One of the key differences in pickleball and tennis is the frequency of the ‘firefight’ or hands battle of volleys at the net in a game of pickleball. Being only 14 feet away from your opponent, getting your paddle in position quickly is an essential element to any player’s game, and once you get it there, you want to be able to put the ball away. In the same vein, if you struggle to find the paddle’s sweet spot, you may need to pair that hand speed with higher stability for more forgiveness on off center hits. Paddle characteristics like swingweight, twistweight, and even paddle length play a big part in how a paddle performs at the net. With these in mind, Joseph has selected his top 5 paddles for hands battles at the net that can give you the split-second advantage you need over your opponents.
Starting off is the incredible ProKennex Black Ace which could be the best combination of maneuverability and power on this list. For years, ProKennex has built a following with easy to play with but still competitive products, and this paddle is no exception. With a maneuverable thin profile, shock absorbing tungsten beads inside the core, a raw carbon fiber face, and surprising pop, the Black Ace unlocks power for players without being too heavy. While this paddle is not the most stable on the list, players looking for an easy on the arm paddle that helps them get in position for volleys quicker will appreciate both the Pro and Ovation shapes the paddle comes in.
Next up is the new Paddletek Tempest Wave v3. While it may look like other Paddletek paddles on the market, the V3 is an absolute beast at the net and anywhere else on the court. The Wave’s widebody shape offers high stability on off center hits crucial for last minute blocks while the powerful thin core and iced carbon texture work in tandem to put pace and spin on speed ups and counter attacks. Paddletek found a fantastic balance between maneuverability and stability with the Wave V3. But if you can’t bring yourself to playing a standard shape, the Reign V3 brings many of the same qualities to the table at the slight sacrifice of maneuverability.
While the 14mm JOOLA Scorpius has Anna Bright’s name on it, that doesn’t stop other pros from making it their paddle of choice on the PPA Tour. A stable widebody face paired with raw carbon fiber gives great stability and spin, but the powerful unibody thermoformed construction and elongated handle uncommon on widebody paddles allows these elements to work in tandem to create an offensive and mobile weapon at the net. For some players, the power of the 14mm Scorpius could be tougher to manage, and the slightly thicker 16mm Colin Johns Scorpius should be considered if that’s the case.
The Selkirk Power Air is one of the original recipients of “Hey, that paddle has a hole in it!”, but the performance is more than just marketing hype. Incredibly maneuverable and fast through the air, this edgeless power paddle is a top choice for bangers and counter attackers everywhere. The hole offers improved aerodynamics, weight reduction, and reduced drag that work together to support higher swing speeds and faster hands. The addition of some weighted tape on the perimeter of the paddle will unlock its full potential for advanced players capable of swinging the extra mass. The Epic, S2, and Invikta shapes of the Power Air all offer incredible maneuverability, and you honestly can’t go wrong with any of them when it comes to effective play at the net.
Last but certainly not least is the 14mm 2X Power Series from CRBN. Initially known for their elite level spin, the first CRBN paddles were a top choice for players looking to bend the ball to their will, and the X series built on that reputation with the addition of thermoformed construction adding impressive power to the lineup. Players will appreciate the high stability and forgiveness the paddle brings without sacrificing too much hand speed. With 3 shapes and 2 thicknesses to choose from, I recommend the shape you are most comfortable with now and the thickness that best suits what you want from your game. In the case of the CRBN X series, they are all powerful, so choose the 16mm if you are looking for stability and the 14 if you are looking for maneuverability and swing speed.