A pickleball craze is sweeping the nation—here's what you need to play
You'll be mastering your third-shot drop in no time
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Over the past year, pickleball—a combination of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton—has seen explosive growth. It was invented in Washington in the mid-'60s, but it's now the fastest growing sport in America, according to The Economist.
It makes sense: The COVID-19 pandemic left many people all searching for socially distant outdoor activities, and pickleball certainly fits the bill. But if you’re new to the sport and your beginner brain can’t tell a pickleball paddle and a tennis racket apart, you might be wondering what you need to get started. Here’s all the pickleball equipment the internet is raving about, from paddles and balls to nets and apparel.
1. A basic wood paddle set
If you’re wanting to break into playing pickleball, you’re going to need the most basic pickleball equipment. The Amazin’ Aces set is an affordable way to get yourself and your family in the game. Rated as some of the best pickleball paddles for beginners, this set features four basic paddles, four pickleballs, and a mesh bag for toting the whole mess around. It’s great for pickleball beginners, with Amazon users noting that it’s an especially good set for kids who might just want to goof around with their friends.
2. This portable net to play anywhere
If you’re just venturing into pickleball, you can always try to find a court near you. If you’re just trying to tackle the game in the driveway, though, you’re going to want to pick up a net. Walmart shoppers love the ZENY portable pickleball net system, giving it a 4.7 star rating overall. Reviews mention that it’s lightweight and portable, “super easy to set up,” and “super durable.” It’s also less expensive than other nets, so you won’t feel like you’re breaking the bank for a fad you’re just starting to dabble in.
3. A set of balls that the professionals use
Stating the obvious here, but we think that if you’re going to pick up pickleball, you’re going to need some of the right balls to play with. Sure, you’ll probably get a few in your beginner set, but in case those go missing, break, or fly over a fence, you’ll want to have backups. Franklin’s X-40s are the official ball of USA Pickleball, and were even used by the pros at the US Open Pickleball Championships (yes, that’s a thing). They’ve drawn a 4.8 star rating on Walmart, with reviewers hailing their durability, bright neon coloring, and “fast” play.
4. A court marker kit so you won’t need a referee
If you’re opting to make your own court, you might want to pick up a set of court markers, which could help settle any “it was in!” squabbles among friends and family. Bright, easy to use, and transportable, this kit is especially good for indoor pickleball spaces like gyms or rec rooms, with one Amazon user calling it the perfect set of “great, well-crafted non-slip rubber markers.”
5. A breathable workout dress that's easy to move in
The perfect combination of a cute dress and supportive athleticwear, Outdoor Voices Court dress seems like something you might see Serena Williams sporting, were she to pick up pickleball. Available in sizes XS to XL and lined with pockets perfect for holding everything from a phone to a backup ball, this dress will provide a little bit of support up top while also giving the fun flip action of a tennis skort on the bottom. For those looking for adorable pickleball attire, this is a great place to start.
6. A bag to carry all your gear
If the beginner kit’s mesh tote isn’t doing it for you, you can always pick up a backpack specifically designed for pickleball. The Wilson Super Tour Paddlepak can hold three paddles, a few balls, and even has a specialty shoe compartment. One happy customer describes it as “a dream for a pickleball enthusiast.”
7. A sweat-wicking hat to keep you cool
Things can get bright out there on the pickleball court, so you’re going to want a good, breathable cap to keep out the rays. This unisex Chill Run Dash Cap from Under Armour is one size fits all and is made from a woven fabric for maximum comfort. It also features mesh panels and backing for strategic ventilation and what the brand calls an “Iso-Chill” sweatband to wick away sweat.
8. This “I Have A Dinking Problem” shirt
Part of the fun of pickleball is just the act of goofing around when playing it with friends. There are hundreds if not thousands of jokey pickleball items on sites like Etsy, a lot of them based on the “dink” sound a pickleball makes when it hits a racket. This “I Have A Dinking Problem” shirt is the perfect statement piece for a pickleball beginner or a veteran, and will be quite the conversation piece. Etsy users also love it, saying it’s “a big hit at pickleball” and that it “makes people smile.”
9. A headband to keep flyaways out of your face
If you’re playing pickleball right, you’re probably going to work up a sweat. Keep it out of your eyes with the set of breathable sports headbands that Amazon shoppers just love. Boasting almost 6000 reviews and a 4.4 star rating, Temple Tape’s headband set is a hit amongst shoppers, who claim it's the perfect product for keeping sweat out of your eyes during heated workouts. Plus, a good headband can always make you look like a pro, so even if you’re new to the pickleball court, grab a headband and you’ll naturally channel your inner Roger Federer.
10. A specialty pair of pickleball shoes
You’ve heard of tennis shoes, but did you know that brands are making shoes specifically for pickleball now? It’s true, and players who have tried them seem to rave about them. Wilson’s Rush Pro 2.5 is a unisex shoe that offers wearers “increased rubber density on the outsole to maximize durability for pickleball,” according to the brand, and which shoppers say “felt great on the court, with the appropriate amount of ‘snugness’ and good support.”
11. A glove to prevent blisters
If too much pickleball has your hands feeling a little stiff and painful, try one of these Franklin Sports fingerless gloves, which are specifically designed with pickleball in mind. Made using the same process the company uses for its baseball batting gloves, these gloves offer an adjustable wrist strap to guarantee a secure fit and a padded thumb and index finger to help thwart grip fatigue. Amazon reviewers say the glove is especially good for hot games, when sweaty palms can become an issue.
12. A high-end pickleball paddle to up your game
When you’re finally ready to take your pickleball game to the next level, you’re going to want to pick up a nicer paddle. The ONIX Graphite Z5 Carbon Fiber paddle has a comfort grip and a handle that mimics the shape of a tennis racket for those more familiar with the feel of those rackets. It comes “highly recommended” by Dick's Sporting Good's shoppers for its large sweet spot, wide body, and lightweight design. It even comes in five different colors, so you can really go wild and match it to your outfit.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.