If you’re stil struggling for Christmas present ideas, why not buy the gift of paddleboarding? We’ve got lots of ideas, from experiences, to gift cards to accessories. Check out our blog articles below
Aloha Birmingham??You have welcomed us with some challenging weather today ??, but hey we embrace the #yearroundstoke?❄️? Mahalo to B-Row: Rowing and Canoeing in Birmingham Bartley SUP Ben Julian Coaching for bringing these many Santas together? Check out the cutest #SUPpup ??Merry Christmas y’all ?⭐️? #coldwaterSUP #SantaSUP #jointheSUPtribe #sharetheSUPstoke
Christmas present advice. To Dryrobe or not to Dryrobe?
Are you thinking about buying a Dryrobe right now? Either as a present for yourself or for someone else? Dryrobes are a great gift idea – who wouldn’t want a warm, waterproof and windproof tent to hide in whilst getting changed? Dryrobes have an excellent reputation amongst their customers, and having tried them ourselves, we think it’s a well-deserved reputation. They’re well designed, well thought out and fantastic quality.
But are there alternatives that are just as well designed and thought out, and just as good quality? We decided to find out?
The minimum requirement, in our mind, was a high quality waterproof and windproof outer layer, and very warm high wicking inner fabric. These requirements mean that we’re reviewing five products from just four companies, The Dryrobe Advance short sleeve, the Dryrobe advance (long and short sleeve variants), the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak (long and short sleeve variants), the Palm Poncho Grande, and the Smoc Smoc change robe.
Changing robe sleeve length
Short sleeve or long sleeve depends very much on preference. Some people prefer short sleeve for easier arm movements to make getting your kit off easier. Some prefer a longer sleeve for added snuggliness.
One of the criticisms we have of the Dryrobe short sleeve is that the wind tends to whistle up your arms in cold weather. The Charlie McLeod has a small and simple design advantage in that it has a push-button fastening on the sleeve that allows you to make the sleeve narrower and reduce the gap. But being push button, it’s either fits your wrist or it doesn’t.
The Palm poncho with no sleeve makes getting changed a little easier (freedom of arms), but this is at the expense of snuggliness.
The Smoc Smoc has the best of all worlds. It’s a long sleeve with lots of space, and with a velcro wrist fastening that allows you keep the wind out of those cold arms once you’ve got dry!
McConks think that having a zip is essential in a change robe. We love the Palm Poncho for its ease of use, but actually, pulling a poncho over a cold, shivering, tired wet body can be surprisingly and frustratingly difficult. A reversible zip that can operated from either the inside or the outside gives the Dryrobe and the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak the edge over the Palm Poncho in our opinion.
SmocSmoc give you the choice, with either a full length zip or a half zip poncho. Full marks against to Smoc Smoc for listening to the consumer and providing exactly what they want!
The Dryrobe and the Palm Poncho are a slightly different shape at the shoulders to the Charlie McLeod. The horizontal shoulder line of the Palm Poncho and the Dryrobe are comfortable enough on the poncho style and the short sleeve robe. But this feels slightly odd on the long sleeve version of the robe. The Charlie McLeod had a more natural fitting that felt more comfortable without impacting on ease of getting changed. And it also meant that you don’t look out of place wearing the robe as a coat! The SmocSmoc also feels and looks natural to wear.
Warmth and weatherproof
The long sleeve options from both Dryrobe, Charlie McLeod and SmocSmoc are definitely warmer on those really cold days, and even the short sleeve options keep the warmth in more than the Palm Poncho. All of the products stand up well in very wet conditions with no obvious leaks or wet patches, although only DryRobe and SmocSmoc have taped seams to keep you totally dry in those truly miserable wet days.
The Smoc Smoc lining deserves an extra shout out here. It’s bamboo rather than plastic, therefore is much more snuggly than any of the other robes.
All of the robes offer enough room inside to make changing safe and secure. Although they differ in length by up to 20%, we didn’t think the length actually affected ease of changing or modesty preservation at all. All of them were long enough, and none of them felt too long. So the other key features here are how easy the robes are to get on, and how easy to get your arms inside. And all of the products have their strengths and weaknesses in this respect. The longer the arm length, the more difficult it is to retract your arms inside, especially if they’re wet. So in this respect the Palm wins. But the lack of a zip makes the Poncho more difficult to get on or off, so the Dryrobe and Charlie McLeod products score for ease of getting on. Again, Smoc Smoc, providing a half zip gives the best of both worlds. We still prefer the ease of access with a full length zip, with the associated risk of full frontal nudity that entails, but accept that might not be everyone’s cup of tea 🙂
The Dryrobe, Charlie McLeod and SmocSmoc products come with a surfeit of pockets. The McLeod and DryRobe have at least one waterproof zipped pocket, and two internal pockets and two external pockets. The exact configuration differs slightly, with only the Dryrobe having zipped external pockets, but only the Charlie McLeod having zipped mesh internal pockets. All of the products have warm lined external pockets to warm up those cold hands. The lack of internal pockets on the Palm Poncho was not really a concern to us, but the lack of any zipped pockets was. Although the absence of zips at all on the poncho mean that there is less that can go wrong or break.
We like the fact that the SmocSmoc and Charlie McLeod products come with a sturdy double pull string bag that double up as a standing mat. We also like the additional microfibre towel that is thrown in with the McLeod. If you want a storage bag for your DryRobe compression bag, you’ll need to fork out another £30, and there is no storage option available for the Palm poncho.
SmocSmoc are a small UK company who make their robes in the UK! This means that they make what they need and limit wastage. They carefully source their materials and support smaller independent suppliers where they can. The smocs are finished off by hand and checked over before putting into their own SCRAP bag. These waterproof bags are made using scrap leftovers from each smoc. You can use your SCRAP bag to collect bits of scrap plastic off the beach too!
The SmocSmoc and McLeod long sleeves robes come in at £120
The DryRobe advance is available at £140.
The Palm Poncho Grande is £70
Sustainability and eco
The SmocSmoc wins hand down in this regard
The bamboo lining is so much more eco friendly than the plastic lining you get inside the other brands. Not only is made of natural materials rather than petrochemicals, but the natural bamboo lining doesn’t shed microplastics all over the beach/lake/river!
So which is the best changing robe / dry robe in our opinion?
If you’re a taller or larger person, you get better value from Charlie McLeod or Palm. With a £40 or £50 XL penalty for the short sleeve Dryrobe, the Charlie McLeod offers all of the same features, with a few additional ones of its own at 2/3 of the price.
If you want the snuggliest, most weatherproof option, then the Charlie McLeod long sleeve is 100% the best option. With the ability to adjust the hood, sleeve and waistband, the cloak’s ability to keep the weather out far surpasses the Dryrobe’s. Windsurfers and kite surfers used to rigging in icy, rainy, blowy conditions will particularly benefit
If you want maximum colour variety then the Dryrobe advance is the robe for you. With the biggest array of outer colours, and the only option providing a choice of inner colours, Dryrobe is the choice that allows you to match your robe to your style or kit.
If you want the lightest modesty protector that takes the least space in your luggage, then the Palm Poncho Grande is the option for you.
Did you know that giving someone an experience makes them happier than giving them a physical gift?
The idea that an experience that only lasts for a short period of time compared to a physical gift can make you happier for longer seems wrong. But there is a load of scientific research that confirms this, and we’re going to use this article to help explain why. And while we’re at it we’re going to recommend some awesome experiences around the UK that you can ask for as presents, or gift to someone else.
The excitement about Christmas is at fever pitch in our household right now, and we’re only just into December. Obviously some of this excitement is about the toys the boys are going to get as presents, but surprisingly, they’re probably more excited about going to cut down the Christmas Tree, decorating it, and about going to see all the Christmas lights. And about seeing the whole family on Christmas Day, about singing along to all the Christmas songs, and whole heap of other experiences they remember from last year. And according to the research, the anticipation is greater for experiences than for material gifts, and this is only one of the reasons why experiences make us happier.
Experiences don’t happen alone, they happen in groups or pairs. And even the most curmudgeonly old *** will get pleasure out of shared experiences. Studies have shown that even the shyest, quietest of people need community contact and social experiences, even if they find them uncomfortable. And most of us love a chinwag with friends, family, and often total strangers during and after shared experiences, and get huge value out of them.
And the best experience gifts keep on giving for many years. Shared experiences sometimes become part of family folklore. Our favourite is the one of Uncle Pete falling off the paddleboard, and a seal popping up behind him to say hello. And every time we told him to turn around to see, it disappeared again. Over and over
Getting it wrong
If most people are asked which they think they will get more value from, an experience or a material gift, they will say gift. A study a few years ago looked into this. They asked people before the gift/experience which they thought would make them most happy. And they asked them again after the gift/experience which had made them happier. And the majority of people overestimated how much pleasure they got from material gifts, and underestimated how much pleasure they got from experiences.
Experiences Don’t Invite Competition Or Envy
Every experience is unique and is difficult to compare with something else. And they’re very individual. So unlike a new phone, or a new handbag, the gift is unlikely to be compared directly other gifts, particularly at times like Christmas or birthdays when people received multiple gifts. And this even effects the gift giver’s pleasure as well. It never feels nice knowing that someone has bought the same present or you, or that their present has upstaged yours. And that disappointment can set in even as you’re thinking ‘it’s the thought that counts’ to yourself.
Physical gifts lose their value quickly
Emotionally, the value of a gift to someone decreases from the moment that they first open it. And the more additional gifts someone gets, the lower the value gets. In terms of happiness and the hormones associated with happiness, this has been proved in research studies. The best way to explain this is to think about it in terms of kit. Think of that GPS sports watch you’ve been lusting over for months, but can’t justify the cost. If someone buys it for you, you will be thrilled. Your heart might even skip a beat. Your endocrine system will be flooded with pleasure hormones and you will be buzzing. But here’s the thing. Once you’ve got it, that watch becomes part of your new normal and your happiness levels return to their normal level. And here’s the important thing - you don’t get a buzz every time you use it. You might value it still, it might be very useful, it might even improve your paddling. But you don’t get the same release of hormones. You might get a buzz from the paddling you do while wearing it, but you don’t need the watch to get that buzz. In fact, the only way to get that same buzz from a GPS sports watch is to buy a new and upgraded one. (There is a technical term for this, ‘the hedonic treadmill’).
The same isn’t true for experiences. An experience gift gives a buzz when given, and buzz associated with the anticipation, another one when used, and then memories of the experience keep producing happy hormones far into the future. In fact a future conversation with a stranger about something entirely random can trigger that memory and release the pleasure hormones again.
So what will you choose?
So there you have it. Experiences actually make us happier for longer than material gifts. So now the only thing to consider is how to go about giving someone an experience. About the only thing that’s better than an experience in terms of happiness and value is a material gift that allows someone to generate their own new experience. Like an inflatable SUP for example. But we’ll save that thought for another blog!
So if you’re convinced, here are some of the very best experiences that we’ve pulled together from McConks friends, acquaintances and partners around the country.
If you’re not convinced, then why not buy a Universal SUP gift card that can be used for experiences or for SUP related equipment at ever increasing number of retailers.
SUP introductory sessions for beginners
There are an increasing number of schools, instructors and providers who offer introductory sessions around the country. And if you check out www.suphubuk.com, you will find that most of the schools on the map will offer an introductory SUP session for no more than £30 – £40.
Stand Up Paddle Board UK
As you might expect with the fastest growing watersport in the world, it’s getting easier and easier to find somewhere safe to hire a SUP board without needing to book an instructor. Obviously you don’t get the advice and assistance from an instructor, which means that you might learn bad habits from day 1 which are then very difficult to forget. But this is a popular option for a lower cost gift.
In the heart of the Cotswold Water Park, Cotswold water park hire is a great little spot for hiring SUP, canoes, kayaks or rowing boats. And Tom and Josh are also senior paddlesports instructors who run RapidSkills, so they’re always happy to offer some advice if you’re struggling.
For the more adventurous, why not get vouchers for SUP hire delivered to the door? With the low cost SUP rental offered by SUP by post, you can help people create their own experiences and adventures. To go exploring in their time, in their own way. It’s easy to book online, and costs from as little as £10 per day for a full SUP package including inflatable SUP board, carbon fibre paddle, buoyancy aid and dry bag.
If you’re looking for a present for an adrenaline junkie, an experience with Stand Up Paddle Boarding UK might be just the thing. Based in Llangollen, North Wales, Stand Up Paddle Boarding UK are the first whitewater SUP tuition providers in the UK. The undisputed king of WWSUP, Anthony Ing, offers tuition and experiences on the River Dee. But they also offer a whole lot more besides, from flat water SUP, to archery to whitewater rafting. So they have something for everyone, from absolute beginners to experts.
Whitewater SUP adventures
Do you know someone who is a bit of a SUP expert and thinking about their next steps? Maybe they’re thinking about doing some training and getting accredited?
Why not get them a voucher for some structured SUP training? Getafix is one of the best known paddlesports training providers in the UK. Leo and Anna have trained many of the up and coming and leading paddlers in the UK, and they offer the British Canoeing SUP discipline support module for £80. Find out more on their website.
Every day it seems that there are more guided adventures and holidays being promoted. You can check out the events calendar on SUPhubUK to see just a small fraction of the expeditions and adventures offered.
The Norfolk Broads is a beautiful spot for a guided adventure. Although lots of fun can be had exploring the broads and the Norfolk coast by yourself, there are so many hidden gems that you risk missing if you go without a guide.
For simple hire or tuition, check out BoardinSkool. For guided adventures in the backwaters of Broads, whether this be on SUP or in a kayak, check out Norfolk Outdoor Adventures.
Christmas is the time of year for peace, love and happiness, right?. So we couldn't write an article about SUP experiences as a Christmas gift without mentioning Psyched SUP's singles SUP events.
OK - so clearly you need to know the person your giving this gift to pretty well, or it might backfire. But this is such an awesome experience. Giving the gift of love through paddleboarding. What's not to love?
If we've failed in our mission to persuade you to buy SUP experiences rather than SUP gifts, please make sure you buy ethical or sustainable presents, or ones that can be used to make an experience.
“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions”...
...as an America Author wrote in the early part of the 20th century.
And whilst we’re keen not to get stuck in a rut at McConks, we've not got one foot in the grave yet!
We’re not about making change for change sake, with new colours or minor cosmetic changes every year, but we do like to mix things up. We make improvements if needed, and add to our lineup if we think we can bring something different to the mix.
So earlier in the year we asked our customers and supporters what new stuff they would like to see from McConks. Some of the answers we got back were ridiculous, and have been shelved until someone invents a genie in a bottle that actually works:
- ‘A paddleboard that’s as easy to paddle upwind as it is to paddle downwind’
- 'An all-round inflatable board that’s as fast as a carbon race board’
- ‘An inflatable surf-sup that makes me paddlesurf like Kai’
Although if you read some of the marketing guff out here, you might be forgiven for thinking that these things were possible!
But some of the ideas were worth a second thought:
- A stable but exciting whitewater board designed for UK waters
- An inflatable windsurf board that actually planes
- A high quality surfSUP that doubles as a kids board
- A more affordable 14 foot carbon allwater race board
- A more affordable Team SUP
- An interchangeable paddle system
More on these later.
We also asked our existing customers what could be improved on our current boards. It’s always dangerous asking customers for their views on what’s not so good. It’s a particularly bad idea when some of your customers are trained SUP instructors with many years of experience, and a penchant for sharing their opinions! And even though all of the improvements were minor, we’ve still spent many hours chatting, discussing, and agreeing the finer details. Some might say we’ll never get those hours back again – but getting feedback and making improvements is always time well spent!
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
Carry that weight
One of the absolute delights of a decent iSUP is how easy they are to transport and move around - perfect for roadtrippin'.
And our customers loved the fact that our boards have more handles than most, making them super easy to get to the put in. Some even thing we've gone overboard with the handles on our whitewater board, sport a total of 9 handles!
But some of the handles on our 2017 boards were just made of webbing. Which was fine if you’re carrying the board for short distances, in light winds and with clean hands. But mix this up with winds trying to blow the board out of your hand, grit and sand, and longer distance portages, and things can get very uncomfortable. As tempting as it was to tell people to get over it and toughen up, we’ve relented and replaced all of our webbing handles with neoprene handles. There is no real weight or environmental penalty to this, and only a minor cost penalty that we’ve just absorbed.
Also, some of the handles weren’t balanced as well as they could have been. This caused a few issues for our shorter customers who didn’t benefit from as much ground clearance as others. So we’ve repositioned the central handles to improve the balance.
Getting to the off couldn’t be any easier now!
Get a grip
Everyone loved the fact that our deckpads are so much more comfortable than the thin diamond cut pads that are
But a very small number of customers noted that the deckpad wasn’t quite as grippy as the very best in class! It's not that they were slip slidin' away, but they weren't quite as good as the very best under the most extreme performance conditions. We’d deliberately moved away from diamond cut deckpads in 2017 because diamond cut can be uncomfortable under the feet for long paddles. We’ve now moved to a crocodile skin finish as minimum grip, and our performance boards benefit from additional cutouts to improve grip without impacting on comfort.
Some riders who liked to race our 12’8 Go Explore boards found that the lack of deckpad at the rear of the board caused them some issues (unwelcome dunkings when trying to pivot around marks), so we’ve now extended it all the way to the back of the board. But we’ve retained the paracord and D Rings behind the paddling position, just positioned them around the deckpad. So now you’ve got a choice – use this area for additional luggage, or remove the paracord and use that area for performance positioning.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
Everyone loved our bags. So it was important that any changes didn’t take away any of the features that were so successful.
Most of the changes are minor, and if we didn’t mention them, most people probably wouldn’t even notice! We’ve added compression straps so that the bags can be shrunk.
Printing the board model on the side of each bag will remove one of life’s little frustrations for our instructor friends: having to unroll a board just to see what model it was gets a little annoying!
And the bags now stand up without support – another source of much irritation to a small number of people!
But to all intents and purposes, the boards and the bags are very similar to 2017. And it will take a trained eye to spot the differences. The volume, weight, rocker, shape, branding and colours all remain the same. And if you’ve read our blog on ethical and environmental marketing and production, you’ll understand the reasons why.
SHINY AND NEW
New boards for 2018
Making a splash in whitewater SUP
Matt Stephenson, a team GB freestyle boater, and SAS Hurley Classic champion for two years on the bounce, has been working with McConks for a couple of years. Being well connected with the fledgling UK whitewater SUP community, he had a bag full of frustrations that he’d picked up from the WWSUP community, alongside his own opinions from having paddled most decent boards on the market. So we set out to produce a board quite different to anything else out there.
As we were prototyping different rockers on the whitewater board, we realized that the shape made it an absolutely perfect specialist yoga board if we took the rocker away entirely. And so we’ve done that! Our Namaste yoga board will also be available in January 2018.
Catch a wave
Ever since we made our first board, people have been asking about when we’re finally going to make a shorter surf iSUP. Our answer, until now, had always been that there were enough medium performance surf iSUPs out there (i.e. any of them from a decent brand), and that we didn’t think we could bring anything new, either by way of price, or quality, to the beach. But then our eldest lad started to ask about getting his own smaller board at about the same time that defined rail technology came available to us. Having defined rails really ups the game in surf SUP terms, but yet very few iSUP brands have thought it’s worth the extra cost.
The rocker, defined rails, triple stringer and 30PS pressure guarantee will do you well in anything up to head high. But with the shape, rocker and 2+1 fin setup being based on a laid back, drawn out log, you’ll probably have more fun in the waist to shoulder high range.
And just for fun, it’s got a mast foot screw, so it doubles as a development platform for budding windsurfers. But if you want real windsurf performance, you’ll want to get your hands on our new Freeride iSUP.
Blowin' in the wind
Having been disappointed with WindSUP offerings for years, the technology just hadn’t been good enough to tempt us to make a WindSUP. After all, if you can’t get a board planing, what’s the point?
But finally, the stars have aligned to make the perfect freeride windSUP a possibility.
So working with a number of development riders, we’ve been prototyping and perfecting the perfect shape for an inflatable freeride board. The 9’8 x 31 x 6” board has a strong nose rocker and a delicate tail rocker to get you over those bumps with ease. With the same defined rail edge technology as our SurfSUPs, this board planes easily and quickly, and with the extra rigidity from the triple dyneema stringer the board feels very rigid and stable under foot, no matter how fast you’re going or how bumpy the water. The board comes with a 2+1 setup, allowing you to switch between freeride and freewave fin setup, and you can set the footstraps to match your riding style using a velcro fastening system. This really is a revolution in windSUP design.
And it turns out that this board is a remarkably adept river surf board!
Paddle with friends
We thought mega boards or giant boards were a gimmick, and just a toy for hen and stag parties. But having seen them in use by school groups, and put to great effect by instructors in team building exercises, but previous opinions are just like water under the bridge, and we’re happy to stand corrected. And it was these same schools and instructors who’ve persuaded us to make a team board. This isn’t just some generic Chinese board rebadged with the McConks logo. Every single component of this board has been designed by McConks. From the location of the valves, the shape of the rocker, the positioning of the handles, to the shape and design of the deckpad, this comes with the attention to detail you’ve come to expect from us. 18 foot long, 60 inches wide, 8 inches thick, double skin, full length deckpad and four valves is unremarkable in the world of Giant SUPs. But a price of £1000 is very remarkable. In a parallel universe you might a brand who will give it away for less, but not in this one!!
Bat out of hell
We admit it. We said we weren’t going to be a hard board company, and that we’re going to stick to inflatable SUP. We still generally mean that. But we may have flirted with the dark side and be testing some carbon race boards. We got a little carried away when some of our friends started asking for them, and we only got tempted because our paddles are made by one of the best carbon SUP board shaping factories in China, and we knew what quality we could expect. And we knew we could get our friends premium quality race boards at a fraction of the price.
14ft long, 27.5 inches wide, with a bulbous yet piercing nose and a recessed deck pad, the board looks the business. Finished in lacquered carbon, she is a stealth machine just waiting to take on those allwater races. But these boards are strictly limited edition. There are only three in the world at the moment, and they’re all accounted for. And once we’ve satisfied ourselves that these birds are as fast as they look stunning, we will be making them to order. And the price is as stunning as the style – less than £1,500.
…for different days? Smaller blade for surf? Bigger blade for racing? Indestructible polyprop blade for whitewater and river surf? It gets pretty expensive, pretty quickly. Well why not keep the shaft and handle and just switch the blade? That’s the idea behind our new Switch paddle system. More on this to come in 2018
Every brand has a ‘face’ behind the scenes. In the case of McConks SUP that’d be Andy and wife Jen. To get more of an insight into the inner workings of this new kid on the SUP company block Andy was recently put on the Q&A grill to find out what makes him tick, what it takes to get new SUP products to market and where this fledgling company’s heading.
Tell us about your watersports background and when you first discovered SUP?
Jen and I have long been “outdoor adventure and recreation’’ devotees. I grew up in South Wales and spent many long hours in and on the South Wales coast, with my parents, with Scouts and with the South Wales Mountaineering Club. And with the valleys and Brecon Beacons close to hand there was rarely a weekend I wasn’t out in the Welsh countryside or at the coast.
Both Jen and I separately chose universities at the end of civilised world, close to wilderness and on the coast. Me at St Andrews in Scotland and Jen at Aberystwyth. We both studied courses that continued our passion for preserving the natural world and the environment, whilst still taking time to play in the amazing environs we had chosen.
As outdoor adventure activities generalists, it’s fair to say that neither Jen nor I are leaders or instructor level in any particular activity. Depending on the pastime, we’re either competent, or enthusiastic, rather than advanced. But between us we have many years of experience surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, sailing, outdoor swimming, mountain biking, climbing and exploring.
We first saw SUP when it was just breaking in the UK. As keen surfers then I remember looking out back at Rest Bay and seeing my first stand up paddle boarder. I was both jealous and enraged simultaneously. He was getting the best waves, he was getting back out back quickly, and he was able to get to new breaks even quicker. Jen, generally being less quick to jump to opinions and believe what you read in surf magazines (she’s the sensible one), saw the long term appeal. A single board that you can use to explore the coast, to catch some waves and to take you to the best waves; what’s not to like?
However, like many at the time, paddle boarding was just not something we could afford to do. We didn’t have a van, we lived in a small house in the middle of the country miles away from the sea, and we didn’t have much money. In fact, for many years we paddled using ‘old skool’ Mistral or BIC windsurf boards, and split kayak paddles at our sailing club in the Cotswold Water Park (Bowmoor Sailing Club).
[image of paddling an old windsurf board]
What appealed about stand up and what does it offer you personally?
Neither of who like beaches with hundreds of people, competitive localism or elitism. Therefore, a board that can get you away from other people, which you can use to explore the coast, find new beaches and discover new waves was attractive from the moment we first saw a SUP. It’s only in recent years, with our young family, that we’ve discovered how great SUP is for all. Whilst it might be fun for a toddler for a few minutes, watching mummy or daddy rip it up out back, what they really want to do is be part of it. And with very young kids this is only really possible with SUP or canoe. But what really sealed it for me is that the one board you use to take your little ones out on can also give you some serious fun without the kids. Whether that be SUP surfing, river surfing or long distance touring. No other board sport comes close to having that crossover appeal.
Why do you think the masses are attracted to the sport?
It really doesn’t take long to master simple balance and paddling. Compare that to windsurfing or surfing. There is an awful lot to learn before you first catch your first wave or first start planning, let alone before you learn to carve, or to gybe. Many people give up in frustration before they get that far. I know some see this tail off as a benefit because it makes sure that only ‘the right kind of people end up on our waves’. It also creates an endless supply of second hand equipment from people with more money than ability. Whilst I sympathise with these views, and if honest, may even have shared them in the past, I think SUP brings something quite unique. Easy entry as a beginner and then a gradual progression through to advanced rider. No big steps or barriers to development. As I’ve said before one board that can be used in so many different environments.
Another thing that appealed to us was that it’s an all-weather sport. We took up mountain biking after many years of travelling long distances for breaks and holidays to the coast, with cars heavily laden with boards and sails to find no wind or waves. I think we’re probably unique in having had several Easter camping holidays at Newgale and Gwithian without seeing a wave bigger than a foot, and no wind stronger than a little puff. I hate to image how much money we’ve spent on fuel transporting our kit for it not to be used!
And let’s be honest there are large numbers of people who are really attracted to the image of ‘extreme sports’ or the image of the surf lifestyle without really wanting to put themselves in harms way from the off. SUP is a non-threatening way into this lifestyle and image.
Talk us through the McConks story. When did you decide to set up stand up paddle boarding brand? What was the catalyst?
We’re newcomers to the show. Our first thoughts of setting up McConks only emerged in October 2015 after a camping holiday in Dorset. At this stage we were still paddling on old windsurf boards stored at the lake because we couldn’t afford hard boards and had no space at home. We’d heard about iSUPs of course by now, and we knew some people who had boards by the market leader, but their experience of them wasn’t great – they thought they were heavy, and didn’t perform anywhere near as well as rigid boards. But then we saw a mum in her late 20s take her toddler out for a paddle round Portland Harbour on a Naish One, we got thinking. When we looked at the inflatable paddle boards that were available, we were just plain confused. We didn’t feel that big brands ‘spoke’ to us. Even before kids we had become disillusioned with the upselling tactics used by the big windsurf brands and the traditional retailers. They weren’t talking in our target price range (except during the annual discount circus), and we clearly weren’t their target market.
And we realised after talking to the people we met on beaches and breaks, it became clear we weren’t the only ones who no longer felt a connection with these companies. We realised that the traditional methods of manufacturer to distributor to retailer to end-user puts distance between the brand and their customers, and increases prices. That was why we no longer felt affinity and warmth towards bigger brands. So we came up with a new business model that would break down the old-school way of doing things. We wanted to work with our customers, understand what they need and make those products. And this is important to us for lots of reasons, but probably the most important is for environmental reasons: By only selling stuff that ‘normal’ people need, rather than spending lots of money to persuade people that they need stuff, we’re also doing our bit to reduce the impact on the environment.
And why inflatables?
Because that was the board we were in the market for. If there’s a need and the brand/product doesn’t exist, then you create it, right? The obvious advantages of inflatables to our lifestyle meant they were the only choice. Something that is easy to chuck in the back of the car, that’s easy to get up and paddling, that’s indestructible for young kids and that’s easy to store.
And the other key reason is because we didn’t think that the existing iSUP offering was actually very good. There were some good boards by the big brands, with an eye watering price, and with some unacceptable compromises given the price; poor quality fixed fins and cheap aluminium/alloy paddles bundled in the package. If you’re spending the best part of £1k on a board surely you get at least a carbon paddle with it, and the ability to use different fins so you can use you board in different environments?
At the other end of the market there was a good variety of budget boards, but they weren’t particularly good quality. The SUP clubs and facebook groups are awash with real life stories of members being seduced by the latest ‘affordable’ brand that offers the very best quality at the lowest price. You know the ones. “Made in one of the top four factories in China, yet only £400 delivered.” It’s really not possible to manufacture and import a top quality iSUP board and paddle package for £400 unless you’re buying in quantities of thousands. So there’s only a couple of ways these smaller startup companies can do it. Either by compromising on quality, or by buying an off the shelf design and sticking their own brand label and colours on it. Have you ever noticed how many iSUP are the same shape? Brands try to pass this off as being due to plagiarism or because trial and error has ended up with coincident evolution of the same design. Which is a good marketing answer, but not necessarily a true one!
Any chance we might see McConks hard SUPs at some point?
We’ve considered it and have even got as far as knocking up a few designs. I know there’s still a lot of snobbery about hard boards vs inflatables. And this makes sense for those brands that focus on elite surf, downwind or race SUP. But with that elitism, those brands turn off most day to day to day recreational paddlers, both by failing to be inclusive, and with their price point.
It’s also true that there are many excellent quality, UK shaped/designed hard SUPs made in Chinese factories, made by great UK brands at the same price point we would be able to sell at. This just isn’t true with iSUP – no one else sells iSUP with the same attention to detail and design. And the UK has a really vibrant custom shaped scene, and that’s just not a market we want to play in.
So you might see us playing around with a few hard board prototypes in the future if we think we can truly innovate on price or design, or if friends as us to design a board for them, but rigid SUP aren’t a core part of our business for the time being.
When designing a board, paddle and/or accessories where do you start? Are you trying to answer specific ‘questions’ so to speak or just going with your instinct?
New products normally start with a frustration, a lightbulb moment or an idea from a friend or customer. Typically they start with an idea for a shape of a blade or board. And they always start with a sketch.
We then take these sketches to our small network of suppliers to see if our ideas are even possible. Although there are more than 30 iSUP manufacturers in South East Asia (and hundreds of paddle manufacturers) there are only a very small number who meet our exacting QA, environment and worker welfare requirements, who share our passion in innovation and improvement and who have the patience to work with us to constantly modify, tinker with and improve our products. Sometimes our sketch is impossible with current materials and techniques. It’s then back to the drawing board for tweaks and tinkering with the original sketch to make something that works.
Then it’s time for some computer work; 3D design and computer testing of that design with fin placement for example. At the same time we start to think about other parts of the package. Do we need to re-invent the wheel by re-designing a pump, or are off the shelf ones fit for purpose? Fin box type, fin placement and shape? What about the bag?
Once the blueprint is finalised we agree it with our suppliers, and have an agonising and frustrating wait for the prototype to arrive. Sometimes the design has to change during the proto manufacturing phase if it becomes apparent that something doesn’t quite work. We’ll work with our supplier to revise the final prototype design.
If we’ve done our homework right, then the next stage is just a few small changes with accessories or styling. But if we need to go back to drawing board again we will do so. Then it’s full production and another agonising wait whilst the kit is manufactured and shipped to our UK store. The whole process for a new design takes around four months and can take up to eight to finalise.
Any innovations coming from McConks in the near future? If so, are you able to tell us what they are?
iSUP technology hasn’t moved on significantly since 2016/17. Most quality manufacturers have now settled on a variant of enhanced drop stitch for double layer boards. There have been no significant innovations in valve type, deckpad or fin boxes (although we’re still working on the nirvana of low profile iSUP fin boxes flush to the bottom of the board, and a flexible hydrophobic coating that reduces the ‘suckiness’ of iSUP).
And really any brand that is hailing a massive step change between their 2017 and 2018 boards is either only just catching up with the rest of the industry, or using clever marketing!
Our innovations are more to do with our product range. We’ve been prototyping a surfSUP, a freeride windsurf board, and a white water board. None of these are necessarily innovative in terms of the materials used. But they each offer something very different to what’s already on the market. For example:
We’re also really pleased to be launching our clothing range in time for 2018. Ethical, sustainable, fair. No other watersports company clothing is organic, fairwear, environmentally friendly, and fun. Or as affordable as ours!
We’re still continuing discussions with some manufacturers about bringing the shaping of our paddles to the UK, and hopefully bringing the entire paddle manufacturing process to Europe within 12 months. But we need to know we can do this and it still be affordable for our customers!
How do you see the industry overall? What are your opinions on stand up paddling in general?
SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the world right? So you would expect a lot of positivity, camaraderie and a sense of team. We’ve built our reputation on being open, transparent and fair, but have taken some criticism for this. Apparently, sharing information and opinions, leading by example and suggesting other companies should be open and transparent and actually explain what lies behind the marketing spiel is ‘breaking the code’. We’ve even been banned from some facebook groups for being so unreasonable as to question what others have said in public.
The sport runs the risk of eating itself, and alienating all of those happy go lucky paddlers who just want to have fun. And that’s partly the reason why we’ve worked with some other SUP aficionados to set up SUPHUBUK. To provide an online home for SUP that’s independent of brands, governing bodies and training organisations. Admittedly McConks sponsors SUPHUB right now, but that’s because no-one else has stepped up to the plate. The intention is for SUPHUBUK to become self funded in the future, not needing sponsorship from McConks. And SUPHUBUK is managed by a team of 4 people, and we’re always looking for new team members, so if you think McConks funding is a conflict of interest, come and join the team to make sure it isn’t!
But in general, it is a really happy SUP world out there. Most paddlers just want to paddle and don’t get too involved in the discussions about whether SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport, or care about inter brand shenanigans, or battles between training organisations and National Governing Bodies. And those of us involved in the industry would do well to remember that!
Where do you see the sport going?
I’m going to resist saying too much about foils, because foils and inflatable boards aren’t overly compatible, or desirable, but foils are here to stay for the time being. But probably not for most of McConks customers!
SUP will continue to grow unless the governing bodies and brands manage to price out or alienate the growing SUP community. Hopefully the governing bodies, training organisations and clubs that organise races will work together and start to act in the interests of the whole SUP community once the international courts have decided if SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport. And even if they don’t, with such an accessible activity, I suspect it will continue to grow as both a sport (racing, technical competitions, endurance challenges), and as a recreational pastime. Much of the growth McConks has seen has been from ‘recreational paddlers’ who don’t see SUP as a competitive sport at all, but a way of life, or a recreational activity alongside the sports they already do.
This is a really brave, and possibly foolish thing to say, but we think the days of the all-round blunt nose iSUP are coming to end. All round boards may be a marketing success, but most paddlers, most of the time, would be better off with either a surf SUP or a touring SUP. We’re now selling more of our Go Explore board to real people than our all round boards. In fact, if it wasn’t for the demand for all round boards from instructors, rentals and schools, we probably wouldn’t be making them in 2018!
And I suspect that discipline specific iSUP boards will become more popular; whitewater boards, river surf boards, surfSUP, longer (15’ +) downwind boards, 14’ race boards, freeride windSUP, freestyle windSUP. And I could go on.
More and more paddlers are arranging themselves into clubs, which is great to see, and it’s a great way to develop the social side of SUP, and to develop SUP skills. And the very best groups are arranging all sorts of SUP trial events for their members – whitewater SUP, SUP yoga, SUP polo, surfSUP lessons, for example – and are entering club teams into race events – all very positive.
And McConks; what’s the overall aim here? Tell us your brand goals moving forwards.
We started the brand after an idea or two, some cash scraped from what limited savings two watersports and travel fans with two children can amass, and some lovely messages of good luck and goodwill from those with similar passions and frustrations as ours. Just over a year later our products have won plaudits from instructors, magazines, experts and customers alike for their design, function, quality and value. We’ll keep increasing our range if people keep asking, and we’ll keep improving what’s currently offer, if it can be improved. But we don’t do that whole annual update cycle in October November just to persuade customers to spend more money. There’s many years of experience that people disregard as clichés, and the one that springs to mind is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Of course, we want to grow and we want to be bigger and better than we are. But we want to always keep the little guy feel and principles. Only by doing so can we keep close to our customers.
How often do you manage to get out for a float?
If we get out twice a week we’re ecstatic. Once a week we’re happy. But we have a business to run and young boys to look after. If they don’t want to go for a paddle, then we’re not going to push them. Our family is still our priority and spending quality time with the smallest McConks members is all important.
Your local put in, tell us about that. Why is it good for SUPers?
We’re based in the Cotswolds, in the middle of the country, so we spend quite a fair bit of time driving to the south coast or to South Wales. However, we do have some great inland water options right on our doorstep, being on the very outskirts of the Cotswold Water Park. The park has over 70 lakes across an area of 40 hectares, and many paddleable rivers, including the River Thames. And when we say River Thames we’re not talking shopping trolleys and pollution. Our local stretch is a beautiful rural idyll with the added benefit of a lovely waterfront pub with campsite! It’s all flat water unless you can find the few river waves that exist, so perfect for beginners and for families. And with so much wetland and open water around it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Hop on your board and you may see water voles, otters, kingfishers and a whole menagerie of fowl.
Do your family paddle? Is it a group affair when you head for a float or do you end up solo?
Flat water paddling is typically a family affair. Our boys love coming paddling with us. Sat or lying on the front of the board, watching the ripples and colours on the water, pretend fishing and spotting wildlife, they have a whale of a time. And although our eldest is only 6 he’s already having a go at paddling, and is always keen to do things himself. And our new 9’ SurfSUP has been designed for two reasons – first and foremost it’s a highly manoeuvrable and fun surfstick. But secondly, it’s a great little kids board. And Toby has already staked his claim on the prototype for him to paddle in 2018!
If we’re ever testing boards in surf or in anything other than flat water we’ll normally lose the boys, or go solo. We’ve had fun in small waves with the boys, but it’s fair to say that they’re not budding surfers yet; recent cries from around our feet have been “too fast daddy” “no, no, no, that waves tooooo big” .
Who are your paddling heroes and why?
We don’t really do hero worship at McConks. Anyone who gets in the water to train at 6am on a winter’s morning; a mum who defeats her nerves and takes her little one on the water for the first time; the 55 year old who’s always had a passion for the ocean, but just missed the opportunities to do something about it, who gets on a SUP board for the first time.
What about life in general? Anyone inspire you to push on.
Anyone who measures their life success in terms of experiences lived rather than property or money acquired. And that’s a lot of the water sports community!
And Jen is my conscience and sanity checker. If ever McConks makes a mistake I’ll be to blame, not her.
Any final thoughts on SUP in general?
I think it was Laird Hamilton who said that SUP would become the bicycle of watersports. The analogy works well. It’s as easy to get on a SUP and paddle, as it is to get on a bike and ride, possibly even easier. But just because you can ride a bike doesn’t mean that you can throw yourself down a black single track in Morzine any more than you’re going to paddle SUP Serpents on the Dee. So just like cycling SUP has something for everyone, from the most gentle to the most extreme, and is a year round sport. And that’s probably why both SUP and cycling are still growing and show no signs of slowing down.
Want to buy the very best and newest kit in 2018? Want new kit that not only helps you SUP better, but actually be a better person, feel happier, and live a more fulfilled life?
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Have you been looking longingly at new boards, colour schemes and designs?
Does your old trusty board suddenly look a bit dated and faded? You might already be thinking that you can sell your old board and buy a new board with the proceeds. That means that the new board you’ve got your eye on for £900 will actually only cost you £450 - bargain. And this is OK, because your old board will go to a new home – someone who can’t afford a brand new board – so you’re giving something back to the SUP community. Sweet. Everyone’s a winner.
Or maybe you're not going to sell it, and keep it as a spare board, so you can go paddling with friends who don’t have a board, and share the stoke?
But here's the reality for many of us. That board gets used once a year if you’re lucky, and ends up rotting in your shed or back garden, where it becomes your own little guilty memorial to consumerism and marketing. And we can say this from guilty experience. We’ve got sheds full of rotting bikes and bike parts, windsurf kit and surfboards that are our guilty conscience. And even if you do sell it on, somewhere at the end of the chain is an old unloved board rotting away, at best ‘stored’ at a local sailing club or beach, and at worst it will be fly tipped, incinerated or landfilled.
The only certainty for this board is that won’t be recycled at the end of its life.
We've had an exciting couple of weeks testing our new whitewater SUP. As everyone surely knows by now, inflatable SUP are the best SUP for whitewater. Being so rugged and robust, yet also very light, nothing beats inflatable SUP in whitewater.
And just to prove it, here's a vid of Team GB freestyle stuperstar Matt Stephenson using the board at the whitewater centre in Nottingham (Holme Pierrepont, National Watersports Centre).
When we set out designing our whitewater board we gathered a team of whitewater experts, from the kayak, canoe and paddlesport fields, and asked them what was missing from current boards, and how current boards on the market needed to be improved.
And the responses we got then underpinned our design. The most important features were:
A wide stable platform, with a deckpad that extends all the way from the nose to the tail to allow movement around the board. Or so they said. We think the real reason was to provide added protection for the 'transition movements' between standing and swimming. We've designed our board to be 36" wide and 9'8 long - the length is a compromise between longer length for stability and forward momentum, and shorter length for river surf and manoeuvrability. The reviews we've had from our prototypers, which range from experts to beginners have confirmed that the width and length provide huge amounts of stability when on whitewater and the design, in particular the rocker profile and the hard edge, allows it to still be really maneuverable. One tester commented that it had an unprecedented amount of secondary stability for an inflatable board. Heady stuff!
Handles. Lots of them. These serve two purposes. Firstly, handles in lots of different locations are good for self recovery and protection. No matter where you are in relation to the board, you need to be able to reach a handle. And this needs to be true for shorter people and beginners as well - more than one awesome female paddler pointed out that handle placement on all other whitewater boards made recovery more than challenging for them. And secondly, they need to make it easier to get the board into and out of the water, and up and down steep river banks. Of course, this needs to be balanced against the risk of entrapment, and so the handles need to be reasonably tight to the board to prevent feet getting trapped.
Full length deckpad. The deckpad covering the whole board is a massive confidence booster giving you somewhere soft to land, whilst enabling you to paddle the board backwards if you get in a real pickle.
Rocker and waterline. The board has been designed by computer modelling, and then optimised through protoyping to ensure that the board is amazingly responsive but stable no matter where you stand (or are thrown to!) on the board. Although this board is not a specialist river surf board, the sporty progressive rocker allows riders to drop into waves, and the responsiveness of the board when on a run allows you to get to those waves when you see them. The stomppad and tail rocker shape means that the tail is responsive and easy to sink despite the board's width.
4+1 fin boxes and proper river fins. The centre box is a standard US centre box, meaning you can use pretty much any aftermarket fin you want. And the side fin boxes are FCS compatible click fit boxes from Kumano. That means you can use normal FCS fins if you choose. But why would you want to with the fins that come as standard? We provide three centre fins, 8", 4.7" and 3" depth fins, all flexi and capable of withstanding significant bumps and scrapes. We've reduced the depth on the 4.7" and 3" fins to reduce the risk of that 'superman' moment when fins catch a rock. But we've maintained overall surface area by sweeping the fin behind the fin box. And the same is true for our 4 x 1" side fins. These have a very low profile, and large surface area for the depth due the swept back profile.
And we also spoke to riders about paddles, and how paddles could be improved. And almost universally they said carbon shaft, polypropylene blade. The carbon shaft for stiffness and the polyprop blade for robustness and damage protection in rocky waters. But they also wanted to be able to have a carbon blade or fibreglass blade for when touring. So we came up with an interchangeable blade system that allows you to choose what blade you want in your carbon shaft.
And just to prove yet again how easy this all is, here's another vid of Matt Stephenson showing us all how it's done. And a more realistic video of a whitewater SUP noob demonstrating that anyone can have fun on the right boards and right conditions! In fact, in one of the boards trial runs at the National Watersports Centre, a total SUP noobie (experienced whitewater paddler, but had never stood on a SUP before!) managed to run all of the features but one without swimming.
It’s well known that SUP is great for both physical and mental health. It delivers a full-body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. In fact, that’s how modern SUP evolved: The great Laird Hamilton was looking for more fun ways to cross train when there was no surf or wind, and modern SUP was born. And compared to other paddlesports, it works the core muscles more rigorously because of the standing position, and you have the benefit of the views that come with a standing position.
So, what do you need to get on the water?
The good news is, you don’t actually need much gear to get on the water. You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy SUP. It’s fair to say that although you don’t need much kit, the kit you do need costs several hundred pounds. Therefore, you might want to try hiring some kit from a local hire centre, or join one of the ever growing number of clubs before you buy. If you want to find a friendly SUP club or centre, to try a range of kit you’d do worse than looking at the new SUPhubUK maps to find your nearest school or club.
However, should you already know that SUP is your ideal sport and pastime, this is what you need.
There’s a bewildering array of boards available, and the type of board you need depends on the type of environment you’ll be paddling in, and your shape, size and skill. Simply put, the heavier you are, and the less competent you are, the bigger the board you need. See our other blogs for advice on whether you should go for an inflatable SUP or a hard paddle board, things you should know before buying a SUP and for advice on what size SUP board you need.
You can get a paddle for as little as £40 or even for free with some cheap SUP packages. But these are typically heavy, poor quality alloy paddles, which are hard work, tiring and in some cases simply plain dangerous. Make sure you buy fibre glass or carbon fibre paddles. You have a choice of adjustable or fixed length paddles. For beginners, we always recommend an adjustable paddle. It often takes several sessions to figure our how long you need your paddle (it’s quite a personal decision), and different paddling environments require different length paddles. A decent adjustable paddle will only weigh 100g more than a fixed paddle, and will give you much more flexibility as you develop.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
There is a very active debate as to whether you need a PFD in SUP. PFD are commonplace in paddlesports, and less commonplace in surfsports. We won’t get drawn further on this matter, but you should consider whether you need a PFD, and this will be driven by the environments you will be paddling in. Assume you do need a PFD, and not requiring a PFD is the exception!
In the middle of UK winter, you might need a dry suit or a winter Wetsuit. In the summer, you might only need a pair of boardshorts and a rashie or t-shirt. Be aware that it's often more exposed on the water than on shore, and windchill has a significant impact if you've had a dunking. The general rule is you need clothing that is flexible and moves with you, but keeps hypothermia at bay.
All good boards with throw in a leash with the board, but not all of the leashes are good. This is an essential piece of safety kit, and the type of leash you need depends on the paddling you’ll be doing. For most general SUP, a coiled 10ft leash is spot on. If you’re going to be trying surf SUP, a straight leash is better, and if you’re getting into river WW SUP, then you need a specialist quick release leash. People have drowned in rivers because they’ve had the wrong kind of leash. But this is only important at the performance end of the spectrum. Most general paddlers will not need anything other than a coiled 10ft leash.
Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And maybe a hat. Especially if you’re fair. The water really reflects the sun!
SUP Techniques on the Water
Getting on the SUP
When you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start out in flat, calm water that’s free of obstacles (like other watersports users, boats and buoys!) It make sense to progress to your knees before trying to stand up! But, if you want to stand up paddle board, this is how you do it:
Standing alongside the board in shallow water, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water.
Hold the board by the rails. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip.
Climb onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board.
From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in.
Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it.
Once you’re ready, stand up on the board one foot at a time. Place your feet where your knees were. You might also bring a friend to help stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.
Staying on the SUP
To maintain your balance as you stand upright on the board:
Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width distance apart, centred between the board rails (edges). Don’t stand on the rails.
Keep toes pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight.
Balance with your hips—not your upper body.
Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet.
Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.
Once you’re comfortable balancing on the board in flat water, it's time to take off on a longer excursion—where the real fun begins.
We asked a few of our bigger customers (number of boards not weight or height of customer) for a couple of words about McConks – why they choose us, if they were happy with our service, with our kit etc. We were only really expecting people to complain. After all, it’s a given that the customers most motivated to respond to surveys are those who have an axe to grind. So we were expect lots of comments that would help us to improve our kit and our service.
What we weren’t expecting was the outpouring of, dare we say it, love. We can’t post all the comments because it just appears self indulgent. And following the “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably a subject” school of thought, then it probably would be rather self indulgent and boring.
But, this review from the lovely Adam and Jenny of Boardin Skool, was too lovely, and we thought you would allow us to indulge ourselves just once with a self congratulatory pat on our back. Of course, when you’re based in a beautiful part of the world, as Adam and Jenny are, and when you’ve got a dream business making people happy, it’s a lot easier to write positive happy reviews! But it’s fair to say Adam really knows his paddlesports. One of the most qualified British Canoe instructors in the UK (one of the very few level 5 instructors), Adam also sits on the newly inaugurated technical panel for SUP at British Canoeing.
But enough introduction, this is what they had to say:
Hi. My name is Adam Williams and my Wife (Jenny) and I are the proud Directors at Boardin Skool. We are a family run business that grew from passion for the sport of Stand up
paddleboarding and a healthy love for windsurfing, and paddle sport too.
Boarding skool has been in full flow for 3 years and we have been sup’in our way around the scene on most boards out there. We have moved from solid based boards, to some other makes of ISUP but found our feet 18 months ago we used our first Mcconks board. We used the 12’8 Go Explore board as a part of our source to sea expedition, which covered over 140 miles of Norfolk Broads, Sea and estuary, on, an out and back expedition. Our boards were loaded for a full 5 days and I had the McConks ISUP on this expedition. The boards were fantastic. it tracked well, effortless paddling with fast releasing rails and stern, and the board turned really well too both loaded and unloaded . We found the board to be extremely well balanced with expedition gear and without. the soft deck panel was substantial enough to manoeuvre around on and !!!! never lost grip however wet the board become.
Equally without being loaded Jenny (the real boss) paddles the McConks boards with our 3 year old on the front with ease and comfort, (even though wriggling around is his favourite past time). From a ladies perspective, they are light to carry, easy to transport, and well balanced for women with and without buoyancy aids on to get back on to.
This made purchasing our new fleet of 9 boards for boarding skool an easy task back in the summer. I contacted Andy and was greeted with the same passion we share for board sports and an interest of who we were and what we do. Boardin Skool placed an order for 9 boards pre season and we have not been disappointed. The customer service has been quick, reliable and honest, and most important for us was we could talk to McConks on the phone as well as emails. This ensured we had the right product for the right purpose.
The boards have had a HEAVY summer, we have paddled WW, Surfed, countless taster sessions and Hire…. And they still look as good as new. We have just taken delivery of the new Windsup and as soon as the wind blows jenny and I cannot wait to get out to give it a thorough blast across Norfolk’s finest coastline and Broads.
We have not been disappointed at all with our fleet, the performance or the durability. Totally proud to be supporting an British based product and excited about the future for our relationship with McConks. There are plenty of boards out there that people ride and have found there own serenity on it. but we have too and thanks McConks for it being your boards. Well done on creating a fantastic brand.
To find out more about Adam, Jen and Boardin Skool, check out their Facebook page.
Most people know that fins are essential on surfboards and paddleboards, but lot’s of people don’t know why. Everyone has a vague understanding that they help SUP go in a straight line and give control when surfing, but scratch much deeper, and most don’t understand how fins work. So, we thought we’d put this blog together to help.
The importance of fins
So if you’ve ever lost a fin (and who hasn’t?), you’ll be aware that without your fin your board pivots from side to side and it’s extremely, difficult to paddle in a straight line. The reason for this is because the fin acts to prevent the tail of the board from slipping sideways as you put pressure on either side of the board as you go through your stroke. Without fins, it is theoretically possible to counter slipping sideways by controlling the trim of the board as you paddle, but this is an expert skill that most can’t master.
The fin jargon
First up, there’s some jargon you need to get your head around, about the fin itself, and about how the fin is positioned on the board.
Area: Total area – the greater the area, the better the tracking, but the slower the fin. How the area is distributed also affects tracking and resistance
Base: The base is the top section of the fin when your board is in the water, so closest to the board when installed. It is nearly always the widest part of the fin and it’s this section in particular that helps to stabilize the board and affects tracking.
Tip: The tip is the other end of the fin that’s furthest away from your board. The tip also affects tracking and speed.
Leading Edge: The leading edge is the front part of the fin the bit that hits the water first, and the angle is the called rake or sweep. The leading edge affects how the board turns and pivots and also how fast it releases water.
Trailing Edge: The trailing edge is the back of the fin and it affects how easily, or not, a board turns and pivots. Trailing edges aid in releasing water to greater or lesser extent, which affects speed. The sharper the trailing edge, the cleaner the release. The trailing edge can also have a cutaway which can aid pivot turns.
Cant: Cant refers to the angle of the fin in relation to the bottom of the board. Fins that point straight up have no cant. These are faster than fins where the tips point outwards towards the rail of the board, which are said to have cant. Fins with cant are more responsive when turning, but create more drag.
Flex: The stiffness or flex of a fin has a big impact on handling. Stiffer finsgive more stability, and more bite and control, but can make turns more difficult. But stiff fins are also more brittle and more likely to be damaged on reefs or in rocky rivers. Flexi fins make turning a little easier, and are more resistant to the knocks and snags you get on reefs or in shallow rivers.
Rake: When you’re looking at the arc of the fin and how far back it tilts or sweeps from the front, you’re looking at the fin rake. The greater the rake, the slower the turn, the lower the rake, the more pivot around the fin. For short boards, less rake is great for junkier days, and more rake is good for walls. For longer SUP we should be looking at a more relaxed rake for more drawn out turns. The rake also allows the fin to release any weeds that may get hung up on it.
Toe: Toe is the angle at which the fins point relative to the centreline of the board. Typically the side fins of a 2+1 or thruster set up point towards the nose of the board (known as toe-in). The greater the toe, the greater the grip.
Watch out for cheap boards, where the side is are often stuck on at rather ‘jaunty’ angles!
Foil:The foil is the curvature of the fins around the vertical. Just as a wing uses its foil to create lift, so does the fin. A cheap fin will have no foil, and will just have a sharp front edge and a parallel sides. If the fin gets fatter towards the middle of the fin and then thinner at the back, then it has a foil.
Drag:Drag is what slows you down and the force that decreases your speed. The bigger the rake, the bigger the cant, the bigger the surface area, the bigger the foil, the bigger the drag. And dependent upon your paddling environment, drag can be a good or a bad thing. When racing or touring, you want as little drag as possible slowing the board down. When surfing it’s the drag that gives the bite that helps you turn.
The design of the fin also affects speed, stability and how easily you can turn your board.
Fixed or removable fins
Some boards, especially inflatable boards, come with fixed fins. These have the advantage of being simple to use, and cannot be lost. However, by being fixed in position, if they get damaged, they’re next to very difficult to replace, and you can’t change the shape, location or size of the fins to improve your ride. So we think removable, adjustable fins are a better bet.
Fin box type
There are many different kinds of fin box (the bit that the fins slide into) on the market, but there are three standard types. Ideally, you want to choose a box that is standard, and that has stood the test of time in the surf world. That way there’s a wide range of fins available from surf shops and online, and the box is robust and reliable having stood the test of time. The well known and reliable box types are:
US centre fin box
These have been used on longboards and windsurf boards for years. Very reliable, and US box fins are very widely available.
FCS fins are the mainstay of surf boards. Again, widely available and very reliable. A recent addition to the FCS range FCS compatible click fin boxes. These accept a proprietary click in fin, but also standard FCS I and II fins.
Futures fins box
Futures are the latest darlings of the surf world. Again, widely available and very reliable, but not so often found on SUPs, and very rarely found on inflatable paddleboards.
There are other boxes available, many of which have a lower profile and a slide in key to keep the fins in place. These have had issues with reliability, and the fins are not widely available if lost. There is only a very narrow range of cheap fins available for these boxes.
Fin box arrangements
The arrangement of fin boxes reflects what the board is going to be used for. The most common are:
The most common removable 3 fin setup on a SUP is 2 + 1: i.e. two equally sized front fins (called sidebites) a few inches in front of, and either side of a larger rear fin. For maximum flexibility, the front fins should be an FCS compatible box (the most common across all hard and inflatable boards) allowing you to buy additional aftermarket fins and different shape fins easily and cheaply.
The purpose of the sidebites is to channel water through the configuration thereby compressing it and speeding up the flow. This gives the board more power which is essential for riding waves where you need speed to power through your bottom turn and hold the rail in tight against the face of the wave as you move across it. On the other hand, extra fins create more drag in the water, which will decrease your speed if you are not travelling on a wave, which is supplying you with power.
Though first designed for surfing on a SUP, the 3-fin setup is also good for shallow water. If you’re on shallow water you will need a shorter centre fin to stop the board stalling when the fin hits a rock (if this has happened to you you’ll know how painful and unexpected this is). But sometimes that shorter centre fin leaves you with not enough fin surface area to maintain your straight line tracking. Of course, experts can manage this with a good quality forward paddle stroke, but the rest of us need a little extra help. And a couple of short fins in the side bites gives us that extra help
To tweak this set up, you can reduce the size of the centre fin to something approaching a thruster size to create a traditional 3 fin surf setup. And the position of the rear fin can be tweaked. Back for better tracking and forward for more slide!
You can convert the 2+1 setup to a 2-fin setup just by removing the center fin. This leaves you with the two side fins, or “side bites” and really loosens up the tail and makes things lively when in surf. This is also a great option for river running where the centre fin keeps scraping along the river bed, or catching and trying to throw you off!
Historically, many surfers moved from traditional single fins to two large fin setups when long boards started to become shorter. This, to some extent, paved the way for the aggressive hack and slash now common in surfing, and set up more progressive surfing such as 360’s. Twin fins aren’t really the flavour of the month in surfing circles, and a twin set up is very rarely seen on a SUP. However, sometimes it can be great when the surf is small to take out your rear fin and have some fun trying out 360’s in the mush.
In surf, a single fin converts your SUP to a longboard setup ideal for long drawn out power turns or noseriding. Large single fins create a definite pivot point for your turn and tend to be preferred by exponents of drawing sweeping lines, and looking stylish on a board.
And outside of the surf and whitewater environments, singlefin is your most likely setup. If you want speed and to paddle in a straight line, and you want stability, a large single fin is your partner in crime. Look for a fin that is between 8-10 inches in size, and make sure you put it as far back as you can in the centre box.
Fin placement can drastically affect the manoeuvrability of your surfSUP, the tracking of your race SUP and the stability of your flat water SUP. Although these are suggestions we recommend that you test the different placements for your own unique position as it really varies by board and rider.
So how do you decide what fin you need?
The easiest thing to do is to go to our fin selector tool. Especially if you’re bored already!
Paddleboard fins that are used for surf-specific SUPs will have a different shape than the fins used on touring, racing and all-around paddleboards. More on this later.
If you are looking to get more performance out of your board, then experimenting with different fins is good place to start. You can have several fins that you use for different applications, or you can find one that does a couple of things well, but may not be the best for any one situation. Either way, there are plenty of options to choose from and it will never hurt to try something new.
Best fin for touring or racing
If your priority is going in a straight line above all else, then you want a large surface area fin with a long base and long leading edge. This will help your board to track better (go straighter) and will also help stabilize the board making it feel less tippy side-to-side and make it more predictable in choppy water and swell. However, a larger fin can feel sluggish because it will not cut through the water as easily. It will also take more effort to turn and pivot the board since there will be more resistance to the flow of water around the fin. A strong paddler, or someone who likes to use a stiff paddle with a larger blade, may benefit from a fin that has a wider base and reaches deeper into the water. This type of fin will offer good resistance to t.he extra force exacted by the paddler, which will result in the board tracking better.
Best fins for responsiveness
If you want more responsiveness and speed, then you should be looking at smaller surface area fins. However, a smaller fin will not track as well as a larger fin and it will be harder maintain stability in choppy water. A person who has a more fluid and slower stroke will benefit from a smaller fin as it will compensate for the lack of force by allowing the board to move more quickly through the water.
Fin Forward: Placing your fin forward will put less pressure on the tail of the board which creates more manoeuvrability and a quicker turning radius. If you have a three fin set up (thruster) then having the middle fin placed forward will channel the water in a concentrated area and could potentially slow the board down while surfing. That said, if you are looking for less hold and a shorter turning radius then moving the center fin closer to the nose is the answer.
Fin Far Back: Positioning the fin towards the back of the board will result in more stability, this is because the fin is rigid in its line. More importantly, the board will track better compared to the other placements because it gives more restraint to the tail.
The Happy Medium: The happy medium is always a good default position, it is a balance between control and stability. This placement is the most widely used because of its versatility between turning, tracking and steadiness. If you are surfing and using a thruster then you want the centre fin about 2 inches behind the side fins which allows enough spacing for water to flow around the fins.
The more flexible race fins do not offer the downwind performance benefits of the stiff ones, but you do not have to worry about face-planting if you hit a log or rock.
With the tail positioning mentioned above, you are all set for touring, racing or flat water paddling because the fin position makes the board track better.
For something different, slide that fin forward and position it at the nose of the box. This makes the board easier to turn, which is perfect for whitewater conditions and surfing.
As you shop, you will notice that some of these large fins feature leading edges that are sharper or serrated, which are designed to cut their way through weeds and kelp. Depending on where you do your paddleboarding, this could be a great feature for you. Our carbon fin is a great example of a race fin with a weed shedding profile.
Zero: Recent proponents suggest that surfing was set back by the addition of fins and the purest form of surfing is still fin-free. With SUP however one has to consider that in effect a paddle can be used as a fin to steer the board as well. Save this one for those small mushy days and have a good laugh. Good luck with your tracking when paddling out!
So, if you haven’t done it yet, have a play around with your fins in the surf this year. Try out different fin set ups and fin sizes in different conditions. And get an understanding of how your fins change the feel and performance of your SUP. It’s one of those things that you just don’t know until you try. (And it will give you another excuse to go out for another cheeky session!)
Use our fin selector
If you’re still not sure what type of fin you need, why don’t you try our fin selector tool which will help you hone in on the right fin for your board.
This is a blog takeover by Lucy Jackson, who is fundraising for a volunteering trip to Fiji. Good work Lucy!
Two weeks ago I paddled down the river Tay on my stand up paddleboard in order to fundraise for my volunteer trip to Fiji next month. In Fiji, we are going to help teach English to pupils, painting the walls of the school and building rainwater catchments. I am also going to be helping out at a turtle sanctuary.
The total length of this journey is 70 miles, each day we paddled on average 25 miles. Early Friday morning we set off from Kenmore andvpaddled down to Dunkeld. This was challenging, as I had to overcome several rapids on my journey. The paddleboard was very stable and I managed to complete most of the rapids. Shortly after the rapids we all capsized, and our clothes unfortunately got wet. Nevertheless, we could not fault the weather, as it was a beautiful day. When we arrived in Dunkeld we sat out and enjoyed our fish and chips, and then found some flat ground for us to set up camp.
On the second day we paddled from Dunkeld to Perth, even though this may not seem far on the road, it was a real trek down the river. Again it was another sunny day, and there was a lot of fisherman about on the river. We also passed Campsie Linn waterfall, although we could not paddle through this due to safety risks. When we arrived in Perth later that evening we had a BBQ and camped on the grounds of Perth sailing club.
Finally, on the third day we travelled from Perth to Tayport. Again, this was also challenge as this is where the river meets with the sea, so the water was more difficult to paddle through. At the start of our journey that day, we were paddling alongside the sailing boats, as they were having a competition from Perth to Newburgh. Going under the Tay road bridge and the railway bridge was tricky, as the winds were very strong. However, we managed to reach our destination at Tayport later that afternoon.
The McConks paddle played a great part in enabling me to complete this journey smoothly. The fact that this paddle is so light to hold made the paddling a lot easier, and cut through the water with little struggle.
What I have learnt from this trip is that you really can do anything if you put your mind to it. I had done a little training for this trip, however I am in no way an expert on paddle boarding. Therefore, anything is possible if you just believe and then you will succeed.
p.s. If you’ve been inspired and want to donate to Lucy’s fundraising, you do so via her fundraising page here
We’re not shy about shouting about our great kit at McConks. We know that you can’t get premium quality SUP at our prices anywhere else in the western world. You can get kit at the same price, but not at premium quality. Or you can get premium kit at a few hundred pounds more than our RRP. But no-one else offers the same quality at the same price. Fact.
But we REALLY LOVE IT when one of our amazing customers emails us a review like this. And for a sentimental old sod like me, getting a review like this brought a tear to my eyes. To know we have made such a difference to one person is awesome!
Thanks Funky – we love this review, and keep on living the dream!
Why buy a McConks paddleboard?
I don’t normally write reviews or words of thanks but for this company I really wanted to. Ok so I wanted to buy a paddle board last yr 2016 , as a complete beginner and because I never buy on a whim I wanted to find out as much as possible about then and what paddle boarding was all about. I had only seen pics or short video clip. So I searched the web found out loads about all the different boards and what the companies were offering or why they thought there boards were the best or better than some other companies boards out there. I had decided a Pump up board was the way for me to go as this would work better for me and my needs as I wanted it for traveling to Spain and for storage over the winter months.
The info out there was a bit patchy but this company McConks kept coming up when I started googling Qs about paddle boards, as offering advice on what type of paddle board or more about the different type of boards and what may or may not suit my needs as a complete beginner.
I emailed a magazine that done a big review on all the boards out there, and they told me they had heard good things about McConks and their boards, but had not yet done a full feature yet (It turns out that McConks had refused to pay for the review, and everyone else included in the review had paid for the ‘independent’ review!)
And I emailed McConks a ton of questions over a period of around two months; they were always helpful answered ever Q politely and honestly. I could tell Andy was passionate about not only his company but paddle boarding as a whole.
Time ticked on and, although I didn’t commit, I had more or less made my mind up to buy a McConks board. But McConks said that they were bringing out another longer touring type board in late 2016. I was interested is this type of board more as I would be mainly using it for the big lake near where we holiday in Spain. I felt bad not committing but wanted to wait, so unless a great deal came up on Ebay etc I wasn’t sure. But the cheap ebay deals never happened, and the ones for sale were cheap and had rubbish reviews or the “ Second hand boards from ‘named brands’ were just as much if not more than McConks brand new ones ???
Time rolled on to 2017. The new McConks touring board was out and had some great reviews (like all their boards). I contacted the company again inquiring more and asking even more Qs , once again he was so helpful and never pressured me just offered open honest advice.
I took the plunge and brought a McConks board early 2017 , It arrived in a great bag really big and loads bigger than I expected you could easily get a lot of extra gear in there if this is the only bag you wanted to take on holiday. Booked the bag on to the flight as a sports bag, all easy.
Now the review on the McConks board: It did take a fair bit of time to pump it up to the pressure required not ages but you still knew you were pumping it up. This was not a problem and the pump was really good and solid feel to it just took a bit of time; once up it felt really solid. Now being a complete beginner I have nothing to compare it to and I have never been that great with balancing stuff. It felt a bit unstable first of and paddled a bit on my knees , the carbon paddle felt really solid and strong and I’m glad I upgraded to this.
After a few minutes I felt ready to stand up; the lake I’m on is big and deep and there is a fair bit of current from the wind. Yes I did fall in a few times but managed to get back on it without having to swim to the edge. When I got used to it a bit more, I have to say I felt great on it and I am so so happy I went for a McConks board , it seemed to glide really nicely and I’m sure once I get better at it will feel so at ease on it.
Like I say I don’t have any experience on any other board but what I do know is that when I was out on that lake for the first time, I felt so happy that I had chosen to buy this board from this company. Andy had always made me feel like a customer and just wanted to make sure I got the right board for me and what I wanted it for. He never gave me hard sell, yet was sure I would love his boards whatever one I went for. I am sure that as I improve with practice, I will love this board even more than I do now, but to know in my heart how happy I was out there on the water completely at peace and free was worth every penny.
So to sum up I just wanted to say thank you, you never pressured me but you delivered on a product that I’m sure will give me hrs and hrs and yrs of fun and happiness.
Thousands of people search for ‘inflatable SUP’ on Google every day. Many of you are probably looking for advice on the best inflatable SUP to buy. Some common google queries are: What size SUP do you need? Should you get an inflatable SUP or a hard SUP? What are the best inflatable SUP brands? What’s the best SUP for beginners? What’s the best SUP shop?
When you search for these terms, most of the first page of results are review sites, which, at first glance appear authoritative and independent. And there are many more sponsored links on google that are also review sites.
The big question is can you trust online reviews?
Here are the top three tricks websites use to trick and influence you. Hopefully armed with the knowledge in this article you won’t spend lots of money on a stinker. Or even worse, a sinker!
1. They’re only there to promote the target board.
There are a number of sites like this, whose sole purpose is to promote a single inflatable SUP board. They can be well written, seem authoritative, and because they review the target board against a number of different well-known brands and makes, seem genuine. The modus operandi is to surround the target board with high quality well known brands (decoys). The target board gets glowing reviews, much better than the decoys. And because the decoys are selected from the higher end of the price bracket, the target board appears to be much better value.
How to spot them: Any SUP review website that concludes with an unknown brand as the star buy, surrounded by lots of well known SUP names is likely to fall into this category. Although since we first published this article in January 2017, a number of sites like this now also include a number of additional small no name brands to counter this claim. Often they’re sponsored ads rather than appearing in the organic search results. But they do often make it into the organic search results because the content seems authoritative and is well written.
Also, check who the author is. If they don’t tell you who they are and what their credentials are, then treat them with caution. In one example, the domain is registered to an address which has over 500 registered companies operating from it. Nothing dodgy about that is there?
2. They’re paid for clicks or sales by the retailer.
There are a number of review websites that only exist to attract you to their site based on their ‘impartial reviews’, and then direct you to the seller’s site. Amazon, for example, pay review websites handsomely for directing potential buyers to their site. In the Amazon example, these sites will only review inflatable paddleboards sold on Amazon.com, and are therefore not selecting which boards to review on performance or quality, but based on what’s for sale on Amazon. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this if it’s declared up front, and if the review is declared as a review of boards available on Amazon. Sadly, our experience is that most don’t declare the conflict of interest.
These sites typically use ‘scrape and spin’ techniques to scrape the content for their review from the product webpage, and then respin them so that they’re not identical to the original text (which is viewed negatively by google and so affects whether they appear in google searches). This is normally an automated process, or carried out by cheap labour in Asia, and can often be identified by the bad writing.
Hot to spot them: Are all reviewed products available for sale on the same website? Are they badly written?
And the other way you can spot them, is if they are being open about the fact that the review site makes money from referrals. The text below is taken from one such example. But not all review sites are this honest!
AndysBestSUPReviews.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.”
3. Magazine reviews with strings attached
You would think you can trust a magazine review right? Well, maybe. Some mags prioritise kit from the brands that advertise with them. Again, it’s all about money. The brands that spend the most money on advertising get the most reviews in some magazines, and also get editorial or advertorial content on how good their kit is. At McConks we’ve had numerous contacts from magazines offering reviews for our iSUP and SUP paddles to be reviewed in ‘free, independent review articles’. The only catch? We must take out advertising with the magazine ‘to be fair to those brands who do pay for advertising’. Now we’re not claiming that the review articles themselves are not objective when they’re published – they might be. But they are incomplete. If the article only reviews boards from big brands who can afford many thousands of pounds in advertising over a year, they are not a review of the best boards available.
One SUP magazine we can guarantee that does not do this is standup paddle mag uk. We’re not saying they’re the only one, but SUP mag uk contacted McConks when we were just starting out, and wanted to try our kit for a truly independent review. All the other magazines that have contacted McConks, or that we have contacted asking for a review, have only offered reviews as part of an advertising package.
Standup paddle boarding is the fastest growing sport in the world right now, and there are many people trying to cash in and make a quick buck on the back of dodgy tactics. We don’t think that’s right, and like to call it out when we see it.
Hopefully now that you’ve read this article you’ll be a little less likely to fall for the dirty tricks used by some.
SUPhubUK did a facebook poll of its more than 3,000 group members to find out what SUP Boards they wished they had bought when they were beginners just starting out. You can find the results here, but very satisfyingly for us, McConks came in the top three!
On 27th May, a small passion of paddleboarders (do you like our new collective noun for paddleboarders?) will set off from Gloucester Docks on a 24 hour paddle along the Sharpness Canal. Paddling through dark the wee hours of the night is not everyone’s idea of fun. And probably isn’t their idea of fun either – in fact they’re only doing it to raise money for charity, not to have a 24 hour board party!
It’s a well known fact that the more tired you are, the more your balance is affected, and the more likely you are to take a tumble into the water. Which might be fun when the sun’s shining in the middle of a balmy summer’s day. But it most certainly isn’t fun at 3am, on a cold, damp, drizzly May weekend. So Alex Kell and his merry band of martyrs are hoping that the weather will be a little better. And that they don’t get so tired that they fall off, and get cold and grumpy at 3am.
So at 3pm on the 27th May, they’ll set off from Gloucester Docks, home ofSUP Gloucester, paddling on the Sharpness canal toward Sharpness. At some point, less than 12 hours in to the paddle, they will turn around, and head back towards Gloucester Docks. There’s high hopes of reaching Sharpness itself, but the challenge is staying awake for 24 hours on a SUP, rather than achieving a distance. And ending up back in Gloucester Docks at 15:00 on Sunday 28th is the critical component, to arrive at the height of the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival 2017.
And somewhere between Sharpness and Gloucester, the passion of paddleboarders will pick up some less committed stragglers, ostensibly joining in to support the closing stages of the paddle, but really just looking for an excuse to paddle close to tall ships. Let’s be honest, if we were really looking to support them, we’d all be there through the darkest hours of the night, helping to keep morale up and keep them awake and humorous.
If you’re interested in joining Alex et al for some, or all of the paddle, contact him on twitter or facebook. If you’d like to take part for all or some of the paddle, but haven’t got a board, try talking to Kev at SUP Gloucester, or give McConks a call.
Cardigan Bay is renowned for it’s marine life, it’s scenery and it’s beaches. And quite rightly so. Pretty much anywhere you choose to put in, you’ve got a chance of seeing seals and dolphins (Cardigan Bay was one of the first protected marine zones in the UK thanks to the Bottlenose Dolphin Community), and you will be blessed with slate cliffs, craggy outcrops, inlets, caves, hidden coves and stunning beaches.
The coast can be a little exposed on the prevailing westerly breeze, with an unforgiving wind chop testing your balance and rhythm. But get it on the right day, there is no better place to explore.
Today was not the right day, but it also wasn’t a bad day. A cool north easterly breeze kept things fresh on the beach, but thankfully it was only a light breeze. Still, enough of a breeze for the odd white horse, and for a wind driven chop to contend with.
After having parked at the National Trust car park at Penbryn, and after avoiding the temptation for a cake and coffee at the lovely café, I carried the board the short distance through the stunning woodland walk to the beach. Warning – this walk has a steep descent and ascent, and if struggling with a heavy board on your back, you can walk the beach road to avoid the traverse of the valley. But you’ll miss a stunning walk and miss the lovely waterfall.
With the cold wind and chop, it wasn’t a day for a McConks family paddle – as comfortable as the boys are in the water, a swim today in the cold waters could have put them off for a while – so I set off on a solo paddle on the McC0nks 10’8 Go Anywhere, with a single fin setup and bamboo/carbon paddle.
Heading off into the wind (always recommended – that way you know you can always get back when tired!) I set off for what looked like a pleasant bay on Google maps. Hugging the coastline to hunt for seals, I couldn’t help but wish I was on the McConks Go Explore. The Go Anywhere was coping admirably, but the longer and narrower Go Explore would have managed the 2 foot windchop and headwind with more aplomb.
As I rounded the first headland, I focussed on technique and balance to keep driving forward – short strokes, bent knees, stroke, glide, repeat, and decided to keep going past the first sandy bay – I hadn’t earned a rest yet. Up ahead in the distance I could see the outcrop at the end of Morfa Bay, and could also see what looked like seals hauled out. Scared of missing the seals, I upped the cadence and got a sweat on. This was a good workout, and a welcome and effective way to burn off the usual indulgences of a holiday (good food and good beer) and easter chocolates.
As I approached the bay, the seals gradually turned into lichen encrusted seal head shaped rocks. But to offset the disappointment, I found a sea cave in the rocky headland to explore. Hearing the waves crash through the cave, I could tell it had an opening into open water, but could not yet tell whether it would be possible to paddle all the way through the headland. Dropping to my knees to save brain cells, I paddled into a small cavern. And although I could see the channel through to open water, the channel was too small to paddle. There only one way around this; ditching the McConks by tying the leash to a handy rocky outcrop, I dived into the (icy) water and swam through the cave and into open water. After scanning the horizon for dolphins or seals unsuccessfully again I swam around the headland and back to the board to head back to Penbryn.
The downwind run was more challenging than expected. Although some of the peaks on the windchop were two foot or so, they weren’t rideable. And they were unpredictable. At least on the upwind run, you could see the peaks and power into them or adjust for them. Heading downwind the waves were faster than me, and so it was a veritable roller coaster of a ride as peaks of different height past under and across me.
What’s so amazing about the Ceredigion coast is that it was the Easter holidays, I was out on the water for an hour or so, and I didn’t see a single person whilst paddling, not on land nor on the water. The last time I paddled on the south coast I must have paddled past two dozen paddlers, and the scene is the same in Devon and Cornwall. Call me anti-social, but I love the fact that you can still get away from the crowds in Ceredigon. And getting away from the crowds also means you are that much more likely to stumble across the Dolphins and Seals of Cardigan Bay.
If you’ve decided you want an inflatable SUP board rather than a rigid board, but you don’t know what size board to get, then this article is for you. If you’re still not sure whether you need a rigid or inflatable board, then check out this article. And when you’ve read it, and decided an inflatable is for you, then come back!
So how do you decide what size board you need?
There’s no easy answer to this question because it depends on where you play, your ability, your weight, and how much gear you want to take on the board. But we’ve put this guide together to help guide you in the right direction.
The most important factor in choosing your board is the type of paddling you expect to spend most of your time doing. There’s no point setting yourself up with an all round board if you’re going to be spending 99% of your time on the water surfing. Or on the flipside spending your money on a lovely surfSUP if you’re going to be spending 90% of your time on flat water.
So we’ve broken it down by the types of SUPping you might be doing.
Cruising is how most people start out paddleboarding, and is accessible to people of all ages. It’s great exercise, but you don’t have to set your heartbeat racing, or push yourself too hard. And there’s no shame in sitting or kneeling if tired, or if the chop is beating your balance.
Many people enjoy the sociable side of SUP, and like to have gentle paddles over moderate distances with friends and families. Maybe taking in lunch at a riverside pub, maybe stopping for a swim at a beach, maybe stopping off for a little surf on a river wave or a break. But mostly enjoying being outdoors, enjoying the company, masking the most of the weather and being at one with nature.
If cruising sounds like your thing, then your best board is an all round inflatable SUP. All round inflatable paddle boards are typically between 10″ and 11″ long, with 10’6 and 10’8 being the most popular sizes. They’re typically 31 to 34″ wide, and 4, 5 or 6″ thick. All round boards are by definition a compromise. By being shorter than a touring or race board they are relatively easy to turn and control, but this: They don’t track quite as well as a long touring board, and require more corrective strokes to keep you on the straight and narrow. And it means they are also slower. And compared to a shorter surfSUP, they are not quite as manoeuvrable and have less performance on wave. But if you do opt for an all round board then you’re in good company. All-round boards are currently the most popular boards, and we think that our Go Anywhere duo of a 10’6 x 32″ x 4.75″ and a 10’8 x 32″ x 6″ board means that riders of any size and ability have an option perfect for them.
10’8 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
If you’re a nervous beginner, and want a board that gives you a very stable platform to learn on, but also provides challenges as you develop, this is your best choice. It gives you the flexibility and confidence to use anywhere, and has been designed for families and beginners all the way through to intermediates; this is the perfect one inflatable paddleboard fits all.
When stood in the stable paddling position, this board tracks sweet and true, and will generally keep you on the straight and narrow. However, take a step back, or drop back into surf stance, and the board suddenly becomes much more responsive due to its cleverly designed pintail shape. With 6″ of volume, this board will float an average family paddler plus a child or dog. With over 250l of volume, it will take 150kg of weigh before performance is compromised. And intermediate paddlers will be able to manage even more weight comfortably.
It’s also a great platform for learning to surf on; unusually for all round iSUP, this board has removable click fit FCS fins. When these are fitted, the 2+1 fin arrangement gives you great bite and control when on a wave compared to the fixed fins found as standard on most all round boards. And if you really want to push the boundaries, you can swap out the flexi fins and fit your favourite performance FCS fins from any hard board range.
So in summary buy this board if you want an all round board, but one where performance errs towards flat water, river or lake paddling. A great family board. Lots of volume to take passengers, a higher riding position so front riders stay relatively dry, but very manoeuvrable when taking a step back.
10’6 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
Being only 2 ” shorter than our 10’8, being the same width (32″) and being the same great pintail shape, it’s not surprising that this board performs similarly to the 10’8. The 2″ reduction in length only makes a minor difference in handling, but the bigger difference is the depth of the board. Being only 4.75″ rather than 6″ thick, this board suits smaller beginner riders (total weight <100kg, including kit and other riders being carried on the board), riders looking for a better surf experience, or intermediate riders of a combined personal and kit weight of up to 125kg.
For many of us, cruising remains where it’s at, and that is your paddling of choice for ever. However, many SUP fans find that as their paddling skills and fitness level improves they decide to take it to another level and start touring, surfing, racing or whitewater paddling. So what size boards do you need if you want to step it up?
Touring, on rivers, canals or the coast
Touring is simply cruising, but for longer, or a little faster, or in more challenging conditions. If you like to seek out those quiet beaches, breaks and bays, like exploring with your board both on and off the water, or simply just getting away from the crowds, then you want a touring paddleboard. A full size touring board will be longer than 12′, between 28″ and 33″ wide, 6″ deep, and have a good waterline without a hockey nose! Being a longer board
these boards are faster and require less corrective strokes when paddling, augmenting the speed improvements.
McConks 12’8 Go Explore was designed as a specific touring board, and the board has tested it’s mettle on a circumnavigation of Malta.
This board just loves racking up the miles. It likes to go in a straight line, and turns only slowly unless you step back and throw a pivot turn. However, the deckpad at the back of the board has been sacrificed to make more expedition storage space, so pivot turns can be a little tricky on this board. This board is great if you’re one of our heavier riders (over 150kg). It’s also extremely stable for beginners who want to take passengers and is very light, so great for travelling (in fact all of our packages come in at under 15kg including the paddle). Ironically, because this board is slow to turn, it’s also a beginners dream for learning to surfSUP. It carves very gently and very slowly, and with the large volume of the board, catches all but the tiniest waves. And because it’s so fast, and likes going in a straight line, it’s also extremely forgiving to bad paddle technique.
Buy this board if you want to paddle long distances, if you want to paddle fast, if you’re wanting to take lots of kit or passengers, or if you’re a very nervous, but keen to learn surfSUPer. Also read our article about inflatable SUP racing. If you fancy entering a race, then this board is the board for you.
If you’re going to spend most of your time surfing, then you’re in the wrong place. Although inflatable boards can be surfed (see our article on surfing airSUP), if you are a real surfhead, you would be better off with a rigid board. And if you are, then take a look at some of the great rigid boards from some great UK companies such as Loco surfing, Freshwater Bay Paddleboards, Fatstick and Neptune.
SUP racing seems to have decided that long course endurance races are the future, for better or for worse. Either way, longer, narrower boards are the way forward here, they are faster and have better glide. To place on the podium, you will almost certainly need a hard race board. but if you’re just after some competitive fun, inflatable SUPs meet that need. Our 12’8 is a great starter race board, and perfect if you want a fun touring and surf board, but with the odd foray into race. If you become a convert and need a longer inflatable race board, check out Loco’s 14″ iSUP,
Whitewater SUP and river surf SUP are specialist disciplines and require specialist kit. You shouldn’t try either of these disciplines with all round SUP boards unless you are with experienced whitewater riders who’ve got your back. Simple mistakes can cost you your life, and there have been deaths in whitewater SUP in recent years.
Whitewater boards need to be robust and be able to withstand knocks and bangs from ledges and rocks. They also need retractable or flexible fins, or be able to be ridden without fins. There’s nothing more likely to buck you off your ride than a fin getting stuck on a rock!
We’re still developing our whitewater and river SUP board and Matt Stephenson is our prototype rider helping us to develop the perfect WWSUP board.
Downwind paddling is at the more extreme end of the SUP scale. Paddling downwind on open water in large swell requires great skill. The aim is to effectively surf wind driven swell downwind, and glides of over 100metres are heard of. You need a fast long board for downwind paddling, and the board needs a planing hull to stay on the wave. You can learn to downwind SUP on a long iSUP, but if you want to get the best out of downwind, you’ll need a rigid carbon board. Read this article for more information.
Any clearer? If not, then leave a comment below, just drop us a line, or give us a call (+44 7387 383243). We’ll talk you through the best board for your needs.
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We’ve said time and again that spotting good from mediocre, or telling bad from outright dangerous, is a little difficult for those new to the sport.
So lot’s of people turn to local shops for advice, which is normally a good choice. However, some retailers might be more interested in the margin that they make on certain kit, or promoting the brand that gives them the most free merchandise, rather than actually providing honest advice. And the one thing most retailers won’t do is recommend you to a direct sales brand like McConks, no matter how good the gear is.
So it’s in our interest to help you make good decisions, and help you spot good from dangerous. And one give away of a cheap lay up is a hockey stick rocker on the nose of the board. Let us explain….
Rocker is the term used to describe the amount of curvature in the longitudinal contour of a boat or surfboard. It comes from the curved bars of metal or wood that rocking chairs used to sit on, which are also known as rockers. The rocker has a really strong impact on performance, and affects stability, speed and turning performance.
On prone surfboards, rocker design is an art, and the terminology quickly gets very complex. Although we often say the devil is in the detail, for the purposes of this article, you don’t need to know the detail. But if you want to know more about types of rocker and the impact on surf performance, this page is a good introduction.
On rigid SUP, rocker is just as important for prone SUP, but the shaper has normally got different objectives / outcomes to a prone SUP. And one important factor starts to come into play that is not so important for prone surfing; windage. SUP riders will nearly always want to travel more on a standup paddleboard that on a prone board. Even those who are into the sport purely for wave riding will want to travel on their SUP occasionally when there’s no swell. And therefore the nose rocker, or the amount the board turns up at the nose becomes really important for travelling upwind. Too much, and you won’t beat the wind, too little and you run the risk of sinking the nose and stalling that upwind glide you’ve battled so hard to get going.
On an iSUP, finely tuned rockers are much more difficult to achieve because of the manufacturing process and materials. You will never get the finely honed shape that a rigid board delivers, and that’s one reason why a rigid board is still the best option for some riders. So when you hear phrases like “sculpted balance flow”, be sceptical. Especially when accompanied by a board that costs less than £500.
Not ‘jolly hockey sticks’, but ice hockey sticks.
And a hockey stick rocker is one that has a significant upturn at the nose. Why is this a bad thing?
It’s symptomatic of poor manufacturing process and poor design. This is the easiest and cheapest type of rocker to provide on an iSUP. Quite simply cutting the top layer of the drop stitch shorter than the bottom layer drives this upturn into the nose. It’s very low tech, cheap and easy to do, but difficult to control. To get a progressive rocker into the iSUP requires more technology, time and prototypes. Therefore a good rocker is more expensive, and not found on cheap boards.
It degrades performance, particularly upwind. Despite what the cheaper brands might say to convince you (“cuts through the chop better”, “well-defined nose rocker enhances the up-wind performance”), none of this is true. If it looks like a hockey stick, you’re going to have a horrible time paddling upwind or cross wind, and the increased windage is going to really affect your stability and progress. As for cutting through the chop better, the upturned nose is just going to get buffeted and bashed, reducing your stability and speed.
So there you have it. If you’re worried about the pennies, and are in the market for lower cost iSUP, try to avoid those with hockey stick rockers!
And make sure you have a look at McConks SUP. Progressive rocker, fibreglass shaft paddle, and all of the other features synonymous with top notch quality, all for just £595.
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One of the factors that makes iSUP so attractive to so many people, is the ease of transport. You don’t need a van or roof bars, and it’s much easier to travel on planes, with the weight of whole packages of top end kit (including paddles) being only 15kg.
But all of this lugging them around leaves them at risk of damage, and can be hard work, so requires a sturdy and easy to use bag.
Chunky wheels – made from recycled plastic bottles
Our customers have been taking the boards to some pretty wild places, and the wheels needed beefing up to cope with the rugged terrain. And the bottom of the bag has been reinforced with recycled plastic so the bag is self-supporting when the board is rolled up in it.
Comfortable, fast wicking, shoulder and hip straps.
And they’ve been being taken to some places where pulling them just wouldn’t work. Up and down cliff paths, through scrubland, and over hill and dale. The new bag has very comfortable padded shoulder and hip straps, and chest straps to keep the shoulder straps in place.
When pulling the gear, or putting into the hold on planes, you want the straps to be safely stowed away so they don’t get caught under wheels or ripped off by rough handlers.
One of the biggest frustrations with SUP bags is how difficult it is to get the board into the bag. Trying to manhandle the board into a bag that only opens at the top or that doesn’t open fully is almost as difficult as most men find putting on a duvet cover. So the entire front of our bag unzips opening up the full compartment.
…for accessories. This means that the pump and the rest of the accessories don’t take up useful space (for wetsuits, towels, picnics etc) inside the bag. All standard accessories fit neatly into the front pocket leaving plenty of space for the remainder of your kit.
Bags of space
.The bag has lots of spare room to take wetsuit and towels, tghere’s even plenty of space for a dry robe, and even enough to hold all your luggage for a short weekend trip. And with compression straps to reduce the depth of the bag if you don’t need all the space.
Comfortable handles, lots of them
…and just in the right places. Perfect for manhandling the gear onto conveyor belts, or into the boot of car. And they’re padded so that don’t cut off all circulation to your fingers!
By answering yes then maybe you think that stand up paddling has a competitive edge. After all, one of the definitions of the word ‘sport’ according to an online dictionary is:
“an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
There are two things within this sentence that may offend your idea of what SUP is. Firstly ‘competing’ may not be (and may never be) on every paddler’s mind. And secondly, participating in an exercise for other’s entertainment couldn’t be further away from what many SUPers are looking to achieve. Although, let’s be honest, everyone has had their share of moments where their paddling has been entertaining to others.In fact, most of us have probably had unwitting moments of out and out slapstick comedy:Embarrasing for us maybe, but great entertainment for anyone lucky enough to be watching from the sidelines.
all the fuss is about.
As many will be aware there are various competitive stand up paddle events in the UK, across Europe and indeed all around the globe. Whether they be sprint race, endurance events, Sup bike run, white water or polo(to name check but a few). The ‘sport’ element of SUP is most definitely covered. And yet, even with stand up events as established as they currently are, we’ve often been contacted by customers who’ve bought our kit who are wondering ‘what next’?
Marketing execs love to push new fads, suggesting the latest thing is ‘the best ever’, ‘a way to enhance your life’, and encouraging you to ‘live healthy’‘achieve your dreams, and ‘be the best you can be’. Of course, seasoned paddlers will know the benefits of SUP, but if you’ve bought into the whole stand up hobby off the back of media hype you may end up wondering what all the fuss is about.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards are absolutely the go to gear for anyone wanting to swing a paddle on a board for the first time. But having enjoyed a fun, albeit brief, spell in the summer sun we’ve heard sad stories of a lot of this kit ending up unloved in garages and sheds, getting dusty, being eaten by mice, and only seeing the light of day during family trips to the beach. And this is particularly true for people who’ve been seduced by low quality cheap gear. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. (Well the being eaten by mice is. TIP: Don’t keep any inflatable gear at ground level in outhouses unless you are rodent free and rodent proof). People are free to do as they please. But yet, it’s a shame that many of these new recruits haven’t had the info needed to inspire them and see the huge opportunities SUP has.
Media outlets, blogs such as this, social media groups and information portals do their best to promote stand up paddling and its potential. Unfortunately if you’re not looking for this kind of thing, i.e. performance, then it won’t pop upon your timelines (for want of a better term).
So how do we combat this?
As with many new ‘products’ stand up needs its podium moment, or time in the sun. And articles in the Waitrose magazine, and stories on countryfile are all good exposure, but it’s not the massive explosion of interest it would get from becoming an Olympic discipline for example.
SUP media broadcasting during prime times across multiple platforms would also help. No longer is this TV’s sole domain. ‘On demand’ content is now taking over from scheduled TV listings as the way that most people now get their content. And maybe the collaboration of brands, mags, event organisers and practitioners to create a single ‘go to channel’ that aggregates the best of the content is needed. But this requires corporate egos to be abandoned, which is no easy hurdle to cross.
If we look at the sport of cycling as an example. Cycling has been around for ever, or so it seems.You’ve probably seen photos of your grandparents or great grandparents cycling to work.Or of family holidays on bicycles.But for many years the bicycle was just a means of transport.And in many developing countries it is still that.But in the UK and the developed world, cycling is now big business.It’s one of the UKs biggest and most successful sports, with nearly two million regular cyclists.Yet only two decades ago it was a minority sport, neglected by the masses and in terminal decline.It took a concerted effort by two individuals, Peter Keen and David Brailsford to gain UK Olympic success and success in the landmark event for road racing, the Tour De France to raise the profile of road racing.And two decades later the rest is history.
Unfortunately there’s no real landmark event for SUP to help gain that mass market appeal. There’s the newly formed APP World Tour (previously the Stand UP World Tour/Stand Up World Series), encompassing paddle surfing and racing, but this is a fledgling venture and in the past has been marred by issues. Which is not to say the event organisers are doing a bad job, it’s simply a really difficult job getting financial support and sponsors, and getting the message out in a new sport and new event. Unless advertisers know that people are going to be watching, they don’t want to invest, and unless the event has the support of advertisers and sponsors, the message doesn’t get out.And financial support, and a streamlining of the competitive side of SUP is one thing that’s needed.Not more events necessarily, but better coordinated, organised and supported events.
But this would come at a cost for some paddlers. Some enthusiasts are drawn to SUP because they see their activity as non-
competitive, because it’s social and friendly, because it’s different.Many sports when they’ve become mainstream have had challenges as well as success.Drugs in cycling being a case in point.And the increasing tension between drivers and cyclists with more and more of our two wheeled friends on the road.So mass market success may not be to everyone’s tastes.
SUP is still in its infancy compared to cycling and compared to watersports in general, and the number of paddlers is increasing every day. As everyday paddling skills improve ridall types of physicalactivity that people do to keephealthy or for enjoyment:ers will look to step up progressively naturally, taking on surf for instance, or longer distance routes. And as the sport grows, it will become easier for new practitioners to find inspiration from their peers. In tandem stoke will spread and permeate organically through social groups, mainly by word of mouth but also through social media. Albeit in a slow burn manner, Joe Public will hear the siren call of SUP (hopefully), buy that quality SUP and paddle, and know what he/she is meant to do with it.
We can all do our part as ambassadors for the sport. We’re always amazed with just how many people stop us and ask about SUP, about our boards, about whether it’s safe for kids, about how difficult easy it is, about how cool it looks, about how happy our boys look.And we often lose many hours at the start or end of paddles just chatting away.But these hours aren’t lost.They’re all in aid of promoting the sport.
And being the happy friendly community that SUP is, I’m sure the rest of you are all doing your bit at your local put-ins, and in your social lives.
And if you’re the type of paddler who sees SUP entirely as a fun, social, low impact way of enjoying the environment and the pleasures and health benefits of simply spending time on water, does that mean that you’re not partaking in a sport? No, there’s an alternative definition of sport according to the Cambridge dictionary:
They say you can you choose your friends but not your family. So the friends you choose say more about who you are than your family do. And as a SUP brand, although anyone can buy and use our products, its the companies that we choose to call our partners that say a lot about us as a brand.
And on that note, we’re totally excited and thrilled to say that Whitstable SUP is our latest partner. Like McConks, Whitstable SUP is a small, young company filled with a passion for SUP and sustainability. For who. having satisfied customers, and enjoying time on the water is more important than more mundane things like making money. Based, (unsurprisingly) in the beautiful Kentish coastal town of Whitstable, the company provide instruction and guided tours on the Swale and the River Stour. Both locations, being protected by the Isle of Sheppey are perfectly safe environments for beginners to learn SUP. And stunningly beautiful.
Lucy Boutwood, the founder of Whitstable SUP, is a qualified SUP instructor, and is often seen on the water with Elmo, her trusty Daschund. When Lucy was looking for a new SUP provider in 2017, McConks were one of a few possible brands to consider. After a test paddle on a wet and very windy February day on the River Thames, it became apparent that McConks and Whitstable SUP were a partnership made in heaven.
What does our partnership mean?
Well for Lucy and Whitstable SUP, a fleet of new boards allowing more people to learn to SUP and to explore the beautiful environs of Whitstable.
For Lucy’s customers – great learning and development platforms and paddles. And a refund of the instruction fee if they buy a board from McConks
For McConks the knowledge that we’re working with a great company that we admire. And of course, the chance for more people to get to try our boards.
Windsurfers have been battling with this problem for years. How to separate to pieces of carbon fibre/fibreglass that have seized up after a bit of neglect.
And the same problem happens with split paddles. Salt or sand can get between the male and female connectors when putting them together and make separation after use almost impossible. And the problem is even worse with alloy paddles. Saltwater can react with metal and actually fuse the pieces together.
So firstly, prevention is better than cure. So make sure you keep your connectors clear of sand and salt water as far as possible. Not always possible in a shoreline gale, but try. And make sure you separate your paddle as soon as possible after finishing, clean it with freshwater, and always keep it in its protective bag.
And mud, grit, sand, saltwater can all get into the connector if you have a loose connection, so keep your connector as tight as possible (without overtensioning!)
But, sometimes, after a paddle, we don’t always have the energy to properly washdown the kit. You just chuck the paddle in the back of the van in one piece, with good intentions to wash it down and separate it when you get home. But when you get home it’s late, you need dinner and a beer, so you leave it until Monday. And Monday turns to Tuesday, and before you know it a week has gone past and the paddle is now stuck firm. So, what do you do?
So assuming you’ve enlisted the help of friends and tried brute force, twisting and yanking, the next thing to try is lubrication.
Letting washing up liquid seep into the connection overnight is often enough to allow enough movement for twisting and yanking on day two. If it’s not looser on day two, then leaving it soaking with washing liquid any longer won’t work.
So the next thing to try is hot and cold. Put the kettle on, and also fill a bowl with ice and water. Once the kettle has boiled, poor the icy cold water over the part of the shaft that has the male connector, and then the boiling water over the female connector. If you’re able then poor the icy water inside the paddle (this is sometimes possible with 3 piece paddles). And then resort to twisting, yanking and pulling again. Using strap handles to get a better grip on the stick often yields dividends. And make sure to keep enough in the kettle to make yourself a cuppa in celebration or commiseration!
If this doesn’t work, things are getting desperate. You’re now getting into the territory of methods that might damage your stick.
You can repeat the above replacing the icy water with freeze spray (available from most good hardware shops)
Trying to bend the paddle enough to slide a butter knife between the two section can work. Using the knife as a lever to prise the two sections far enough apart enough to allow lubricant or freeze spray to penetrate more thoroughly can also work, but you risk damaging the carbon fibre at the end of the sections.
The very last thing to try is using a vice to hold the upper section firm (use a teatowel to protect the shaft as best you can, but there is a real risk of damaging the stick now!), and twist the blade with all your strength.
If all of this hasn’t worked, the you’ve got a veritable sword in the stone. Then all you can do is take a saw to the shaft. Sawing through the male section will hopefully allow you to work the stuck male section out from the inside, and then at least leave you with an undamaged female section. Obviously this is your very last resort. Unless you know King Arthur.
Not a friend as in someone we know personally, but a friend in the sense of someone who we’ve known for a very long time, whose advice we admire, and who makes us smile whenever we experience them. Sam Duckworth, the brains behind Get Cape now goes by the name Recreations, and the music is just as great. But we’ve been following and listening to Sam for many, many years, and some of the early stuff really brings back memories.
And really makes us think. One song that really chimes with us is the eponymous song Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. And this lyric sums it up:
“Open your eyes and you don’t need to buy. You don’t need to be a coathanger for a corporation in a market that’s lost the plot”.
Consumerism can be the enemy of the environment, of social justice, of equality. Especially if companies are driving change for change sake – changing fashions, changing colours and pushing consumers to buy a new product every year. When this year’s product is exactly the same as last years, just a slightly different colour or style. Or when products are made to fail at the end of their warranty period. Or with cheap products that companies know are not good enough quality, and most people will only use for a short period of time before buying a product that actually works.
All of these things are rife in the world of SUP. And that’s what different about McConks.
Our boards and paddles are designed with the very best of every component, and made to last for year after year.
We only make products where we offer something different. So we know that no other company makes packages and paddles of the same quality as us, at the same price point, and with the same ethics. It’s why we don’t for example make branded t-shirts. We couldn’t do anything that’s different in price, ethics or quality to what’s already on the market. And it’s why we don’t, for example, put free car stickers in our products. Only a small number of them would ever be used, some of them would become litter or be fly posted, and most would go to landfill.
We only use suppliers who have demonstrated their environmental and worker welfare credentials to us.
Were already looking forward to 2018 and what our 2018 lineup will look like, and we’re thinking we should keep our styling, colours etc the same. That will help break the constant upgrade cycle that other brands rely on, and will reduce our impact on the environment. We will be bringing new products into the lineup, but this will be about sizes and types, and innovation, not just colours and cosmetics.
But what you think? Is it important to change colours and style to keep things fresh? Or are our instincts to keep styles the same correct?
In an ideal world, every paddler would have a whole plethora of paddles.
One for racing, one for surf, one for whitewater, one for training, one for travelling etc. And each would have different size and shape blades, different angles of attack, different amounts of flex in the shaft, and different length shafts.
We’ve already told you how important the paddle is in a previous article. It’s your SUP engine, and critical to your performance.
However, most paddlers can’t afford a multitude of paddles, and either need to stick with the one that was bundled with their SUP package (normally a heavy aluminium or alloy thing without much going for it!), or, supplement it with a specialist stick that is tailored to their most frequent type of paddling.
But, you don’t need to do that with McConks. Our 3 piece adjustable 100% carbon fibre paddle packs an awful lot of performance and versatility into a low price of just £150 delivered to your door.
To put this into perspective, equivalent paddles with the same versatility from the big brands are at least 50% more expensive, and aren’t as light as our 100% carbon fibre paddle. For example:
Red Paddle’s equivalent paddle is heavier, has a less streamlined connection between the blade and stick, and racks up at £229.
Fanatic’s equivalent (at 80% carbon) is heavier and comes at an eye watering price of £309.
So if you’re after versatility, a one paddle for all environments performance paddle, and you don’t want to break the bank, you should buy McConks.
The best thing about this paddle is its versatility. The design allows it to be used for flat-water touring, taking on choppy ocean water, whitewater or surf. The lightweight nature makes it easier to pick up a faster cadence and that will improve your glide and speed. It will also allow you paddle for longer without fatigue and reduce your risk of injury or aches.
Being 3 piece, it fits into your iSUP bag, and is great for overseas adventures. The super light paddle reduces your overall carrying weight, and the heat resistant padded protective carrybag (which also fits inside the McConks iSUP sac) protects your pride and joy from all sorts of nasties. In fact, our McConks 12’8 Go Explore package (our biggest and heaviest board) is only 16kg for the whole package if you opt for the carbon fibre paddle.
The adjustable handle allows you to optimise stick length for your paddling environment; shorter for surfing, longer for race etc.
And the perma grip clasp system means no slip or twist when paddling.
The precision engineered blade is a single size medium cadence blade. The blade shape is slightly longer and slightly narrower than many of our competitors. The differences are tiny but really improve performance. In particular the shape allows it to enter and release from the water faster and more smoothly than others, but still deliver the same amount of drive. And the slight dihedral on the power face reduces paddle flutter to make the drive force more efficient.
And the 9.2 degree blade angle is a perfect compromise across the range of paddling environments.
The medium cadence shape has been selected to cover the widest possible range of paddlers and environments. If you’re 6’8 and wanting to stand on the podium, you probably need a larger blade, but for most paddlers, most of the time, this is ideal.
At under 650 grams this is one of the lightest paddles in its class, and definitely the lightest at the great price of only £150. Which makes it a very affordable premium paddle.
The 100% 3k carbon shaft is light and strong. It’s a simple radial cross section to give maximum strength and stiffness.
The handle is also 100% carbon fibre, and is ergonomically moulded for comfort over long and powerful paddles. In fact most people who have used more expensive padded handles have commented that the shape of the grip is just as comfortable as the padded grips, if not more.
The length of the paddle is adjustable from 170cm to 220cm. This makes it highly versatile and can be shared with family and friends. And you know those really difficult upwind, upcurrent paddles where you end up kneeling just to make headway? Well you can shorten the handle to a perfect length for kneeling. This has been a really popular feature for serious expedition paddlers.
Don’t think you can afford an elite performance carbon SUP paddle? You can with a McConks. You get all of this for just £150.
If you don’t believe us, then maybe you’ll believe others.
As a young(ish) couple with a couple of children, we felt that the big brands no longer ‘spoke’ to us. And from talking to the people we met on beaches and at breaks, on river and in lakes, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones who no longer felt a connection with the big brands.
People have been using slang, jargon and colloquialisms for many years to reinforce identity and exclude outsiders. And it still goes on now. You know that feeling when you listen to a politician or Chief Exec on the news, and despite hearing all the words you still can’t quite understand what they’re saying? Or when you hear teenagers using words that you know, but with a totally different meaning? That’s because it’s designed to only mean something to an exclusive group of people ‘in the know’.
Are we any different as SUP’ers?
Since SUP’s inception there have been many people happy to play fast and loose with the English language. And there are a bunch of words of phrases now (too widely) used. Often out of context or incorrectly and in the wrong setting.
‘Waterman’ (should that be waterperson?) is a perfect example. The term is bandied around willy nilly, suggesting anyone attributed with the tag is a larger than life superhero willing to put their own mortality on the line; charging head long into extreme oceanic situations that will leave many running for cover. Simply paddling around on flat water doesn’t really cut the mustard.
You might get away with being classed as an enthusiast, but definitely not a waterman. And it doesn’t matter what your tee slogan says.
Another word we’re hearing used incorrectly a lot of late is ‘training’. You might have done it yourself:
‘Bye love, I’m just heading out for some SUP training. Back for dinner’ when actually you were just going for an evening paddle.
If you’re fortunate to SUP in an area where there are other stand up paddlers in abundance you’ve probably been asked:
‘What are you training today?’
“Nothing mate. I’m just having a paddle. And enjoying myself. Why don’t you do the same rather than taunting me about training.” we often think but never actually say!
There’s also the issue of all the Hawaiianisms. SUP is a surf sport as much as a paddle sport. Surf, as we all know, originated in Hawaii, and there is a strong emotional pull towards Hawaii for any surf enthusiast (or should that be waterperson?). And using Hawaiianisms (and being able to play Somwhere over the rainbow on a Ukelele in the style of the giant Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) helps define you as a surfer in the eyes of other surfers, and reinforce that connection. And maybe make people think that you’ve been to Hawaii. And maybe even that you’ve surfed at Waimea.
Therefore expect to hear ‘Aloha’,
injected into sentences at any given opportunity. Throw a hang loose shaka in the mix for maximum effect and hey, ‘it’s all good brah! Aloha’.
Surf speak has been around for aeons. Those gnarly dudes among us have charged sick pits since they learned what a ‘throaty keg’ actually was. And while there will always be characters whose surf lingo sits comfortably with them, the fact is that the vast majority outside of SoCal will probably sound like a cringe worthy try hard. Cityboys/girls reciting tales of dredging lefts and/or death slabs just doesn’t come across right. Maybe swap the suit first? And ditch the latte – watermen (and women) drink guava juice…
And it’s not only wave heads. ‘What’s your cadence across a mile sprint, dude?’ ‘Hammer (buoy) time!’ Yep, wannabe racers (some of whom might actually be actually non-racers) are guilty too. SUP certainly has adopted its fair share of surf speak but there’s definitely an added element of broism brought on by swinging a paddle (or should that be SUPisms?).
Of course, when describing certain elements of stand up, it’s hard not to use certain terminology. And there’s nothing wrong with actively becoming part of a global movement – either through wearing the threads, rocking the kit or whatever. Sometimes though forcing the issue just becomes painful. Plus we’re Brits (or Scots, English, Irish and Welsh), not Hawaiian.
Letting rip with ‘staying loose’ in the pouring rain, gale force winds puffing harshly onto frozen skin (you’ll definitely be wearing boardies if you’re into SUP, come hell or high water) just doesn’t fit the marketed brochure shot pushed hard by those selling the dream. Hypothermia aside, grey/brown water and temperature readings barely in double digits doesn’t really instil enthusiasm for those not yet indoctrinated. ‘What is it you do again? Gnarly what?’
At McConks we try to dispense with jargon, and to speak in plain English. So if we don’t do that, please call us out; embarrass us on social media. SUP should be inclusive, not exclusive. And we want to be part of the cure from jargon, not the cause.
For now we’ll dispense with trying to promote ourselves as tropical SUP warriors, battle hardened and ready for some serious race training, hanging ten, or ten rounds with Mother Nature in the surf arena. Instead we’ll sip tea, remain stiff upper lipped and enjoy punting around our local lake.
To clarify: if you hadn’t already guessed, much of the above was written with tongue planted very firmly in cheek. Aloha.
You know it when you feel it. Whether it be the feeling that you get when you see the mist over the sea at sunrise, the adrenalin rush when you nail that session, or the inspiration you feel watching a watery blood red sunset.
It’s also the name of a great company in North Wales who McConks has been working with for some time now, and who you can’t fail to notice have been appearing in our social media feeds. So we thought you might like to know more about who Coastal Spirit are. Roger Chandler is the founder of Coastal Spirit, and he took some time off the water to answer our questions.
Tell us about your watersports background?
From a small child I loved being in and around water. Apparently it was fairly common for me to create a lot of noise when my parents tried to remove me! It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I took up kayaking and then mainly due to my brother, who was a couple of years younger than me, that I progressed. While paddling just the two of us on Coniston Water, he capsized and as I frantically paddled to rescue him, he then rolled up!! So I joined a club as I couldn’t have my younger brother doing something I had no idea about, and got into white water. We shared some great adventures together. I then got into the dark art of open canoeing and one bladed skills. I discovered I loved the journeying and exploration. This eventually led me on to sea kayaking as the kayak could move faster and was far better suited for rough weather on the coast and open sea!
Talk us through your story: What made you decide to set up Coastal Spirit?
Interestingly I never wanted to run my own company. Three things happened that made me consider life and what was important. 1) a very good friend died of Cancer, he was only 40. 2) I had worked for Raleigh International running the sea kayaking in Chile, Patagonia – it had taken 2.5 years to sort out and get 4 months off. 1.5 years later they pulled out of Chile. 3) I had a bad mountain bike accident in France and as I laid in the ditch, I thought I had broken my back. I had broken my sternum and had whiplash to my neck – 6 weeks off work and physio I was in a much better place!
These three created an understanding, that life can be short, it can change in a moment, that if something is put off it may not happen again. If I couldn’t paddle, that would be very sad. Actions have consequences, good, bad and indifferent.
I was 39 and looking for less stress and a better lifestyle and this was about getting closer to the mountains and the sea. There were fewer job opportunities in North Wales to do that as part of a company, so starting a company and throwing myself into it had to work.
Have you always been in North Wales?
Since 1990 I have worked in the outdoors. I’ve lived in the Lake District, Shropshire, Lancashire and the Forest of Dean, before moving to North Wales.
2017 is 10 years for Coastal Spirit. Before that I spent many hours driving up and down the motor ways, having been white water paddling, rock climbing, hill walking or sea kayaking up here.
What keeps you off the water?
Ha, ha, good question. Not much, illness and my accounts!
When did you first come across SUP?
About 2 years ago down in South Sands, Salcombe. An area we tended to go down to with good friends, for the last 15 plus years. I hired a paddleboard for a half day and to be honest had a nightmare. There was a small swell running and I couldn’t stand up. Really!! As far as I was concerned that was it. Until last April 2016 when Jack Hewlett, who I’ve grown up with being around and sharing adventures, was working with me on the British Canoeing 3* performance sea kayak award. In his down time he took to a paddleboard. I was inspired, borrowed his board and managed 50 minutes, BOOM!
Is SUP strictly personal, or do you think it will become part of your business?
In many ways it would make a lot of sense to create a new element in my business. Yet if I come back to why I started Coastal Spirit, it was for a better balance and quality of life. At the moment it is strictly personal and to be honest I’m keen for it to remain there. I’m more than happy for friends and clients to paddle the McConks boards I now have. I really believe more paddlers, sea kayakers will take it up. Storing a sea kayak can be a challenge and there is far less kit with paddle boarding. Although at the same time, never say never!
Where does paddleboarding fit for you?
Since buying a board last May, it’s given me another playful focus and paddleboarding fits really well for me, on those calmer days where I could get bored in a sea kayak after 10 days coaching sea kayaking. I see paddleboarding as an exercise, rather than going to the gym. It’s a new challenge. I only need 2-3 hours and if I take the board into the faster flows of The Swellies, then it can still feel mellow. In the Winter I’m working on downwind runs and seeing what I can manage. It feels exciting to be learning a new skill again. The reality is I’m on the water more now, than I was even 1 year ago!
Why do you think paddleboarding has become so popular?
It looks believable and easy. There is minimal amount of kit, so less faff and no real technical skill needed to begin with, other than balance! There is also more social media coverage of some amazing stuff on paddleboards now.
Coastal Spirit. What are your aspirations for the future?
Keep doing what I’m doing, listen to clients and hear what they want, keep pushing sea kayak mentoring – an area I love. Keep the balance between, work and play. Ensure more adventures happen and kindle my passion.
Any changes for 2017?
Focused & Specific is a new range of courses, that aims to address areas that clients have said they want, or have difficulties with. Surf & Tide-races is one of those courses and with a ratio of 1:4. Last year I ran four weekends and they went down really well. I tend to start off with a brief performance psychology input over coffee and then we look for the best location for the waves. It’s been a very popular course and great fun.
In-Bedding the 10 items of plastic to collect on each course and I’m really pleased with the response. I’ve probably been doing it for the last 2 years and now I’m really encouraging it. Just keep a plastic bag or two in a hatch.
Who are your paddling heroes and why?
Not sure if I’ve got paddling heroes but my first hero probably was my action man. Yep, I played with a doll! He did everything and spent a number of summers in the paddling pool, having super adventures. On from there was the Operations Manager at Outward Bound Eskdale, Tony Shepard – he was an excellent climber leading E5, super white water paddler and was just getting into para gliding. He could also speak confidently to a management group and demonstrated a whole set of rounded skills.
With so many choices of stand up paddle board available it’s understandable consumers are increasingly confused and not sure which way to turn.
As a beginner looking to buy an inflatable board it’s slightly less difficult. There are some pretty simple questions you need to answer: Does the board float me? How is its stability? Is it a reputable brand I’m buying? Is the SUP in question manufactured to a high standard?
Despite what the brands might tell you (and that includes us!), there isn’t a huge amount of difference between one top quality iSUP and another. If they’re guaranteed to more than 22 PSI, the chances are the manufacturing is decent quality, and your choice comes down to shape, fin arrangement and colour.
But, moving on from beginner paddling it becomes a little trickier. Being a progressing intermediate is probably the most confusing period for kit choice. And if you’re looking for specific performance, i.e. manoeuvrability in waves or speed on a flat race track, then finding your ideal SUP partner as akin to needles and haystacks. We sympathise.
The only advice that anyone should give you – and something we can’t stress enough – is demo, demo, demo. Don’t believe the shops, don’t believe your peers (even if they’re telling you McConks is your ideal partner), don’t believe the marketing. Trying as many boards as you can get your feet on is the ONLY way to increase your knowledge base and make the right decision, and get good value for your hard earned £££.
In a short time you’ll discover what style fits your specific needs for general flat water paddling. This will help narrow down your choice for boards that match your needs. Having nailed the flat water choice it’s then time to consider your other needs: manoeuvrability, speed, tracking or glide for instance.
Where possible, take a few boards out in the conditions you’re aiming to spend most of your time paddling in. As with flat water testing, most reputable brands, retailers and organisations will have a readily available fleet of SUPs (some a few, others more) for you to try out in your preferred environment. So, based on your new found knowledge from previous try outs, it’s off into the deep blue to see where each craft is at performance wise.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that you’ll get to a point where a decision is needed, otherwise you will keep going around in circles, and never making a decision.
So you’ve made your decision, you’ve board your SUP package. And you’re ecstatic. And then…?
Then the hard work begins.
With so much ‘info’ available it’s easy to begin second guessing what you’ve chosen. Social media posts, info in mags and on websites, titbits picked up from perceived luminaries of the sport may make you doubt your purchase. Dan in your SUP club has got a new super AirTechLight Multivariate (AirTLM) paddle. And the new OxyTech iSUP. And you think Dan’s also got a bit faster, since their new purchase. And at this point you doubt your purchase which is no long as new, or shiny as Dan’s. And the next thing you know you’ve traded in your board an alternative. And the arms race begins. The next thing you know Dan’s seen the latest advert by Sunboard and must buy the new rail technology, and you really fancy the new BluePaddle RamStick. And this vicious cycle happens again the next year, and the next, ad infinitum!
And this repeat cycle doesn’t actually help most riders develop skills or improve their enjoyment of SUP. All it really does is help move money from your bank account into someone elses!
So what’s the solution?
Parting with cash for a new SUP will yield a craft which WILL work. After all, that initial research and demo period does pay off. Therefore the performance differences you’re being led to believe can be found more efficiently elsewhere are only at best incremental, and at worst are non existent. Take paddle surfing for instance. A board that a mag review has said to turn tighter may well do so in the hands of an professional SUP surfer. But the difference between your board and the contender is likely to be minimal, and the subtle nuances will only to be felt by higher skilled riders. In reality, you’ll only get to the same level having developed your own bag of tricks on kit that’s appropriate for your skill level, and kit that you’ve stuck with for a while and learned to love. The point is: your new SUP will do everything you ask of it (unless you’ve really made the wrong decision and bought a duff). It’s now time to make it happen.
So the best advice? Research, make your choice and then learn how to ride your SUP well over a period of time. In time you’ll be surprised how much progression you’ve made and all without the headache of constantly swapping kit for supposedly something better. As with everything in life the grass ISN’T always greener… And constantly buying brand new kit certainly isn’t green!
If you want to demo our new 2017 McConks board and paddle lineup, you can find out more here
Every now and then, we’re going to let our blog be taken over by a company that inspires us and who’s principles align with ours. This article, by Big Blue Adventures based in Cardiff South Wales, is the first in the takeover series! Thanks to Dan and Heleen for the article.
‘Exploring through adventure’, that is one of the key elements of the Big Blue Adventures business. It is also how our mantra Explore.Evolve.Enjoycame about, offering people an outdoor adventure with a range of playgrounds to choose from. From surfing on The Gower Peninsula to coasteering in Pembrokeshire and from canyoning in Brecon Beacons to SUP’ing around The Mumbles. These are our core activities in Wales, and this is the playground where Big Blue Adventures was born. And what a playground it is!
SUP is probably the most accessible activity we offer at Big Blue Adventure, which also explains why it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world! But what we have learned from SUP’ing in Wales, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands is that the real magic behind Stand Up Paddleboarding lies in the ease of exploring new countries, cities, beaches; the choices are endless. Because it’s such a rapidly growing water sport, you can now find a SUP instructor or a SUP board hire spot almost everywhere you go, some better than others.
SUP’ing really is an activity that is suitable for everyone – you can learn the basics in a day and start enjoying the paddle straight away. And whilst prone surfing (another of our activities) is also great for beginners, and the basics aren’t too hard, when do you have time to stop and take in the views? You are just looking for that next wave to catch and practice your new skills.
With Stand Up Paddleboarding you have the time to take in your surroundings and even make it a social day out. Sharing a new experience with others is what it’s all about and with SUP you have the chance to do just that.
We think SUP is one of the most fun and unique ways of exploring a country. Of course, wandering around on two feet is a good way to see a city, but isn’t it more exciting to be sightseeing from a SUP board? You get a different view of the world from the water than on foot, and on a SUP you can often access places and spots that boat tours cannot get to.
One of the most unique SUP’s we have done was through the canals of Amsterdam. You get a completely different view of the city if you’re on a board. Exploring the miles and miles famous canals, away from the hordes of tourists and with wide views of both sides of the waterways! Amsterdam is probably one of the easiest cities in Europe to explore by SUP because there are canals leading you from one side of the city to the other and they can literally take you anywhere in between. It’s even possible to paddle passed famous Dutch landmarks like the Rijksmuseum (one of the most visited art museums in world!) and The Heineken Experience, paddling under little bridges and next to historic buildings. Whilst dozens of tourists passed us by on bikes, we were one of the few out on the water. Many might not know this, but Amsterdam also has a lovely lake area (Sloterplas) with a small beach and it is paddle distance from city centre. This city really offers the best of both worlds; tranquillity and the buzz of the busy streets.
If you fancy exploring with a local guide (one of Big Blue Adventures is a dutch local) then have a look at our Surfenture Holland package.
SUP’ing in Barcelona was slightly different to our Dutch experience. Around famous Barceloneta Beach there are a few places where you can hire a SUP board, we hired one at the Boardriders shop. It’s the busiest beach of the city and sometimes you even struggle to find a place to put your towel down, but surprisingly we were one of only a dozen people out on the water! You might see a fellow SUP’er here and there or someone swimming or Jet skiing but other than that it was pretty much the two of us, the seagulls and the swell. Don’t underestimate a SUP session in Barcelona though, the winds can get pretty strong with your body acting like a sail, it’s a real work-out and sometimes that’s exactly what you are looking for. It’s fun and zen but Stand Up Paddle boarding is also a great all body workout, with the core especially benefitting. SUP’ing around Barceloneta is safe and you don’t need to go far from shore, the beach stretches for a good few miles. Could it get any better: A sunny SUP session where we discovered some of the beaches next to Barceloneta with hardly any tourists at all, just locals. And we finished the day off with a cold Estrella and a Paella. Cliché’d? Maybe, but a great way to end the day and a well deserved treat after the day’s paddling.
Others say that SUP’ing around the globe might just be the best way of exploring a new destination in a different way. We know it is. It sure beats an open top sightseeing bus or Segway tour for us.
As someone who’s always enjoyed adventurous activities, I’ve had my fair share of broken bones, pulls and strains. The most significant of these being a broken shoulder about 8 years ago (dumped on a sand bar at Praar Sands after failing to commit/pop in a double overhead situation), and a broken neck when I was 18.
As a result of these injuries, Yoga should be a core part of my daily routine to delay the onset of, or reduce the risk arthritis. In fact, core strength, flexibility, and breathing control are integral to success in SUP (and all watersports) no matter what your performance goals are. Therefore Yoga should be an integral part of any watersports enthusiasts daily routine.
Despite this, the integration of yoga into my exercise route and daily life comes and goes. And the reason for this is as much to do with convenience and cost as it is with motivation. I’m really not one for sweating in a hot studio with 10 others doing Hot Yoga, or for choreographed routines to music. And so when yoga has been more prevalent in my life, it’s been when a really good yoga teacher has been running small sessions at a convenient time. And finding the right Yoga teacher for you is also difficult. Yoga means many different things to different people, and with such a difference in yoga types, styles and emphasis, then whilst it is very easy to find a yoga class, it’s not so easy to find one that matches your aspirations or goals.
For that reason, there’s always a temptation to go it alone and just follow a video/youtube of some random poses (asanas) or sequences from an unknown Yogi/teacher. And surely if you pick one which has lots of likes/stars you’ll be right?
Well not really. If you’re a seasoned practitioner, then you’re unlikely to do yourself harm from an online sequence. You’ve already got the basic positions, your proprioception is already good and you can ‘feel’ when your body is in position, and can massage your position to improve the position or posture. But you lose the eagle eye of the coach spotting minute imperfections, or their ability to spot your weakness and tailor the asana or sequence to build up strength to overcome those weaknesses. And if you’re not a seasoned practitioner, you can do yourself some real damage. If you cannot instinctively ‘feel’ when you’re out of position, you can injure yourself.
This is especially true for dynamic sequences where you move from one position to another. And if you keep repeating that exercise without an experienced teacher correcting you, you can cause long term aches and pains that can severely impact your mobility and performance.
So where does SUP yoga come into this?
Well one of the causes of potential injury is removed with a board. The floor or mat of a gym/living room is hard and unyielding. And resistance from the floor when you’re out of position is the cause of many of the injuries. This problem goes away with paddleboard yoga. If you’re out of position, if you’re unbalanced, then the board moves with you.
This has three benefits:
The first is that you get more immediate feedback on your balance and position. If your board is tipping from side to side, front to back, then you know you’ve got problems. If your board is nice and stable as you transition through your Sun Salutations then you know you’ve nailed it. So the feedback from the board helps to develop your proprioception and ‘feel’ for positions.
The second is that it works your balance and core strength more thoroughly than standing on terra firma. So if you want a flat tummy and toned abs, SUP yoga is not to be sniffed at. And for people like me who need to work on their core strength to improve posture to delay the onset of arthritis, SUP yoga is the way forward.
And the third benefit is protection from injury. Specifically with an iSUP, the board is not an unforgiving as a hard floor with a yoga mat. And on any SUP, the water is much more forgiving than the floor. But this isn’t the real benefit. The real benefit is the in-built protection you get from putting yourself in damaging positions. Although this is not infallible, the board will typically throw you off before you’ve caused long term damage.
We’ve put together a description of some of the positions and routines that you can put yourself through on a SUP board below. But, just to repeat, you can do yourself damage if you self-manage your yoga routine. Unless you’ve already got some experience, start off with a few sessions with an instructor.
The Sun Salutation or ‘Surya Namaskar’ is a great way to get into Yoga. In fact, the ‘Surya Namaskar’ is the traditional way to warm up all muscle groups for a yoga practice, and a core component of Vinyasa yoga warmups.
The sun is the giver of all life. Without the sun there would be no life as we know it on earth, and the Hindu tradition has revered the sun or Surya as the physical and spiritual heart of our world for thousands of years. And they believe that the sun is the ‘eye of the world’ seeing and uniting all unto itself; a pathway to the divine and enlightment. And even if you don’t believe this, the sun salutation is the perfect asana to stretchA core component of the Sun Salutation is linking your breathing with the movement and rhythm of the asana, bringing you to a more meditative state. And the asana is perfect for every level. For total beginners it helps to build flexibility, control and strength, and as you become more experienced, there are adjustments and options that increase the difficulty.
There are just eight basic postures to learn to practice the sun salutation, and the image below shows you each of the poses in a complete sun salutation.
Mountain pose is all about finding your connection with the earth and being planted, stable, firm but relaxed. It’s a powerful stance, you should be able to imagine a line of energy running all the way from you inner thighs up through your groin and out through the crown of your head. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your shoulder blades being pulled to the floor as if by weights, and your tailbone should point to the floor. Breathe in and try to make your belly button touch your spine, and soften your eyes as you relax into the pose.
As you breathe in, turn your palms and arms outwards and then swing your arms up towards to the sky. Keeping your shoulders open touch your palms together and extend your elbows and fingers upwards as if you were saluting the sky (upward salute pose). Keeping your belly button tucked in to your spine, tilt your head back and if you’re comfortable, tilt backwards into a soft back bend.
As you exhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and hinge at the hips to drop into a standing forward bend. Keep your knees straight, but soft. Breathe into the pose, lengthening your front torso as you breathe in. And with every breath out, deepen the fold. If your hands don’t reach the floor fold your arms over your torso.
With a deep breath raise slightly, step one foot back, and plant your hands either side of your front foot in low lunge. There are numerous variations you can insert into your sun salutation at this point, including the various Warrior I and Warrior II. Or you can transition straight into plank pose.
With both feet back your hands should be shoulder width apart and your feet are hip distance apart. There should be a straight line up your body from your toes to your head. Do not let your body sag, and pull your belly button towards your spine. As you breathe out bend your elbows so that your body is parallel with the floor. This is staff pose and if you’ve got weak wrists you might find this pose difficult to hold.
An alternative to staff pose is sideways plank. Lift out of plank pose by rotating around your core, raising one arm to the sky and opening your heart.
For those more advanced practitioners you can insert a one handed peacock into your asana. But this one is not for the faint hearted.
From staff pose, gently lower your knees to the board and raise your hips and chest to the sky in cobra pose. With straight arms but soft elbows tilt your head slightly back and raise your eyes to the sky.
From here step your feet forward into downward facing dog pose.
This is one of the most famous restorative and healing poses in Yoga. As you breathe out push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but keep them soft. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
From downward facing dog step forward into a low lunge on the opposite leg to your previous lunge and reverse the start of the sequence back through the forward bend, upward salute before returning to mountain pose.
And relax…let your breath return to normal. And bask in the inner glow of your first completed Sun Salutation on a SUP.
There are some people who like following the crowds, who will buy the biggest selling boards because everyone else has bought one. It must be the best if everyone has one right? Nothing to do with marketing or dealer margin eh?
There are others who like to do their own thing, who like to create their own stories rather than being part of someone else’s. Those who seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, who want to get close to nature, to escape. And who want to paddlesurf, and who want to take kids or pets with them. If that’s you, or if you’re a little heavier paddler, then our 10’8 Go Anywhere board is perfect for you.
McConks are explorers too, and we’ve designed the perfect board for day and multi day trips. But we didn’t just use our experience. We’ve also spoken to lots of paddlers to really understand what makes a perfect inflatable paddle board for families, day travellers and watermen/women, and used this to set new standards for our all round SUP.
We’ve redefined lightweight touring inflatable paddle boards with our new Enhanced Drop Stitch technology. This uses the latest fusion polymer technology to reduce the weight of the paddleboard compared to many of our competitors, but still provides a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, the 10’8 board packs a massive 278l volume, so will happily carry a load of 200kg, and yet weighs less than 10kg.
Focus on: Handles
The 10’8 and 10’6 comes with three handles front, back and centre. The handles are triple reinforced to withstand the worst that the seas can throw at you, and the front and back handles have reinforced D rings to connect your leash or tow lines.
Also, every board comes with a mount to attach your cameras and devices.
Focus on Fins
Fins are the key piece of kit that keep your board on the straight and narrow, and the placement of the fin boxes and the type of fin have a significant impact on the performance of the board. The shape (or foil) of the fins themselves, and the position of the centre fin in the centre box all have an impact on performance.
Different days with different conditions might require different fin set ups. That’s why we think having removable fins isn’t just a nice to have, but essential. And we have spent a lot of time testing different fin types, box locations and setups to get the optimum combination.
The centre box is a typical Air7” box found on most high end inflatable SUP. This box is a standard US centre box, and allows flexibility in both fin and fin location. The fin that we provide with the Go Anywhere is a great all rounder. But you can switch it out for specialist fins that are optimised for speed, for weed shedding, or catching bumps. And with the Air7 box, you can move the fin forward to make the tail looser, or slide it back to tighten up your tail.
The side fins use the leading FCS system. Like the US centre box system, the FCS system has served the test of time and has lasted through many cycles of faddish fashion. FCS is here to stay, and that means you will always be able to get replacement or performance fins to pimp your ride. The fins provided with the Go Anywhere board are click fit flexi fins. The click fit means that you don’t need to carry an FCS key around with you to fit or remove your fins. And the flexi fin means that the fins don’t shear off the first time you slide across a reef.
And the benefit of a 2+1 arrangement means that you can ride thruster, single fin or twin based on the conditions you find yourself in.
Focus on Storage
Whether you’re on a day trip with the kids, or on a multiday wild camping adventure, secure storage is important. You need to know that your kit isn’t going to slide around and escape if you get caught in rough seas.
The position of the storage on the front of the board has been carefully designed so that it counterbalances the rider’s weight, and helps keep a perfect trim when fully loaded. And you can be assured that the kit you put here will stay there all day without worry. The 4 double reinforced stainless steel D Rings hold the 8mm bungee cord secure, and the non slip deck strips mean that your kit stays rooted to the board.
Focus on shape This board has been designed for true all round use. With the parallel rails at the midsection, this board is fast for an allround inflatable SUP. With so much volume it rides high on the water and just loves to eat up the miles. And the subtle nose rocker is enough to cut through chop without getting massively impacted by a headwind. But it’s the tail shape sets this board apart from all of the competition. The combination of the pintail shape with the real fins means that this board is highly manoeuvrable. Whether you’re looking to shred in shoulder high surf, carve gracefully in shin high swell, or speed around race marks with step back pivot turns, this board will not disappoint. But what takes everyone by surprise is the stability of this board when paddling or gliding in neutral position. The manoeuvrability only kicks in when you take a step back. So this board has achieved the impossible; both stable and manoeuvrable in a single board
The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques and it is the application of this technology alongside good old fashioned trial and error that has delivered a board loved by beginners, families and larger riders.
10’8 x 32″ x 6″, 278litres. For families, nervous beginners and larger orders
10’6 x 32″ x 5″ 218litres. For less nervous beginners, smaller riders and intermediates.
There are some people who like being on busy beaches, close to fish and chip cafes and coffee shops.
There are others who like to get away from the crowds, who like to seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, to get close to nature, to escape. Some people even dabble with a bit of naturism, letting it all hang free when away from the crowds.
If you’re more like exhibit B, then our Go Explore touring board is perfect for you. McConks are explorers too, and we’ve designed the perfect board for day and multi day trips. But we didn’t just use our experience. We’ve also spoken to lots of paddlers to really understand what makes a perfect inflatable paddle board for families, day travellers and watermen/women, and used this to set new standards for our touring iSUP boards.<BR><BR>
With front and back storage, and additional lashing points there is ample space on this paddleboard to take day bags or even multi day expedition kit.
We’ve redefined lightweight touring inflatable paddle boards with our new Enhanced Drop Stitch technology. This uses the latest fusion polymer technology to reduce the weight of the paddleboard compared to competitors, but still provide a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, this board packs a massive 330l volume, so will happily carry a load of 250kg, and yet only weighs 10kg.
When you’re trying to launch or land your board on a rocky foreshore with an overhead shoredump trying to smash your board and your kit to smithereens, you need strong handles, in the right place. And lots of them. The Go Explore has 6 handles just where you need them to secure the board in swell and to quickly launch or lift the board. The handles are triple reinforced to withstand the worst that the seas can throw at you, and the front and back handles have reinforced D rings to connect your leash or toe lines.
Two of the handles also double as paddle gloves to keep your paddle secure. We’ve found this really useful for Yoga, to keep the paddle secure when having a picnic or relaxing break afloat, or to store a kayak paddle.
Focus on Fins
Fins are the key piece of kit that keep your board on the straight and narrow, and the placement of the fin boxes and the type of fin have a significant impact on the performance of the board. The shape (or foil) of the fins themselves, and the position of the centre fin in the centre box all have an impact on performance.
Different days with different conditions might require different fin set ups. That’s why we think having removable fins isn’t just a nice to have, but essential. And we have spent a lot of time testing different fin types, box locations and setups to get the optimum combination.
The centre box is a typical Air7” box found on most high end inflatable SUP. This box is a standard US centre box, and allows flexibility in both fin and fin location. The fin that we provide with the Go Explore is a great all rounder. However, you can switch it our for specialist fins that are optimised for speed, for weed shedding, or catching bumps. And with the Air7 box, you can move the fin forward to make the tail looser, or slide it back to tighten up your tail.
The side fins use the leading FCS system. Like the US centre box system, the FCS system has served the test of time and has lasted through many cycles of faddish fashion. FCS is here to stay, and that means you will always be able to get replacement or performance fins to pimp your ride. The fins provided with the Go Explore board are click fit flexi fins. The click fit means that you don’t need to carry an FCS key around with you to fit or remove your fins. And the flexi fin means that the fins don’t shear off the first time you slide across a reef.
And the benefit of a 2+1 arrangement means that you can ride thruster, single fin or twin based on the conditions you find yourself in.
Focus on Storage
Whether you’re on a day trip with the kids, or on a multiday wild camping adventure, secure storage is important. You need to know that your kit isn’t going to slide around and escape if you get caught in rough seas. And it needs to stay in place when you’re dropping the board in, or retrieving it from that aforementioned shoredump.
So we started from the bottom up when thinking about storage. We’ve included two storage areas, the forward one for serious kit storage, and the aft storage in easy reach. The position of the forward storage on the board has been carefully designed so that it counterbalances the rider’s weight, and helps keep a perfect trim when fully loaded. And you can be assured that the kit you put here will stay there all day without worry. The 6 double reinforced stainless steel D Rings hold the 8mm bungee cord secure, and the non slip deck strips mean that your kit stays rooted to the board. Focus on shape
This is McConks’ fastest and truest board. The Go Explore just wants to go fast, and in a straight line. With the displacement nose and slight nose rocker to cut through chop, this board just eats up the miles, and loves being on open water.
The subtle nose rocker just lifts the nose enough to prevent undue drag in heavy seas, but in general the bottom of the board has a planer surface that glides evenly through the water.
The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques to give the truest lines and to maximise glide. Testing the prototype on a paddle challenge around Malta has allowed us to make subtle changes to the design, and we believe that this board is the best expedition iSUP on the market.
It might not be in your game plan to be stronger, go faster or paddle for longer. Which is fine. After all, standup paddleboarding is meant to be a fun pastime, not a boot camp. But we keep being asked for advice from SUPers who’ve been in the game for a while, and who want to push on and reach that next level.
So, you believe in better. Better what? You need to decide exactly what your targets are. What do you want to improve and why? Having a plan is the bare minimum, and you need to set yourself challenges and targets that drive you on. Are you considering your first race, and if so, are you wanting to increase your stamina across distance? Or are you looking to step up in waves? And it’s really important to be 100% honest with yourself at this stage. It’s no good suggesting improvements or goals if deep down you’re actually happy where you’re currently at. Make sure you have the drive and ambition to improve before you actually set off down this path.
Once you’ve identified your improvement priorities and new goals, it’s time to assess how to get there and plan your route. For most people, the key components to work on are fitness and technique. And despite its easy entry level, SUP does require a certain grasp of technique, especially if you want to bust down next level doors. And the good news is that the requisite paddle skills and board handling can all be taught – at least the theory can be. So the best advice is to hit up your nearest accredited SUP school or instructor, and qualified instructors will be on hand to help. If you hit up the ASI (assocation of surf instructors) or BSUPA (British Standup Paddle Association) websites, you’ll find a long list of instructors and schools.
You can of course try to do it your own way. There are many different online tutorials delivered by luminaries of SUP. However, you need to take care when choosing what to watch. SUP is a new sport, and techniques and technology is evolving rapidly. Whilst for some things the old ways are the best ways, this is not always the case. Some of the tutorials can be outdated with older equipment being used, and with techniques that aren’t appropriate for new technology. And it’s worth remembering one of the truisms of teaching Anything you learn in the comfort of your own home is quickly forgotten unless it is put into practice. So anything you learn from your laptop should always be offset by ‘in the flesh’ sessions, preferably with a coach. That said those tit-bits of info picked up from the internet, from other paddlers and from instructors are all invaluable. Some might not suit you, some might be perfect for you, and you might be indifferent to others. But you need to put them into practice to find out. So be like a sponge and soak up all those tips and tricks from others.
One of the biggest areas for improvement is rider fitness. Paddling more will help, but only when combined with better technique. Simply spending more time on the water with bad technique and/or low end equipment – especially paddles – will do more harm than good. The saying is that a bad workman always blames their tools. It’s true that a good paddler can do wonders with a bad paddle, and a bad paddler can struggle with a good paddle. But choosing the right paddle will make good paddle technique easy. Just the right amount of dihedral, flex and balanced weight make the paddler’s job a lot easier. And prevents long term acute injury that’s the almost inevitable outcome of bad technique and bad equipment. And there’s no greater impediment to improvement than injury.
To get close to podium level, a degree of cross training is probably a necessity. We’re not suggesting everyone hit the weights but some gym work can pay dividends, as can mixing up your sport. Or you can take advantage of the increasing number of outdoor and green gyms that are springing up around the country. If you’re anything like us, you’ll much prefer outdoor exercise than sweating with the masses in a big warehouse. One of the biggest areas to spotlight is legs. You’ll be surprised how much strain is placed on your legs during prolonged SUP sessions. Anything that can help develop more efficient leg muscles, particularly thighs, is therefore a good thing. Biking and running are two such disciplines that will positively benefit your SUP. And to mix it up, why not try freerunning or parcours at the many extreme trampoline parks that are appearing in leisure centres and industrial units right now; have fun while training!
It’s worth repeating what whatever your performance improvement strategy entails, getting help from experts at the outset, even if only for one or two sessions is really important. If you don’t, you run the risk of the wrong kind of ‘training’ leading to injury. Take things slowly, with a little advice, and we’re sure you’ll see improvements soon.
The old saying: ‘need more time on the water’ is usually used when referring to required improvements in personal SUP performance. And there’s no question racking up the hours will pay dividends. But is quantity more important than quality? Is five days straight stand up paddle surfing in average conditions better than one session in groomed perfection?
As with many things paddleboarding, there’s no right or wrong answer to that question! It’s a difficult one, and a lot of it comes down to individual motivation. From our own experience smashing out the hours has really paid dividends. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment, and that’s true for paddleboarding. It’s perfectly possible to handle, perform in and enjoy less than idyllic SUP weather and still feel fulfilled at the end. That said, we do appreciate not everyone is the same. Standing at the water’s edge, staring forlornly at grey skies, bucketing rain and choppy water isn’t for everyone. During these stages of your SUP career you’ve really got to ‘want it’ to enjoy battling against the conditions.
It also helps to have a defined plan. As you watch a paddler head off into harsh conditions, you ay wonder why on earth they’re choosing to paddle in such grim conditions. If they’ve got their head screwed on types, however, there’s almost certainly method in the madness. It’s not necessarily that they’re feeling a little masochistic and fancy beasting themselves stupid (although some do just for kicks!); rather the paddler in question has seen a training opportunity and is making best use of what’s on offer.
Picture the scene. Grey, choppy and cold looking water doing it’s best to make the scene uninviting and put you off paddling. Winds gust around 20 knots and there’s a strong windchill. And despite you see this a stand up paddler putting in. Really? Are they insane? Surely they’re not really going in? But the rider efficiently launches, turns downwind and begins riding bumps (rolling swell) along the coast, all the time that nagging breeze helping propel him onwards to the next lump. To the observer on the beach it looks effortless, fun, exhilarating, even a little graceful. And with prior planning, understanding, skills and knowledge it can be all of those things. But this ride hasn’t been earned overnight. Over the period of several days you can bet your bottom dollar the paddler in question will have done their dues in unappealing weather. They will have made the most of all weather to build up increased levels of accumulated muscle memory in tough conditions. And because of this they have an overall higher skill set than those waiting it out for windows of sweetness and opportunity on the beach.
Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not suggesting everyone head for a float regardless of weather (although there’ll usually be somewhere to paddle if you search around). And we also acknowledge that a quality session in optimum conditions will also yield possibly more fun (maybe but see our earlier post on tier two fun). But we do think having that inner motivation to get out there whatever will inevitably help you in the long run – even if it’s simply a few extra hours on the water a week.
With spring a mere sniff away there’s never been a better time to search out a variety of venues that could offer you a bolthole regardless of Mother Nature’s moods. As warmth levels rise, with both water and air temperatures, it could be worth having a plan in place to max out your stand up paddling time and achieve something more than simply floating about. Whether it be working on paddling technique, focusing on board control, tuning your machine (through fin set ups or optimum pressure) and appreciating the subtle nuances of each change, paddling in a more varied range of conditions or anything else you can think of. There’s plenty of opportunity for pushing on your SUP this coming season. Time to get involved!
First up – to all those of you who’ve lost your investment – that really sucks, and if McConks could afford to give you kit for free to in a small way compensate for your lost investment, we’d love to do so. But sadly, that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what impact the collapse of a small company has on the SUP scene.
The founders of Origin had already gone off grid before McConks burst onto the scene, so we’ve not had the pleasure of meeting them. But by all accounts they were good guys, with an aspirational vision, strong ethics and morals, and great marketers.
At McConks we were impressed by the story being told by their online marketing material, and admired what they were trying to do. Maybe we were even a little inspired by them, and shared some of their ideals and ideas; giving a proportion of our profit to charity, focussing on managing the environmental impact of board production, using the very best raw materials and components, producing the very best boards, focus on worker welfare and health and safety. And we also admired their desire to repatriate manufacturing from the far east to Europe. It remains an ambition of McConks to return some iSUP manufacturing to Europe, and if possible the UK in the future.
So their demise is a sad day for those of us in the SUP world who think that there’s a better model than the traditional model. And it raises some serious questions for the SUP sector.
Does it mean that there is no space in the SUP world for homegrown boards, or homegrown brands?
Are ethics and morals no longer affordable in SUP?
Are small brands inherently risky?
The good news is that the answer to all of those questions is no. We can’t speak for the rest of the SUP sector. But we think:
There’s definitely still space for homegrown brands. Loco, Fatstick, Neptune, Freshwater Bay are going from strength to strength and growing every year. As are we. But there’s a key difference between all of these/us and Origin. Unlike Origin, all of the these brands, including us at McConks, are standing on the shoulders of giants of iSUP, and using factories in South East Asia who are the best in the world at making inflatable SUP boards. So whilst McConks admires Origin’s attempts to do things slightly differently by bringing production to Switzerland, they were taking on a significant risk in doing so. Which is probably why they were seeking the risk to be underwritten by kickstarter investors.
The outcome of this is likely to be that customers are less likely to put money up front for kit that isn’t yet on terra firma. That’s not an issue for us at McConks because we don’t seek part payment on preorder discounts. But any brand who relies on preorder capital might find it more difficult post Origin.
Ethics and morals. Are they dead?
No, not at all. Our business model is built on strong ethics and morals and we’re still going strong. There are, of course, issues with using the South East Asia to produce boards. Many suppliers don’t have an environment or worker welfare policy, and those that do treat the policy with disdain. Shipping the boards all the way from South East Asia has an impact on sustainability and embedded carbon.
But we know, that if you spend the time and effort, it’s possible to find manufacturers who really care about QA, about their worker welfare, and who care about the environment. It’s just that they’re never normally asked the question.
And are small brands risky?
No. Make sure you buy from brands using paypal or your credit card. Then you’re pretty much covered for every eventuality. McConks doesn’t take money unless we have stock for sale. Admittedly we flirted with Kickstarter when we were starting out. But we very quickly realised that wasn’t a sustainable model for us and SUP. Most people want to pay for decent product, not to fund development for something that may or may not be feasible or deliverable (kudos to those that do!).
So our plea. Please don’t tar all small SUP brands with the sad demise of one brand. They were very unique, which was both their USP and (in our humble opinion) the root cause of their problems.
If you’ve been affected by the collapse of Origin, and are still looking for new, superlight, top quality paddleboards, please drop McConks a line. We mentioned earlier that we couldn’t support everyone who had lost their shirts in the collapse. But we do have a specific discount code just for Origin affected customers.
Board trim: a very overlooked and misunderstood topic within the world of stand up paddling.
Perfect Trim (once the original name of McConks SUP and still a registered trading label) is that point where the grace of stand up paddling meets silky waters in perfect harmony.
Perfect Trim means effortless glide being achieved with minimised rider effort.
Perfect Trim results in an optimised machine slicing through the water in a display of listless beauty. Listless because when you achieve perfect trim deviation from this isn’t needed.
But achieving Perfect Trim requires you to work hard to find that balance.
Perfect Trim, sadly, is also a company name that all but the most experienced waterpeople would associate with hairdressers, which is why McConks was renamed before launch from Perfect Trim!
Now for the tech part. What is trim exactly?
It shouldn’t surprise you that no two stand up paddle board designs are ever the same. Hull contours, rocker, rail shape, volume distribution, tail design, fin placement and so on all make for performance changes on the water. Do one thing with one SUP and it reacts (for better or worse) differently when doing the same with another. Where you stand plays a part, how you paddle another; body weight, body shape, how your muscles are formed, where your power zones are, paddle technique, on water conditions – the list is endless. But finding that sweet spot, the magic combination of all the above is when riders will discover their SUP nirvana.
Some boards can be trimmed from the front, the nose just dipping ever so slightly during each stroke, whereas other SUPs will require paddlers to be positioned further back towards the tail. Railing (leaning to one side) can improve the tracking with some designs while flat as a board (literally) sweeping will yield best results with other shapes.
Which does what, however, is down to you to discover – manufacturers won’t make it easy, by telling you, that’s for sure! And even if they did, you’d be well advised to ignore them, because everyone’s shape, paddle technique, power delivery and weight distribution is different.
So experimentation is essential to discover your perfect trim and your perfect board. In many cases paddlers simply won’t have the time, inclination or understanding of the technicalities of trim to experiment and achieve perfect trim.
In fact, it’s probably one of the reasons trim isn’t widely spoken about. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. And don’t think for one moment this is just hard SUP specific – it isn’t! Inflatables are also subject to trim. Some more than others, admittedly, but finding that sweet spot is paramount to achieving the best forward momentum for the least effort.
In the case of McConks we know our onions and will happily give you some pointers on best trim results. After all, that’s what we’re here for – to help you along your personal path of SUP enlightenment and development.
We’ll also answer questions (to the best of our ability) you have regarding other kit. After all, we’re not naive enough to believe every paddler in the world will have purchased a McConks iSUP (although it’s a nice thought, and a realistic target for the future ;-).
What we do suggest, however, is the next time you’re out on the water and have some time to mess about then do so. Practice moving your feet about the deck and seeing what happens to your board. Stand with feet wider apart and closer together. Stand forward and back. Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other. Bend your knees more and get your centre of gravity closer to the board. Lean your SUP onto its edge, as much as you dare, to see how this affects things. See how far you have to lean out before you tip off. On an inflatable board you will probably find you have to lean much further from the vertical than you expect before you fall off. And then try it on the opposite side. At the very least this will give you a greater understanding of your kit, it’s tolerances and thresholds and what it will and won’t do with you on it. In the process you may discover optimum paddling trim.
If not, leave your dabblings for another day before repeating. But trust us when we say this will not only refresh/reenergise your sessions but also drag your skills to the next level.
Have fun, experiment, fiddle and faff and you too will soon discover your Perfect Trim!
Finally, you’ve got your brand new paddleboard in your hands. The desperation to get it wet for the first time is almost too much.
Looking adoringly on, your prized machine and engine (paddle) blink lovingly back at you willing you to get to the beach and local put in. The time is now. You’re ready to make a beeline for the beach.
But wait, what’s this? Windy? Wet? Icy?
Or worse. Your put in is out of bounds as Mother Nature unleashes her latest bout of summery chaos on the nation?
No probs, wait a few days for it to clear and all will be right.
Sure enough a small period of time elapses and you’re presented with a window. Quick! To the put in! How sweet that first session is. This is awesome. Time to get back to the coalface. But that’s OK, because you promise yourself that every good wave forecast, you’ll be in the water on your trust steed.
But then life gets in the way again. Thanks to life commitments your next window of opportunity falls (again) during a period of unhelpful conditions. But wait, it’s working over at xxxxxx? A few calls, a few webpages later, a few social feeds later and yes, it’s confirmed. It’s working.
Jump in your motor, trundle off to said launch and…skunked! More condition driven obstacles. Rinse and repeat – sound familiar? Such is what we have to contend with in the UK when it comes SUP weather.
OK, we’ll admit the above doesn’t paint an overly positive picture. And while this is tongue in cheek, and somewhat over-exaggerated, every UK paddler will agree: we do battle the elements somewhat in this country when it comes to stand up. And all watersports come to that.
For sure those heady golden days of idyllic paddle sessions, often during summer, occur often. But we can get days, or even frustrating week long spells, of unhelpful weather conspiring against us.
Take the current run of chill happening right now for instance. For some it’s not so much of an issue but for those newly subscribed to SUP we can bet our bottom dollar there’s zero inclination for getting on/in the drink. So what to do?
Firstly, you just have to broaden your horizons in terms of where you paddle. Sometimes life means you may just have to take what you can. But at other times you’re free to investigate further afield which leaves you able to optimise your launch based on Mother Nature’s mood. Plus, the added bonuses of investigating alternative put ins will give a more varied knowledge of SUP in general– never a bad thing. After all variety is the spice of life, and experience the best teacher.
If winter’s getting you down right now, then you could consider an overseas holiday. Warmer climes can revitalise and refresh so worth considering if you’re not up to braving the cold. And they can be surprisingly low cost if you’re willing to fly at odd times and stay in budget accommodation.
Or, invest in some new attire. Having specific condition led water wear is another way to make use of seasonal variances in weather. Most seasoned UK paddlers will have a number of SUP wardrobes ready to combat all the gods can fling at us. Drysuits, wetsuits, compression suits, boardies and amphibious tees. But this all comes at a cost of course. So combining different seasons wardrobes can give you additional protection in the winter. A summer wetsuit with rashie windproof outerwear might even be enough if you’re paddling somewhere sheltered and with no risk of being stranded. It was for me in sub zero temperatures earlier this week!
A positive way to look at it, is to think of our changeable weather as an ever changing watery canvas you can draw bold SUP strokes on (cheesy but true!). Change should be embraced, with no one SUP session ever the same as the previous paddle, you never get bored.
Embrace the change and you’ll develop much faster, with your paddling progress being swift. Paddle, glide, repeat!
At McConks it’s really important to us to give something back to the community. And to that end we like to work with charities and groups who work with the disadvantaged in our communities. Stevie Nelson from Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL) has written the piece below to share their experience of working with McConks.
“Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL) were fortunate to have been given two demo boards from McConks iSUP’s to try out for suitability for our client group which is primarily adults with disabilities and mental health issues. The 10’8 and the 10’6 ‘Go Anywhere’ boards proved to be ideal for our needs in that they are very stable and solid (we inflated to 23psi), plenty of volume meant our members felt safe and confident being on the water, the five fin set up was ideal as we could use a variety of combinations to suit differing abilities, again instilling confidence in the first time paddler, the boards tracked really well allowing for little or no corrective strokes or constantly switching sides, the 3 piece fibreglass paddle had a fair amount of flex but well suited for beginners and learners. McConks very kindly included a seat with the boards which was used for those who were keen to go on the boards but we’re not quite confident enough to even initially kneel, this was a great way to get someone on the board and moving on the water. All of which will lead to progression to standing up paddling.
We liked the boards so much we ended up purchasing 3 x ex-demo board packages and are currently trying out the 12’8 Go Explore package with the 3 piece carbon fibre paddle. Our aim now is to secure funding to purchase a fleet of boards and be able to offer our members iSUP boarding as a regular activity in 2017 and beyond.
Thanks again to McConks SUP for giving us the opportunity to introduce the iSUP experience to our members.”
Steven Nelson Manager/Activities Coordinator Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL)
Back in its heyday surfing was the unruly child of the sport’s world. Counter culture and going against the grain were par for the course at surfing’s inception. This attitude took a stronger hold towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s. Tune in, drop out, smoke dope, go surfing, care less – you know how it goes. These were the days when getting ink was really counter culture not pop culture.
Colourful tales from those heady days abound involving many forms of taboo, and stories of how surfers would actively indulge in said taboos. It’s no surprise surfers (even some of the day’s superstars/icons/pioneers) have tales of drug runs across Federal borders, run ins with Mafioso gangs, fights and scrapes with underworld types and all manner of other colourful goings on. If you want the ultimate slice of this type of shenanigan then check out Da Cat’s (Miki Dora) story – All For a Few Perfect Waves – who personified the anarchic, punk rock surfer attitude before it was even a thing. Both likeable and loathed Da Cat took things to the extreme and created a legend. And the likes of sk8er boys Peralta and Adams amplified the bad boy punk image in the 70s, bringing down and dirty punk attitude to surf culture.
These days surfing’s a much more corporate affair with professional attributes that inevitably come with a maturing sport – the mavericks have been tamed, even if Mavericks hasn’t. There are a few characters still knocking about but they’re fewer and further between. Riders these days are less concerned with kicking up stink and more about being athletes and performing.
Which brings us to SUP.
Compared to surfing stand up is still in nappies, and there are huge numbers of people that couldn’t tell you one end of a paddle from the other.
“SUP? Never heard of it…”
Head to certain surf spots and stink eye is rife. In parts of the world this has been known to escalate to vocal threats and the odd bout of biff. Calls of kooks can be common place – especially at headline surf breaks. And those who like to scoff have been known to look on with amusement at so called race/touring SUPs as glorified canoes. Although stand up is increasingly popular it’s still fledgling for the moment and many don’t get it – especially the flat water side.
By its very nature – the fact that not everyone’s doing it (yet) – lends SUP to a punk rock attitude. ‘Do something different’, ‘don’t be the norm’, ‘be original’ and so on.
In times where individuality is seen as a good thing (even if it’s not referred to as punk) then stand up paddle boarding offers that very thing, with having to let go of daily routines and a more conservative approach to life off the water.
OK, we appreciate there are more paddlers in the world than ever. Heading to your local put in just three years ago would’ve have resulted in a probable lone session. These days you’re more likely to bump into a fellow blade swinger. But unlike surfing SUP isn’t the majority. Kayaking still attracts more dabblers each season than stand up with river/white water stand up (in the UK) by no means a thing.
The surface is only being scratched right now. At some point, however, we’ll probably turn round and realise how big stand up paddling actually is, and realise that we’re back in a mainstream sport again. For now, if you want a slice of your own punk rock watersports attitude (without needing to resort to bondage trousers, safety pins and one finger in the air), SUP will give you that, and more. Time to join the kook masses if you haven’t done so already…
Having purchased your spanking new inflatable SUP you’ve been quietly beavering away, putting in the miles, working on your paddling technique and nailing down all those fundamental skills needed for a lifetime of stand up paddling. Having overcome the beginner plateau you suddenly become aware of your enjoyment for high cadence mile smashing. Then the cartoon lightbulb above your head goes off as you realise: SUP RACING! Maybe that’s for me, but can I compete in events on an iSUP?
So, can you?
There’s no avoiding the fact ultimate race performance comes from piloting a hard shell SUP. Yet there’s no reason why a paddler can’t enter SUP racing comps using their trusty air board. In some cases, especially at bigger events, such as Battle of the Thames and the SUP Clubs UK Champs, there are inflatable fleets. If entering races without these classes then handicaps will be set, taking into account all riders and making things as fair as possible.
Currently the UK has only one specific inflatable race series that encompasses two events culminating in an overall championship event. This is one design racing and unfortunately dominated by a specific brand – a shame as we’re sure more inflatable racers would enter comps if they were on offer. Still, that’s a debate for another time.
In terms of tips for inflatable racing then you should ideally be using a pointy nose board for maximum efficiency. While it’s perfectly applicable to compete on round nose SUPs there’s no getting away from the fact something with water piercing properties, even if filled with air, will stand you in better stead and make chugging round a race course less arduous.
Although McConks doesn’t offer a specific race sled (yet) our Go Explore 12.8ft will accommodate budding podium finishers no troubles. It may be a board with touring leanings but this won’t detract from its glide and tracking characteristics – something that’ll benefit all SUPers not just those with a penchant for racing.
A word of warning regarding the above, however. If you’re considering swapping out your fins then try before you buy! And try as many as you can – as with all gear not everything will suit. Find your optimum and roll with it.
Lastly, a point that’s been talked about endlessly, is your paddle type and paddling technique. McConks paddles are top end and certainly applicable for the job in hand – be that recreational paddling or other. Experiment with the correct shaft length and then know and understand what efficient paddle strokes are. Racing will put added strain on your body so an efficient technique will help stave off potential injury.
From the above you can see that iSUP racing s certainly doable and as more paddlers enter the sport we’re pretty confident you’ll see more events opening up air board specific classes. Do some research prior to jumping straight in and then it’s down to you. Being a fast paddler is as much to do with the pilot as it is the kit you’re using. Train, learn, adapt, experiment, never give up and above all have fun…
We’d love to hear your experiences of racing an inflatable paddle board. Please give us a shout and let us know your tips, tricks and share your findings and photo finishes with us using the social media sharing buttons above.
Well, here we are. At the end of 2016, and the dawn of 2017. And what a strange year it has been. In the world of SUP, SUP has generally grown from strength to strength yet again, with an explosion in the number of races, brands, competitors and kit.
There have been some rumours of oversupply within SUP circles, but it seems that only the really poor quality brands are discounting heavily in the close season due to oversupply, with some really low quality kit available at around £250 instead of the RRP of £550 – 600.
But, these problems seem to be few and far between. The market has generally pushed on, and most acceptable quality brands have improved their offering in 2016, with further marginal improvements in 2017.
So what’s new in 2017?
Hydrofoil is the next big thing. Or the Emperors new clothes. We’re not sure there’s a place for SUP foiling in recreational, non elite paddlesports, Others disagree. Which is fine, diversity is the mother of invention! There will be an increasing number of brands jumping on this bandwagon and making SUP foiling more widely available. McConks will not be one of them in 2017, however. We will be focussing on traditional SUP.
Whitewater SUP. Whitewater paddle boarding is really finding it’s feet this year, and will continue to develop and grow next year. McConks has seen significant interest from the more traditional paddlesports community and from instructors. Matt Stephenson, the rising star of WWSUP is helping McConks develop the perfect WWSUP board, which should be available in time for the Autumn rush.
Outside of these areas, 2017 seems to be about consolidation and refreshing the lineup. Not much else has changed in the world of SUP other than marketing. Technology has improved marginally, slightly stiffer, slightly lighter, slightly better fittings. But the improvements are marginal. Which don’t really reflect well on the typical % increase in prices in 2017.
Which is generally good news for you guys. You don’t need to spend a bucketload of money keeping up with the latest trends. And with no significant changes / improvements in technology expected, you can invest now without worrying about your kits becoming outdated within months.
And if you want THE BEST kit at THE BEST prices, you know where to go: www.mcconks.com.
So enjoy 2017, paddle more and enjoy new adventures.
As one of our friends said, lets hope that the next trip round the sun brings us all closer together.
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McConks.com: The legal stuff
McConks is based in the Cotswold Water Park, and is a family owned UK company, registration #09813033
We are a UK registered company, registered as Perfect Trim Limited (find out why here), and pay corporation tax in the UK. Details of our company registration at UK Companies House can be found here.
We are also VAT registered and pay 20% VAT on all sales we make within the UK and Europe. Our VAT registration number is 270 4921 10
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