The Selkirk Vanguard Power Air currently sits atop the Selkirk base retail brand after nearly a year on the market. With the recent revamp to Selkirk’s budget-friendly SLK line and upcoming Selkirk Labs project paddles, we’re here to see how the Power Air holds up among the ever-growing spectrum of pickleball paddles in 2023.
Continuing from our first pickleball sneaker review, we now present to you a WearTesters-first pickleball paddle review. And there are many more to come, so keep checking back with us.
The Selkirk Vanguard Power Air certainly lives up to its name. Aided by a 13mm core and a four-layer blend of fiberglass and carbon fiber on the hitting surface, powerful shots were achieved with relative ease compared to softer, more control-oriented paddles.
The springy nature of the paddle on hits provides good depth on serves/drives, extra punch on speed-ups and put-aways, and generally just allows more aggressive players to work their offense as needed.
The Selkirk Vanguard Power Air is the first paddle I purchased built specifically for power, and coming from softer paddles, it made quite a difference. Even now using other thermoformed paddles (what Selkirk calls 360° Molding), the Power Air remains high among my power paddles.
Perhaps my favorite part of the power this paddle provides is the fact that it does not compromise much on control, in my opinion. As I work to fine-tune drop shots I have found myself most successful when using the Power Air even in comparison to raw carbon and softer paddles.
I also see the most accuracy on put-aways and attacks — whether I’m aiming to hit the ball at feet, pockets, shoulders, or even my favorite split drive down the middle when the opportunity presents itself. More often than not, I am simply able to place the ball where I want, when I want on the opponent’s side of the court. And when I’m not able to, I’m unfortunately forced to attribute it to user-error.
The RPM numbers that came back from very reputable content creators placed the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air atop the list of spin-generating paddles around the time of its release. While those numbers have come back higher for other paddles, I personally feel like I can generate the most spin with the Power Air. In fact, the spin I get may be what I enjoy most about playing with this paddle.
The amount of topspin I get on balls is what I feel helps me with some, not all, drop shots. It also allows me to confidently pressure my opponent by driving the ball deeper without worrying about going out of bounds.
I could make an argument that I did not fully understand how important spin was in the game of pickleball until I began playing with the Power Air and learned how to manipulate spin and shape with it. It has changed the way I play everywhere from serves and returns at the baseline to dinking at the kitchen line — all because took the steps with a great paddle with spin.
One of the reasons I think I am able to get great spin from the Power Air is that it is highly maneuverable and easy to swing. While the Aerodynamic Throat (aka the “smiley face” hole) implementation seems a bit gimmicky, I do believe this has made a difference in my hand speed.
The ability and confidence to quickly react to speed-ups and attacks at the kitchen line come directly from the paddle being relatively easy to swing and switch from forehand to backhand and vice versa. And don’t get me started with slices. I probably attempt more than I need to with the Power Air just because it is that fun and easy to chop through the air with.
I don’t find much disappointing when it comes to the Vanguard Power Air, but the grip of the Power Air leaves a little to be desired. While the Invikta shape I play with gives extended reach as the elongated variant, it possesses the same 5.25″ grip length as its Epic (more standard shape) counterpart yet still feels a little on the shorter end of the spectrum.
Presumably because of the Aerodynamic Throat, the paddle is tapered in a way that makes two-handed shots less comfortable. A two-handed backhand is not impossible with the Power Air Invikta, but a little more grip length or different tapering would sure make it less difficult.
As far as the grip tape goes, it isn’t bad in my opinion, I’ve played with it stock a few times without much problem. However, my preference is to add a Head Xtreme Soft Overgrip or Lizard Skins DSP Ultra Grip to just about every paddle I have.
The Selkirk Vanguard Power Air remains my go-to paddle despite the influx of very high-value paddles from smaller brands releasing what seems like every month. While I enjoy supporting the smaller brands like Legacy and Vatic (just to name a few) where I can and love what they are doing in the paddle market, I trust the Power Air above all at the moment.
I never expected to have such an easy transition to a power paddle like this, and if I were to play a tournament game today, this would be the primary option for me. If you are someone who enjoys an elongated paddle that is not head-heavy, packs a good punch, and is more than adequate in the singles or doubles setting, the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air is still a great option.