Topspin helps bring powerful shots down into the court. The more spin you use—the harder you can hit—with confidence that your ball will land between the lines.
It also makes the ball bounce up after impact, which can push an advancing opponent deeper into their court. But what makes spin so unique in pickleball is that it helps get players out of the trickiest situations when their opponents are at the net. A well-hit, dipping passing shot is nearly impossible to dig out, so when an opponent has you on the ropes, it's one of the best arrows in your quiver.
With the introduction of carbon fiber top sheets, spin is more accessible than ever, giving a performance and skill advantage that takes the game to the next level in terms of competitiveness. At this point, if you're not using spin, you better be the best darn dinker the sport has ever seen, or you might just get left behind.
The good news? In 2023 we have fantastic paddles that use various technologies to amplify spin. Aerodynamics, texture, core design, and weight are all being engineered to optimize spin.
Spin is technically a quantifiable metric, but that's a difficult scientific experiment to get right with absolute certainty. Instead, we'll look at which paddles feel the most spin-friendly. These are the paddles with which you have the most confidence to go for shots knowing that they'll directly respond to the effect your wrist is telling them to put on the ball.
Without further ado, here are our top 5 pickleball paddles for spin, in no particular order.
Gearbox CX11E 8.5oz Power
I'm starting the list with the CX11E 8.5oz Power because, right away, I want to dispel with the notion that you need maximum grit to be one of the most spin-friendly paddles. Don't get me wrong, grit helps with spin generation, but it's not the only factor.
Gearbox has made its name with its full carbon, edgeless paddles, and they've never had a gritty carbon top sheet. The CX11E has almost every other ingredient necessary for high spin generation, though, with the most essential: aerodynamics. The paddle is extremely thin (11 mm) and edgeless, making it one of the quickest 8.5-ounce paddles out there. Because it's so fast, you can generate tons of paddle head speed and hit the ball with more force on impact — helping spin generation. That quickness also makes the paddle whippy and maneuverable, so you can snap it through contact with your wrist slightly easier. Wrist action is one of the most effective ways to brush up on the ball, which is essential for spin generation.
Also, because the paddle is so thin, very little energy is lost in dwell time on impact. Longer dwell time is great for control because it kills that wild, "bouncy" sensation, but it does that by taking away that one-to-one feel, not on the CX11E.
Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta MW
I wasn't lying when I said these weren't in any particular order, but after you read this, it will be difficult to argue that the CX11E is as spin-friendly as the Invikta. Take the CX11E, make it significantly more aerodynamic, add some grit to the top sheet, and you have the Vanguard Power Air Invikta.
It's another thin (12.7 mm), edgeless paddle, but Selkirk went and added a hole in the middle to make it significantly more aerodynamic than anything else. It's crazy fast, almost too fast, and it took me at least an hour to get used to the swing speed, but once I did, the result was terrific. All the benefits mentioned above from an aerodynamic paddle remain; they're just cranked up to the max.
The Invikta is Selkirk's longest paddle shape, so it's a cut above the rest of the Vanguard Power Air lineup in spin generation. Longer paddles provide more leverage, which gives them more spin output potential than their shorter counterparts. Yes, you have to work harder to generate force with these paddles, but their ceiling is higher when you do. That also goes for power potential.
The Vanguard Power Air also has some grit to the top sheet, which helps it generate even more spin. That said, it's not the grittiest paddle out there.
We move away from the thin, aerodynamic spin-generators. In steps, the first paddle with a honeycomb core and carbon fiber top sheet: the CRBN1 13MM.
A year ago, this paddle was so spin-friendly it was literally illegal. At the time, I was unhappy with the decision to ban it, and I still think CRBN should have been allowed to keep the original, but their edited CRBN1 is almost as spin friendly. It has one of the grittiest carbon top sheets on the market and is also quite durable.
Grit helps with spin generation because it allows the paddle face to dig into the ball during impact and shoot it out with loads of RPMs. Combine the CRBN1's gritty surface with a relatively thin profile, and you get the benefits of its grit in a pretty aerodynamic package — which is why it's ahead of its 16 millimeter sibling.
One aspect of the CRBN1 13MM bugs me regarding its spin generation, and that's the swing weight. The paddle doesn't put enough mass behind the ball to be elite in stock form. More mass means more force which means more spin. Still, add a bit (or a lot) of lead tape to the paddle, and it goes right to the top.
Joola Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16MM
Here's a paddle that doesn't need any added weight unless you want to go absolutely nuts like the guy that endorses it for even more power and spin.
When I first reviewed the Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16MM, I said it was the best paddle on the market, and I maintain that. In the right hands, it's a weapon of mass destruction, and a big reason for that is the spin potential. That said, it is 16 millimeters, and Joola doesn't defy physics, so it won't be quite as instantaneous in its response as the thinner paddles on this list, but it's by far the most reactive thick paddle I've ever used.
I won't pretend to know what Joola has done in the core to make it simultaneously soft and responsive, but it's the most spin-friendly 16-millimeter paddle on the market and maybe even more spin-friendly than the Power Air Invikta. You get a feeling of springiness during dwell time, where the ball sinks into the paddle bed but also shoots out with almost all the force you put in.
The carbon fiber top sheet is also among the best on the market. It's not the grittiest right out of the box, but its durability makes it shine. It doesn't lose grit nearly as fast as some other paddles, so in terms of long-run spin potential, it's right up there with the best.
I recently reviewed the Drive, and I'm a huge believer in what the Florida-based company is doing with their paddle(s) (they only have one for now). The Drive is the odd one out on the list because it doesn't compare to any other paddle on the market as it's the only one to feature Kevlar in its core construction.
The Kevlar layer gives it a unique crispness and pop that is totally uncharacteristic of a 19-millimeter paddle. Circling back to what I said earlier, thick paddles usually make the ball lose energy on contact. Because the Kevlar layer makes the response so crisp and instant, there isn't that same energy loss, so the resulting spin is still top-tier.
In fact, using kevlar helps this paddle have even more pop than the thin ones. That's because the Drive still has that instant response without sacrificing mass behind the ball. Thin paddles generally have a lower swing weight because there is just less paddle, but that's not the case on the Drive.
Couple that with a super gritty and decently durable top sheet, and you've got a very spin-friendly paddle.
There you have it: the five best pickleball paddles for spin in no particular order. Just kidding, I can't help myself; I'm going to rank them.
1: Selkirk Vanguard Power Air - Ridiculous aerodynamics that makes it the "spin king."
2: Ben Johns Hyperion - Technological genius at its finest. Don't ask how; just enjoy it.
3. ProDrive Drive - Energy return and mass. Once incompatible, not anymore.
4. Gearbox CX11 E Power - The original aerodynamic design.
5. CRBN1 13mm - All the right base ingredients; it just needs a little more spice (weight).
If you'd like to try any of the paddles, grab a demo in-store, or check them out online.