We all love a bit of gearspotting and pro paddle talk.
At the top, you've got the usual suspects. Anna-Leigh Waters dominates in women's singles, doubles, and mixed, and Ben Johns is the king in all the same categories on the men's side. The two have partnered up more than once, and their results together are frightening.
When it comes to their paddles, we all know what they play with; Waters has a lucrative contract with Paddletek, and Johns' new Perseus CFS 16mm is doing crazy numbers since it was released earlier this month.
We don't carry Paddletek, and we've covered enough about Ben Johns' paddles, so it's time to show some love to a couple of the other pros and talk about what paddles they're using and what makes them so good.
Keep in mind, while It's fun to see what the best are using, professional players are competing at the highest level with the thinnest of margins. They don't have the luxury to demo the latest and greatest and can sometimes pick a paddle based solely on the fact that they had a good training day when they tested it. They'll play well with anything, but there are some pretty exciting paddles out there and some even more noteworthy players.
Joola Scorpeus CFS 14 and 16 mm: Anna Bright and Collin Johns
Let's start with the Scorpeus because it was launched with the Perseus and may not have made as much of an instant splash, but its slow burn might soon catch fire. The Scorpeus is a very good paddle with such a unique shape and playability, and I'm not surprised that these two high-ranked doubles players like it so much.
Anna Bright is world #2 in women's doubles and mixed doubles, so she is probably the second-best women's player on tour. She uses the 14-millimetre Scorpeus, but why is it so good for doubles?
For one, it's absolutely rapid. This unique shape is the quickest I've ever used, and especially after playing with the Perseus, my reaction time was almost instantaneous, which is essential in doubles.
This stout shape doesn't just make it faster; it also makes it more forgiving along the sweet spot's width. Off-center hits are far less punishing than on the Perseus, so you can quickly get into a "can't miss" zone during dinkfests.
Bright's 14mm Scorpeus also hits extremely hard — that's in the nature of a 14-millimetre paddle — and the thermoforming tech pushes that to another level. It might not have the leverage of a 16.5-inch paddle, but because it has such a firm response, it still produces elite levels of power and spin.
Ben Johns' brother Collin is a fantastic player in his own right.
He is ranked first in the world in men's doubles and 19th in mixed. (That man's doubles ranking may be skewed when you consider his partner.) But I digress.
He plays with the thicker, 16-millimetre Scorpeus. Compared to the 14, it has similarly incredible hand speed — a touch slower because of the thicker profile — but has much better touch and control. Because it's thermoformed, it's still a firm paddle, but there is a longer dwell time which means you'll have better feel for the ball on the paddle face when you're hitting dinks and resets.
The Scorpeus will be a huge success; Joola took a leap in developing this shape, but with two top pros putting it in the spotlight at each event, it will quickly turn some heads, and when people take it out to the court, they'll understand what all the fuss is about. Stay tuned for our full review coming soon!
Franklin 17mm Signature Paddle Carbon STK and Pro Series Fiber-Glass: JW Johnson and Hayden Patriquin
Franklin could have packed their bags and walked away from pickleball when Ben Johns moved over to Joola. Losing a player like that is tough, but they persevered and landed JW Johnson, the #5 player in men's singles and doubles and third highest ranked in mixed. His paddle, the 17mm Carbon STK Signature, builds off the legendary Ben Johns Signature — now Signature Pro Series Fiber-Glass.
The fibreglass top sheet makes way for a much more in-vogue carbon one, and the result is fantastic. It has more touch, control, and spin potential.
The paddle is in good hands with a guy like Johnson it. He is one of the most underrated players on tour and has a better head-to-head with Johns than some players above him in the rankings. He'll keep pushing for wins, but there's another Franklin athlete who's sure to bring the brand a tidal wave of… titles?
Hayden Patriquin is 17 years old. Yes, you read that right. At 17, he is 20th in the world in men's singles and doubles, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He is an absolutely electric player who has the ability to completely take over points and blitz his opponents with flashes of brilliance. He has the aura, the it factor, and, most importantly, raw talent for all to see. If he can refine his game and grow into that 5'7" frame, the world of pro pickleball will be trembling.
He plays with the fibreglass version of the Franklin Signature Paddle, and if that's not proof that it's still viable in today's game, I don't know what is. Part of why I was, and still am, such a fan of the Signature is because it has one of the most unique feels of any paddle.
It has a poppy, almost springy sensation you can't get with carbon fibre. Hayden has talked about this before, but it also makes a more addictive crackling sound when you make good contact, and pros love that type of positive feedback.
Keep an eye on this kid. He's good, he's taking it seriously, and he's going places.
Selkirk SLK Signature Halo Control: Parris Todd
When someone endorses a paddle that's technically a take-down, you know you're doing something well. SLK may be Selkirks lower-end, non-USA made line but that doesn't mean they aren't still competitive with the very best. The Halo line isn't as revolutionary for touch and feel as the Vanguard 2.0s, and it's not pushing the limits of aerodynamics like the Vanguard Power Airs, but it's a solid raw-carbon offering that performs very well in most metrics.
Paris Todd is ranked 14th in the world for mixed doubles and 16th for women's doubles. Her signature paddle is more on the control side of things, which makes sense considering her high ranking in doubles. It's also an extended, 16.5 inch paddle with a long handle. Take one look at Todd's game and you can see how important a roll her two-handed backhand plays. It's one of the best on tour and it's no surprise she likes that extra bit of handle real estate for that second hand.
ProXR Beth Bellamy Diamond Series: Beth Bellamy
Switching things up a little we make our way to the senior Pro Tour. Bellamy is the most winningest senior pro and ranked #1 in both women's and mixed doubles. She partnered with ProXR back in spring of 2022 and together, they released her signature Diamond Series paddle.
It's a thin (14mm), extended (16.5 in) paddle with a fibreglass top sheet so, as you can imagine, it has a pretty crazy amount of pop and a beautiful white paintjob with a good amount of grit to it.
We're obviously sensing a theme here, with most of the pros opting for longer paddles, which is logical because so many come from a tennis background, and longer paddles are closest in swing pattern and feel to tennis rackets.
ProXR also recently landed Zane Navratil, one of pickleball's legends and former world #1.
His signature paddle has a similar shape to Bellamy's, albeit with a raw carbon fibre surface instead of fibreglass. Check out our review of Zane's paddle!
Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta: That is the question...
The most popular paddle on the men's and women's pro tours is the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta… or is it? If you come from a tennis background, you're probably familiar with the term "endorse." It could become just as important in pickleball.
Tyson McGuffin is arguably the most marketable player in pickleball; perhaps just behind the two GOATs, Waters and Johns. Selkirk has made a whole signature line for the Washington native, and spearheading that line is the Vanguard Power Air Invikta. The only problem? McGuffin is actually using a Project 002 painted to look like his signature Power Air. If you look closely at the paddle, it clearly has an edge guard, and the aero hole is smaller.
It seems that some other pros also prefer the Selkirk Labs paddle, with Mary Brascia, Dylan Frazier, and James Ignatowich opting away from the Power Air. Those three endorse the 002, but with Selkirk trying to make McGuffin's 002 look like a Power Air, it could become a problem for them in the future.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Power Air, though. Canada's very own Catherine Parenteau still proudly swings the paddle. She is ranked third in the world for women's and mixed doubles and world #2 in singles. Earlier, I said Anna Bright was the clear world number two, but now I'm beginning to question that statement, and it's not because Parenteau is Canadian, I promise. If you're ranked higher in singles and only marginally lower in doubles, shouldn't that mean you're technically better than your opponent? Food for thought.
Back to the Power Air and 002, though. The difference between the two is minimal, and both are extremely high-performers in the now right, but the 002 has a more crisp feel and powerful response while the Power Air is more spin-friendly and has better touch. It's no surprise that this design is so popular amongst the pros. With the aerodynamic cut-out in the paddle face, Selkirk has made this extended design almost as whippy and quick as shorter paddles, so spin is right up there with the most spin-friendly thermoformed paddles.
Speaking of thermoformed paddles, there have been a couple of notable absentees. CRBN Powers are slowly making their way into the hands of CRBN athletes like Vivienne David and Thomas Wilson, but it's no surprise that brands like Vatic, SixZero, and Legacy are still absent from the top 20. Professional athletes are notoriously picky individuals who only change up their gear if it's absolutely necessary. While thermoformed paddles perform very well in some metrics, they have undeniable downsides that may be just a step too far for competitive players right now.
Time will tell how the Pro Tour reacts to developments in the paddle industry, but one thing is certain; if you want a professional player to swing your paddle, you better come out with a winner because every paddle on this list has excellent all-around playability, as well as at least one outstanding characteristic.
If you want to try out any of the paddles we mentioned here, come visit us in store for a demo, or check them out online.