep and they either buy what Ben [Johns, the world’s top ranked player] is using or the flavor of the month,” Harless said. “Also, the top reviewers on YouTube can have a major influence.”


Larry Fisher, a 71 year-old semi-retired auto dealer who lives in Corona Del Mar, CA,  says he’s bought 13 paddles in 30 months of playing. He says he’s a 3.75 player and currently owns nine paddles. "Obviously I have no wife, " Fisher said, "or she’d throw me and the paddles out."


Tammy Goforth of Austin bought 15 paddles last year and currently owns 10. Goforth says her age is “59 going on 40.” She does not feel she’s addicted to buying paddles. “I am super excited when a new paddle arrives,” Goforth said. “I am also impressed with how manufacturers are beginning to pay attention to packaging. It makes a huge difference!“

Goforth reads a lot of reviews, both from manufacturers and players. “I have a tendency to get a little geeky about construction techniques and like to try as many paddles as possible,” she said.

When I asked Chris Herring, owner of 30 paddles, if he wants to find one to play with consistently, he said, “I should, but no, I enjoy trying out new paddles. I am never going to be pro nor have a desire to be. Part of the fun in the hobby is trying out new gear.”

Herring hit the nail on the head for me right there. I also look at trying new paddles as a fun hobby, and I needed another hobby in retirement.

“I could quit,” Herring said. “But why?”