20 Best Pickleball Gifts 2023
20 items in this article 4 items on sale!
20 items in this article 4 items on sale!
Whether you realize it or not, you probably know at least one pickleball fan. Thanks to its low barrier to entry — you don’t have to be good to have a good time — the sport has attracted a huge swath of the U.S. population as well as growing numbers of European players. “If you play tennis with someone not on your level or better, it’s a boring game. In pickleball, you can play with people of different levels and still keep the ball in play,” says Jeffrey, a real-estate investor and part-time theater producer who’s been playing pickleball for over a decade. “It’s the first sport I’ve seen that successfully crosses the socioeconomic divide. I play all over New York City, and I never know whether I’m playing with a neurosurgeon or the super of a building or someone unemployed.”
Plus, it’s fun to do as a couple or in groups, making it an ideal athletic hobby for just about anyone of any age. But because it’s still newly mainstream, the world of pickleball-specific clothing, gear, and giftable experiences is more opaque. Without having tried a few paddles, it’s hard to know if the cute one you uncover on Amazon is actually any good. So to help you find the best gifts for the pickleball player in your life I talked to coaches, devoted players, and several very stylish fans about the pickleball gifts they recommend giving and would like to receive.
I recently took a trip to Central Park’s Wollman Rink to check out the scene at City Pickle and report on the paddles, sneakers, and clothing worn by over a hundred pickleball players. Though the most popular brand of paddle was Head, I heard from several experienced players that the trendiest paddles are from a brand called Joola. And I talked to two groups of friends playing with this specific set of Joola paddles. Alberto, an investment banker who was attending a pickleball birthday party, said he chose the set because it’s from a reputable brand and comes with two paddles, two balls, and a Joola backpack. When I asked how the paddles perform, he reported that they’re great for learning because they are lightweight and the sweet spot is very forgiving (though he also mentioned that the handle is on the smaller side).
When I started playing pickleball with my husband, Jacob, we bought a set of cheap wooden paddles that we quickly outgrew — wooden paddles tend to be heavier and don’t offer as much control as fiberglass and graphite paddles do. But we weren’t ready to spend a lot of money, so we bought a set from this brand because the paddles had a lightweight honeycomb core and good reviews on Amazon. Jacob has since moved on to a Head Radical Elite Paddle, but I still play with these and love how bouncy they feel. This set, which includes four paddles, four balls, and a bag, contains the same paddles I have plus two kid-size paddles. And for just $100, it’s a great introductory set.
If you’re shopping for a more advanced player, this Selkirk paddle with a smile-shaped cutout at the bottom is a better bet. According to Katherine Hedden, a teaching pro and CityPickle’s director of community outreach, it has a bigger sweet spot than most other paddles and absorbs impact better to reduce drag and turbulence. “You get a lot of power, so a lot of tennis players will use this paddle. Or people will use it when they play singles,” she says, warning that it isn’t for beginners, who need to master control before they can handle the extra oomph this paddle provides.
With a portable pickleball net, any driveway or playground can become a full-size court. Jacob and I own a net that we use in a public park near our apartment in Brooklyn, but it’s really heavy to carry and shifts in the slightest wind. Scott Green, a certified pickleball teaching pro and founder of Around the Post Pickleball, uses Pickle Tech portable nets in all of the clinics he teaches on the existing tennis courts at Hampton Bays High School. “I painted the lines myself, but we still use these temporary nets. They have a really big bright-orange base, and you can set them up in a minute and a half. It’s so easy. When you’re done, you take it down, put it in the bag, and walk away,” he says.
According to Green, it’s common to see home tennis courts in the Hamptons painted with an extra set of lines for pickleball. This gives the owners the option of quickly switching between sports. One way to make that switch even quicker (and easier on their back) is by setting up a pickleball net on wheels. Green recommends buying one from a well-known brand like Franklin rather than something random off of Amazon.
I was introduced to pickleball by my in-laws, who play almost daily and have attended numerous clinics, camps, and tournaments over the past few years. When I asked my mother-in-law, Ilene Cohen, what she would like to receive as a gift, she quickly mentioned this practice backboard on wheels that she first saw on social media. It’s tiltable, so you can practice a variety of different shots including dinks, drives, drops, and overheads. The company also makes less expensive decals and magnetized backboards you can stick to a wall or a garage door.
Though there is plenty of specific pickleball gear to choose from, Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa recommends giving general workout gear to help with sore muscles, aches, and pains. “I used to use something similar to this in high school for tennis to prevent tennis elbow and warm up my forearms,” he says of this bendy resistance bar often used by physical therapists.
According to Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This, the most stylish gift for any pickleball player is a set of pickleballs in an unexpected color like lavender or baby pink. But the quality has to be good, she says: “The ball itself is so identifiable, but in a different color there’s a little twist.” Domesek likes the quality of the pink balls from Luxe Pickleball and suggests presenting them with a set of green Open Spaces wire baskets to make the gift even more special. “I like that they’re dark green because they have real court vibes,” she says. “I’m a big fan of gifting vessels as part of a gift. You can put the balls in there with a pair of socks and a water bottle or something, and it just looks so nice.” The storage baskets would also make a great gift for someone with a messy garage or sports closet.
If looking the part is important, an Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress is a must-have. At City Pickle, I noticed more than a dozen women wearing some sort of tennis skirt or dress. But of all the outfits I saw, Outdoor Voices’s famous Exercise Dress (a favorite of Strategist editor Maxine Builder because it wicks away sweat and also looks cute at happy hour) was the most popular. It’s a great pickleball gift that can also be worn while biking or hiking, to work, to a bar, to a dance class, anywhere.
Among the men I talked to at Wollman Rink, the most common specific item of clothing was this pair of Vuori shorts. A player named John told me they’re all he wears because they are so soft and comfortable. The shorts feature a breathable boxer-brief lining so you don’t have to wear underwear and don’t have to worry about chafing. Plus, they come in 18 colors including golden yellow, navy, pink, and tennis white.
When Jacob joined the pickleball rec league in a small Connecticut town last summer, he got roasted by the other players for not wearing a hat. He’s usually not a fan of hats, but once he started wearing one, he realized how helpful the brim’s shade was for his game. This one from Outdoor Research is breathable and has a UPF rating of 50.
Domesek gives personalized monogrammed versions of this Mark & Graham waterproof tote bag to everyone she knows. “People are obsessed,” she says, explaining that she has no fewer than eight of the bags at her house. “I use one instead of a diaper bag for my son. He’s got little golf clubs on his, with his initials. You can spill something in it, and it doesn’t matter. You can get sunscreen in it, whatever. Plus it has holes at the bottom, so if you spill water or other liquids, it just drains out,” she says. In addition to golf clubs, palm trees, and anchors, you can get a set of pickleball paddles and a ball printed on your tote.
When I asked Hedden and her friends, who were all wearing Asics, about pickleball-specific sneakers, she briefly mentioned a few other brands (Skechers, Babolat, KSwiss) before telling me about this pair of Asics she was wearing. She advised looking for court shoes that have wrap-up outsoles and wider footbeds for stability and smooth movement, which are the features that sold her on her Asics Gel-Remnas. These would make an excellent gift for folks who struggle to find comfortably wide court shoes.
Avid player Camryn Okere emphasized the importance of purchasing shoes made for the court and told me her game got exponentially better when she switched to this pair, built with shock-absorbing cushioning and a graphite midsole for stability and quick movement. “It’s so much more comfortable,” she says. “And when you see all the articles around injuries, it’s normally because people aren’t wearing the right shoes.”
The fashion pickleball players wear runs the gamut from those who show up to play in basic athletic clothing to those who peacock in country-club-style attire. But again, whatever you’re wearing should also perform well on the court. According to Domesek, this pair of sneakers from a Staud and Keds collaboration is a great example of good form and function. They have thick, cushioned soles that will help keep you from twisting an ankle, with the look of a Stan Smith married to an Air Force 1.
Experienced player Terry Fox recommends giving tickets to the PPA (Professional Pickleball Association) tour. She says it’s fun to sit courtside and watch the best players in the world. The tour has stops in 14 states and even includes amateur matches that are open to non-professional players.
The unofficial sunscreen of City Pickle is Supergoop! Play. It’s also one of our favorite and most recommended sunscreens. This set lets players test all three formulations before committing to a bigger tube, stick, or spray.
“I received this pickleball stationary as a gift,and now I give it to all of my pickleball girlfriends for special occasions or birthdays,” says Suzanne Kitchens, an intermediate player and the mother of Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens.
One way to convince non-players to give pickleball a chance is by inviting them to play on your birthday at one of the most scenic courts in the country. James T., a finance professional who lives in Long Island City, celebrated his birthday with seven friends in one of the cabanas at City Pickle’s Wollman Rink location. As an avid player, he enjoyed sharing the sport with friends, but the shaded cabana took it to the next level because everyone could hang out with drinks and snacks in between games. He says “a paddle would be easiest. But organizing this pickleball event was my girlfriend’s gift to me.” Non–New York residents can do something similar by reserving a court or clinic at a private club or showing up early at first-come-first-serve public courts. To find lists of clubs and public courts by state, check out the USA Pickleball website and Pickleheads.com.
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