Do you know what the fastest growing sport in the world is right now? Of course you do. It’s pickleball. The quirky pastime born on Bainbridge Island in the mid ’60’s has burst onto the scene in recent years and with exponential growth the sport continues to expand its legitimacy and reach by the day.
Paddle width, paddle weight, grip length, grip style, paddle surface (carbon fiber, graphite, etc), and design differences mean that the days of every professional pickleball player playing with the same paddle are long gone.
Many companies are taking notice of the popularity of the sport and realizing the market potential for pickleball paddles. Pickleball paddle manufacturers are constantly developing new pickleball paddles and it seems like every pro is affiliated with their own premium paddle.
Let’s take a look at the top professional pickleball players today and dive into what pickleball paddles they are using, and why.
If you’re (pickle) ballin on a budget…
Check Out: Best Pickleball Paddles under $100
Ben Johns-Joola Hyperion CFS 16mm
If you haven’t heard of Ben Johns by now you should probably stop everything you are doing and go watch some of his highlights. Ben is widely considered to be the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of pickleball, and has yet to reach his 25th year on Earth!
What Pickleball Paddle Does Ben John’s Use?
Ben Johns was one of the first professional pickleball players to sign a deal for his own signature paddle a few years back with Franklin. That all changed last year when he shocked the pickleball world by signing up with German table tennis powerhouse Joola in their first foray into the world of pickleball paddles.
They made quite a splash with the release of the Ben johns Signature Paddle- the Hyperion CFS 16 (Carbon Friction Surface 16mm), along with a range of other paddles with variations of grip style, shape, surface texture, etc.
Ben Johns recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Material Sciences and used that knowledge to help Joola come up with a very innovative paddle.
The Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16 is composed of a honeycomb core, a raw carbon fiber surface, a carbon forged handle, and hyper foam along the edge wall to increase sweet spot and limit mis-hits. It comes in a standard weight of 8.4 ounces, meaning it’s a bit of a heavier paddle.
The thick core of the Hyperion CFS 16 allows it to provide optimal control, the raw carbon fiber face helps the Hyperion achieve optimal spin, and its elongated shape and carbon forged handle help give it solid power.
The Ben Johns Signature Paddle has been wildly popular since its introduction and remains amongst the most popular paddles you will see in both recreational and tournament play.
Anna Leigh Waters-Paddletek Batam TS-5
Much of what I just said about Ben can be applied to Anna Leigh Waters, except instead of being 23 years old like Ben, ALW is only 15! Her play is simply draw dropping. The poise, awareness, power, grace, creativity, and confidence she seems to summon effortlessly is truly a joy to watch.
Like many pickleball phenoms, Anna Leigh started at a very young age as a tennis player. In 2019 with the help of her mother/coach/doubles partner Leigh Waters, ALW became the youngest professional pickleball player ever at the age of 12. Since then she has ripped through the competition winning triple crown after triple crown with her aggressive and and intuitive playing style.
Are you also coming From a Tennis Background?
Check out: Best Pickleball Paddles For Tennis Players!
What Pickleball Paddle Does Anna Leigh Waters Use?
Anna Leigh plays with a Paddletek Batam TS-5 pickleball paddle. The TS-5 is a lighter version of the popular EX-L model. Coming in between 7.0-7.5 ounces, this is definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum, but don’t think that means it doesn’t pack a punch!
The TS-5 utilizes a textured fiberglass epoxy hybrid face, which is great if you are like Anna Leigh and have access to as many as you want. But for your average player, you may find the awesome spin you get from this paddle reduce a bit faster than with a carbon fiber face.
Tyson Mcguffin-Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invicta
Barstool sports recently proclaimed Tyson McGuffin to be the “most electrifying man in sports!” Tyson is a majorly accomplished singles and doubles player, who consistently logs great results. His unique fashion, mullet, outgoing personality, high intensity playing style and signature bark make him a big time fan favorite.
What Pickleball Paddle Does Tyson Mcguffin Use?
Tyson has been affiliated with Selkirk, one of the biggest names in pickleball for years. His current paddle of choice is the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invicta. This is a hugely popular paddle that QuadFlex 4 Layer Hybrid Face to combine the best of all worlds having excellent power and spin and solid control. The open throat design is something that Selkirk has been toying with, that sets the paddle apart from the rest stylistically.
Selkirk approaches pickleball paddle construction as a true science, coming out with prototypes a couple of times a year, giving them to Tyson, some other pros, and a limited amount of public, getting feedback, and making tweaks.
Selkirk is also a fan favorite because they offer an industry best lifetime manufacturer warranty on their products (although beware, this warranty does not cover breaking the paddle over your knee in frustration after a tough singles loss to Ben Johns! Ahem, Tyson). Selkirk paddles, while extremely popular may not be for everyone, as the top tier ones are the highest on this list.
Catherine Parenteau- Paddletek Tempest Reign Pro
Catherine is a fantastically gifted pickleball player who consistently wins or at worst medals in singles, gender, and mixed doubles. Her technique is worthy of study as it is textbook. She is truly one of the most consistent professional pickleball players on tour.
What Paddle Does Catherine Parenteau Use?
Catherine uses a Paddletek Tempest Reign Pro as her paddle of choice. It is a graphite paddle with a carbon fiber face. The Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro has been highly popular for years and the Reign Pro is its latest iteration. Utilizing an elongated shape ensures that this baby has more pop and reach than previous fan favorite paddles in the series.
Riley Newman-GAMMA Riley Newman Signature
Riley has been very solid on the pro circuit for many years, but in the past year or two has really burst on the scene. Along with doubles partners Matt Wright, and Catherine Parenteau, Riley has enjoyed huge success of late. Even seemingly finding a recipe to bother and sometimes best Ben and Collin Johns!
Riley plays with a very unique grip style, often hitting two handed forehands and backhands. He also frequently changes hands, and has multiple unconventional means of speeding up balls at the kitchen line.
What Paddle Does Riley Newman Use?
Riley has his own signature paddle,the GAMMA Riley Newman Signature. This paddle uses a composite face, that is not necessarily cutting edge as far as technology. To be honest, I have never seen anyone besides Riley Newman use this paddle. But hey, it’s working for Riley, so keep it up!
Jessie Irvine-Engage Pursuit MX Jessie Irvine Signature Middleweight
Jessie Irvine’s game is defined by being smooth and consistent. Sure, she has a mean overhead and a nasty inside out forehand. But really, her resets, dinks, and drops from anywhere on the court are what sets her apart.
What Paddle Does Jessie Irvine Use?
Jessie uses the very popular Engage Pursuit MX Jessie Irvine Signature Middleweight paddle. This paddle uses an Omni-directional friction based Graphite surface. Although it isn’t the newer raw carbon fiber technology that has become so popular, Engage has been making great paddles for a long time.
You can often find their paddles on sale for a fraction of retail price, so it pays to bide your time if you are looking for one of these. The EX models have a shorter handle and the MX have a long one great for two handed backhands.
JW Johnson-Franklin Signature Carbon STK
All of the players listed up until now have mostly played on the PPA tour, unlike JW who largely has played APP. Mergers, takeovers, and exclusive deals are constantly in flux amidst all the growth of professional pickleball, so that is all changing rapidly.
Regardless of where he plays JW Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. The 20 year old is a top 3 singles and top 5 doubles player in the world at worst. With lightening fast hands, a very laid back demeanor, and some of the most powerful strokes in the game, JW is downright scary to go up against.
What Paddle Does JW Johnson Use?
JW recently signed an endorsement deal with Franklin as they released their first ever raw carbon fiber paddle, the Franklin Signature Carbon STK. Coming in two levels of core thickness: 17mm for control and 14.5mm for more power, the new Franklin is exciting for many of their fans who loved the old Ben Johns model and have been eagerly anticipating this upgrade.
Some have expressed a bit of displeasure at the price tag of the new Franklin, hoping it would be sub $100 as many of their previous paddles were, but this is a very new paddle, so the jury is still out on if it is truly worth the upgrade.
Pickleball is going through explosive expansion at the recreational and professional levels. So whether you are trying to stack prize money and become pickleball national champions with your partner or simply enjoy playing pickleball with friends, you are sure to notice the rapid changes occuring. The professional pickleball players are at the front of the pack with the most popular paddles that utilize cutting edge technologies.
Whatever your level, and whatever your goals within this wildly addictive sport, enjoy watching how the pros do it and don’t forget to notice what new and innovative paddle they are holding as they work their magic!