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Brothers Rob and Mike Barnes wanted to elevate pickleball equipment from the time the two entered the space with Selkirk Sports in 2014. With the launch of Selkirk’s Vanguard 2.0 paddle this year, that elevation has taken a decidedly high-tech twist with a full embracing of proprietary carbon fiber weaving, a polypropylene honeycomb core and made-in-America construction.

“When we first got into the sport it really was a mom-and-pop shop and no one talked about performance and how their paddle played better,” Mike Barnes says. “It was almost taboo to say your paddle was better. We really changed that and started a trend of investing in R&D to build better product.”

Using the same carbon fiber as popular rocket companies, the fiber comes with a high tensile strength. But it also works well on a pickleball court. “You get certain carbons, and they don’t always translate into better play,” says Rob Barnes. “We test tons of materials and sometimes it is a combination of certain specs (that work best for pickleball).”

The Quantum CarbonFiber Face uses bi-directional, cross-weave carbon fiber to enlarge the sweet spot and improve spin and feel. The polypropylene core works with the face to absorb vibration and improve feel while accelerating velocity. Selkirk also added a grip with wicking capability and a low-profile edge guard technology designed to be lightweight and durable. A new texture on the paddle increases more spin.

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Selkirk launched its first Vanguard paddle in 2020 and it quickly became one of the most popular for the brand. The 2.0 version of 2022 offers the most technologically advanced from the company and has six models to match various styles of play.

Along with high-tech components comes durability. Selkirk was the first in the industry to offer a limited lifetime warranty and Rob Barnes says the way they construct paddles ensures players can focus on playing and not failing equipment.

Pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in America that has now seen a doubling of players in the last five years is ripe for a company that focuses on the sport, the brothers say. “Our slogan is we are pickleball,” Mike Barnes says. “We are just a pickleball company and we see that being hugely beneficial to our company, the industry and consumers. We are not split-focused and never will go into other sports. Being focused on pickleball allows us to stay close to the customer. Our focus is growing the sport.”

Selkirk, a family-owned and operated company based in Hayden, Idaho, and named after nearby mountains, has tripled in size over the last year, now with three labels. Paddles from the Selkirk line get created and assembled in the company’s facility in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The SLK by Selkirk is the brand’s value line, with some overseas creation, to invite entry-level pickleball users to the brand through retailers such as Walmart WMT and Costco. In February, the Barnes brothers launched Selkirk Labs, another made-in-the-U.S.A. option that allows consumers to play an active role in the R&D of Selkirk paddles.

By paying a premium, consumers involved in Selkirk Labs get first access to products, become the first to test and offer feedback. The debut paddle in the mix was the 002, a paddle also tested by Tyson McGuffin, a top-ranked professional pickleball player and one of Selkirk’s ambassadors.

Selkirk is now making changes to the 002 and plans to incorporate technology and lessons learned into the summer Vanguard Power Air release.

“People want first access and we get really valuable data on what consumers are wanting to see,” Rob Barnes says. “We make changes, and they drive the process of are part of a community building the best products.”

To become a member, consumers must fill out an application. Within the first two hours of the February launch, Selkirk had a thousand applications and sold out of product almost immediately. “People,” Mike Barnes says, “have been begging for it to come back.”

Source: Forbes

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