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The four stages of Santa

So how do paddleboarding Father Christmas’s, Santa SUPs and festive elves fit into the four stages of life?

First, you believe in Santa

Secondly, you stop believing in Santa

Thirdly, you are Santa

And finally, you look like Santa.

We’re not sure what stage all of these Santas are at.  But they’ve certainly raised eyebrows and drawn lots of crowds across the UK.

And it looks like Father Christmas has been busy delivering McConks boards and paddles in the last twelve months.

Well done to Bath paddleboard centre, Bath SUP, Jay SUP Manning, SUPer Whale ,  Mid Cheshire SUP, Bartley SUP and B-ROW for getting so many Santas out on the water over the last two weekends!

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

Geplaatst door SUPer Whale op zondag 17 december 2017

’tis the season to be merry – gift ideas – from £10 to £200, there is something in here for every paddler

Give a little pleasure for Christmas – why experiences make the best gifts, and how to choose the best experiences




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Christmas present advice. To Dryrobe or not to Dryrobe?

Charlie McLeod outer zipped pocket

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.

Dryrobe sports changing robe
Dryrobe advance long sleeve
Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Dryrobe advance short sleeve
Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak short sleeve
Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak long sleeve
Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Palm Poncho Grande
SmocSmoc waterproof changing robe
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.

Modesty preservation

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 🙂


Charlie McLeod outer zipped pocket
Outer zip with easy to pull fasteners

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!

Charlie McLeod changing robe
Adjustable cuff on the short sleeve Charlie McLeod changing robe
SmocSmoc velcro wrist
Flexibility for different size wrists with the Smoc Smoc arms

So which is the best changing robe / dry robe in our opinion?

Charlie McLeod Wind sleeve
Charlie McLeod Wind sleeve

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.

Need more detail? Download our features list and detailed comments for each product.

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Give a little pleasure for Christmas

Christmas gifts that keep on giving

Experiences make the best gifts

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.

Getting excited

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.

Social experiences

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

Beig surprised with an experience gift

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, 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

SUP hub

Mountain Monkeys

SUP hire

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.

Both CWPhire and SUPbypost accept Universal SUP gift cards. CWP hire also offer their own gift cards.

SUP by post

Cotswold Water park hire

Universal SUP gift card

Adrenaline junkies – whitewater SUP

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

Advanced tuition

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.

Guided adventures

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

BoardinSkool accept Universal SUP Gift cards

Whitstable SUP

Boardin Skool

SUP singles

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?


Psyched paddleboarding

SUP gifts

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.  

So maybe an ethical, sustainable, organic, fairtrade guilt free tee shirt or hoodie, or a luxury chunky bobble hat

Or how about a top of the range, beautiful bamboo / carbon SUP paddle.


Paddleboard hardware

Christmas with McConks

Ethical, organic, fairtrade SUPwear