We recently reviewed Ben Johns' brand new and hotly anticipated Perseus. Some of you may not yet know that Ben has a brother, and that brother has his signature paddle: the Joola Collin Johns Scorpeus CFS 16MM. And, in keeping with that sibling theme, the Scorpeus 16 has a sister of its own in Anna Bright's signature 14MM Scorpeus.
(Was that a stretch? That might have been a stretch…)
Either way, the two other hotshot pros over at Joola now have their own signature paddles, and the Scorpeus is sure to turn some heads.
The only difference between the Scorpeus and the Perseus is in paddle shape; as you can imagine, that hugely affects playability. Instead of an elongated 16.5-inch length, the Scorpeus is only 16 inches long, half an inch shorter, and half an inch wider.
16 inches is what you would call a "standard length," but what separates the Scorpeus from this more standard design is the very long 5.25-inch handle. It's still shorter than the one on the Perseus but similar in length to many extended paddles; the same length as the Invikta and only 5 millimetres shorter than the Vatic Pro V7's.
Two things stick out right away.
For one, even though the paddle itself is short, the handle isn't, so there is still plenty of room for a two-handed backhand. The other: when you combine a short overall length with a long handle, you get a really short paddle face, and that short paddle face is the main driver for most of the playability characteristics we'll be discussing from here on out.
I just wanted to mention that I spent most of my time play-testing the thicker 16-millimetre Scorpeus but also played a bit with the thinner model. As you would expect, the 14mm is more powerful, spin-friendly, and faster in the air, but the 16 has better touch and control. Apart from that, they are very similar, so keep that in mind as we get into more detail here.
Hand Speed and Manoeuvrability
Hands down, the Scorpeus is the fastest paddle I've ever extensively played with, and it's not even close compared to number two. It's faster than the Vatic Pro Flashes, the CRBN2s, and any paddle from Selkirk not named the Vanguard Power Air Epic. I haven't played much with the Epic, but from the little I have, it's absolutely rapid, so comparing the two head-to-head would be very interesting.
What makes the Scorpeus so fast, though? It's short, it has a long handle, and most importantly, it has that extremely short paddle face I mentioned earlier. When you look at the ratio of paddle face to handle length, a paddle with a longer handle and shorter face will always be quicker because the paddle face is much wider and, therefore, much less aerodynamic than the handle. So, when you compare the hand speed of the Scorpeus with that of something like the S2 or standard Epic, it's noticeably quicker.
Having such a long handle and short face also adds an element of whippiness that you don't get with most other paddles. It's incredible how fast the Scorpeus is, every aspect of the paddle is there to increase its speed, and the result is extraordinary. With the slightest tweak of your wrist, the paddle will react exactly as you want. I even added a lot of lead at 12 o'clock, and the paddle remained highly manoeuvrable.
There are two major issues I've always felt when playing with shorter paddles, and one of those is spin potential. Because shorter paddles are shorter levers, you can't get the same purchase over the ball to add spin.
Don't get me wrong, Joola hasn't defied physics with the Scorpeus, so if you hit the same shot with the Scorpeus as you would with the Perseus, it simply won't have as much spin, but because the shape is so rapid and whippy, it's almost begging you to snap your wrist even more for added spin. The paddle responds extremely well to the spin-friendly windshield wiper technique, and once I got used to its swing pattern, I started to crank up that spin even more than I had been on the Perseus.
Of course, the Scorpeus' top sheet and core are the same as the one on the Perseus, so when you keep those two variables equal, the only other factors of spin production are mass behind the ball and the rate at which you accelerate the paddle through contact. The Perseus has more mass, but the Scorpeus' potential to be accelerated quickly trumped that extra mass and that's why I found it to be ever so slightly more spin-friendly.
Sweet Spot and Feel
Even though the top sheet and core are identical on the Perseus and Scorpeus, there was a noticeable difference in feel between the two. The Scorpeus is more crisp — almost more "harsh" feeling. To put it simply, it feels more thermoformed.
In our Perseus review, I mentioned that the paddle felt softer than most other thermoformed paddles, but that's not the case with the Scorpeus, and it (again) comes down to this really small paddle face. Less paddle face means less sweet spot, which means the sweet spot itself will feel more crisp, and the paddle will feel more jarring outside of it.
"There are two big issues I've always felt when playing with shorter paddles and one of those is spin potential" — Luca Berg; a couple of lines ago. The other major issue is instability. Because a 16-inch paddle's lever is shorter, you feel less stability and consistency when you make contact with the ball. This will never change no matter what happens to technological development down the line: a longer paddle with the same core and top sheet will always be more stable than its shorter counterpart.
Power and Control Ratio
The Scorpeus isn't necessarily powerful, even though it has that "poppy" feel of a thermoformed paddle. That said, it is on the higher end of power for 16-inch paddles. That thermoformed crispness does make the ball-into-paddle dwell time quite short, but it isn't as powerful as the extended thermoformed powerhouses like the CRBN1X Powers or even the slightly shorter Vatic Pro Flashes.
It's logical to start thinking, "it has that instantly reactive thermoformed feel, so it's not going to have great control", but that couldn't be further from the truth. It won't have that dinking and reset "cheat code" feel of something from the Vanguard 2.0 line, but because it has such incredible manoeuvrability, you have so much control over how hard the ball launches off the paddle face.
If you want the ball to shoot off with more power, flick your wrist a little harder, but if you want more control, keep the wrist locked, and the Scorpeus will be extremely easy to guide through the soft game.
I just wanted to re-emphasize that the power-to-control ratio is where the 16 and 14-millimetre Scorpeus are most different. The 16 is significantly more plush than the 14, but it's obviously a give-and-take because you'll be sacrificing a little bit of power to get that.
Who is the Scorpeus for?
Analyzing who the Scorpeus is designed for was much more complicated than it might seem. Is it made for singles? For doubles? A combination of the two? Did you, a guy who plays mainly singles, get along with it?
It took me a while to appreciate the Scorpeus, and while I'm looking forward to going back to extended paddles, I came to love most things about this paddle, especially for doubles. The other-worldly hand speed is something I've underrated during most of my time playing this sport; now I realize its importance, and it helped elevate my game to another level at the net. Its whippy swing pattern also perfectly complements the more rolling type of pickleball volleys, where you can flick the ball past your opponent rather than punch through it like a tennis volley.
Overall, it's a paddle that is more apt for doubles than singles, but if you can get used to that unique swing pattern and slightly lower level of stability, you'll be on to a winner.