When you’re shopping for a pickleball paddle you may notice that some are labeled as approved while others are not. An approved paddle has met all legality requirements put in place by the USAPA. Illegal pickleball paddles are those that don’t meet one or more requirements and could create an unfair advantage for the player.
Knowing how to identify illegal pickleball paddles can save you a lot of stress in the future! If you never buy an illegal pickleball paddle, you’ll never have to worry about being able to use your paddle at a tournament.
- What Makes a Pickleball Paddle Illegal?
- What Happens if You Use an Illegal Pickleball Paddle?
- The Importance of Using Legal Paddles During Tournament Play
- Paddles That Have Been Unapproved by USAPA
- Illegal Paddles That Are Good for Casual Play
- Where to Find Legal Pickleball Paddles
- Bottom Line
What Makes a Pickleball Paddle Illegal?
Multiple factors go into having a legal pickleball paddle. If a paddle does not meet one or more of the requirements, it is considered illegal. These are the current standards for legal versus illegal pickleball paddles.
Pickleball paddles can be made of any material that doesn’t violate any of the other requirements. That means wood, metal, plastic, and other materials are all fair game. The only material with specific restrictions is foam.
Foam core paddles must have two separate pieces to create the paddle face on either side. It can’t be one piece of material that wraps around to cover both sides at the same time.
The paddle face must be completely flat. A paddle face that isn’t flat is illegal. Some things that count as a paddle face that isn’t flat include:
There also can’t be anything shiny on the paddle face that could reflect into your opponent’s eyes.
The final rule about the face of your paddle is that anti-skid paint, sand, or rubber can’t be added to the face to create more texture. This can give an unfair advantage over the ball spin. A select surface texture that has been approved by the USAPA is allowed.
While paddles can be any weight and remain legal, their size is limited. Any paddle that’s longer than 17 inches is illegal. The total length and width of the paddle combined cannot exceed 24 inches.
Any customization or alterations to your paddle can only be within a limited space. They can’t be within 1 inch of the outer edge or ½ an inch from the grip. Hand-drawn, handwritten graphics are the only type of graphics permitted on your paddle.
All pickleball paddles must have identification of the brand and model that created the paddle. Without these markings, the paddle is illegal. All identification markers should be put on by the manufacturer only.
What Happens if You Use an Illegal Pickleball Paddle?
All pickleball players have the right to request an inspection of their opponent’s paddle. If the paddle is found not to meet the established USAP paddle requirements, a few things can happen.
If the paddle is identified as an illegal paddle before gameplay starts, you’ll be asked to swap the paddle for an approved paddle with no penalty.
If the paddle is found to be illegal during a match, you must forfeit the match. If this match is part of a tournament, you can continue the tournament if forfeiting the match doesn’t disqualify you from the competition.
If an illegal paddle is discovered after the match has ended, nothing will be done. That’s why it’s so important to speak up right away if you believe your opponent is using an illegal pickleball paddle!
The Importance of Using Legal Paddles During Tournament Play
With harsh punishments like forfeiting a match if you get caught using an illegal paddle, you’re probably wondering why it’s such a big deal. Following the rules is vital to keeping fair gameplay. If players were allowed to use any paddle regardless of legality, it would be easy for some players to achieve an unfair advantage over others.
Imagine your opponent using a paddle that’s larger than yours with a sweet spot double the size! If players could add an unlimited amount of texture to the face of their paddle, ball spins would be almost impossible to anticipate and respond to.
Creating a set of guidelines for legal paddles and maintaining those guidelines for all sanctioned playing prevents claims of cheating and unfair advantages. That’s why all players have the right to ask the referee to inspect their opponent’s paddle before or during a game if they suspect it’s illegal.
Paddles That Have Been Unapproved by USAPA
CRBN is a pickleball paddle brand that was on the approved list for quite some time. Shockingly, on April 28th, 2022 the USAPA announced that CRBN paddles were no longer approved. This announcement came during the US Open and created a lot of buzz. Understandably, anyone who is a CRBN paddle owner had questions.
The USAPA decision affected 1st and 2nd generation CRBN paddles. USAPA determined that the paddle surfaces did not pass the rest for roughness. The paddles were too rough, making them illegal.
CRBN has worked diligently to get to the bottom of the issue and determined this was an issue specific to one batch of paddles. Other CRBN paddles did pass the surface roughness test, including Michelle Esquivel’s CRBN paddle.
They’ve agreed to gain USAPA approval for their latest launch and all future paddles. Approved paddles have a clear serial number marking on the handle, allowing easy identification of CRBN paddles bought before or after the paddle surface issue was corrected.
If you have an illegal CRBN paddle, you can continue to use it for recreational use. CRBN has also offered multiple solutions for affected customers to receive replacement paddles that are on the USAP-approved paddles list. They worked to start shipping replacement paddles quickly for customers who are unhappy with an illegal paddle.
Illegal Paddles That Are Good for Casual Play
Just because a paddle is illegal doesn’t mean it’s a bad paddle! While you can’t use the paddle for USAP-sanctioned tournaments, it’s fine for casual and recreational play. Check out these illegal paddles that are still high-quality, reliable paddles for recreational court time!
Diller Pickleball Paddle Bundle
The Diller Pickleball Paddle Bundle includes 2 paddles and 4 pickleball balls. The 7-ply hardwood paddles include a wrist strap at the butt cap. The paddle head does feature a clearly visible paddle name and manufacturer, but they’re not USAPA-approved.
The wooden paddles from Diller are ideal for recreational players at home, school, youth groups, and churches. While the paddles aren’t passing paddle requirements for pickleball tournaments by the USAPA, they’re still high-quality and comfortable to use!
ULAOUL Lightweight Pickleball Paddle Set
The lightweight pickleball paddle set from ULAOUL includes two paddles, 4 pickleball balls, a racquet bag, and extra cushion grip tape. Each paddle has a carbon fiber face with a polypropylene honeycomb core.
The addition of a thin edge guard with a nail fixture to the paddle face creates a more durable paddle without disrupting the sweet spot. Some reviews note that these are louder than most. There’s a large paddle line from ULAOUL with different paddles if lightweight isn’t your preference.
Paddles from ULAOUL are popular among beginners who play for fun. You’ll get a good paddle without spending much, but most are non-approved paddles.
Amazin’ Aces Classic Graphite Paddle
The classic graphite paddle by Amazin Aces is strong and easy to control. The graphite face provides an ultra-hard surface that won’t get dented. Making powerful shots with this paddle is a breeze!
A high-quality cushion grip makes this paddle comfortable to hold. Edge guards add to the strength of the paddle while a polymer honeycomb core absorbs the shock of the ball. This pickleball paddle has the same materials and technology used by some of the biggest brands, but it’s lacking USAPA approval.
Where to Find Legal Pickleball Paddles
The easiest way to find a legal pickleball paddle is to check the official USAPA list. If you have a paddle that you’re interested in, refer to that list before purchasing to learn if it’s legal or not.
Most large paddle companies who sell legal pickleball paddles advertise the fact that the paddle has been approved by the USAPA in the product description too. If you’re unsure of the legality of the ones you already own, search the list by entering a model number and manufacturer name.
What makes a pickleball paddle illegal?
A pickleball paddle can be illegal due to the size, added textures, alterations, a lack of identification, and more factors put in place by the USAPA.
Are wooden pickleball paddles allowed?
Yes, wooden pickleball paddles are allowed as long as they meet all other requirements for a legal paddle.
Can you put stickers on pickleball paddles?
Stickers are not permitted. Stickers are likely to add extra shine to the paddle face, potentially blinding your opponent with a glare.
If you want to learn more about the different types of pickleball paddles and find recommendations for the best USAPA-approved paddles, check out more of our content! We’ve got in-depth reviews of numerous paddle companies and all the info you need to improve your gameplay starting with your paddle