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Big wave surfing: the “Eddie would go” mentality

22 years ago this week, the 36 year old celebrated big wave surfer Mark Foo flew to the recently discovered big wave spot Mavericks for the first time. It was his last time surfing Mavericks. 

And his last wave ever.  "Eddie would go"

After disappearing beneath the behemoth wall of water, he was found two hours later still leashed to the broken tail end of his ride.

Since then a number of household surf names have succumbed to the big wave; Donnie Solomon and Todd Chesser both caught inside, Malik Joyeux pearling and knocked out by his board, Peter Davi wiped out after allegedly partying too hard, Sion Milosky tombstoned and pinned down.

For many years, instead of these names being a cautionary tale, they have been celebrated, revered even, and a source of inspiration.  You can only really know yourself and the wave if you put yourself in the arms of death. 

Or so the story goes. 

And no-one really knows how many lesser names and amateurs have met their maker on waves bigger than they could handle, following in the footsteps of the giants of the monster waves.

In these days of mega bucks sponsorship, ambulance chasing lawyers, and outdoor instructors being successfully sued by their trainees who fail to understand the principle of individual responsibility, it is surprising that big wave surfing is still a thing that happens in the name of sport.

Ahead of Mark Foo’s death all those years ago,  the organisers of the inaugural Eddie considered calling off the comp because Maverick’s was at its brutal worst, and they knew there was a real risk of death.  Foo himself looked at the break, and in a sentence that was either the most inspiring for a surfer and that sums up the draw of big wave surfing, or worthy of nomination for the Darwin Awards, uttered the immortal phrase ‘Eddie would go'(1), and signed his own death warrant. 

And yet, the industry keeps seeking bigger, more dangerous, more brutal, waves.  And allows the competitions to go ahead in dangerous conditions.  Big waves means big media coverage, and that’s great for sponsors.  And a cynic might say that death or two helps maintain the mystique and allure of big wave surfing, and is also good for the sport in general.

But are things changing?   Yesterday, Twiggy, one of the giants of big wave surfing, and shoe-in for the world title, said of Nazare at yesterday’s WSLs

“Those 20-30 minutes during each heat, on the back of a ski, holding on with all your strength while jumping 10ft foamies, were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life and something I can’t see myself repeating? Deservingly @jamie_mitcho the maddest dog won and hoping all the guys with injuries recover soon. #riskvsreward”

Yesterday was pretty unique in my surfing life, riding a 20ft double up shore break where you have to catch 2 waves in an hour for a @wsl event was a humbling experience. Nazare as a wave is a phenom, as challenging and beautiful as any big wave I've surfed but do the dangers involved out way the rewards? Those 20 minutes during each heat, on the back of a ski, holding on with all your strength while jumping 10ft foamies, were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life and something I can't see myself repeating. The water safety team did a fantastic job and special thanks to them. Of course @jamie_mitcho the maddest dog won and hoping all the guys with injuries recover soon. #riskvsreward ? @despiritosanto

A post shared by Grant Twiggy Baker (@granttwigbaker) on

It’s true that Nazare is one of the most notorious waves, shifting as a well as heavy, and yesterday saw a quarter of the competitors end up in hospital.  So maybe Twiggy’s reaction is entirely understandable, and is  reaction just to Nazare on the day.

Or maybe there is a rational re-evaluation of the risk reward ratio in big wave surfing.

(1) If this means nothing to you, do yourself a favour and hit up Eddie Aikau in Google.   As one of the best known and admired characters and liefsavers on the North Shore, Eddie was renowned for going into conditions that no-one else would, to save people in trouble.  A fact that is often ignored by those who use the phrase. 

“Eddie would go” was about Eddie going into conditions to save people, not charging those conditions.  Although, to be fair, he wasn’t afraid of charging the monsters either.

 

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5 reasons why experiences make the best gift

Economic and behavioural science tells us that having an experience may actually make you more happy than buying the latest new gadget or pair of shoes. I know many aren’t convinced, but the science is seriously solid. Experiences are really where it’s at.

1. We Get More Excited About Future Experiences

It turns out that anticipation is a big component of how much gratification or pleasure we get.  A large scale psychological study (humorously called Waiting for Merlot in a nod to Beckett) confirms that the anticipation is part of the thrill, and actually, this excitement is greater for experiences than it is for material gifts. 

McConks has been part of two amazing experiences this year, one vicariously lived through our boards, and the other attended in person.

These experiences are rather out there, and admittedly most won’t be giving a gift of this value to a loved one.  But just in case you have enough cash burning a hole in your pocket, these experiences will really make the best gift!

So when it comes gift giving why are we so sceptical about giving experiences?  Why don’t we give more experiences overall? Why do we still buy deodorants, moisturisers and shaving foam that just stay in the bathroom cupboard until regifted.  Or another box of chocoloates for Gran, or socks for Grandad?  

The research on presents and enjoyment reveals something really interesting; we always believe that material things will make family and friends happier, even though when ranked side by side against experiences, experiences always rank higher for pleasure and happy memories.  What causes this collective amnesia of the positive feelings from experiences?  The cause is probably related to the media constantly reinforcing the message that the ‘Christmas experience’ involves unwrapping material gifts in front a roaring log fire. 

But we can’t blame it all on advertisers.  So what is the science behind this? And what are the best experiences? 

As a SUP company, you won’t be surprised to know that we think paddle and board sports are the very best experiences to give.  With experiences that range from being at one with nature in inspiring coastal environments, through to adrenalin fuelled whitewater surf fun, paddle sports have something for everyone. 

The links we’ve shared below are for some of our partners and friends, and companies that we guarantee will give your family and friends memories to treasure for ever.  And may even launch a lifetime’s passion in standup paddleboarding.  And with standup paddleboarding being such an accessible and social water sport, may create a whole new circle of close friends.

Tall ships and paddleboards

Your home for one week will be the elegant Tall Ship, the Lady of Avenel. For more information on the ship visit, http://www.ladyofavenel.com/. 2019’s trip will start and end in Oban and will be full of exciting adventures, scenery and activites.

https://www.facebook.com/active360/videos/1991405754239479/UzpfSTEwMDAwMDExOTgwMDMzNjoyNTU3ODg1MjI0MjI1NDQ2/

GoXperience the Croatian islands

Experience the Croatian Adriatic onboard a SeaGib 51 spacious yacht, pilotted by the master seaman Nathan, and with SUP instructors to guide you on unique adventures

Geplaatst door GoXperience op Vrijdag 12 oktober 2018

2. We Get More Value From Experiences Overall

Another study a couple of years ago compared how much pleasure people thought they would get after an experience gift and after a material gift, with the amount of pleasure they actually recorded.  The study found that the majority of people consistently think they will get more pleasure from material gifts than they actually experience, and they underestimate the amount of pleasure they will get from experience gifts.  This is called economic forecasting, and it turns out to be something that most people are really bad at.  But that shouldn’t surprise us given that the experts seem to struggle with it!Interestingly if people are asked which gives better value for money our of material gifts or experiences, they will choose material gifts.  If they are asked which will give more pleasure per pound spent, they choose experiences.  And the reason for this is because we typically underestimate the value of memories when we do our mental calculations of value. 

3. Experiences Give You More Social Connection

Experiences tend to happen in groups or pairs.  And we’re a social species.  Even the most introverted of people actually need community contact and social experiences, even if they sometimes find them uncomfortable.  And the vast majority of us get great pleasure out of the shared learning or shared experiences, especially if these shared experiences are with family, friends, or like minded people who become new friends. 

Studies also show that the best experience gifts keep on giving for many years.  The shared experiences become part of your shared history, and will be laughed over and retold many times in the future.  That story of how Uncle Pete fell off the paddleboard, and a seal popped up behind him to say hello.  And every time we told him to turn around to see, it disappeared again. Over and over.  (This is actually a true story and a family favourite!)

In fact, if you feel that you’re becoming distant from a close friend, it’s proven that buying them an experience gift that you can all share brings you back together.

4. Experiences Don’t Invite Competition Or Envy

A study from a few years ago suggests that the pleasure we get from receiving material gifts, especially at times like Christmas when gift giving is ubiquitous, is often tainted by comparison with the gifts others receive.   And even the pleasure you get from gift giving can be affected.  You thought you had bought Aunty Carol the perfect present, but yet again you sister has upped the stakes and beaten you again.

Experiences don’t suffer from the same direct comparison problems.  Everyone can enjoy them in their own way and their own time.

5. We Get Tired Of Gifts, But Value Memories

We’ve touched on this already, but one of the key reasons why people buy material gifts rather than experiences is because they think they last for longer and are therefore better value.  That new bird table will last much longer than the bird watching experience, therefore must give more pleasure.

But that’s categorically wrong.  Many studies have shown that we’re all subject to something called ‘the hedonic treadmill’ or ‘hedonic adaptation’.   Our happiness quickly returns to its normal state after receiving a new gift – the gift just becomes part of our ‘new normal’ and very quickly stops giving us pleasure.  An experience however generates memories and shared connections that last for much longer.  And a future conversation with a stranger about something entirely random can trigger that memory and release the pleasure hormones again.

For those of you still not convinced, maybe you can combine a material gift with a related experience: a bottle of wine from a local vineyard plus a vineyard trip; an authentic Indian Cookery lesson plus some Indian recipe books and spices; A birdwatching experience and a stuffed bird.  Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.

Having said all of that, the very, very best present you can buy is one that adds to or improves the pleasure your nearest and dearest gets from their experiences. So if you want the gift that keeps giving, then a McConks carbon SUP paddle is THE perfect present.  Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous then what could be a better than a McConks iSUP package?

1. We Get More Excited About Future Experiences
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SUP surfing for air heads – iSUP wave riding

Arguably the most visually impactful area of stand up is waves. There’s nothing like an image of a rider dropping in to peeling waves to grab the attention.  It’s the reason many decide to pick up a paddle and take to the water (even if they never venture anywhere near a moving wall of water).

When Laird, Kalama and co re-introduced SUP to the masses (the Waikiki Beach Boys of the 50s had been paddling for years and stand up can be traced back even further than that) it was all about flow, glide and style – not the hack, bash and slash you see today.

Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP
Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP

In the last few years stand up paddle surf boards have gotten smaller and more technical to ride. The paddlers themselves – while certainly talented – are usually on the lower end of the weight spectrum, most likely sub-25 years old and more often than not have access to idyllic (warm) waves. For the layman this couldn’t be any further from their experience of SUP in surf – especially in this neck of the woods (UK).

Here we have Mother Nature’s fickle temperament to contend with as well as most of us not being in the same demographic to those described above. SUP by its very nature is a relatively pricey sport. For sure there are more expensive activities around but you do need some disposable income if you’re planning on taking up SUP. As such you’ll most likely fall into the middle aged category (or you’re a grom with parents willing to purchase your kit!).  This then means work, family and other associated life commitments that come with being a ‘grown up’ conspire to cut down your water time – not exactly conducive to developing the necessary skills to tackle world class waves!

But do we even need to? Isn’t the point of paddle surfing being able to make use of less than perfect conditions, smaller days and/or waves deemed of no use to surfing’s glitterati?

Listen to any industry pundit within SUP and predictions of wave sliding kit getting smaller, more technical and therefore harder to ride permeate. Yet it doesn’t need to be this way at all. McConks (as you’re well aware from reading this blog) are providers of high quality inflatable stand up paddle boards. And yes, you can quite happily ride waves with your iSUP. OK, you may not be smashing grinding lips or hucking tweaked airs but your inflatable board will take you to more spots than you’d first imagine.

Learning to Surf SUP

 

Picking your days and locations are key. If it’s macking then chances are these aren’t the right conditions. Up to around shoulder high clean surf, however, will be more than doable. Of course you’ll need to have some fundamental paddling skills under your belt and being aware and adhering to surf etiquette will ensure a harmonious line up. By and large though surfing on an inflatable is more fun than you’d first believe.

And it doesn’t stop at round nose boards. There are tonnes of example online of people ‘surfing’ touring and race SUPs. Our McConks GoExplore is fine for tackling ankle/knee slappers. Gliding along, on barely a wave, when more hardcore surfers aren’t anywhere to be seen, is what makes stand up paddle surfing so special. In the extreme/gnarly times we live, when everything ‘going off’ is pushed by marketing types, ripple riding is far more refreshing and most importantly FUN without being life threatening.

As with all areas of SUP paddle surfing is what you make it. The main point being don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing isn’t correct. SUP can be as elitist as you want while at the same time being mellow and fun. The next time a wave presents itself, why not check out your surf SUP style and broaden your paddling horizons?

Tips for AirSUP surfing

  1. Aim for a quieter location with less water users about.
  2. Add a more PSI (air) to your iSUP to increase rigidity – a trait that’ll help when wave hunting.
  3. Know, understand and adhere to surf etiquette (rights of way).
  4. Gen up on the surf environment and know what hazards to look out for.
  5. Know, understand and be aware of tides.
  6. Ride with others.
  7. If in doubt, don’t go out – know your limits.
  8. Get a lesson!

 

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Trust the experts: McConks SUP paddle review

Trust the experts: McConks SUP paddle review

 

So despite our earlier jibe about the value of expert opinion in this post truth era, many of us look to experts to help us to see past the marketing spiel, and to tell the good, from the indifferent, to the mediocre.  And paddlesports instructors have particular expertise and their opinions are highly valued. 

You might have heard us talk about #themalteseSUPproject.  4 outdoors / paddle instructors took off in November this year to paddle around Malta,  a task that they (by and large) achieved despite a huge storm in the Med.

The maltestSUPproject four

Georgina Maxwell, one of the riders, came to McConks to ask us to pimp her ride.  So George set off with our 12’8 GoExplore board, designed as a touring/expedition SUP, and one of carbon SUP paddles.  George was so blown away with our paddle, that she’s written us great little review, which we just had to share as a special blog post.

McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle.

George ‘standup’ paddleboarding

As part of my sponsorship arrangement with McConks they offered me the McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – this is a 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle. This paddle weighs in at <700g and when it arrived I was struck immediately with its weight and size of which it packed down to.  

On our expedition The Maltese Sup Project a few things were highlighted.

Packing

The paddle came in a tidy padded bag which can fit x2 3 piece split paddles in if you wanted a spare or in our case are trying to combine luggage. The next important thing to note is it fitted inside the SUP bag meaning you have only one bag to check in.

On the water

The paddle is comfortable to use on long distance. The T grip has a shape which sits in your palm in a snug smooth way with no plastic rough finish like I have previously experienced with other paddles.

Its adjustable it can go from as tall as 220cm for adults to as short as 170cm for kids.

3 piece carbon SUP paddle

I discovered the adjustable feature is also beneficial from transferring from feet to knees in the wind and chop. It means you can shorten the paddle with the flick of a switch and still be able to use the T grip.

Because it was 3 piece it didn’t seam to effect the strength in my opinion, even in the toughest of winds and swell I was unaffected by any flex. Dear I say I didn’t notice any but this may because I was so use to using this by this stage.

Miscellaneous

The 3 piece has a clip lock system, which uses little screws to keep it working, on long Jouneys and particularly on expedition I took a spare clasp and after a few days out I checked the tightness of the screws, they were always tight, so prhaps I was over prepared in this field.  

There you have it, I tried my hardest not to say how much I enjoyed paddling with the Vario but I truly did enjoy the paddle and I would highly recommend it particularly for overseas travel.  

 

McConks Carbon SUP paddle
Bamboo / Carbon medium cadence blade

SUP adventure
Loaded up and ready to go

SUP paddle

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The importance of paddles – SUP ‘engine’ choice advice

No-one would dispute that inflatable SUP packages have come a long way in the last few years.  But stand up paddle boarding is a paddle sport above all else, and the quality of the paddle included (often described as a ‘freebie’) sometimes lets the package down.  This point is often missed, punters focusing too heavily on the board and not giving enough attention to the one defining piece of kit you’ll be using.

Walk into any retailer or hit up any inflatable SUP company online and you’ll be confronted by all manner of spangly equipment – most likely with loud boastings about ‘free bag’, ‘free leash’ AND ‘free paddle’. Great, you think! All the gear in one easy purchase. But alas all that glitters isn’t gold.

You have to ask yourself as a consumer, what are you actually getting. Thenarrow-paddle board is usually going to be fine (as long as you’re looking at a reputable brand).  But what about the included ‘stick’ (paddle)?

Firstly what material is the included paddle made from? If it’s an alloy shaft with a plastic blade then you’re not going to be feeling any benefit. Your first run out will probably be on the less than enjoyable side. An alloy paddle will usually bend significantly – too much, in fact (some flex can be a good thing with paddle shafts but not to the detriment of forward propulsion and/or limbs, muscles and joints). The low grade plastic blade will contort when drawn through the stroke (flutter) and after a while you’ll have made next to no ground when compared to someone using a more efficient ‘engine’.  And we’ve met people who have managed to bend their ‘free’ paddle shaft irreparably on their first outing.

Let’s just pause at this juncture. It’s worth pointing out here that if you’ve got nothing to compare your experiences to then you’ll be none-the-wiser when it comes to any type of SUP kit, let alone paddles. At least during those initial forays. While this is true as a general statement, over the period of a few weeks/months you’ll possibly start to notice bodily wear and tear. At first you’ll put this down to being involved in a physically demanding activity. Chances are, however, that it’s not simply the fact you’re paddling that’s causing grief. In many cases the stress and strain placed on your ailing body is down to using badly made equipment.

Here at McConks we don’t supply our gear with rubbish accessories. We see the paddle as a key ingredient – as such our paddles are of high quality and designed to aid your enjoyment of SUP. We’ll not lie, this does add a few extra numbers to the bottom line cost, but when you consider the increased efficiency of a better quality paddle, and this knock on effect to your enjoyment factor, we’re sure you’ll agree the extra expense is worth it. And like for like, you won’t find kit of comparable quality at the same price.

And don’t just take our word for it. We value rider feedback and have had a number of paddlers check out what we offer regularly. Here you’ll find a recent review of one of our paddles which says it all if you ask us – https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/2016/04/15/travelling-companion-mcconks-adjustable-three-piece-carbon-paddle-review/

In this era of post truth, we know that some people no longer trust the experts.  If you’re one of these people, then you can read what regular customers have said here http://www.mcconks.com/sup-paddles/23-sup-paddles-mcconks-vario-pro-carbon-fibre-sup-paddle-2016-15000.html

Paddles are the main part of stand up paddle boarding – whatever type of SUPing you choose to do, and are your engine.   Whether you own an inflatable or hard board, having as good a paddle as you can afford is key to performance, progression and continued enjoyment. You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari with a moped engine.  Therefore we highly recommend you pay this part of your set up due care and attention and get the paddle that does your board justice.

If you need advice then McConks is only too happy to advise. Give us a shout and let’s have a chat about all things paddle.

 

 

 

paddlebag

SUP paddle

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SUP HACKS: looking after your paddle

 HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR CARBON PADDLE

McConks Carbon SUP paddle
Bamboo / Carbon medium cadence blade

Carbon paddles are beautiful, high performing bits of kit, and definitely

worth investing serious £’s in. When riding, your paddle is an extension of your body, and people become rather attached to a good paddle. So here are some #SUPhacks to help keep your paddle in one piece and have a very happy life together

BEFORE YOU PADDLE

If you’ve got an adjustable paddle, always check the screws for tightness before you get onto the water. They need to be just tight enough to stop the shaft from rotating. Too loose, and the blade can rotate as you paddle. Which is annoying. Too tight and you might damage the clasp or even crack the carbon handle. Good paddles are designed very carefully so that the clasp would break first. However, if the carbon paddle is poorly made or designed, the shaft might crack first. And that’s a problem that can’t be fixed.

DURING YOUR PADDLE

IT’S NOT A GONDOLA POLE Simple enough, but push off sand or a solid object and you risk creasing the blade. Your paddle is made for paddling in water, nothing else. And the lower quality your blade, the greater the risk of this happening.

CARBON IS FICKLE.   Just like any high performance kit, carbon paddles are a compromise. A fine balance between hardiness, strength and weight. Carbon is a pretty fickle material. It has great strength in one plane, but is brittle in the other plane. Therefore a sharp knock in the wrong place can cause a hidden weakness.

So even the very best carbon paddles can snap. By their very nature, mixing a light, strong carbon paddle with mother nature’s most powerful force, can have its risks. To make a paddle ‘unbreakable’ would mean that it would be so stiff and heavy, it would be very unpleasant to use.   Buy a good paddle and the risks are significantly lower. But just like a high performance surfboard, there are forces that will break or damage any paddle.

AFTER YOUR PADDLE

I know, you’ve just had an exhilarating paddle, you’re a combination of buzzed and tired.  The endorphins are kicking in (see our post on tier two fun), and the last thing on your mind is checking your kit.  But that’s absolutely what you should be doing.

CHECK IT.  If you’ve had a tumble and knocked your paddle on a reef or the board, give it a good stress test when you’re out of the water.  Much better for it to fail then than when you’re next on the water.  It’s no fun being up the creek without a paddle!  Also it’s worth checking that that the screws are still tight and won’t fall out in transport

WASH YOUR PADDLE AFTER USE.  This is particularly important for adjustable paddles. Sand and grit in the clasps can damage the male end of the shaft (the bit you stick in), and this can create weaknesses that deteriorate over time. At worst this can cause the shaft to fail, and best it can make it very difficult to get the shaft sections apart or put them back together again. Although this is less of an issue with carbon fibre or fibre glass shafts than aluminium or alloy shafts, it is always worth washing your paddle once you’ve finished.

BETWEEN PADDLES

PROTECT IT Most damage is caused during transport, so make sure your paddle comes with a high quality bag with sufficient padding to protect it from bangs and knocks in the car / van.

DONT COOK IT Did you know you can overheat a carbon paddle?

– Avoid constant exposure to direct heat (eg in a hot car in baking sun) and you will get a long life out of your paddle.

– Keep your paddle in a quality bag with heat protection

BUY SMART.

We would say this, wouldn’t we?  But make sure you buy from a brand who knows about these risks and has designed them out as much as possible. Like McConks.

You can get your hands on one of our carbon bamboo SUP paddles for only £150. And that comes with a free protective heat shield bag.

paddlebag paddle

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Inflatable SUP air pressure and tuning

How do you know when it's inflated properly?
How do you know when it’s inflated properly?

Having purchased your brand new inflatable stand up paddle board it’s now time to show up and blow up (at the beach that is!). Unfurling your spangly steed and connecting the pump you begin to inflate. There are a couple of digits printed on the valve telling you what the board’s max PSI should be. Now then. Should you follow instruction and pump to recommended or back off slightly with not as much air rammed inside. Questions, questions…

Rigidity

Not all iSUPs are the same – this fact has been proven time and again. Although mostly manufactured from Dropstitch (two layers of PVC coupled together with internal microfibers) some boards aren’t worth the materials they’re bound together with.  The lower quality of dropstitch and PVC used give a very different experience.

Even with the recommended air levels inside these cheaper SUPs will be nothing more than floating bananas.  Without wanting to point fingers, anything you can buy for less than £400 for a 10′ plus board is extremely likely to fall in this category.  As for performance? What’s that then? Standing on a sinking deck, with water flowing round your ankles, it’ll be any wonder if you make it back to shore afloat.

High quality SUPS (such as McConks) couldn’t be any more different. Even with the bare minimum PSI levels inside you’ll be able to float, paddle and manoeuvre atop the water. It’s all about rigidity. Generally the more air you push inside your ride (combined with good quality materials) the more efficient it becomes. Sometimes, however, there may be need to release the pressure (or increase it).

Performance

Generally your inflatable’s recommended PSI is for optimum paddling performance in recreational environments – flat water. But SUP is a versatile beast, able to take riders to all sorts of watery wonderlands.  And in different paddle environments, you may need to tweak the ‘feel’ of your air board.

If you fancy a dabble with a paddle in waves, for instance, you will require additional rigidity. And yes, you can easily surf mellow swells with good quality, well manufactured inflatable stand up paddle boards. OK, you may not be ripping huge turns but catching liquid walls, gliding along with the occasional off the lip is certainly doable.

For anyone contemplating the above an extra bit of air pressure is a good thing.  Even though recommended levels of PSI will be highlighted on the board a well manufactured iSUP will have been tested to much higher pressure than stated. In combination with top drawer materials it’s perfectly fine to shove another five (or so) PSI into the board. This will then give you a more responsive and livelier feeling sled, allowing your inflatable to cope when ‘dropping in’ and bottom turning.

River paddling is a different matter.  When facing off against rapids, wave trains and moving white water reducing your board’s air pressure (slightly) will give paddlers a softer machine that’s more forgiving when sliding over undulating H2O. Too stiff a SUP can rebound against the rider when hitting a bump, knocking paddlers into the drink. A softer ride will therefore absorb some of this flotsam and help deliver a drier run.

So, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; not all inflatables are the same.   The above tuning scenarios that can only be achieved with quality iSUPs. And even then paddlers need only tweak air pressure slightly.   Too much, even in top quality boards, is not needed.  Quality boards respond well to minor changes tuning.  Poor quality boards don’t respond as well, and it can be dangerous to push them too far.  Reduce the pressure even slightly in cheap boards, and you end up with a banana. Increase the pressure too much to stiffen it up, and it might go pop!

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Tier two fun – how stand up paddle boarding can be an ‘after event’ reward

Stand up paddle boarding’s easy right?  Simply jump aboard, begin stroking, and after a few initial stumbles you’ll be propelled forwards with smiles all round. Fast forward a few sessions and by this time you’ll have (hopefully) developed a bit of technique, not be stumbling quite as much and generally enjoying your fun in the sun. But what next?

Look at any high performance SUP athlete and their accomplishments will seem a million miles away from the type of paddling you do. Battling ocean swells to gain serious downwind glides, taking a few heavy waves on the head to eventually snag that one awesome barrel or toughing it out across ultra-distance courses for a shot at the podium. All this just looks hard work at the start of your stand up paddle boarding journey, and in fact, never gets any easier. But it’s the reward post-paddling that counts, not how easy the activity was.

Back to your everyday recreational paddling and this is what can be referred to as ‘tier one fun’. Fulfilment comes quickly, with minimal input on your part. That’s not to say there isn’t any effort, quite the opposite in fact. (We’ve all heard about the health benefits of being atop a SUP so we won’t get into this again). By and large, recreational SUP errs towards the easier end of the spectrum. And there’s no real need to change this unless you’re searching for more…

SUP’s popularity is tangible but after a brief spell paddlers may begin seeking their next challenge – this is typical human nature. In its simplest form, as Robby Naish is quoted, ‘SUP is just standing on a board with a paddle’. The rest is down to us as riders and the environments/situations we choose to put ourselves in. Enter ‘tier two fun’ stand up style.

Picture the scene. The wind’s come up, you’re quite a distance from that original launch point, there’s no get out within your immediate vicinity so the only course of action is to hammer down and fight back upwind. As anyone who’s paddled into gusty conditions will tell you, this isn’t the most idyllic kind of SUP you can do, and is actually pretty relentless hard work. Yet with determination, grunt and a positive mental attitude (combined with a degree of technique) there’s no reason why you can’t cover ground and arrive back at point A.  Sweaty,  tired, and a few pounds lighter.

Hitting the beach in a sweaty dishevelled mess you’ll initially be thankful of touching down upon Terra Firma. But soon enough those positive endorphins will make their way to your brain and in no time you’ll be stoked off your noggin – and an achievement it is. This is ‘tier two fun’: not particularly pleasant during the act but upon reflection super rewarding and addictive. It’s why endurance paddlers keep going back for more, surfers refuse to let a big set get in their way and conquering the elements – if only for a brief period – makes you feel truly alive. Retrospective bliss if you will.

There are plenty of ways to up the ante with your SUP activities and feel the benefits of ‘tier two fun’. Enter a race, step it up in surf, tackle a more challenging route you’ve never before paddled, head out in breezy conditions or whatever you fancy having a stab at.

Self-belief, confidence, experience and skill will play their part in your success – we’re not suggesting you head for the gnarliest conditions you can find with limited paddling ability. A ‘slowly, slowly’ approach is optimum, otherwise you’re heading into ‘tier three fun’ realms which usually results in the emergency services being called!

 

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Paddleboarding with toddlers – yes or no?

Over the summer we have enjoyed many paddleboarding adventures on our iSUPs with our two boys – both on our beautiful local stretch of rural Thames, and further afield – and we have often posted photos and videos on our social media pages. We always get lots of attention when we’re paddling with the boys on the front of our boards, and, whilst most peopleRiver Thames @ Lechlade love seeing them having a whale of a time, we have noticed some disapproving stares and tuts from people too. Although it’s not always easy to establish why the passive aggressive brigade are critical, there generally seem to be two main criticisms: whether we are being selfish by forcing the boys to go when they would rather be doing something else, and whether it really is safe to have toddlers and young children on paddleboards.

Turning first to the question of selfishness and small person enjoyment, no one who has seen our two-year-old sitting on the front of my board

Paddling at Cotswold Water Park Hire
Paddling at Cotswold Water Park Hire

trailing his feet in the water, waving to cows or other wildlife, and singing could dispute his enjoyment! We believe that kids not only should be playing outdoors whenever possible, but that they also love to be outdoors, whether it be in or on the water, in woods, fields, on beaches or just in the garden. Children love getting wet, muddy, dirty or

Hammock
Hammock

covered in leaves, and our two are no exception. Not only do they enjoy it, but we believe that children who grow up playing outdoors are healthier and fitter, both physically and mentally.

Our boys undoubtedly love playing outdoors, and, to their minds, paddleboarding is just another way to

Fun at the beach
Fun at the beach

play outdoors. We don’t just go paddleboarding. We go paddling to go wild swimming, to knock daddy in the water (ahem, there may have been some encouragement from mummy on that occasion), we go pretend fishing, and to spot wildlife or see the sunset, and we go exploring to find new beaches or a great picnic spot (because we all know that everything is better with a picnic). The boys love all of this, and the decision to go paddleboarding comes from them as often as from us. Yes, sometimes they say they don’t want to, and then we think of something else to do, or of a way to make it more appealing.

So, although it is only us getting the benefits of exercise this time, and they are sitting or lying on the front of the boards for a lot of the time, they are getting plenty of fresh air and enjoying the world around them. Plus we are confident that they get plenty of exercise at other times. It isAndy always worth bearing in mind that whilst you might be getting a work out, they are not, and ensuring you make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Here are just a few of our top tips to make paddleboarding an exciting adventure each time:

  • Bring a bucket to collect treasures, be it creatures, leaves, sand, shells or sticks. A net would enable fishing treasures out of the water. We whiled away a happy few hours in pouring rain combining paddleboarding with another favourite coastal acitivity – crabbing! Only once have we had a decaying fish head plonked on our boards!
  • Sticks – endless opportunities. Sticks can be fishing rods (our two love a bit of pretend fishing, and cooking and eating their catch), fairy wands, swords, the list is endless.
  • Take provisions in a dry bag strapped to the front of the board – drinks and snacks or a full picnic. Everyone loves a picnic, especially small children.
  • Look around – there are always different things to see, whether it’s other people enjoying the water, boats or wildlife. Make sure you point out interesting things, and explain what’s happening if necessary. We’ve watched boats going through locks (best to portage around on SUPs!) and

    Helping Uncle Pete open the gates
    Helping Uncle Pete open the gates

    helped the lock keeper open and shut the gates, counted different types of water craft, discussed tides (again and again) and spotted wildlife, which brings us to the next point:

  • Wildlife spotting – we’ve seen puffins, egrets, herons, kingfishers, otters, swimming grass snakes, jellyfish, salmon, spider crabs, crayfish, oyster beds, samphire forests (or baby trees if you are 4!) and much more.
  • Sing and tell stories about what you see. Having young children tends to make you leave your inhibitions at home, and we can often be found singing loudly and only vaguely in tune as we go!
  • Stop for a rest, or run around on the bank, or wild swim when interest levels flag.

    Wild swimming
    Wild swimming

With small people on board, it is probably unfair to go on long, touring paddles, and you always need to be aware of their interest levels. We have frequently turned back when the boys started to lose interest, when really we would have preferred to keep on going.

The other benefit of taking them paddleboarding when they are so young is that they will grow up enjoying it and will hopefully start paddling

Assisted paddling
Assisted paddling

themselves as soon as they can. At 4 and 2, our boys already love having a go at paddling their boards on their own (with one of us keeping tight hold on the leash), and it will only be a few years before they may be able to go it solo.

The other big issue is safety. We have been asked point blank why we are prepared to put our children at risk to indulge ourselves. Simple answer – we are not, and nor would we! I’m pleased to report that we convinced that particular observer that this was not the case, and she continued on her way knowing that the boys were having fun quality family time. Paddleboarding is not dangerous, and, as with many activities, probably safer than the car journey to our chosen launch point. However, there are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that no one is put at risk.

Personal flotation devices (pfd). These are essential for children, particularly non-independent-swimmers, in all environments. Your children do not need to be strong swimmers to come paddleboarding with you, but you need to know that if they did fall (or jump!) in, they would be able to float. We have treated pfds in a similar way to helmets when our

12'8 explorer
12’8 explorer

two are riding their bikes, so they have never been paddleboard without, and just accept that they are necessary. We have also made sure that they know why they are wearing them.

Pfd for parents is a hotly contested point, although if in doubt, it’s probably best to wear them. We do not wear them when we go on our local river – we are both strong swimmers, the river does not get rough and we always wear leashes which strap us to our boards – which are essentially large buoyancy aids. However, in other environments we do wear them.

Consider local environment and weather conditions. You need to know what the paddling is going to be like, and whether the weather is going to change. Paddling with the current and wind behind you is very different to paddling against it! Ideally only ever go downwind or upcurrent at the start of the trip so that you do the hard work before you get tired. However, if you are starting out with the wind or current behind you, test conditions going back if you get excited and go too far! Adjustable paddles can be a godsend, enabling you to paddle kneeling down if you are struggling to make headway. If you are paddling somewhere new, speak to the locals, or pop into a local surf or paddle shop. In general though, we only go out with our boys in fairly calm conditions, not 6 foot surf or down a gnarly river!

Key things to pack. As with all activities, it is always sensible to have a mobile phone with you (although remember to buy a waterproof case first!), so that you can get help if necessary. Money or a bank card is also useful, in case you need to bail out and get a bus or taxi back (or of course, in case you spot a lovely waterfront pub!). A small first aid kit can easily be stuffed in a bag and means that you can deal with any small injuries, real or imagined. And as with all things involving small children, copious snacks and drinks will make the paddle go more swimmingly.

Hopefully we have convinced you that paddleboarding with small children is both safe and enjoyable for everyone. Happy exploring!

If you want to find out more about the most family friendly SUP company, and the best family SUP boards, please visit our website www.mcconks.com to find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why paddleboarding is so popular

orlando
Naked SUP with Orlando Bloom

If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding or SUP. Standup paddleboarding has been around for a decade or see, but it is the evolution of inflatable paddleboards that has really supercharged the appeal and development of SUP.  It seems that everyone has been keen to get in on the act this year, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP in 2017.   And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:

  1. It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle, as long as the board is the right size for the rider and conditions.
  2. All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7.  Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing.  But SUP is independent of waves or wind.  Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for esurfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well.  And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal.  So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
  3. It’s easy. With the correct board for your size and weight, you will  be up and paddling within minutes.  Even the most balance challengd beginners are stand up paddling within 15 minutes.
  4. It’s a great workout. It’s widely reported that SUP is good for the core muscles, and it’s also great for improving all round fitness; an hour paddleboarding will burn around 700 calories.  And because you’re in control of how hard you work and how far you go, it doesn’t matter what shape you start in.
  5. Once you have made the initial outlay in kit, there are very few ongoing costs. And although the initial outlay can seem significant, buying second hand, or buying smartly can reduce the initial outlay.
  6. Getting close to nature. Stand up paddleboarding puts you right out there to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.  With the water under your feet you’ll find that you have the perfect viewpoint to observe

    SUP with dolphins
    SUP with dolphins

    amazing creatures swimming and moving about below you.  You’ll be able to see birds in action, witness a serene sunrise, paddle through mist, or marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Whether you are on a solo, family, or social paddle stand up paddleboarding connects you with your natural surroundings.

  7. Quality time together. Whether river paddling to lunch in a riverside pub, or paddling down river with your children on the boards, SUP can be very sociable.  You can even bring your dog along for the ride.
  8. Stress reduction. Fed up of busy crowded beaches?  Paddle to that secluded island or inaccessible beach around the headland.  Skinny dipping. Paddle far from the madding crowd, strip, and dive in the water.  SUP is a great way to unwind and relax.  Beautiful sunsets, inspirational sunrises, paddling in amazing places reduces stress and recharges your batteries.
  9. Free dinner. Tie a crayfish or lobster pot net behind the board, add bacon and paddle.  Or take a fishing rod with you.  Easy to find your own perfect spot.  And then grill them up on the beach when you get back.  Probably with a cold beer!
  10. Deflate the board, roll up, and pack away in the convenient wheeled rucksack that comes with the best inflatable paddleboards. No worrying about tired dogsarms strapping the boards to the roof or trying to squash everything into the car.  You can be on the road in a few short minutes after getting off the water.

If these reasons don’t make you want to rush out and get your hands on an inflatable paddle board, then nothing will!

Visit our webshop to find out how easy it is to get hold of great quality, affordable paddleboard kit!

 

 

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The hard work starts now for the #MalteseSUPproject

The #MalteseSUPproject had had a great day today, covering the best part of 15km despite heavy seas and strong winds.

They’ve just reached the South East tip of Malta, making camp overnight in a rather rocky and brutalist industrial landscape at Marsallox.  It took getting up at sunrise and paddling til mid afternoon to cover 15km, so progress is slower than the team would like due to the swell and wind conditions.

14954431_10100328978243992_946376304_o 14964163_10100329025020252_1910221654_o

Launching and landing in particular  has been a challenge today with onshore winds and heavy seas causing concern.  And whilst inflatable SUP are much more resilient than hard boards to knocks on rocks, reefs and shorebreaks, you can’t take too many hits on sharp rocky shores before something gives.   This will be an increasing problem for the team over the next couple of as they’re entering the high cliff rocky shore section, so places to land and make camp will be few and far between. Tomorrow will almost certainly be another  long day of paddling to find somewhere accessible enough to stop.

Good luck team!

 

 

 

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Inspirational Canoe Wales superwomen sets off on epic adventure to Standup Paddleboard (SUP) around Malta

Sonja Jones, a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer and Board Member for Canoe Wales, sets off today on a mission to circumnavigate the three islands of Malta as part of a team of four. With winds reaching 30 knots right now, and waves currently several feet high, this isn’t just a quiet paddle in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding (SUP). Everyone has been keen to get in on the act, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP.   And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:

  1. It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle.
  2. All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7.  Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing.  But SUP is independent of waves or wind.  Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for surfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well.  And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal.  So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.

So to demonstrate just how accessible SUP is, four watersports enthusiasts have just set off on an epic expedition to circumnavigate the three islands of Malta. One of the four, Sonja Jones, has Multiple Sclerosis, and is using the expedition as a way of retraining her body in her daily battles with her condition.

Georgina Maxwell, Sonja Jones, Chris Brain and Matt Haydock
Georgina Maxwell, Sonja Jones, Chris Brain and Matt Haydock

The other expedition partners are Chris Brain, Georgina Maxwell and Matt Haydock, all of whom are outdoor activities and watersports instructors with many years of experience of training others to respect and enjoy the water environment safely. The other experience they share, or rather lack of experience, is that none of them have ever been on a SUP expedition.

 

McConksUK, one of the expeditions sponsors, will be sharing regular updates of the team’s progress on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram using #MalteseSUPProject.  Follow @McConksUK to make sure you get updates in your timeline.

Andy McConkey, Director of McConks said:

“Paddling the Mediterranean in November isn’t as easy as people might imagine, and is possibly more difficult than the team themselves realise. A full circumnavigation would be a challenge for experienced SUP riders.  If this team can achieve it, it really demonstrates how accessible SUP   Fingers crossed for a safe trip!”

 

Notes to Editor

The Team

Georgina Maxwell, is an experienced waterperson and outdoors instructor. She has been found on grade 4 and 5 whitewater all over Europe. But these days she prefers to concentrate on developing others in the moving water environment and the mountains, whether that be schoolage children or the military.

George is using a bespoke McConks inflatable paddleboard designed for the expedition. You can r

McConks 12'8 iSUP
McConsk Go Explore iSUP: made for adventure

You can read more about George’s training and to get live updates on progress on her blog https://georginamaxwell.wordpress.com/

Sonja Jones is a Board Member responsible for inclusiveness and safeguarding at Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddle sport in Wales. Canoe Wales:

  • Represent the interests of our club and individual members
  • Advocate on behalf of the interests of the sport in Wales
  • Provide coaching and development programmes from local to international level
  • Stage national and international competitions.

Sonia took up kayaking, as you will see in this documentary, as a fun and exciting way to rehabilitate and work her way to freedom and strength.

From this seed of rehabilitation, has grown a life long passion for adventure kayaking and promoting the sport itself far and wide. In order to help spread the message of how awesomely inclusive and varied the sport is she’s now the Safeguarding and Inclusion Director for Canoe Wales, as well as a regular feature writer for The Paddler International Magazine.

Sonia believes paddle sport to be one of the most social, adventurous, exciting, inclusive, accessible, and exhilarating sports in this world and I intend to spend my life working towards inspiring others to get on the water, no matter their perceived abilities or backgrounds. https://paddlehigh5.wordpress.com/

Chris Brain has worked in the outdoors for over 10 years coaching and guiding and delivering professional development courses.  Chris specialises in paddlesport and is able to deliver a range of personal skills, leadership, safety and rescue courses.  As a provider of the Rescue and Emergency Care (REC) range of first aid courses, Chris seamlessly integrates his knowledge and experience of the outdoors into these courses, giving his clients fun, engaging and useful training.   Chris also has a vast experience in working with young people with challenging behaviour and is highly skilled in the area of youth development. With over 500 days spent away with clients on residential experiences Chris has a huge amount of knowledge and experience in this field. http://www.chrisbraincoaching.com/

Matt Haydock has been lucky enough to not only paddle in some amazing places; but also develop and inspire others through the amazing experiences paddlesports can provide.  Having spent the last few years working with schools which share a strong ethos for outdoor learning, he now works as a freelance instructor based in Aviemore, getting out on the water as much as possible, be that with friends or coaching others. http://www.glenmorelodge.org.uk/about-us/instructors/79/matt-haydock/

 

The team would like to thank the following sponsors:

McConksUK www.mcconks.com

Red Paddle Co www.redpaddleco.com/uk

Fatstick www.supdirect.co.uk

VE paddles http://vepaddles.com/

Palm http://palmequipmenteurope.com/

Immersion research https://www.immersionresearch.eu/

Alpkit https://www.alpkit.com/

Glenmore Lodge www.glenmorelodge.org.uk

Dewerstone https://dewerstone.com/

Go kayaking North West http://www.go-kayaking.com/

 

Contact

Andy McConkey on 07595 646603 or Andy@mcconks.com for further information

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Do inflatable SUP prices ever go down?

So, if you’ve been following trade media, or have been attending the merry go round of trade fairs, you will know that the industry is forecasting a 15-20% increase in retail prices for inflatable SUP in 2017. And also that they’re using this as marketing to push sales of their remaining 2016 stock, before prices go up.  This is a pretty common end of year retail strategy to drive sales in the current year, and doesn’t necessarily mean that prices will go up.  However, it is certainly true that the value of the pound has been falling ever since that fateful day in June 2016.  And the cost of inflatable paddleboards to manufacture is pretty much pegged to the dollar.  All the raw materials are priced in dollars, so if the pound goes down, the cost of an inflatable SUP to a UK brand goes up.

But does that mean that prices should go up? A few thoughts on this:

  • A commercially astute large company will be ‘hedging’ currency costs over a period of time before any major stock purchases to lessen the impact of currency fluctuations.  That hedging should help protect the company against needing to hike prices too.    And most of the large brands are already displaying their 2017 lines at trade shows, so the kit could already be sat in warehouses waiting for distribution. It doesn’t matter what the currency exchange rate is now, it matters what it was when the products were purchased some months ago.
  • And this problem is a peculiarly British problem.  Any brand that sells most of their product outside of the UK could probably take a small hit on the UK sales without it having a large impact on their overall profitability.
  • When the value of the pound rises against the dollar, we don’t hear rumours of the retail price dropping.  Does anyone remember the price of kit dropping in 2014 when the pound was worth almost $1.70?

That’s not to say that the price of the pound isn’t affecting smaller brands and retailers.  It definitely is, so if you want to keep getting advice from your local shop, you to need to buy stuff from them, not just from online retailers like us. And don’t assume they will always be there to give you advice if you don’t use them.   On that note, McConks is looking for a small network of perfectly formed demo and retail outlets for 2017.  So if this might be you, drop us a line on the website .

So, the big question, should you rush out and buy inflatable SUP before now before the prices skyrocket?

Firstly – why not enter our competition to win a 10’6 or 10’8 inflatable paddle board package with Carbon fibre paddle?  Register on our website and share this blog to enter.

If that fails, small and large brands alike have made it clear that prices will be going up next year.  Not for McConks however,  the RRP for our 10’8 board, for example, are going to remain at under £700 for a package with a carbon fibre paddle, and under £600 for a package with the fibre glass paddle, and we will have some great discounts as well.  The same package from Red Paddle would be £1,000, and £880 respectively, and that’s at 2016 prices: You can probably add 15% to those prices for 2017.  So if  your heart is set on that Red Paddle Ride, now would be a good time to buy.  But the savvy paddler would save their money and wait for McConks 2017 line.

So if you don’t have the cash to splash right now, don’t worry.  McConks will be there for you in 2017 with our new lineup of with great quality inflatable SUP at fair and affordable prices.

Dollar pound graph
Dollar pound fluctuation

 

 

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One year on…

So, McConks has been a registered company for over 12 months, and we’ve been actively trading since May 2016. We thought now would be a good time to look back at what, if anything, we’ve achieved.

When we opened in June, we were definitely the new kid on the block.  Noses were looked down, snooty comments were made by established brands and shops.  “Another company importing cheap crap from China” was heard more than once.  Even when SUP experts reviewed our kit favourably (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Board Mag UK here), there were squeals that SUPM was not standing up for ‘the industry”.  There’s a huge amount of snobbery in watersports hardware, and because neither Jenny nor I were known professional performance paddlers, we were written off.goerge-training

Hopefully those days are behind us.  We’ve had some amazing reviews from expert SUPpers, beginners and everything in between.  Observations that keep being repeated by experts and beginners alike are:

  • Board shape.  We keep getting great reviews which comment on the stability and true tracking of our boards when stood midboard, but really welcome the additional responsiveness that the pintail shape bring when you step back.  Rider after rider report that step back/pivot turns are easier than on a big brand equivalent like for like size board
  • Fins:  It is a recurrent theme in reviews of our kit that real fins really set us apart in our price range, and really improve tracking and surf sup ride.
  • The carbon fibre paddles are really very, very good.  Just enough flex, just enough power, just enough drive, subtle dihedral, comfortable paddle without needing foam or padding to make the ride comfortable
  • Quality:  Manufacturing quality is the same as the best of the best, but comes with  a much affordable price tag.

We always intended 2016 to be a slow year with organic growth. We wanted to make sure that our supply chain could cope with demand, and that we could achieve the very highest quality consistently.  We’ve made no secret of the fact that our kit is made in China (although we’re hoping at some point to be able to manufacture at least some of our products in the UK), and getting supply chains set up over such a distance is time consuming and challenging.  And we had a few false starts, due to last minute changes in design and supply chain ability, and we have struggled at times to meet demand.14086433_10154429591588550_1930899112128684129_o

If we had got all our ducks in line earlier in the year, we could probably have sold more boards and got more people on the water on quality, affordable kit. However, our customers have been so engaging and interested, and have asked lots of questions that take time to answer well; Where can I go paddleboarding?   What should I wear when SUPing? Can I paddle on any river? What kit should I wear? Can I just paddle on any lake?  (answers to these questions plus all of the other every day questions we get asked coming up in our next blog).  It’s been a privilege answering these questions, and helping some slightly nervous beginners get on the water for the first time.  After all, getting people who otherwise wouldn’t get on the water is what McConks is all about.  Judging by the great feedback and reviews we’ve had from customers about our quick responses to queries, and our non-judgmental responses, two very important thoughts come to mind.

The first is that we need to make sure that our team is big enough to always answer those queries as well as just ship the products. We won’t be dismissive or judgmental when answering your questions. We never want you to be scared to ask a question.  If you have a question, rest assured there is someone else who wants to ask the same question, but is too worried to; there’s no such thing as a silly question, just silly answers.

12'8 inflatable paddleboard.
12’8 go explorer inflatable paddle board

Oh, and to this purpose, we’ve just overhauled our website to make it easier to use.

The second thought is about inclusiveness. We hear time and time and time again that the riders and reps for the big brands are only interested in you if you’re young, pretty or rich.  I don’t know how much this is intended, but the perception is real.  One of our customers recently travelled from Scotland to the Lake District to meet some SUP heros and some Brand Reps.

“After meeting with (big brand team rider, name removed to protect their identity)” he reported “and having met countless (big brand inflatable SUP) reps in the past, you’re only ever a name on a list, and they don’t have that personal connection to the customer. They’re only your mate for the 5 minutes before you buy a board.  I travelled all the way from Scotland to the Lake District yesterday for Sup, Run, Bike, and no-one even offered me a trial of their kit.  They’re not interested because I’m old, on the heavy side, and not a pretty young thing, and because I work with a charity with not much money.  McConks is punching its weight with the big guys.  You keep it real and continue to value your customers”14053709_10154429589188550_8923877087909018249_o

McConks aim is to get riders on to the water. Big, small, pretty, ugly, good, bad, indifferent.  We don’t care.  We don’t take strength from how cool or pretty or handsome our riders are, and therefore we’re not going to be damaged by someone with Downs Syndrome on our boards, or hapless beginners.  And in fact, nothing makes us happier than seeing people of different abilities or different background using our kit.  Two great charities for disadvantaged people, The Princes Trust, and Beyond Boundaries East Lothian are currently trialling some of our demo kit.  The managers and technical advisors have bought their own personal kit from us, and we’re now thrashing out a deal for the charities as a whole.  And because we’re small, and don’t spend fortunes on marketing or on team riders, and because our passion is to get people on the water, we are surprisingly affordable.

McConks 10'8 inflatable paddle board (iSUP) in the warm, azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea
McConks boards on tour #paddlemehappy

So, has the first year been successful? We think so.  Customer feedback has been great.  Expert feedback has been great (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Mag UK, and to the team at our demo centre at Cotswold Water Park Hire).  We’ve delivered to happy customers all over Europe; including Finland, Spain, France, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Jersey.  And we’ve shipped to the USA. We’ve also donated some ex demo stock to some great charities, and we’re still going to make a small profit in our first year.  After we have deducted taxes and stuff, and the cost of new stock for next year, we will give 100% of the profit to our charity for 2016 Surfers Against Sewage.  Because we’re still growing and expanding our range, most of our income is ploughed straight back into more kit and more prototypes.  But we will make sure that SAS has a c14067753_10154429587633550_5441173745612791058_oheque for at least £200 by the end of 2016.

And what about 2017? Keep your ears to the ground.  I hear rumours of a McConks dedicated Surf SUP and a McConks White Water SUP in 2017, once we have got our new Go Explore board out there.

 

 

#paddlemehappy

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How to design a multi day touring SUP board

About 6 weeks ago, we got an intriguing email from someone we didn’t know that just said:  “Are you a UK SUP company? Where are you based? Where are your SUPs made?”

Being pleased that someone had even heard of McConks, we drafted a short reply, saying that we were UK based, and that we designed our boards in the UK but sadly, like all of the other iSUP brands, had to use overseas manufacturers to make them, simply because the supply chain isn’t available in the UK.

We then got an even more intriguing email that said: “I’ve got something that might interest you”.

The emails were from Georgina Maxwell, an outdoors professional and coach. She certainly knows how to generate suspense, because we couldn’t find out what was so interesting for a whole afternoon!  We didn’t know it then, but that’s when our involvement in the #malteseSUPproject began.

George explained why her and three of her close friends were going to be paddling around the three islands of Malta in November 2016. George’s enthusiasm was infectious, and we were sold on the concept almost immediately. There were two things that George said that made our decision to be involved really easy.

– The trip is all about how accessible SUP is. They want to show how easy SUP is, even for their friend Sonja and her battles with Malcolm.  Read Sonja’s blog for more information
– She wanted to work with us because she really valued our concept of providing good honest fantastic quality kit, at an affordable price that made SUP much more accessible and inclusive.

We had been beavering away over the summer designing our lineup for 2017, and an expedition board was already set to be part of the lineup. However a prototype hadn’t yet been ordered, let alone manufactured. We worked with George to refine and improve the design of the explorer board, although we refused point blank to make it in shocking pink as requested! It was then a case of working with our supplier to get the board made as quickly as possible.

So, what was behind the design of the George’s board?

Deckpads are a compromise between non slip and comfort. Some of the most ‘grippy’ deckpads, are fine to stand on for a few hours, but not for days on end. Some deckpads actually make McConks feet go numb after a few hours paddling. We therefore worked hard to find the best compromise between grip and comfort.

The Mediterranean can be quite choppy and stormy in November. The board needed to be easy to paddle, stable, and carry lots of kit. Using 3D modelling we settled on a 12’8 x 31″ x 6″ as being ideal for these conditions.

The expedition will be a multi day expedition which could involve carrying the board, plus the attached kit, a decent distance from the shore. Comfortable handles were therefore a must. We’ve worked hard to make sure there are plenty of handles in just the right place for portage. The added benefit is that they can also be used for additional items, such as the obligatory trombone or trumpet, to be lashed to the handles when short of space. These handles also allow George to haul herself out of the water when her expedition partners decide it’s time for her to swim!

Paddling upwind, upcurrrent in the Med in November can be a real challenge. The board has paddle gloves which allow a kayak paddle to be securely held in place, and attachment points for a SUP seat to allow George to sit when two blades are the only thing that will make headway against a 20 knot headwind and 10 knot current!

A standard US fin box with a 6″ fin designed to keep the board on the straight and narrow is supplied. Two additional Futures Fins boxes allow additional side bites to be plugged in in strong cross currents or cross winds. And allow for the board to be used to ride downwind runs, and to bite into what surf swell there may be.

12'8 board
McConks new explorer iSUP. Now with high pressure fusion enhanced drop stitch technology.

Secure storage was essential. A multi day, long distance trip means that George needs to carry all her kit with her, on the board. We therefore designed two separate storage areas, both fore and aft. We also put non slip strips on the deck under the storage to stop kit shifting about on the water and impacting on board trim.

Transportability was hugely important on an international trip, so a good quality bag was essential. Our new bag is sturdy but lightweight. With supersize wheels, the bag is easy to pull through most environments, whether it be a grassy field or airport concourses. For more difficult or uneven terrain, the stowable shoulder and waist straps are really comfortable for long hikes. The internal straps keep the board secure, and the external pockets allow all the accessories to be kept securely in one place. Chunky plastic zips will not be affected by corrosion, and fastenings inside the bag allow safe storage of George’s 3 piece carbon fibre and bamboo paddle.

The weight of the board was an important factor, and we are super pleased to introduce EDS technology to our boards for the first time. EDS technology stands for Enhanced Drop Stitch, and means a stiffer and lighter board than most other double layer boards. EDS means that the drop stitch is surrounded by an airtight and super-light polymer layer just before the outer PVC is fused to it under high pressure. This all happens at the raw material stage, and gives a much higher quality cosmetic finish with no air bubbles or creases. It also makes the boards a lot lighter than traditional two layer boards and much stiffer than normal two layer technology boards at the same pressure. Other brands call this technology MSL.

This board will be available in early 2017 in a package with our light and powerful carbon fibre paddle for less than £700.  Package price is still to be finalized.  Preorders will be delivered in time for Christmas, so if you’re seriously interested,  contact andy@mcconks.com to let us know.

To keep up to date with McConks developments,  keep an eye on our website , or follow us on @mcconksUK (twitter , instagram and facebook).

To find out more about the #MalteseSUPproject, follow George’s blog here.

 

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