Thermoforming, core innovation, and some darn good paddles
Pickleball boomed this year, and companies responded with some impressive innovation.
2023 was the best year on record for pickleball equipment with 100's of new paddles coming on to the market. Pickleball Central only brings in the best in each category, so selecting favorites from our curated selection was a challenge (and a whole lot of fun). Thermoforming, or heat molding, was the hot topic of the year, and unsurprisingly, many of the paddles on this list are thermoformed. Benefits include much stronger handles, more trampoline-like power, and a wider sweet spot.
Companies like Gearbox and ProKennex continued to push the status quo of paddle manufacturing with paddles that are made and play like nothing else on the market. Smaller innovations we loved to see were well-formed octagonal handles and reinforced edge guards that most companies adopted on their higher end models. We had a tough time narrowing the list down to 10, so our list goes to 11.
Joola Ben Johns Perseus 16
"What paddle does the best in the world play with"
- Designed by the best
- Elite power and spin
Ben John's co-designed the Perseus to his exact specifications to provide him the tools he needs to earn title after title. Thermoformed construction for huge putaways, a raw carbon fiber surface with tons of bite, and a thick forgiving core create a pretty mean package. The elongated handle (that feels incredible) makes whipping shots around the court an absolute blast. For those looking for even more forgiveness and faster hand speed, the Scorpeus shape may better suit your game.
Selkirk LUXX Control Air Invikta
Like carving a turkey with a scalpel
- Effortless ball control
- Impressive spin
Most players don’t need more power, they need better strokes and brains that make more placement-oriented decisions. Fortunately for them, Selkirk launched the LUXX Control Air, boasting a forgiving 20mm thick core paired with a top-of-the-line spin texture we found competitive enough to keep us bending drop shots and dinks session after session.
CRBN-1X Power Series
The core that gives more and more....and more
- Tons of power
- Huge sweet spot
One of the original thermoformed T700 raw carbon fiber paddles that still delivers elite performance. CRBN built on their top tier spin generation platform with the power series and gave us a great feeling handle and smooth V8 engine style performance. Good luck finding a tournament podium without one of these on it, competitive players who can handle the firepower will love the X series from CRBN.
Gearbox Pro Power Elongated
With great power, comes great responsibility (to drill)
- Unmatched power
- One of a kind
One of the highest price tags in pickleball raised a lot of eyebrows this year, but Gearbox backed up their promises of unmatched power and performance, making this paddle hard to keep in stock. The Pro Power makes you feel like a pro with wicked fast drives, serves, and put aways, but it may take some time and skill to control it.
ProKennex Kinetic Black Ace Series
Razor thin, lighting quick, and beloved by gamblers
- Shock reduction tech
- Powerful and quick
Best in class shock dampening tech got a performance upgrade with the Black Ace that any competitive player will appreciate. The raw carbon fiber face gives long lasting spin potential while the powerful (and loud) core provides arguably the most pop on this list. The Black Ace is maneuverability, spin, and pop all wrapped in a shock absorbing, low-profile package.
Volair Mach 1 Forza 16mm
Beautiful both inside and out
- Elite spin potential
The Forza series offers players at every skill level the potential for a powerful game. Thermoformed construction offers power and a solid feel while their hybrid shape balances sweet spot size and reach. If you are on the fence about a new paddle, chances are something in the Forza series will suit your game well.
ProXR Zane Navratil Signature 14mm
Like writing in cursive
- Great ball control
- Ultra long handle
In a market dominated by effortless power, the nimble and grit-forward Zane Signature is one of the few paddles to best Ben Johns in singles this year thanks to its super long handle and best in class spin potential. Players coming from tennis who love to swing out and bend the ball to their will can’t get enough of this paddle.
Now for something different
- Innovative tech
- Premium construction
The Metalbone is weird, and we love it that way. Adidas uses a stiff PMI foam core , a carbon layered face and quality edgeless construction. While we wish the weights were in more beneficial positions, the tech is exciting. When we used the factory weights and added some weight along the perimeter, we felt like the paddle came alive with higher spin potential and more forgiveness.