It's taken a few years, but slowly the industry's paddles have become more and more technologically advanced, aligning themselves with (and possibly soon eclipsing) top-end equipment from other sports. Current, top-end paddles are fantastic, and the price reflects their incredible playability potential; but most pickleball enthusiasts think the same thing: keep them coming! Here are our Top 4 Paddles of the Summer - 2022 edition.
Babolat MNSTR Power - $189.98
Babolat's paddles all feature the same shape; a 16.1" length, with a 7.8" width and 5" handle. These are very "standard" tech specs that fall nicely in the middle of the spectrum of long, heavy paddles and short maneuverable ones. Standard does not mean average; it just means that the MNSTR Power will work for many different players and is especially versatile compared to other top-end paddles.
The MNSTR is unique in the Babolat line with its more premium polypropylene core and carbon fibre top sheet, which combine to make the MNSTR one of the most spin-friendly paddles on the market. Power-wise, the average 15mm thickness gives it a good combination of pop and control.
Coming in at under $200, the MNSTR represents fantastic value. It performs as well as any other paddle but remains almost $100 under the ever-increasing market rate for the top-end stuff. Pretty cool.
CRBN Elongated Paddle (13 mm) - $229.98
This poor company has been through the wringer.
They were quite literally accused of making a paddle that was too good for pickleball. What does that mean? USA Pickleball had deemed CRBN's line of paddles too spin-friendly for their standards.
I have a big issue with pickleball's governing body deciding to stop a company from pushing the needle of technological advancements. At this point in the game, we should try it all. But I digress.
CRBN went back to the drawing board to make their current line of paddles re-approved, and thankfully barely changed any of what made them so good. While they took away some of the grit on the CRBN paddles, they are still probably the most spin-friendly on the market. There is so much texture that grabs the ball; you feel like you can hit any amount of spin imaginable.
I particularly like the thinner 13 mm paddle because it provides the most precise feel and the crispest response off the paddle bed. CRBN's elongated paddle also comes in at a fairly light 8.0 ounces, making it the perfect weapon for customization. I added a large strip of ½-inch lead around the bumper, giving my demo huge power potential and great feel for such a thin paddle.
Gearbox CX11E 8.5oz Power - $259.98
Ladies and gentlemen, Gearbox is still here. It's easy to lose track of the already established brands with so many exciting releases coming out left, right, and centre. None of that changes the fact that Gearbox paddles still provide a one-of-a-kind hitting experience.
It was barely two years ago that the ultra-thin, full carbon paddles made a huge splash in the pickleball community. Their 11 mm paddles offer a crack off the paddle bed that no other company provides. The response is instant and sends tons of positive feedback through the hand, giving the paddles an addicting sensation when hit right.
Because of their thin profile, they are also very spin-friendly. The CX11E Power 8.5, with its heavy, elongated shape, can really pummel the ball. No other paddle makes me feel like I can go onto the court and hit tennis-style forehands, expecting a similar launch angle and levels of spin.
With the release of the CX11 line, Gearbox focussed on improving touch and control, which were lacking in the previous models. While a paddle this thin can never, from a pure physics point of view, compete with thicker, honeycomb-core paddles, Gearbox have made a marked improvement compared to the last generation. The carbon is softer and provides a slightly longer dwell time. You still need to develop the softest hands to tame your CX11E Power, but all the other benefits make perfect touch a price this reviewer is willing to pay.
Selkirk Vanguard Hybrid 2.0 Invikta MW - $279.98
The Selkirk train keeps chugging along, constantly outselling its competitors despite all the hum and haw of new releases. That's because their paddles are pretty darn good. Not only do they offer the largest selection of shapes and weights, but they also provide some of the best all-around playability for any paddle.
The Invikta Vanguard 2.0 MW takes all the incredible control characteristics of the previous model and adds a crispness and improved responsiveness to the feel. Vanguard 2.0 is more spin-friendly and connected to the ball than the original. While it always had top-tier performance at the net due to its long dwell time, I often found myself frustrated with the lack of "feel" I had from the baseline with the original Vanguard options. Now, I can press on the gas and put the desired effect on my shots while expecting the ball to react properly off the paddlebed.
The Invikta, in particular, is a great extended-length option. Even the Midweight is fairly light, so it remains maneuverable at the net, where Selkirk paddles excel. Sure doesn't hurt that it comes in a bunch of cool colours, too!
Who knows where the pickleball world will be in one year? Maybe the industry will have calmed down with all of the fantastic innovation, although I highly doubt it.
While it's as rampant as it is right now, we should all stop and appreciate it for what it is. There are tons of fantastic paddles on the market, all providing unique sensations and complementing the wide variety of play styles developing in the game. You should do what you can to demo what's out there; it's the best way to understand the distinct feels.
While you're at it, check out the rest of our pickleball selection on our website.