Selkirk paddles have been at the vanguard (yes, I know what I did there) of most important innovations in the sport: Amped paddles perfected the honeycomb core, while Vanguard technology accelerated the development of carbon top sheets. Now Selkirk have presented us with a brand new series of paddles: the Power Air, and with those paddles comes a giant hole. Why the hole? What is new? How does it play? Buckle up and find out.
Why so Holey?
We first saw Selkirk tease the idea of a cutout in the middle of a paddle when they released their prototype series, Project 002. This paddle shocked the Pickleball community and had doubters like me thinking, “come on Selkirk, you don’t have to do change things just to change them.” But it became pretty clear that Selkirk was onto something with the popularity of that prototype, and the final product is, yet again, revolutionary.
The idea behind the hole is to add an element of aerodynamics to an otherwise extremely un-aerodynamic object. The paddle face is essentially just a big sail. Sails are meant to catch the wind, not evade it, and because of this, most of the resistance felt when hitting a shot in pickleball comes from the paddle face’s drag through the air. Selkirk obviously couldn’t just scrap the paddle face altogether, we need some surface to hit against after all, but they could work at taking out as much of it as possible. We’re not supposed to make contact with the ball at the throat of the paddle, so it seemed the ideal place to take away the most material, so that’s what Selkirk did.
Aero Aero Aero
The result is an unquestionably more aerodynamic paddle. It’s shocking how much of a difference that cutout actually makes. The hole at the throat is ultimately there to speed up your game. Swinging a Selkirk Power Air paddle with the same force you would use to swing another paddle will give you a faster stroke. It’s as simple as that. You swing faster on ground strokes, but you can also react quicker at the net. It’s quite a difficult sensation to describe, but the best I have come up with: it responds more one-to-one. When you combine the aerodynamic nature of the hole with the thin, edgeless profile of the paddle, it compounds that sensation of speed, making this the “fastest” paddle I have ever tried. You can put more power on your shots and react more instantly to quick moves at the net. Overall, it’s a very efficient design.
The cutout isn’t without some quirks, however. Because the paddle is so much quicker through the air, it also feels very different through the swing. At the beginning of my playtest, I felt the balance was off when I hit out. This sensation wasn’t particularly prevalent on groundstrokes or dinking, but rather when slicing, a very important shot in pickleball. The way the paddle moved so quickly through the air made my timing feel off, and I couldn’t quite make clean contact with the sweet spot every time. This sensation went away after a couple of hours of using the Power Air, so it was not an issue in the long run.
Thin + edgeless? Where is Selkirk, and what did you do to them?
Beyond the glaringly obvious hole is the not-very-Selkirk edgeless paddle design. Selkirk are known for their thick, honeycomb-cored, edged paddles and have rarely veered away from that design. In fact, their original thin Vanguard Power paddles did not stand the test of time and were scrapped after a few months on the market.
This design, which I prefer in a paddle, was well worth the wait. True to what I have experienced with thin and edgeless paddles in the past, the feeling is responsive, explosive, and very spin friendly. I hesitate to mention Gearbox because they feel different, but the general sensation is similar. Thin paddles have that very tennis-esque, one-to-one response with the ball. You get out what you put into a thin paddle, especially with spin, an area Selkirk wanted to nail. On groundstrokes, I can put a heavy amount of spin on my shots. The slice is low hanging and skids off the ground after landing.
The Power Air series is true to its name; these paddles are powerful. Due to the thin profile, there is very little energy lost in the dwell time on contact. That instantaneous response makes the ball rocket off the paddle face with loads of pop (power).
Where these paddles differ from other thin paddles is in their control. The Power Air paddles are surprisingly impressive from that standpoint. Control (especially on softer shots) is usually an area of sacrifice with this more brittle paddle design. While there is still nowhere near the same plushness of the thicker Vanguard 2.0 paddles, there is still a decent amount of feel and cushioning. You’ll still have to let your soft hands do most of the work when it comes to touch, but it is an improvement on what I have tried in the past and must be the Vanguard core doing its job.
One factor to keep in mind with the edgeless design; it makes the sweet spot less forgiving. Less material outlines the paddle to stabilize off-center hits, but I also find the sweet spot more precise. To offset that instability, add a bit of lead tape around the paddle. That will help give these advanced paddles a more forgiving feel, but be careful; you will increase your static and swing weight. Don’t forget, however, that Selkirk offers plenty of different paddle shapes. If you want a quicker, more forgiving paddle, go for the wider Epic or S2. If you prefer a longer, more powerful, less forgiving paddle, go for the Invikta.
Putting a giant hole in the middle of their paddle was a big leap of faith.
But like with most things Selkirk, it was a calculated risk and done with such time and scrutiny that it was always going to be done right. The benefits in speed and efficiency are tangible, and there are few, if not any drawbacks, especially after a brief period of adaptation. Whether the rest of the industry follows suit, we will have to wait and see, but one thing is certain; it’s yet another example of innovation in the rapidly developing pickleball industry.