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Bird Falcon Elite: First Impressions & Initial Review

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The new bird Falcon Elite pickleball paddle has been released and this long time pickleball lover, retailer and reviewer found the performance to soar above expectations. Let’s dig in!

First, while a pickleball retailer, we have no affiliation whatsoever with Bird Pickleball or Grip 6. Our chosen pickleball equipment partner is Ronbus. We proudly carry their line of paddles in our store and resell them to our pickleball customers. Ronbus pushes the edge of technology and is a solid brand in the traditional pickleball market. That said…

The innovative design of the falcon elite certainly piqued our curiosity. Once it was USA Pickleball approved, we ordered ours at a one time introductory price that is no longer available. Today the paddle retails for $229.00 but a $20 coupon is currently offered when you login to their website if this is your first purchase with Bird Pickleball.

Bird Pickleball is a newcomer to the pickleball world. They are the passion project of a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah called Grip 6. The paddles use components proudly acquired/sourced from 12 different industries in 12 different US states. The paddles are designed, engineered and completely assembled in Utah. Bird Pickleball is a USA based company handcrafting each paddle they produce. Notably they are using the highest grade T-700 carbon fiber for the surface and subsurfaces of the paddle. Each side of the paddle consists of 4 layers of this high end carbon fiber using a proprietary lay up process developed by a partner in Ogden, Utah. Like many paddles they make use of a polymer honeycomb core, but unlike any paddle manufacturer we know of, they provide a LIFETIME warranty. You read that correctly. They believe in their materials, craftsmanship and manufacturing so much that they are standing behind the paddle for a lifetime. If you thought the shape was a little bit nutty, the warranty is full tilt nuts and we LOVE it!!!

Several years ago I was suffering from tennis elbow and purchased a PBZ paddle. This was the original “cutting board” style paddle, though PBZ and Bird both much prefer to refer to them as “ergonomic”. I tried and tried to love the PBZ, but found it restrictive in too many ways for my game for it to become a full-time “go-to” paddle. Most of the restrictive challenges were based on the position of the grip which was not angled like the falcon elite. I think my previous experience with the PBZ is important to note with this review. It is important because I spent many weeks getting used to hitting with this style paddle. I was able to adjust to the falcon elite relatively quickly, which may or may not be the case for those who do not have previous experience with a paddle in this genre.

The packaging the paddle arrives in is high quality and first class. Inside, awaits a quality constructed paddle that is visually impressive. Removing from the box, the paddle surface is noticeably grippy. Nice texture. The handle is a little chonky. In exploring the grip, I found they created and installed a custom piece that has ridges for fingers. Underside of grip is unfinished polymer, something they will want to address in future production upgrades.

My first experience with it on the court was a drilling session with a friend who is a higher level player. I admit that I took my beloved Ronbus R1.16 with me because I wasn’t sure what type of control I might find and needed to be ready to switch out and hit with the new paddle another day. We started with dinking drills, speed ups, blocks, resets. I was surprised by the ease at which I adapted. I was dinking easier and with more consistency than my current paddle of choice. More importantly I was getting dinks deeper and at the feet of my practice partner with good consistency. Control in these areas of play was a solid 8/10 straight out of the box for me. My forehand blocks and volleys, which were a huge weakness with the PBZ paddle, were surprisingly decent. Would rate them at 6.5/10. They still need more work, much of it footwork. We then went into drills where we were dropping from various court positions and blocking from the mid court. Drops are definitely a strength of this paddle, at least for me. I’ll give them a solid 8.5/10 with a bullet because I know they are only going to get better with time in the saddle. We concluded our nearly 2 hour drilling session with serves, return of serve and groundstrokes. These were definitely a step behind the other shots we hit. I immediately knew they were going to need more work. In general I would rate each of these just 4/10. I was not missing, but had not yet figured out how to direct the ball with precision and lack of depth was also an issue.

Three days later I went to open play at a local park. I had not worked on any of the weaknesses, I just wanted to get a feel for the paddle in the context of games in public setting facing a variety of opponents. I got lucky as I was able to have a good warm up with a gentleman who knew how to warm up. Everything from practice session remained the same. Net play, especially blocks and dinks were strengths, although my drops were off a little from the initial session, but still solid enough for open play. I was not able to figure out, on the fly, the best way to serve. I defaulted to a backhand serve which has always been consistent for me and was able to get them in reliably with average depth and speed. Certainly not a strength. Returns of serve still lacked depth. Groundstrokes still lacked precision, especially when attempting to thread the needle up the line. Overheads, were something I had not practiced and I learned they also need work. I still have yet to attempt a lob with it, but will add that to my list of shots to practice. However, in spite of the learning curve and my hesitancy to push these shots in that setting, this paddle is fun to play with. It is easy to play with. I’m enjoying it immensely. It causes people to look at you quizzically. You can hear chatter from those watching and wondering about the paddle, which can be a good test for your mental game to just tune it out and focus on the point. I ended up playing 7 games, winning 5. The most satisfying was an 11-2 dismantling of a guy who was making fun of the paddle before the game started and proclaiming he would never use such a thing. After barely 15 minutes he was the 3rd victim of the day for the Falcon Elite.

This morning I got up early and took a bucket of balls to the courts. My goal was to work on serves forehands and backhands. After the first bucket I was liking the results I was getting with a drop serve so I focused primarily on those. I worked on hitting with depth, speed and spin. I found for power serves, keeping head down and rotating hips and following through was essential. I was able to get these consistently deep. I also worked on high arching serves. Not as consistent with these, but it will just be a matter of getting out and drilling them. I attempted a few different side spins, but ultimately decided to just focus on bread and butter basics first. I may revisit fancier serves that jump around a bit down the road. I should note spin is solid. Not as excessive as the surface roughness might indicate, but definitely more than adequate. Close enough to my Ronbus to be perfectly satisfying.

Next up were forehands and backhands. Like serving, keeping head down was key for me especially on the forehand. I was able to hit enough to get more comfortable with this stroke. I was hitting with decent pace and directional control was finally established on that side. I still need to get a partner and generate the same success with balls coming at me with various spins and paces as this session was just a drop and hit session with no partner. The backhand side is what surprised me. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would be able to hit a two handed backhand with this style paddle. Yet, that is EXACTLY what was working best for me in this practice session. It was the last thing I practiced and it was the outcome that excited me the most! Obviously I need to test it against real enemy fire, but the potential has put a huge grin upon my face. Thus far, that is the biggest surprise…one I still can’t fully comprehend.

With not even a week of ownership and very little play racked up with this paddle, I am excited to say that I plan to commit to this paddle for the next month. My plan is to work on weaknesses and see if it can supplant my Ronbus as paddle of choice for match play. Why? The reason is simple. It is FUN to play with. I enjoy the way it it plays. It makes the most important facets of pickleball seem relatively easy. I want to give it a chance…a fair chance. I like it infinitely more than the PBZ…it’s just more comfortable and not as awkward. That said, I don’t think it will ever have the power of thermoformed paddles, at least not in my hands. Overall this paddle is much more than some sort of oddity. It is definitely not a joke. It plays well and has potential to be solid in all areas of play. Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve, but I think with proper motivation it has the potential to become a solid “go-to” paddle for those willing to put in the work. Be watching this space for follow up blog entries on this unique pickleball paddle offering from Bird Pickleball.

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