Selkirk Labs 001 and 002 pickleball paddle review

Barrett Kincheloe article, Reviews Leave a Comment

Note: Selkirk Labs is still in development, and things will change over time. This article will be updated accordingly if there are any significant changes in the future.

Selkirk Labs is one of the most unique, albeit controversial, paddle releases in recent pickleball history. There are many reasons for this which I’ll get into throughout this article. But first, I want to give you a bird’s eye view of what’s going on and then tell you about the paddles that have been released so far.

At its core, Selkirk Labs is an R&D experience. It’s marketed as a way for Selkirk fans to buy into a program that will allow them to try out new and upcoming paddles before they’re released to the public.

After you’ve tried the paddles, you can then submit feedback to Selkirk that can be posted publicly, but you can leave it anonymously if you wish.

Here’s how it functions:

  1. Sign up for a Selkirk Labs membership. You have to fill out and submit an application that, to be frank, will likely be accepted.
  2. Purchase one of the Selkirk Labs project paddles. These are fully fleshed-out paddles that, at this point in time, don’t seem any different than paddles that are currently on the market.
  3. Once you’ve played with the paddles, you can then submit your feedback.

The membership process

Signing up for a Selkirk Labs membership isn’t complicated at all. It’s free and very similar to signing up for anything else. You’ll get access to your dashboard online, where you can submit your feedback.

However, you can’t buy the paddle from Selkirk unless you sign up first. Once you submit your application, Selkirk will likely approve you, and you’ll be set to purchase your first paddle.

What’s available for you to purchase will be based on what they’re currently testing and what’s actually in stock. When they released these paddles back in February 2022, the 002 paddles (which I’ll talk about later) quickly sold out, as was expected.

Purchasing the paddle

Each paddle inside Selkirk Labs (again, at the time of this writing) costs $333. Yes, you read that right, and no, that isn’t a typo. Obviously, this is way over the general market price of pickleball paddles. It’s common to see paddles in the $150-200 range these days.

The justification for this price is that you’re not just buying a paddle; you’re buying a complete R&D experience that allows you to try prototype and beta paddles before they ever come close to hitting the shelves. There are some major issues with this, which I’ll discuss later.

As usual with Selkirk, the packaging, design, and overall customer experience is top-notch. The designers that work for Selkirk really know what they’re doing. The unboxing experience is always a treat.

What you get

Inside your Selkirk Labs package, you’ll receive the paddle, a paddle cover, and a certificate of authenticity.

The certificate of authenticity is like a collector’s plate in a way. It’s made of some very nice metal, and as usual, it is very sleek and professional. It comes in a small, red velvet bag with the Selkirk Labs logo engraved into the fabric. Inside the bag is the plate itself, but also a much smaller, nice card with a customer service inspection signature and the paddle’s weight.

Although I don’t think pickleball is at the point where counterfeit paddles are an issue, the certificate of authenticity is very nice. You’ll certainly love it if you’re into collector’s items. Be careful with fingerprints, though, it leaves smudges easily.

The metal card at the bottom looks brown here, but it is actually a silver color

Project 001

Author’s note 07/29/2022: This paddle has been redesigned into the Invikta shape. The following description of the paddle is based on the older Epic shape that was released in February 2022.

Project 001 is the first Selkirk Labs on the line. This paddle can be thought of as the “standard” pickleball paddle. When you think about a typical pickleball paddle shape, you think of this one.

But even though the Project 001 Epic has a standard shape, the face is quite unique. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Believe me, I’ve seen a LOT of paddles. I have closet shelves filled with them.

The face has layered carbon fiber that creates a nice textured design. You can feel the layers as you run your fingers across the face of the paddle. Does this make a massive difference in your game? That’s where the “paddle technology” debate comes into play. The overall answer is: probably not.

The paddle feels great overall, but the feeling itself isn’t necessarily unique. I’ve played with other paddles that aren’t marketed like this and don’t have fancy faces. They both generally feel the same. However, the Project 001 does feel a bit softer and a bit more solid. But the differences between the Project 001 and other paddles like it isn’t gargantuan by any means.

The downside to this paddle is that at the moment, the paddle is very lightweight, or at least it feels that way. The Project 001 that I received is 7.75oz. That may seem like a decent weight, but it’s not just the weight; it’s the weight balance.

The paddle is very handle-heavy. This means that most of the weight is focused more on the grip than the paddle’s tip. This makes the paddle feel lighter than it actually is. Imagine holding a hammer at the grip, then holding it near the head. Notice the difference?

Because of this, there is practically no power in this paddle. It’s just way too handle-heavy. This paddle is for soft play and control, which it does well. Having said that, the spin on this paddle is horrific. The ball does not grip well, and getting any kind of spin is very difficult.

Project 002

Specs:

Selkirk Labs Project 002 Invikta

Weight: 8.1-8.4oz

Length: 16.5”

Width: 7.375”

Handle length: 5.25”

Grip circumference: 4.25”

Here’s where things get interesting. The Project 002 Invikta is truly a one-of-a-kind paddle. It’s unique in almost every way. If you’re thinking about getting into Selkrik Labs, this is likely the reason.

The Project 002 Invikta is an elongated, long-handled power paddle. Featuring a face texture almost like sand paper and a “smiley face” hole near the neck, the Project 002 offers you an immense amount of power and spin for your game.

The smiley face

This paddle first became known when Tyson McGuffin began to use it on tour. It raised many eyebrows, including my own. Personally, I wasn’t surprised to see the “smiley face” as many people jokingly say. I had a strong feeling that this would come around eventually.

This hole in the paddle is designed to reduce the drag of the paddle and make it more aerodynamic. Does it actually do that? Again, similar to what I mentioned about the Project 001 carbon fiber face, it’s hard to prove. You would have to do a significant amount of scientific testing to factually prove something like this.

I can only tell you my personal experience. I do notice a slight difference between swinging this paddle and the Vanguard or even Amped Invikta. It’s there but minimal.

There is indeed a hole down there. Thus, the weight from that section is taken out of the equation. That means more weight is focused towards the top of your paddle and, therefore, should increase the power. It’s a technicality, but it should be correct. I just personally don’t feel a massive difference. Certainly not the kind of difference that would make me turn my wallet inside out.

Power game performance

When it comes to power, especially in a singles setting, the Project 002 Invikta is fantastic. It’s an incredible paddle for this style of play. Although the paddle does feel physically different from every other paddle I’ve played with, the power is definitely there.

However, power and spin go hand-in-hand. You can’t have a great power paddle without the spin.

Spin

Out of all the comments and reactions I’ve seen from friends of mine, this was the topic usually at hand. The spin that the Project 002 Invikta generates is on another level. It’s actually quite shocking. It’s a completely different experience than the 001. In fact, rubbing your hands across both faces provide a very different experience.

The face of the 002 is gritty and textured but somehow still legal. Even after putting 12-15 hours worth of play into this paddle, the texture is still there. Keep in mind, that’s not a lot of time, and I’m not sure what the grit will be like after that time period, but I have to imagine that it would decrease at least a bit.

Most of where you’ll see the spin is on 3rd shot drives. This is where the paddle really shines. While playing with this paddle, I had multiple opponents miss my third shot drives on the tip of their paddle, producing a severe miss-hit. This wasn’t necessarily their fault, it was just them not being used to a drive like that. The spin is amazing.

The spin is still there on softer shots but isn’t quite as noticeable as the drives.

Soft game

This is where things begin to fall flat, pun absolutely intended. Because of the hole near the neck of the paddle, the Project 002 Invikta produces a very clunky sound but, unfortunately, produces a very clunky feeling as well. The sweet spot of the paddle is certainly expanded, but you rarely achieve that solid sweet spot feeling like you do with other paddles. This is likely because of the whole at the bottom of the paddle.

This is to be expected, though. Considering the unique nature of the paddle, there are some things that you have to sacrifice. The sweet spot is certainly still there, and your performance won’t be affected, but it just doesn’t feel right. Even on the perfectly struck dink, you can still feel that clunky feeling as if you miss-hit the ball.

The importance of audio feedback

As you’ve probably heard, the sound this paddle makes is different and arguably annoying. Although it’s funny and amusing at first, it starts to mess with your head.

The reason is because of the audio feedback. With any other paddle on the market, you know exactly what to expect when it comes to miss-hits. The sound and physical feedback are obvious. But with this paddle, all of that is thrown up in the air.

Now, of course, hitting a ball on the very tip of the paddle will produce that awful miss-hit feeling and sound, but even hitting the ball decently well can still feel clunky and sound strange. This creates a situation where you’re not entirely sure if you hit the ball the right way or not. This can lead to confusion and causes you to doubt yourself.

I stepped away from the paddle for this reason alone. The physical and audio feedback is something that I’m not used to, and it wasn’t telling me what I needed to know.

Having said that, just like with anything else, the right amount of practice and experience will force you to adapt to the change. You’ll get there in the end if you decide to buy this paddle.

The R&D experience

The whole idea of Selkirk Labs is sold on this one principle idea: the service is an R&D experience where you can help Selkirk test paddles to shape the future of pickleball. That’s the central idea here; they’ve done a lot to ensure that people understand this.

So, how did this turn out?

Well, not great.

When I first started hearing details about Selkirk Labs, I was imagining participants being able to get into zoom calls with the manufacturer, get on phone calls, and maybe even fly out to the factories to give feedback and try things out.

We actually got a simple feedback form with 8 screens of incredibly basic “below average/above average” questions.

And that’s it. That’s the R&D experience.

I’m disappointed, to say the least. The survey form is extremely bare bones and takes less than 5 minutes to fill out.

There doesn’t seem to be any other benefit to being a member of Selkirk Labs. You sign up, buy a paddle for well over the market price and submit a feedback form similar to what you fill out at your dentist.

Things can change, however

The cool thing about services like this is that things can change. For Selkirk Labs, I would assume that they will make an enormous amount of changes in the future. Personally, I don’t see how they can keep it like it is.

I will update this article if things change.

The entire valuation proposal here seems backward. Because of the severe lack of “R&D experience” involved here, the paddles have to be valued at $333. If there was an actual “R&D experience”, then I could comfortably say that some of that $333 can be spread out in valuation. But it’s just not.

What’s even stranger is that the user, who is paying well over market price, is effectively becoming the quality assurance tester for the paddles. So, shouldn’t they get something for that? Why does the user have to pay that much money so they can spend time giving feedback for which they receive no benefit? There is absolutely no way to know if their feedback will actually be used or not.

The last thing I want to do is engage in knee-jerk reactions like a lot of people on the internet do, but something is fundamentally wrong here.

The good news is that services like these can change quickly. Again, when that happens, I will update you.

Who is this for?

I can recommend Selkirk Labs only to the following groups:

  1. You’re a 4.5+ competitive singles player that could put the Project 002 Invikta to good use
  2. You’re a diehard Selkirk fan

That’s it. I can’t recommend it to anyone else at the time of this writing. I wish I could, but I can’t! The valuation is completely off and is not worth the money. Although unique, the paddles do not offer a massive performance increase that justifies the insane cost of the service.

Conclusion

This has been a very interesting release from Selkirk. As usual, they tend to do things differently. Personally, though, Selkirk Labs has fallen flat for me. But I do look forward to what they do in the future.

What’s important to understand here is that things can and will change. When that does happen, I will be sure to update this article! Make sure you stick to Pickleball Kitchen for the latest on pickleball paddles.

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