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Thomas' Pickleball Paddle Recommendations

by Thomas Shields on

"What paddle should I buy?" - all of you

I get that asked a lot. Like a lot a lot. So, I've put together some recommendations.

And I'll periodically update you can always return to it and find the latest and greatest (according to me).

Below you will see 4 categories:

1) What I play with: self-explanatory

2) What I would play with: basically these are the paddles I would likely be using if I weren't using the paddle in #1

3) What's buzzin': these are trendy paddles that seem to be popular among the pickleball junkies. If I see someone with one of these paddles, then I assume they spend a lot of time on the pickleball internet

4) Bang for your buck: solid paddles that are a little more affordable

5) Ladies Recs: my mom is a beginner and wanted to some paddle recommendations, so...that's what these are! I thought they might be helpful for other beginner ladies out there, as well as sons like me who don't know what to buy their moms for Mother's Day

What are these recs based on?

  • Personal experience
  • Observable trends (e.g. what I'm seeing in amateur rec play and events)
  • What's got the people talkin' on twitter, reddit, discord and the rest of social media. Safe to say I'm known for keeping my ear to the ground when it comes to pickleball. Follow me @readmynewslettr
  • Interviews with top pros, influencers and organizations (have you checked out pickleball's #1 pod yet?)

So, while these recommendations are subjective and solely based on my opinions, they're probably taking in the most comprehensive data set in pickleball.

Skim This For The Basics (or skip it, idc)

Skim will be helpful. I know, I hate reading, too (thanks TikTok)

  • 14mm or 16mm? This is paddle thickness. General rule: 14mm is less touch, more power. 16mm is more touch, less power.
  • The cutting edge of pickleball is not very cutting edge. Tons of brands are making great paddles that can go toe-to-toe with the best in the biz. It's unlike most sports in that regard. To use a trendy buzz word, paddle manufacturing has been completely democratized
  • Anything Selkirk is going to be quality. Selkirk is the rare exception to the above in that they are one of the few brands with their own R&D facility. You won't find paddles like theirs elsewhere. Selkirk is the leading brand in the industry. (Yes, they are a partner of ours, so I guess take it with a grain of salt but it's the truth)
  • Joola is hot on their trail. Also good. And my general rule of thumb is that if Ben Johns is using a paddle, then it is good. This also applies to JW Johnson, and he plays with Franklin
  • Carbon Fiber is where it's want Carbon Fiber
  • Paddles change with use. Some paddles delaminate (core separates from the surface) and that can be a good thing OR a bad thing depending on that paddle. But basically you'll want to take note of how a paddle plays when you first get it (particularly its power and spin). Grit wears off = less spin. Paddle delaminates or otherwise alters = sometimes more power, sometimes a dead paddle
  • For all of the paddles below, you will notice a uniform paddle shape. This is simply what I prefer, and what an overwhelming majority of 4.0+ players prefer. In my opinion, it's the right balance of width, reach and length. I generally tell people to avoid the rounded or shorter paddles
  • If you want to get into some nerdy stuff, here is a piece on dwell time, deflection, grit and how they are measured

1) What I Play With

Right now I play with the ProXR Zane Navratil Signature 14mm.

It's $210, but you can get 10% off at Fromuth with code 10DINK.

Yes, Zane is my co-host on our pod. But he'll be the first to tell you that I ain't using it because of him. He DID gift me it on a recent episode, though.

And I used it for the first time when I played him in singles, just because I wanted to be able to say that I beat him with his own paddle. I obviously did not beat him (lost 11-6, 11-7).

But I was super impressed. It's slightly different than what I have used in the past:

  • Franklin Ben Johns 16mm
  • Joola Ben Johns Hyperion 16mm
  • CRBN 1


  • It has a slightly longer handle which can fit a second hand for some sick two-ey backhands (I recently switched to a two-hander...highly recommend)
  • It has a slightly narrower face...less room for error then it comes to making contact with the ball
  • It is super gritty. I can carve the ball better with this paddle than any paddle I've ever played with
  • I wouldn't recommend this to beginners, though. It lacks forgiveness and can be slightly unpredictable. For me, the upside of power and ability to carve the ball is worth the downgrade in touch/feel

2) What I would Play With:

CRBN 1x power Series 14mm elongated

Code THEDINK for 10% off at CRBN.

This one is often sold out, so check for it at as well. 10DINK for 10% off there.

This thing is hot in the streets. You know a paddle is good when players are questioning its legality (it's legal).

Power and spin maximized, but power especially. Great for former tennis players.

I go with the 16mm for a little more touch around the net. I already generate enough power coming from a tennis background and being exceptionally athletic (my mom says so), so I'm more concerned with what will allow for more touch - 16mm is the answer.

Joola Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16mm

10DINK for 10% off at Fromuth Pickleball.

I used this for over a year. But POSSIBLY even more compelling is that Ben Johns used this. While he is working on a new model, this was his first signature paddle with Joola.

Basically my philosophy is, if Ben uses it, then it's probably pretty damn good. Not only is he #1, but he's also a complete savant. You can listen to him and Zane Navratil talk circles around me in a recent episode of PicklePod.

Ben Johns hits a volley at the Pro Pickleball Association Red Rock Open

He studied mechanical engineering in college and that's played a big role in his hands on approach to designing his signature paddles.

But a disclaimer: my issue with this paddle is it goes dead, and when it goes dead, you lose a ton of power. My theory is that it delaminates in the bad way (some paddles delaminate and performance improves, but that's a topic for another time)...basically the core and the surface of the paddle separate in a way that is detrimental to the paddle's performance.

But a new one of these guys is debatably the best on the market.

Joola Ben Johns Perseus CFS 16mm

10DINK for 10% off at Fromuth Pickleball.

This is Ben Johns' new model. It's super popular right now.

For me, it took a while to get a feel for this paddle. I ended up ditching it for the ProXR I mentioned above.

This paddle has phenomenal control and touch at the net, and it's balanced by plenty of power. But my issue was figuring out how to harness that power.

Unless I really hit the sweet spot, and came over the ball perfectly, I'd either drill it into the net or launch it way long. Maybe if I had stuck with it longer, I would have figured it out.

Quick Note: easiest way to get better is to make sure you have the best gear. Plain and simple.

That's why we made The Pickleball Box. Play Better.

3) What's Buzzin'

Here are the paddles everyone is talking about right now. The problem is, they're usually sold out because they're made by smaller companies who make smaller orders and can't keep up with the demand.

  • Gearbox Pro Power Elongated: This thing has people certifiably upset. I just ordered one, so I have not used it yet, but I am hearing it has a stupid amount of power.
    • A certain paddle expert offered me this when I asked him about it: "Yeah, that thing is ridiculous. The more you use it the more it changes and gets powerful."
  • Six Zero Black Diamond Power: tough to find right now. Last we heard Fromuth was the only place that had them. All the junkies want this paddle at the moment. Update: I've been using this on and off since originally writing this: definitely recommend this to any player. Good balance of touch and power...plays very consistently, which allows you to minimize errors like missed dinks.
  • Legacy Pro (out of stock). This paddle has caused some controversy has insane pop
  • Vatic Pro (often out of stock). It has also been subject to some scrutiny lately, plays fast
  • CRBN Power Series (see above)
  • Selkirk Vanguard Power Invikta, used by none other than Tyson McGuffin himself

4) Bang for Your Buck

These are the paddles I consider to be pretty solid, but aren't quite in that $200 range

Electrum Model E - I've previously noted that this is another good paddle for former tennis players with a good balance of power and spin. 10DINK for 10% off at Fromuth

Franklin Carbon STK - I used to play with a variation of this. JW Johnson currently uses it. He's the #2 men's player. Carbon Fiber = spin + power.

Franklin Signature Series 16mm - there was a moment where everyone had this paddle (in white). It was formerly known as the Ben Johns signature before he left Franklin for Joola. It's easily the best bang for your buck in all of pickleball.

5) Ladies Recs

Selkirk SLK Halo Control Max - neutral shape, looks stylish and not too expensive.

Catherine Parenteau Paddletek Tempest Reign Pro - Catherine Parenteau has long been a top 3 women's players in both singles and doubles.

If you want to become a pickleball junky yourself...then you'll need a subscription to The Dink Newsletter (it's free).

Thomas Shields

Thomas Shields

Founder of The Dink & Upswing Sports. Host of PicklePod with Zane Navratil. Sometimes commentator and show host.

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