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A trip forward in time with a “super car” paddle

I’ve been the lucky recipient of the only Diadem Vice paddle in Europe: not due to my sponsorship with them but I was “fastest fingers first” on the Diacon convention livestream. It’s fortuitous that one of their players ends up receiving it.  If you haven’t seen the social media content about it, it’s a “concept” paddle, like a concept car in the automotive industry. It isn’t and won’t ever be USAPA approved so it’s not for tournament play.  


What’s a concept paddle then? Diadem define it as a peak five years into the future and the Vice contains all the future tech of their tournament paddles but all in one place.   

The first thing of note is its core construction: it’s a solid EVA foam which is the first reason it isn’t USAPA approved. The rules state paddles must have a non compressible core. It has a profound impact on the paddle: it sounds completely different to any paddle I’ve used.  It’s a much more muted sound and is pretty much the same sound as a Padel paddle. The core also makes it incredibly arm friendly for tennis or golfer’s elbow sufferers.  The third thing I noticed was its easy power.  Balls just flew off the paddle if I wanted them to but had control if I needed it.


Now this may be related to it’s second feature: 26 holes drilled through the paddle.  This is the other non compliant aspect of the paddle with the USAPA. OneShot have paddles with air holes on the edges of the face and Selkirk have the “smiley face” models with a throat cut out. The Vice has holes not in the sweet spot but very much on the hitting surface (if you don’t middle it): I’d question the impact of the holes in this location.  They are small in diameter (only 5mm each) and away from the “real” hitting areas.  The paddle certainly flows through the air easily and you can hear a pronounced whoosh when you swing hard. 


It’s also edgeless, or technically edge guard less: you can also see the foam core through the debossed logo on the two sides.  This isn’t new as a number of manufacturers produce edgeless paddles. 

The final innovation is the RP2 texture: there’s not a huge amount of tech detail on this but it looks like it’s the grit paint of the Warrior mixed together with the Spin RP texture of the Icon: field testing will let me know of the durability of this mix but initial signs are that it will retain its monster spin potential. 

If you’ve got this far in the post, you are itching to hear how it plays. It’s best described as unique: nothing sounds or feels like it. Whilst I’m not sure a full foam core paddle will be allowed in the future, this paddle proves the benefits of a softer core. I can see a range of paddles for non tournament players being released where the softness and protection from arm issues being highly successful.  There’s a huge set of players that don’t and probably will never compete.  If these paddles aren’t overpowering legal paddles but preserve peoples bodies, I can see a large market for them. 


The noise is another thing that may help them take off or affect a rule change: the battle at local level around noise pollution from pickleball is common in the States. In the words of Bjork, “it’s oh so quiet”. The foam core seems to mute the higher frequencies and take the sharp edge off the sound. There is something in the noise a pickleball makes off a paddle that gives a certain something: this is worlds away from the gunshot sound from a fibreglass Nomex core paddle.  It’s a gentle thwock sound not a clicky noise common to paddles.

The other major factor from the core is that it seemed to add easy power to shots when required but also had plenty of control when required. I didn’t notice an obvious trampoline effect from the core: I doubt the ball is heavy enough to deform the core that much and it simply defused vibration and noise. There were a couple of times in my initial play when serves sailed long. Not good.  But then there were times when I was able to generate additional speed off drives effortlessly and with disguise. There is every chance that the edge guard-less design is helping with this and the paddle is certainly extremely manoeuvrable. 

My theory as to this speed is to do with the 26 holes in the face. My maxim is “pickleball is follow through” as a solid paddle creates wind resistance on swings. So you need to accelerate through the ball and minimise backswing to reduce the drag and aid the disguise of the speed up. When swinging hard, you can hear the whoosh of the air holes in the paddle. These holes are pretty small in diameter and none we in the sweet spot.  My guess is that they are there partly to allow for compression of the foam core on contact and the foam to expand into them a bit: some running shoes are designed “uncaged” so the foam can squish on impact. This means the face isn’t being deformed as much and remains playable for longer.  They certainly seem to improve hand speed on speed ups at the NVZ.  Definitely felt I could stay in rallies longer with it and get some extra pop back on the ball. 

The other feature was the spin potential and I think this is something that will be featured on their tournament paddles.  It seems to have held up better than normal grit paint and certainly generates plenty of spin, similar to a carbon fibre face.  The combination of the slightly soft/tacky paint from the Icon plus the grit paint from the Warrior, with a carbon fibre surface, edge less design and the potential extra dwell from a foam core means that it seems to have that huge spin potential at every key variable. 


If it were legal for tournament play, would I use it? An undoubted yes for singles and i need a little more time to play test it to make a call for doubles. I’m giving it another play in a rec session tonight so will have a better feel for it.  It’s something I can’t switch to permanently as a tournament player so I’m trying to limit how attached I get to it.  It’s led to the analogy in the title of this post. I have a “super car“ in the garage but can only take it out for a proper spin when the Pickleball Police aren’t on duty! It’s too overpowered for normal roads so need to pick when and where to use it.  

Thanks so much to Diadem for sending me the paddle to use and review. There’s clearly a lot of benefits from the innovations they’ve introduced here. It remains to be seen where the USAPA go with my rules changes for paddles. The sport needs to move with the times and after the CRBN paddle controversy, it’s clear that there needs to be control of the desire is to keep equipment relatively level on performance. If a foam core can have the same rebound characteristics of a solid core but is more arm friendly, that’s a rule change that only has health benefits and no performance advantage. If that can be the benchmark for some of these changes, then the USAPA needs to consider the change seriously.

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