The Champion graphite pickleball paddle was one of the original honeycomb core paddles and has since set the standard for paddle design for more than 20 years.
This paddle is a perfect match for players of different skill levels and is a true classic. The Champion has a traditional shape, sturdy edge guard and quality construction that is a good fit for most beginner or intermediate players. If you are searching for a quality entry-level option, your really can’t go wrong with the Champion paddle.
There have since been multiple updates to the paddle and new models added, including one with an aluminum core and a more affordable LT version that features a polymer core and composite face. Continue reading below to read our comparison and reviews of all these.
Versions of the Champion pickleball paddle:
Champion Graphite Pickleball Paddle 2.0 Review
This new and improved second 2.0 version of the Champion Graphite is an updated version of the original paddle and the current model being sold.
The re-design features a better high-performance grip and a slim profile edge guard. Part of what made this best selling paddle is the overall balance and power which makes it a balanced paddle for new and experienced players alike and one of the reasons it made it as a top pick on our list of best graphite paddles.
The graphite face gives it plenty of light touch while the Nomex honeycomb core gives it the pop you need for longer baseline shots and hard drives.
The Champion weighs in at an average of 7.6 (+/- .3 oz) is light enough weight to give you plenty of agility for your short game. The classic oversized XL body shape 15 3/4” x 8 1/4” works well for most players with a large sweet spot. that’s easy to hit.
Unlike the “Vintage” models that come in your choice grip sizes (4″ thin vs. 4.25 cushioned grip) the 2.0 comes in just one option – the 4 1/8″ performance grip. The grip is designed to wick moisture to enhance the paddle touch and feedback.
While the graphics have been upgraded to give it a slightly more modern look and new colors (Atlas Blue, Aurora Green, Fire Red and Solar Orange) it still has the classic look of the original paddle. The paddle is USAPA approved for tourney play. They are made in the USA and come with a 1 Year “No Hassle warranty” that covers manufacturing defects.
Who is the classic Champion Graphite for?
This paddle is a very balanced weight and feel, which is one of the reasons it’s been one of the best selling paddles for 20+ years. It will be a good match for almost any skill level and playing style.
The XL body is an easy shape to play with a large hitting surface and sweet spot that’s hard to miss. The one drawback is the lack of choice on grip size, this is part of what makes the Vintage paddle (see below) an appealing option for players looking to better match their hand size.
Champion Graphite Paddle Vintage Series II Review
The Vintage II (or Vintage Series 2.0) version of the Champion weighs in at a slightly higher weight, ranging from 7.7-8.2 oz with an average of 7.9 ounces. This range, just under 8 ounces is considered by many as an ideal weight for most beginner and intermediate players as it gives you a good balance between finesse and power.
For me, the best option on this paddle (and something I wish more manufacturers offered) is the choice between a 4″ or 4.25″.
Almost every other model on the market comes in only one grip size which means if you like the paddle specs (weight, body shape and taper) but they don’t have it in your grip size you either 1) continue your search for a similar paddle with the right grip size or 2) replace the factory stock grip or build up the grip with extra overgrip to match your hand size.
The choice between 4 and4.25-inch grips gives an option for almost any average hand size. Check out our pickleball paddle buying guide here if you are not sure how to find the correct size. The 4-inch grip is a flat or “thin” grip for smaller hands whereas the Cushioned – 4 1/4″ grip is a tennis racket style grip that will appeal to cross over tennis players and anyone with larger hands as it has extra ribbed cushion and perforated for moisture wicking sweaty hands. As with the 2.0, the handle grip length measures five inches.
The Vintage is tournament approved, USA built and comes with a one year guarantee against defects. The Vintage comes in the following color options: Black, Blue, Green, Red and Purple.
Who is the Vintage for?
Players looking for a choice of grip sizes will like the ability to choose on this paddle.
Former tennis players will most likely prefer the tennis style grip of the 4.25 cushioned option.
Overall it’s a good balanced paddle for most playing styles.
The main drawback for some people will be the weight since at the heavy end of the range it’s 8+ ounces.
Players looking for a lighter paddle may want to look at the classic Champion (2.0 version reviewed above).
Champion Aluminum Pickleball Paddle
This new re-designed (2016) and an improved version of the Champion Aluminum model is a strong choice for players looking for the extra touch associated with an aluminum core. Aluminum honeycomb cores, in general, are appreciated by control players looking for that extra edge at the net needed for a slow dinking game and well-placed winners.
One of the negative marks often mentioned against aluminum cores is the weight- it’s heavier than other cores (such as poly). While many paddles in this category tip the scales well over 8 ounces, the Champion Aluminum is well designed to stay just under that mark with a weight range of 7.3-8.0 ounces.
The new improved core uses larger honeycomb cell material than previous versions- which gives it a much more solid feel and added punch which is a welcomed feature for players looking to balance their control game with a good dose of power. But the real feature that stands out is the core and the fiberglass finish, a combo that screams control and finesse.
The Composite Aluminum Champion paddle has an extra wide hitting surface, measuring 8 1/8” at the widest point and is 15-3/4” long. The handle is just under 5” 4 1/8″ cushion grip a small 4 1/8″, the same grip as the Champion 2.0 model.
Who is the Champion Aluminum paddle for?
This paddle would be a good match for a control player looking to dominate at the net with their finesse game with a very responsive paddle.
The extra-wide paddle will also appeal to a lot of beginner players since the large sweet spot is easy to hit and gives plenty of hitting surface.
As a composite paddle, it will appeal to players looking to add some spin to the pickleball shots since the fiberglass gives enough texture to add some give it some extra bite on the ball.
Champion LT Pickleball Paddle
The Champion LT paddle is a stripped down version of the original but finished with a more affordable fiberglass polymer paddle face.
The Polypropylene honeycomb “Poly” core give it extra shock-absorption while still having good pop off the face and the composite face gives some extra grip on the ball to add spin and touch to your shots.
The LT weighs in lighter than it’s heavier cousins on this list with an average of 7.1 – 7.5 oz – so definitely on the lighter side. While this paddle may lack some of the power on longer shots and not a great choice for singles pickleball, it makes a good choice for someone looking for a lighter option. As a budget paddle, it doesn’t come with any grip size choices or color options.
The LT comes in only one color option: white face with vinyl graphics adding a small patch of green accent near the handle. The grip size comes in just one size: 4 1/4″. The LT is also sold in a bundled set of two which will save you some money and a good option for a couple or family looking to buy multiple paddles.
Among all the paddles reviewed here, this is the best budget option. While you do sacrifice some options on color and are missing out on the convenience of choosing between multiple grip sizes, it is a good all-around lightweight option for a player looking for an affordable paddle. One other thing to keep in mind, if you landed here looking for a graphite paddle, this is not the one for you- this and the Aluminum core model are the composite paddles on this list.
Who is the Champion LT paddle for?
This is a good paddle for a player looking for an affordable option. Beginners or anyone looking for a budget paddle will appreciate the quality specifications on this paddle for a very reasonable price. The composite face is an added bonus if you’re working on your touch game and trying to put more spin on the ball. The main drawback to the LT is the lack of options (grip size, color choices) but for the price, we really can’t be too demanding.
Champion paddles are made by Pickle-ball Inc, the original pickleball company that was founded by the same families that invented the sport. The company was formalized in 1972 by Barney McCallum who was a co-inventor of Pickleball in 1965 along with Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell. The company has continued to promote and advance the sport by sponsoring local tournaments, donating equipment to clubs and non-profit organizations.
They have also played a fundamental role in the creation of the sport’s governing body (the USAPA). The company’s headquarters in Kent, Washington is also home to the Pickleball Hall of Fame and The Pickleball Museum. Apart from the Champion, the company makes a wide range of paddles and other pickleball equipment including the very popular Dura Fast pickleball balls and one of the best selling pickleball nets on the market.