Chris Freeman is one of the most prolific SUP photographers in the west of of England. He’s also one of the nicest paddlers you’ll meet. Which is good, because if you ever get into difficulties in the Severn Area, Chris is one of the trained volunteers who might come to your rescue with SARA (Severn Area Rescue Association).
Chris is a frequent paddler with SUP Stroud, SUP Gloucester and SUP Slimbridge and so has many action and landscape photos of the River Severn, River Wye, Sharpness Canal, Stroudwater navigation and other canals in the Cotswold Canals.
Here are a selection of his action shots from recent paddles. If you’re a journalist looking for unique SUP photos, check out his profile, and give him a shout if you want to purchase any.
We get lots of photos sent from our lovely extended family – holiday photos, fun photos, photos of kids growing up. We love getting them, and we love seeing our kit being used around the world. It makes all the late nights and hard work worth it to see those smiles!
But some of you have asked if we could create a gallery of the photos you’ve sent, even asking if it’s possible for you to upload them directly. and the answer has always been no, because we’ve not been able to configure the website securely enough to allow this to happen.
We did it!
Guess what… We’ve finally found a secure way to do it 🙂 You can now use a simple form to upload photos to the Team McConks photowall.
And even better, you can write a short note or short article. as part of the upload! So you can provide some words to set the scene or to promote your favourite cause.
But the best bit? You can do all of this direct from your phone or tablet. The upload has been optimised for mobile. So snap away with your snazzy new waterproof phone, and upload on the go. No more waiting around ’til you get in front of a laptop!
You retain full copyright of your photos, and if McConks ever would like to use the photos in any of our marketing, we will of course ask for permission.
The only rules about submitting a post and photos are:
Keep it clean and legal
You remain responsible and liable for the content
Make it fun
You agree that we can share a link to the post you’ve created on social media (Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Pinterest)
p.s. There might be short delay between submitting your post and photos and the post going live on the website. Sorry about this, but we do need to check that the content is suitable for our webpage, and not spammy. The posts will appear here, and we will (eventually) put a link to the feed on our homepage.
p.p.s If you want to promote your SUP related business through this feed, you’re welcome to do so as long as you feature our products as part of the photos/feed please. You can add a URL, so you can use this as part of your SEO strategy.
p.p.p.s You will also be able to view all of the photos in a photo gallery, but we’re still working on that!
If you’re looking for top quality, bombproof SUP without any airbubbles or imperfections, a clean factory is a good place to start.
The video at the bottom of this post was taken today of our McConks boards in production by our quality assessor.
Things to notice:
The floor is lined. This lining is replaced regularly – the lining is ripped up, the floor is swept and vacuumed under the lining, and then the lining replaced with new material and taped down. Any dust that remains is locked out of the working environment under the lining. Whilst this might seem like a waste of material, it’s better than lots of iSUP boards needing to be disposed of because they have dust or other impurities in the glue, and hence have leaky rails!
Every workstation is meticulously clean. No random bits of tape or paper that can get caught up in the manufacturing process and cause board failures.
A large stack of inflated boards. The fins are glued on when the boards are inflated, so it’s not unusual to see lots of inflated boards in factories, However, in our factory, the boards are left inflated to 15PSI for 72 hours, after which they are pressure tested. In the very unlikely situation that the boards have microscopic leaks, the boards do not get sold.
Sorry. We don’t do Black Friday, or Black Friday week, or Black Friday month.
If you’re a McConks follower, that won’t come as a surprise to you. You already know that 99.5% of black Friday offers aren’t discounts at all, just purely smart marketing, and sellers fiddling prices to make it look like a bargain.
We do something much better. Right now we offer up to 35% discount.
We keep our SUP prices static all year once we’ve made the boards. Because that’s the fair and right price for that board. We can’t afford random discounts in the year, because we’re already selling at the best price we can afford – no pricing games. Which means you can buy a SUP from one of the fastest growing SUP brands in the UK for around half the price of it’s biggest competitor – Red Paddle Co. Don’t you think that’s better than any Black Friday offer?
YOU WON’T FIND BLACK FRIDAY OFFERS HERE SORRY
Why don’t McConks do Black Friday?
Black Friday is the time when retailers and etailers discount stuff that they have failed to sell all year, or desperately try to flog stock that they’re not going to sell by Christmas.
We can’t keep up with demand at McConks – because we price all of our gear at the right price all year round, we’re almost permanently out of stock! And because making quality gear takes a long time, it takes a long time to get kit back in stock. And therefore we don’t need to discount overstock products.
If it’s a Christmas present you’re after, and you’re worried about the lack of a physical present to open, we can send you a glossy voucher/IOU to hide under your Christmas tree – just ask us to sort this out for you.
McConks are looking for independent instructors, organisations and companies who share our vision and ethics to join us in our mission to get more people on the water.
If you already know who we are, how we can help your company grow, and are just after our preorder and trade price list, you can register here.
If you still need convincing, please read on!
Not just great quality, great value SUP kit
It’s not an easy life running an adventure or watersports company. And when inflatable SUP from the market leaders set you back over £1k a board, it can be hard to make the finances stack up. But because McConks are a direct sales only brand, without an expensive distribution and retail network, we’re a fraction of the price of the big brands, for kit that’s every bit as good. And even better according to some of our brand friends.
We wouldn’t be an approved supplier to the likes of the Princes Trust, Essex County Council and the MOD, unless we made reliable, robust kit.
We wouldn’t be working with respected watersports providers and instructors unless our kit lasted and was good value.
But we offer so much more than great prices and great kit. We love working with friends and partners to help everyone’s interests. It can be a competitive, dog eat dog world out there, if you let it be. But that’s not how we operate. We don’t do the whole corporate ego thing, and we don’t worry about what our competitors do. We just focus on what’s right for us, and for the companies we like to call friends and partners.
We’ve spent a couple of years building up both our product portfolio, and our brand presence. With a 300% increase in our social media profile reach this year, we’re regularly reaching 5,000+ people a week with our videos and posts on social media. And with almost 40,000 visitors to our webpages over the last 12 months (up from 7,000 the year before), we can lever our channels to help you market your business without needing to spend lots of money on SEO or advertising.
Over the next 12 months we’re planning a significant push on one of our websites www.supgiftcard.com, and any outdoor company can join the scheme. And in total, we’re forecasting over 80,000 new visitors (120,000 total visitors) to our McConks/SUPhubUK/SUPgiftcard ecosystem over the next 12 months.
Our success is your success
As a great example of what can we can achieve together, we’ve been working hard with GoXperience, an adventure yacht charter outfit based in Croatia to really push the SUP side of their business. And we produced this little video for Nathan, which has helped keep his SUP adventures full since we started working with him.
Part of our success is driven by our hard work on social media and working to increase our McConks brand awareness and reach. But to be honest, the lions share of the growth coming from the positivity and enthusiasm of the companies we call friends.
Your success is our success
And when the partnership model works well, everyone benefits. If you haven’t seen it already, this video is a great example of a company (Ant and Lianne Ing at Standup Paddle Board UK in Llangollen) that we’re proud to call McConks friends, doing their bit to push and promote the SUP life!
What else do you get if you join our family?
The warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you’re part of an ecosystem of companies and people working together to look after one another is a pretty big part of it. But you probably want to know about merch, discounts and deals.
Our merch includes flags and stickers, t-shirts, hoodies, caps and hats, inflatable buoys, floating sunnies and lots more. And our merch range will be expanding in 2019. But you’ll need to register to find out more 🙂
Can I retail your kit
McConks are a direct sales only, so sorry, no, you can’t retail in the traditional sense. However, we are developing a network of regional experience providers/instructors, who will be able to sell McConks products as part of a wider experience package. If this is of interest to you, then get in touch.
How do I find out more
Visit bit.ly/preorderenquiry to register and get your hands on our price list. Or just give us a call on 07387 383243 – we don’t bite!
20 years ago, probably the only people who could get away with wearing shades in winter were skiers, and celebs. Except maybe Bono, who never quite got away with it. Any normal people were laughed at, or called wannabe celebs.
But in recent years, medical understanding of the damage that winter sun can do to our eyes means that the majority of optometrists will now recommend wearing UV400 sunglasses year round.
Although the sun isn’t as hot in winter, it doesn’t mean that the UV rays are any less dangerous. And with the sun sitting lower in the sky and at different angles during the winter, the exposure and damage can actually be greater. Especially if you’re looking at the horizon for an extended period, such as at sports events, or when you’re paddling or riding.
The two highest risk groups are watersports participants and mountain sports participants. Both groups of people typically spend lots of time outside in winter, spending lots of time looking at the horizon, and in an environment that reflects the sun back up (water and snow/ice).
And if you don’t look after your eyes, you can suffer from early onset of a range of eye diseases normally associated with aging, such as macular degeneration.
So get wearing those shades in winter!
And if you don’t have any yet…
McConks have developed a range of sunglasses aimed at paddlers that are polarised, that float, and that provide all the protection you need, all year round. And they’re sustainable and ethiCAL
So. We’re finally in France on holidays. Tent’s pitched, new McConks van pride of place, boards pumped up, barbecue lit, cold beer in hand. It should be bliss. We’ve worked damn hard all year to look forward to these two weeks.
But all is not as relaxed as it should be. In fact, we’re pretty damn stressed. We’ve been totally let down by logistics partners over the last few weeks. There’s no need to go into details, and many of you reading this have probably been on the sharp end of the shoddy service and broken promises from us, so you don’t need to be reminded.
In simple terms, a small delay to one of our shipments has mothballed into an event that is kind of overwhelming us right now. We (in hindsight foolishly) tried to keep everyone happy by upgrading people waiting for Go Simple boards to Go Anywhere boards. But we then experienced a bizarre chain of events that meant that our Go Anywhere boards were delayed by a few more weeks, meaning that we broke promises. Add to that DPD (our UK courier of choice) going into meltdown and starting to lose packages left right and centre, and we had the perfect storm. And that perfect storm meant that, quite simply, we had way more communications to deal with than we’ve ever had to deal with. And once we were on the back foot, firefighting and responding to messages reactively, we lost the ability to communicate proactively and let everyone know what was going on. And although we like our customers to be able to reach us in lots of different ways, the same customers contacting us through facebook, chat, Instagram, email and twitter (understandably) just exacerbated the issue.
And now we’re in France, a few hundred miles away from where all the action is. The delayed Go Anywhere boards have just arrived, and are now in the process of being turned around by our very good friends at Cotswold Water Park Hire and Busy Finger . And do we ever owe these chaps and chapesses a crate of wine or two? They’ve dropped everything to help us out and do whatever they can to get boards out to those of you who are waiting, and in doing so, have just salvaged a bit of our reputation!
But we have lots of work to do over the coming months to further repair the damage. We can’t guarantee that delays like this won’t happen again; these sorts of logistics and customs delays are entirely out of our hands. But we can invest in systems to improve our comms and responsiveness. And we will be doing so. We already have some great ideas about how to streamline our communication whilst still keeping it personal rather than anonymous! More on this in due course.
For those of you who have contacted us with terse tones and sharp words – we don’t blame you. We would be doing exactly the same thing if we were in your position. I hope this explanation does just that – explains why this has happened.
Finally, thanks to all of you who have been so understanding and patient. Most of you have been totally lovely, and more understanding than we deserve. And we feel privileged to have people like you as our customers.
Once we know that all of this shipment of boards is out for delivery with DPD, we can finally relax. And that day can’t come soon enough!
It’s been a while since we’ve blogged, which gives you an idea how busy this spring and summer has been. It has been an unbelievably manic year, both for our SUP and accessories sales business mcconks.com and our hire business SUPbyPost.com.
Why is everyone sold out of SUP boards?
Why has it been so busy? A combination of the amazing weather and the growth of SUP have put more people in contact with people who SUP. The good weather means that people are spending more time on beaches and by rivers and lakes, and coming into contact with the ever increasing number of people who are SUPing. Add to this the awesome reviews our kit is getting and our ever improving brand awareness, and we have been totally taken aback by the demand!
Here’s some of the startling figures for this year
The number of hits to our website has quadrupled, and the number of organic hits increased fivefold
We have sold four times as many SUP boards as this time least year
We have sold on average 1 short river fin a day for the past six weeks
We are now selling out before products even land in the UK.
So the bad news is that we are sold out of all SUP packages, other than the Go Wild, Go Surf and Go Free packages.
We will have more Go Anywhere and Go Explore stock available for delivery at the end of August, but we’re currently taking pre-orders on those, and they are likely to be out of stock mid August.
We will have no more Go Simple boards available until 2019 sorry.
And for those of you disappointed by this, please don’t phone, email or message us asking to confirm if this is really true, and if we have some stock kept in reserve. We don’t. We are definitely out of stock. We can’t magic boards from thin air. And we don’t have any that we can lend, hire or rent until September.
And the very good news is that our sensational bamboo and wooden floating polarised sunglasses have finally arrived. Those of you who have been waiting patiently will be getting your glasses within the next few days – thanks for your patience!
Current McConks SUP stock level
To check on stock level visit http://www.bit.ly/McConksStock or https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15KuUMiqKZ4reRRzeSIQ95OLp5gyCdkeVn2OrkBe20R8/edit?usp=sharing
Family McConks will be taking a very well earned rest from 31st July to 20th August. Which is pretty good timing as our next shipment should be arriving that week! But the shop will be closed between 31 July and 19 August, and responses to communications will be a little slower than normal.
So all that remains to be said for now is thanks, and have a great summer. Make the most of this weather as much as you possibly can!
The price of our Go Simple range seems to have caused quite a stir, if the number of emailed questions we've received is anything to go by. Lots of you have been asking how we can keep the price so low, and have been trying to find out where we've compromised on quality. After all, no other UK company has managed to make a heat welded, premium tech, double skin fusion technology inflatable SUP with a fibre-glass paddle at this price. So it's understandable that people might be a little worried.
Hopefully, this article will put some minds at rest!
Never compromise on quality
Although our Go Simple inflatable paddle boards are priced for people on a budget, there are some principles and features that that we absolutely will never compromise on:
All of our products comply with our Ethics and Sustainability policy and are subject to our Fair Price policy. That means you can be sure that that you are buying a board with the lowest cost to you, and the lowest cost to to others and the environment.
Two year guarantee, 28 day no quibble returns
So our kit might be inexpensive compared to all of the other quality brands. But that doesn't mean that it's not a lot of money. When spending that sort of money you need to know that the kit's going to last right? Buy cheap, buy twice is an old adage that just doesn't apply to our kit. There are two reasons why it doesn’t apply. Firstly, let’s be fair, £400 or £600 isn't cheap – it might be cheaper than other quality brands, but it certainly isn’t cheap. And it goes without saying that you won't need to buy twice - because you're covered by our guarantee. We've seen our boards left out in the sun, wind and rain, being abused by beginners at hire centres and been battered by school kids. And they still look as good and perform as well as they did on the day they came out of the factory.
If you can find the same specification package available online at a cheaper price, we will refund you the difference. But we know you won't be able to!
Premium quality, budget prices
We can only offer a three year guarantee (1) because we understand what quality really means, and we know that our kit will last. All of our boards and accessories are made to the same exacting McConks quality. We regularly hear that there are only 'four top quality factories in China' making iSUPs. That's simply not true.
in our opinion. There is only one that meets our exacting requirements for quality, ethics, sustainability and professionalism. All the others pale into insignificance compared to them. We have to pay a little more at our end for the quality and peace of mind. But it's worth every penny. And for that, you can rest assured that every single board is made with the same attention to detail.
(1) This is actually a real guarantee, not a marketing ploy like some brands who offer longer guarantees but who do not honour them!
Double skin, fusion tech, high pressure guarantee
These words might not mean much to you, but they’re possibly the most important ones to consider when looking for a budget inflatable SUP.
Double skin SUP means two layers of PVC. More layers of PVC makes the boards more rigid, and more leakproof (good) but also makes them heavier (bad). After years of experimenting, everyone now seems to agree that two skins is good, one is not so good, and more than two in unnecessary and too heavy.
Fusion techinflatable means the latest technology. Rather than people glueing bits of PVC together, wasting glue and PVC, this method reduces weight and improves the reliability of the board. Different brands have different terms for this. Some call it MSL, some call it pre-laminated heat bonded technology, some call it superlight super layer. Some call it enhanced drop stitch. But they're not all quite the same. Some brands use cheaper drop stitch in their fusion technology (if they don't offer 4.75" or 5" thick boards in their range, you can guarantee they're not using the best drop stitch!), and some brands use a thinner layer of fused PVC (and yet still call it military grade!).
High pressure guarantee. The more air you ram into a board, the more rigid it becomes. But the more pressure you put the seams under the more likely they are to burst, unless the quality control is spot on. And that is why many brands tell you that the pressure range for the SUP is up to 15PSI. The more reliable the board layup, the more confident the brand is in their seams and manufacturing process. Although, sadly, some brands with poor quality layup are now offering a high pressure guarantee - a lethal accident waiting to happen!
Some companies use a cheaper one skin layup on their budget boards. But this sacrifices rigidity and resistance to bursting! Other brands use heavier old style annually glued two skin layup on their budget boards. But we don’t compromise on the quality of our boards, no matter how budget the price is . All of our inflatable SUP boards meet the same premium quality standards – double skin, fusion tech. So whether you spend £400 or £1200, our boards are guaranteed to an industry leading 25 PSI.
Top quality engine to power your inflatable SUP
We've never supplied cheap heavy aluminium or alloy paddles in the past, and we're not going to start now. Trying to paddle with a dustbin lid on the end of a piece of heavy metal isn't anyone's idea of fun. And lots of people have hurt themselves or been put off paddling because of crap paddles. That's why all of our packages come with at least a three piece, adjustable, fibre-glass shaft, nylon bladed paddle. And that includes our budget Go Simple range. Why compromise on your engine?
An iSUP is nothing without a good pump
Inflating an iSUP can be a chore, especially if you're package has compromised with a cheap, stiff pump.. Of course, if your inflatable SUP can only be inflated to 12PSI before bursting, then a cheap pump is fine. But we want to you pump your board up to the max if you need to, to get ti as rigid as a hard board. And to do that you need a premium quality, high high volume, high pressure pump. That's why all of our inflatable SUP packages come with premium quality pumps by one of the two biggest SUP pump manufacturers in the world.
So where have we compromised?
We couldn't make a budget board without cutting costs. But we've only cut them where it's safe to do so.
Our Go Simple boards come with only one handle, unlike our premium boards which have an additional nose and tail handle and lashing points. The additional handles on our premium boards not only make them easier to carry and manhandle, but also make it easier to get back on the board from any position. Some of our premium boards, like our Go Explore or Go Wild boards have even more handles!
Like our premium boards, the deckpad is a 5mm crocodile skin deckpad. Unlike our premium boards however, the design is printed on to the deckpad, rather than the design being formed of different colour EVA. The design is more likely to fade in UV light than a deckpad formed of different colour EVA.
Our Go Simple budget iSUP only come with a single removable centre fin. Like our premium boards, the fin a flexi fin in a US centre box, which means it can be easily upgraded with aftermarket fins if needed. Unlike our premium boards, the Go Simple boards do not come with any removable FCS side fins.
The Go Simple bag is a lightweight rucksack. Unlike our premium SUP sacks, these don't have in built paddle storage, they don't have compression strips, they're not made from heavy duty robust canvas fabric, they don't come with a heavy duty stowable backpack or chunky wheels, and they don't have pump pocket on the front of the bag. They will protect your iSUP in the back of the car or in the garage, but they're unlikely to withstand the sort of abuse airport baggage handlers subject them to!
All of our packages come with premium quality coiled leashes. Our premium packages come with McConks branding on the ankle strap. The leashes on our Go Simple iSUP range are unbranded.
If you're after a strong Ram Mounts camera mount, then you'll need to upgrade to our premium range. Or buy an aftermarket fitting to stick on to the board - if you trust your adhesive skills!
Hopefully this is enough detail to answer your questions. If not, and if you've still got questions, ping us a message using the chat facility, or message us on facebook or email us
We’ve recently been involved in a very passionate online debate. It was about why women are under-represented in the adventurous outdoor activities sector. As always with online debates, things quickly got out of hand. There was name calling, and abuse. Strong beliefs and opinions made the thread more an argument than a debate, with reasoned and evidenced facts being confused with opinions. But there were some really interesting points made by many people on both sides of the argument that got lost in the general vitriol and abuse. And these interesting points deserve further discussion.
Equality and inclusivity
Inclusivity is a hot topic of debate, so now is a good time to reflect on gender equality in SUP. And to think about the barriers to girls and ladies taking up paddleboarding, and consider what can be done to remove them.
As a relatively new sport / recreational activity, and one that is growing so rapidly, paddleboarding is in a unique position. It does not need to be constrained by the failures of the past; it does not have a legacy of ‘old farts in suits’, or a historic gender imbalance to fix. It’s fair to say that there are many societal factors outside of the world of paddleboarding that might contribute to a gender imbalance, and we can talk about these later. But it’s vitally important to make sure that SUP itself does not perpetuate some of the issues still prevalent in other sectors that have led to girls and women not participating in the same numbers as boys and men.
At McConks we have a strong interest in equality across the board, not just gender equality. And we try very hard to make sure that our products and the language that we use to describe them, appeal to everyone; young/old, male/female, able bodied/less able bodied. And we try to make our writing as inclusive and as straightforward as possible. To appeal across social and cultural divides and to remove some of the unconscious barriers that put certain groups of people off SUP and paddleboarding.
28% of staff working in the outdoor sector identify as female (ref 1)
33% of managers in the sector are female (ref 1)
Of people who partake in outdoor activities regularly, 35% of them are female (ref 1)
23% of British Canoeing board members are female (ref 1)
26% of British Canoeing members are female (ref 1)
Female participation in boating (canoeing / kayaking) is the highest it has ever been, with 48.9% of participants being female
Although there are no published figures about female participation in SUP, we believe (based on nothing more than personal observations) that the percentage of female SUP instructors is similar to the percentages above. And female participation in SUP races and challenges is generally similar based on published results. Varying between about 25% for landmark events like Head of the Dart or Battle of the Thames, to as high as 45% for the Naish N1SCO European championships in 2017 at Swanage
And in terms of general participation, we believe that roughly equal numbers of females and males participate at a grass roots level. Whether this be recreational paddling or taking part in club SUP events and activities.
So roughly equal numbers of boys and girls, ladies and gents are taking part in SUP recreational paddling and social SUP events. Why then do a smaller proportion of females go on to be instructors or take part in competitive events?
And does it matter? Should we be striving to a 50:50 balance in instructors, or a 50:50 balance in races?
Equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome.
This is quite an important concept. As long as everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, then there is no need to worry if different numbers of boys and girls go for a paddle. And as long as it is equally possible for a girl to become a SUP elite athlete, or as long as it is as easy for Jane Smith to be qualified as, and become a SUP instructor as, John Smith, then all is fine. This is called equality of opportunity.
This seems to make perfect sense. Let’s look at the newly formed British Canoeing StandUp Paddleboarding Working Group. The group is made of 10 people, of whom 3 are female. If fewer females than males applied to be part of the group, then you can’t expect there to be a 50:50 gender balance on the group can you?
Or thinking about races and competitions. Some say that girls don’t like outdoor play as much as boys do. And boys are more competitive than girls, therefore of course there will always be more men competing in races. As long as the races are open to females to enter (i.e. equality of opportunity) then there isn’t a problem, right?
And that is where the equality of opportunity starts to sound a little shaky. Sometimes people think they’re providing equality of opportunity, when in fact unconscious biases are actually working to put females off applying.Take the British Canoeing SUP working group example. Rather than just saying that the application process was open to everyone and transparent (as it was), we need to consider if there are other reasons why there are less females on the group than males.
Are there less female paddleboarders than males?
Female participation in canoeing and kayaking is approaching 50%. Our experience is that roughly equal males and females take part in social and non competitive SUP paddles, therefore this doesn’t seem to be the reason. And given that there are more females than males in the population generally, this is a weak argument, Even if true, we need to understand why!
Does the wording of the advert appeal to more male paddlers than to female paddlers?
Research by leading universities shows that there are male and female coded words and phrases. And that adverts written by males often will appeal more to males than females because they use male coded words. So if you already have a body or company where there are more men than women, they’re likely to keep recruiting more men than women by using language that appeals more to men than women.
Interestingly, we’ve run the advert for the working group through a gender decoder, and it was neutral. Well done British Canoeing – it is very unusual to find adverts that are neutrally coded!
Were the adverts placed in media that are more readily or easily accessed by men?
This is a little more difficult to assess. So we’re not going to try to. But when considering if females get the same opportunities as males, it’s really important to make sure that not only the process of transparent and open, but that someone has considered ad placement to make it equally visible to male and female paddlers. We should point out that there is nothing that suggests British Canoeing have placed ads inappropriately or incorrectly in this case.
If equal numbers of men and women applied, did the selection process favour males?
Again, there’s no reason to suspect this is the case, but it is important that females are involved in the selection process to ensure that it is fair. It is entirely possible that a selection panel of all males would set criteria that are biased towards men. And there is some evidence that this is quite widespread – even if not deliberately so. And this last statement is quite important – it’s called unconscious bias, and we’ll come to this in a minute.
Do female paddleboarders want to be associated with British Canoeing?
There could be many reasons for females to have a weaker preference for joining in something organised by British Canoeing than men. And each require careful consideration. But importantly, is there a legacy that makes female paddlers less inclined to join a working group. Is British Canoeing an organisation that has historically been full of middle aged men with beards? Is it an institution that has a history of perceived gender discrimination that puts ladies and girls off? Is there an undercurrent of ‘chatter’ that makes women feel like their opinion would not be valued? I’m not qualified to answer these questions, but it could be past actions rather than the things happening in the here and now that are preventing ladies from applying.
It is entirely possible to believe that you are acting in a gender neutral way, but in fact your words or actions are interpreted more positively by one gender the other. If you want to read more about this, search for unconscious bias on google. And this applies to everything, not just interview selection criteria. Could it be that one of the reasons why there are less female than male instructors be due to the fact that instructors unconsciously act in a way that puts off female paddlers? What’s the first thing that comes into your head if you think of a sports coach? You probably think of a man in a track suit? And what’s the first image if you think of an outdoors instructor? A bloke with a beard? These things are unconscious biases, and we need to take positive action to prevent them leading to decisions that favour one gender or the other.
So maybe there are more deep-seated opinions or biases, that require more concerted action to overcome.
We think the three biggest biases (or should that be fallacies?) that require challenge and action are:
The three big gender fallacies
Males are more competitive than females
For years and years research suggests that men are more competitive than women. This gender difference appears in primary school, as evidenced by the playtime activities that girls and boys choose, and increases through puberty and adulthood. If true, this could mean that females could always be under-represented on groups where there is a competitive process to determine members. And it would explain why there are less females participating in races than men.
But recent studies have challenged this, and have found that this difference in competitiveness is driven by societal norms, not by innate gender differences. Daddy teaching little Johnny to tackle harder or run faster, and mummy teaching little Ruby that looking after the doll or doing some painting is so much more ladylike than running around the house. And this is, in part, driven by the experiences and the received norms of the parents, the grandparents and wider society around them.
Men prefer being outdoors
As with the competitiveness thing, years of research have found that differences in how girls and boys play mean that men prefer outdoor sport to ladies. As recently as 2009, a study found that girls and boys play differently. Girls tend to spend time in smaller groups and engage in verbal games, conversation and socialising. Most boys play in larger groups, which lend themselves more to physically active games, such as football.”
The perception of the outdoors as “not a woman’s place” has even been reinforced by institutions charged with managing public lands. Historically, wardens and rangers jobs would have been described as men’s jobs. The idea is that women just aren’t strong enough, physically or emotionally, to cope with all that the outdoor world throws at you. Well that perception has been rigorously tested and proved entirely wrong by our armed forces and emergency services. But the perception remains, and we suspect is still believed by quite a large percentage of the population
If a higher percentage of men prefer being outdoors that women, we strongly believe this is due to societal pressures and learned behaviours, rather than inherent difference between girls and boys.
Men naturally have more self confidence
That’s hardly surprising. It’s a man’s world. Lots of research points to the fact that while women have just as much talent and ability as men to make it, they all-too-often lack confidence when it comes to their careers.
Sadly, in the past, in school and in training girls were taught to keep their heads down, work hard and play by the rules. And these girls then grow up certain that if they adhered to this, somehow their talent and efforts would be rewarded. But in the outside world they soon learn that success, no matter how hard you work, comes with no guarantee. And just because you work 16 hours a day, diligently go beyond your daily tasks and excel in every one, this does not mean that you’ll be recognised for your achievements. Sadly, as a female, all too often if you want to gain that all-important recognition and carve out a path to success, you have to get out there. Not only do you need to seize every opportunity and chance to show what you’re capable of, but you also need to shout about it too. And for this to happen you need that all-important trait – confidence.
There is possibly something about the way in which men and women, on average, process criticism, and how this then impacts future confidence in their own ability. But I think on average the genders are generally similar, and it’s how girls and boys have been treated differently during development that cause this difference.
What needs to change?
There are still some very misogynistic opinions out there, judging by the thread that we got involved in recently. Those opinions need to be challenged, but constructively and positively whenever we hear them. And even some senior execs and owners of brands use terms that are quite frankly offensive to females in the name of banter.
And when the likes of Red Bull don’t allow ladies to compete in their landmark events such as Red Bull Heavy Water, it’s clearly an uphill struggle. The hashtag #IPaddleForEquality was a grassroots response, and caused embarrassment for Red Bull, before it became appropriated by brands. But it will for years be associated negatively with Red Bull. And although they got the feedback that they richly deserved, it is concerning that they remained tone deaf to that criticism.
Sexualised imagery in marketing and branding is still all too common. All too often the images of girls portrayed in brand marketing reinforces the view that they’re there to look pretty, rather than to take part in the activity. Quiksilver found themselves on the wrong side of a social media campaign with the ‘mens’ section of the front page showing a young surfer ripping it up’, and the girls section showing off a pert bottom in a bikini. This kind of sexualised imagery needs to be banished from the sport. Imagery like this, coupled with the overtly macho language often used, plays a large part in reinforcing the message that the activity is a male preserve, with girls being there on the sidelines to be looked at and fawned over. We all deserve better than this!
But, in general the signs are positive. There are already some great initiatives underway, and some great female role models.
Sian Sykes, owner of Psyched Paddleboarding is an inspiration to many. A female paddleboard instructor and business owner, always in the media, always generating positive images about SUP for everyone, gets over 80% females on her courses and expeditions. Whitstable SUP, owned and run by Lucy Boutwood, is another example of a school / company that attracts more females to their lessons and trips than males. This just goes to show that the right images and marketing can significantly shift the gender balance. It also suggests that there is a pent up demand from potential new female paddlers for more female provision. Think ladies only paddles for example. Whilst the issue of lack of confidence, and fear of competition still exists amongst the general population, then female only paddles and social events will help to get more girls and ladies involved at grass roots.
And Anni Risdill Smith, well known on the UK SUP racing circuit, has just become a SUP ambassador for #ThisGirlCan – the hugely successful initiative started by Sport England. And Anni also runs female focussed instructor facebook groups such as Water Angels helps to provide safe places for ladies to talk about instruction and the future.
And what better example of strength and courage than keen paddleboarder Kiko Matthews, currently rowing single handed across the Atlantic. And with such an engaging back story, Kiko is a phenomenal role model.
We could go on about role models, Amanda Leonard at Sup-in-a-Bag, Lowri Davies Team GB freestyle supremo, Caroline Carr of SUP school, amongst many, many others. But what stands out about all of these role models, is that their messaging and social media marketing is unrelentlessly positive, engaging and fun. There are no negative undercurrents or tones. This is something that we should all aspire to.
New initiatives such as #IWillIfYouWill are aiming to overcome the confidence issue, by using peer pressure to get groups of girls, or just a couple of friends to try something new together, or to bring a friend along when they have taken part in a new activity that they’ve enjoyed. This is another initiative by Sport England, who have recognised that supporting marketing and initiatives that persuade girls and ladies to bring their friends to the next event, or to try something together helps with confidence issue, or the fear of something new
Things certainly look more positive for gender equality than they ever have. And it is an issue that is taken very seriously by the governing bodies and head honchos of every sport. But the most effective changes always start at the bottom and work up. With so many females taking up SUP as a pastime, a recreation and a sport, maybe the messaging needs to change. Maybe it should be #EveryGirlCan or #YouCanToo, rather than #ThisGirlCan.
But most importantly, everyone involved in the sport needs to remember that there are huge numbers of paddlers out there in the real world who don’t care about performance, or being bigger, better, stronger, faster. And who don’t want competition, they just want to paddle and have fun, with friends and family. They don’t care about politics, about who runs the sport, or about which training is best. And they’re totally turned off by all the negative sniping, back handed comments, arguing and just plain misogyny that happens on social media. And with societal norms as they are, there are more girls and ladies in this group, than there are boys and men.
If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting. So is now the time to do something different?
But maybe there’s an elephant in the room we need to address first. Why the watersports scene across the board is dominated by white caucasians. Perhaps that’s the topic for another article.
(1) Land and Wave publication on gender equality in the outdoor activities sector
SUPhubUK is a great resource for all things SUP. Whether it be finding your nearest race, finding the nearest SUP club for your holiday in Scotland, or whether it be finding out when the next SUP retreat is going to happen, SUPhubUK has it covered.
And now there is a new event category of SUP litter picks.
SUP litter picks
Litter picks can be arranged by individuals or clubs, and are a great way of meeting other SUPers whilst doing something to protect our rivers and seas.
This weekend – 4/5th February – there are two litter picks happening, one in the South West with Waterborn SUP, and one in the South East on the Thames with Bray SUP .
If ever you want to arrange a litter pick, but are short of boards, the contact us at McConks. We have helped club events and litter picks in the past with the loan of boards. We’re event sending our MegaSUP to the Stroudwater litter pick over Easter weekend!
p.s. If you want to get your events added to SUPhubUK, whether this be litter picks, SUP yoga session, social paddles or any other kind of SUP event, just email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll help. You can also get your club, school, shop or business added to the SUP maps or even add them yourself!
Just a little something else McConks will be doing to give something back to Stand Up Paddleboarding. Andy is now volunteering his time on the British Canoeing SUP working group.
First meeting on 5th Feb. Interesting times ahead. Read more .
This is all part of McConks desire to make the world a happier place through the medium of Stand Up Paddleboarding! It sits alongside our Go Inspire initiative, and is all part of our company vision of Ethical | Sustainable | Fair |
Back in July 2017, British Canoeing hosted a workshop of Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) stakeholders to discuss the future of SUP, and consider the opportunities and challenges of the coming years.
Discussions covered coaching and qualifications, events (recreational and competition), access, environment and the profile of the sport.
We put together a blog article last year to demystify paddleboard fins. We tried to turn all of the jargon into a short, simple article that anyone can understand, even if you don't have a degree in fluid mechanics.
Since then we've been contacted by lots of people asking for more advice about fins. So maybe we didn't do as a job as demystifying as we thought. But those searching for advice are often asking about river fins. This isn't really surprising. It's the fastest growing component of paddleboarding, and one of the most neglected by surf and windsurf focused brands.
So we went away and thought long and hard about the type of SUP fins that our inflatable SUP customers need for river SUP. And we spoke to our customers, our partners and friends, to make sure we really understood what people really needed. And then we went away and found a supplier for exactly the type of fins that most iSUP customers are looking for.
But first a reminder about why fins are needed (apologies if we’re teaching grannies to suck eggs, but don’t forget, there are newcomers to SUP every day who might not have heard this before!
Fins have two main purposes:
To help you stay in a straight line. If you’ve ever paddled a SUP without fins (yes, we’ve done it as well, arrived at the put in, pumped the board up, and realised we have no fins! ) you’ll know how difficult it is to track in a straight line. With a fin in place, the fin counteracts the drive of the paddle, stopping the tail of the board swinging around. The larger the surface area of a fin, the easier it is to paddle your SUP in a straight line, and the more difficult it is to turn. It’s not quite as simple as this, with other factors such as length and shape coming into pay. If you want to find out about the factors, then you want to check out our earlier article.
To slow the board down. This might seem counter intuitive if you’re not a surfer. But the side fins (also known as 'bites' serve to ‘bite’ the wave and provide a focus to pivot on. Surfing with a central single fin is preferred by surfers who prefer gentle and graceful carving. But if you want to slash and hack, then you need a different fin arrangement. With three fins in a thruster arrangement being the most common.
If you keep these two key purposes in mind for the rest of this article, it should all come together by the time you've finished.
In addition to satisfying these two purposes, there are a few other key requirements for river SUP:
The most important requirement was that fins should be interchangeable between all sorts of boards, not just between McConks boards .
All of our centre fins are compatible with all universal centre fin boxes (often called US fin box). Every decent brand in the world uses these on their premium range of boards – Red Paddle, Starboard, Naish, Fanatic. And this applies to the quality UK brands as well – Fatstick, Loco, Freshwater bay. If you’re not sure if your board has a universal box, take a photo of the box, or a fin that fits the box and send it to email@example.com, and we will let you know if your box is compatible.
Our 2” side bites are compatible with all FCS fin boxes, and also with the Kumano and Suru surf click fit system.
In general, the stiffer a fin is, the better the performance. This is true for both centre fins and side fins, as any surfer will tell you. This is great if you’re paddling your SUP in deep water on the sea. If you’re in shallow water, fins have an annoying knack hitting submerged rocks. Or catching on the river bed. The best outcome is the rider is catapulted off the front of the board as it comes to an abrupt and unexpected halt. And narrowly avoids knocking themselves out on a rock. Stepping up the damage scale, if you’re using stiff fins, you’re very like to snap a fin. Stepping it up further, you could crack a fin box, or a rip the fin box off the board, causing expensive or irreversible damage. And right at the top of the damage scale, you could be catapulted off the board walloping your helmet or a flailing limb against a very hard rock. And the possible outcomes there are pretty sobering. Especially if you're in serious whitewater.
So for whitewater paddling, or shallow river paddling, you should always use soft flexible fins. These take much of the impact of rock strikes, and they flex as the bump along river beds. This gives you a flying chance of staying on the board, and reduces the risk damage to the fins, your SUP board, or you.
And even endurance river races such as the #Trent100 start off in shallow river sections that would benefit from flexible fins. Several competitors this year said they wished they’d started the event with a range of fins, including some flex fins.
The other requirements were more fin/discpline specific….
This is the first of our superflexible short river centre fins. This SUP fin is only 5 inches long, which gives you 3 or four inches more clearance than the fins that come as standard with most decent SUP boards with removable fins. These are an awesome compromise between tracking, weed clearance, and speed.
The second is a shorter 3” fin, but with almost the same surface area as the 5” fin. We do this by having a very long fin base (takes up the whole length of a standard US fin box), and by extending trailing edge of the fin well behind the fin box.
These fins fit all FCS box or Sauru surf / Kumano surf click boxes.
Extending behind the box, these have a surprising amount of surface area for the fin depth. Use with the 3" or 5" centre fins for a perfect whitewater SUP setup.
Go and have fun
River fins haven't had the same amount of R&D that surf and open ocean fins have received. So this is a relatively new and exciting playground.
Get out there with different fins, and see what works for you.
Tell the world via SUP hacks if you have experience or comments on what works for you.
If you've got ideas on what would work for you, but doesn't exist yet, speak to us. We like prototyping new products for our customers!
 This is the ONLY good thing about fixed SUP fins. You can’t lose them or turn up to paddleboard without them. In every other way they are inferior to removable fins and detract from your objective of having fun on the water!
 Our 2” river fins will fit the click fin boxes on Badfish SUP and McConks SUP, and any SUP board with FCS fin boxes. So if the mood takes you, you can even shove three 2” fins in your FCS thruster set up on your surf board. By extension this flexibility applies in reverse to our inflatable SUP boards. There are a massive number of SUP fins out there that fit our boards. And this is the real benefit of having a universal centre fin box – the huge amount of choice. Any universal fin (including FCS connect) can be used in the centre box. So you can check out fins from Black Fin Project, or FCS or Futures fins. Or from any of the very many aftermarket fin resellers out there.
They get people on the water, standup paddleboarding or SUPing, for the first time ever. Whether it be at a local beach, on a river, or on a lake. Whether it be with family, friends, dogs, or by themselves, cheap inflatable SUP get people on the water. And with all the well documented health benefits that being in nature, being with friends, or being outside brings, this is a massively positive thing.
But if you can buy a budget board for under £300, why does anyone ever pay more? Is it just because they’ve fallen for marketing by big watersports brands? Is it because there is a real difference in quality?
The answer is a bit of both…
Why inflatable SUP boards by big brands cost more
The big brands typically have a big supporting infrastructure – sponsoring developing riders, major events, and grassroots development amongst other value added benefits, all of which are important for the sport as a whole. It’s OK if you don’t feel part of that, and don’t see why you should pay for it. But it is an explanatory factor.
And of course, many of the brands sell through local shops and retailers. who need to make a margin to keep trading. And these shops often don’t make a massive profit: They do it for the love of the sport, and the stoke. We have seen the number of watersports shops decreasing over recent years as they fail to compete with online direct sales, and as the big brands squeeze their margins. If you don’t want to be part of that scene, that’s OK, and as a direct sales brand, we’re not in any position to point fingers! But these shops also provide value added activities, giving advice on places to SUP for example, or allowing you to try lots of boards. And once they’re gone, they’re gone.
But that’s an aside, and doesn’t address the real issue of whether there is a real difference in quality between premium boards and budget boards. And more importantly, whether this difference is important to beginners.
What we’re going to say here isn’t true across the board (pun intended). We’ve seen some expensive boards with dodgy build quality and poor quality accessories in the past. We’ve also seen some great value budget boards that look like they’re made to last and will really generate that ‘I love SUP’ feeling.
We can of course only speak definitively about McConks, but we suspect that many of the differences we’ve seen between our premium boards and some of the cheaper boards out in the wild apply fairly widely. And when you know what you’re looking for, you don’t need an x-ray machine to determine the quality of the board.
Which leads us on to…
Inflatable SUP build quality and design
Many of the budget boards just look cheap. Like a teenager designed them in an arts project. There’s not necessarily a problem with this, especially if you like the design. But a board that looks cheap is normally indicative of a lack of care and attention.
Something that isn’t always apparent from the marketing photos (which are always the best board in a batch), is just how poor quality control can be. We’ve seen budget boards where the deckpad is cut to shape with a Stanley knife when still attached to the board. Believe it or not, we’ve seen some budget boards where this cut has actually gone through into the board itself, meaning that they leak from day one.
You can spot a premium board from the cut of its gib – they have regular and even overlaps at seams. All of the PVC is fully adhered, and they are well cut. Whilst the look of the board might not matter to you in your keenness to get on the water at the right price, those uneven overlaps and irregular seams are indicative of slapdash manufacture, poor quality control. And are probably just the spot where a seam will burst or you’ll spring a leak.
And we’ve lost count of the number of budget boards we’ve seen where fin boxes are glued on at jaunty angles, or in the wrong place. This can really affect how easy your board is to paddle, and how stable it is.
Despite the claims that the whole process is ‘machine driven heat fused blah blah blah’ or other’, the rails, accessories and deckpads are still glued by hand. The precision with which this happens is really important, especially for the side rails, and that precision costs expensive worker time. Also clearing up glue from around the deckpad and fittings takes time if it’s done properly. This doesn’t necessarily affect the performance of the board. If the board is glued with the very best quality glue, then it doesn’t darken over time. But the cheaper adhesives used on many of the cheaper boards darkens in UV if exposed. This might only be a cosmetic thing, but it does mean that everyone can see that your board has been glued together with cheaper adhesive, and in turn affects its resale price.
There is a question about how well the cheaper adhesives last in heat and under pressure. And that’s why many of the cheaper boards come with stern warning about pressure and letting air out of the board if in direct sunlight. Anecdotally, although all brands have had issues with poorly formed seams, the cheap budget boards have a much greater failure rate.
We’ve seen with our own eyes deckpads coming unstuck, or forming massive airbubbles, fairly regularly on cheap boards. As far as we know, we have only had one board from our 16/17/18 lineup where the deckpad has started to lift. And that’s because we specify what glue should be used, and pay the price for it. Ask many budget board manufacturers or retailers what glue they’ve specified, and they’ll look at you blankly. Ask McConks, and we can tell you straight away! And there is a 4x difference in the price between the cheapest and most expensive adhesive used in SUP manufacture.
Although most budget boards use OK quality dropstitch these days, the quality of the PVC layer fused to it, and that makes up the rails (sides) matters. We’ve seen cheap boards with scorch marks from being placed against something metal in 26 degree heat in the UK. Even if you’re careful not to put the budget board up against hot rocks, at higher temperatures the PVC is weaker, and more likely to be punctured by thorns or scratches. And there’s nothing like the workout you get when you’ve put a slow puncture in your board, and you want to back to land before it turns into a banana and becomes unpaddleable!
We know the thermal tolerances of our PVC, and know chapter and verse about where the drop stitch is made. Our PVC is good in direct sunlight up to 40 degrees. That’s because we specified it, not just taking the cheaper alternative that most suppliers offer you. There’s a price premium of course, but we think it’s worth it. If the best the manufacturer can do is tell you ‘it was made in one of the top 4 factories in China’ when you ask questions, be concerned. McConks can get hold of a 10’6 x 32 x 5” double skin fusion iSUP board for £133 from one of the ‘top 4 factories’, and we wouldn’t sell it to our worst enemy!
There are good valves and there are bad valves. The difference in price (to us as a small company) is $2 – $24. We use the ones that cost us $24 dollars. We’ve tried the $2 and a range of others in the past. And there is a reason why we use the most expensive ones. We know they will last for years, that the metal components are made of marine grade stainless steel, they don’t leak, and are quality tested to within an inch of their lives. The last thing a customer should experience is a board deflating when in use.
Fins and fin boxes
Our fin boxes are expensive. We could get hold of fin boxes for our boards at less than $1 for all three. Our side fin boxes alone cost $9 a pair. And we pay close to $40 for our boxes and fins on our Go anywhere and Go explore range of boards. We specify where our fin boxes come from, and pay the price for this.
Because cheap fin boxes crack easily when knocked, or if left out in the cold, or if you blow on them (joke). But the point is that there are good fin boxes and bad fin boxes. Even we have had two fin boxes that have cracked, but one of these was on the whitewater course at the national watersports centre in Nottingham, and one was with a long windsurf fin in force 5 winds with the rider doing about 30 knots. But that’s two out many hundreds, a really low percentage compared to what we see on the beaches and at event. And when fin boxes are broken, it’s really difficult to change them – it’s probably going to cost you as much as your budget board to get them replaced.
We’ve already covered how well adhered / stuck fittings can be on budget boards. But the materials that they’re made from can be an issue as well. When we specify our boards, we specify the quality of PVC of the D-rings, we know where the handles have been sourced from and what the tensile strength of the webbing is, we have tested the quality of our camera mounts (destructively), we know that all of the metal on our boards is made from marine grade stainless steel. We work really closely with our suppliers to get the very best, rather than accepting the bog-standard fittings normally used.
Budget boards typically come with budget accessories. We don’t think this is a real issue for most people buying cheap boards. Most people buying a board for under £400 are testing the waters (pun intended again) to see if SUP is for them. And the accessories can always be upgraded in the future.
Cheap paddles feel a little bit like a lump of dough on the end of a stick. If you try SUP with a cheap paddle and think it’s too difficult, make sure you borrow a decent paddle before you give it up for good.
And likewise with the pumps. If you think you’re too weak to pump the board up, make sure you try a try a top quality pump from a friend first. Some of the cheap pumps have so much friction, they can put your back out before you even get on the water.
So should you buy a cheaper board?
As we said at the start, budget boards get people on the water, and have their place. Anything that gets more people on the water is a good thing. And hopefully many of the new recruits to this wonderful sport will stay, and buy more reliable kit as they upgrade.
So there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a budget board as long as you are armed with all the facts! And hopefully this article will help you find a better board for your budget.
How can you choose the best budget board?
It’s really difficult. And like we say, not every budget board has all of these issues. Some of them are fantastic value if you get the right board from the batch.
You can always check reviews on facebook or their website. But we’ve seen some pretty dodgy behaviours here by some brands. For example paying people for good reviews, or buying 50 fake reviews on Fiverr for $5. There are some giveaway signs to help you spot these – lots of reviews at around the same time is a tell-tale sign that they have been paid for! Lot’s of cheap pop up companies also claim to sell hundreds of boards every week, or claim to be limited companies despite not being registered in the UK. If a company is selling hundreds of boards a week, but isn’t VAT registered, they’re either tax avoiders or liars!
Asking for opinions on facebook groups is probably more reliable, because at least the groups are moderated. But these groups can be overly influenced by brand ambassadors selling the quality of the brands they are associated with, or shopowners recommending the brands that make them the most margin. But by and large these are relatively easy to spot!
You should also consider the depth of information available on the manufacturers website. If it doesn’t contain detailed information, then the chances are it’s a generic board, mass produced in China with some or all of the above issues. And don’t be tempted by marketing phrases like ‘made in one of the top 4 factories’ or ‘using the latest heat fusion pressed blah blah bah’. Because that no longer means what it did 18 months ago.
What you absolutely should do is try to get out with a local SUP group. They’ve probably got members on boards of all price ranges, and will be able able to offer friendly advice. You can find your nearest local group onSUPhubUK.
And never be made to feel ashamed about the size of your wallet. There are a lot of elitists out there who can afford to spend £1000+ on a board, and think you should as well. Just because you can’t, that doesn’t make you a second class citizen! If the group/page/club/shop is making you feel like a lower class citizen, get out of there and find a different one!
So if you really love SUP, make sure you do your research, and get the very best board you can for your budget.
Fixed or adjustable SUP paddles. What SUP paddle do you need?
Are you wondering about whether you need a fixed or an adjustable paddleboard paddle? Do you struggle to understand the performance differences between 1 , 2 and 3 piece SUP paddles? Don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. But fret not, this article will hopefully help you understand the differences, and help you make the right choice for you.
SUP paddle weight
The lightest one piece 100% carbon paddles will weigh a featherlight 500 grams or less, whilst most alloy paddles packaged with paddleboard packages will weigh a shoulder-busting three or four times this. By some measures, if you’re a 75kg paddler on a 10kg board, you might wonder why this minor difference matters. And it’s a very valid question. Unless you’re an elite paddler, the difference between a 500gm and 600gm paddle will be unnoticeable and irrelevant to you, other than bragging rights of having the lightest paddle. But the difference between a 500gm and 2kg paddle is more significant. And bear in mind that the paddle is your engine, and most of your effort and wear & tear on your body, is generated through the forces you generate on the paddle. Repetitive movements with a weight that’s two or three times the very lightest can cause early fatigue, poor paddling technique, and general all round misery. In fact, we’ve heard stories of people who have almost given up SUP until they tried a better paddle. It’s also true that rotator cuff injuries are not uncommon in SUP, and a heavy paddle, alongside a poor technique, can rapidly increase your chances of injury.
If you’re someone who obsesses about weight and value, then you’ll find this graph interesting…
On a weight/price efficiency factor, our McConks fixed carbon SUP paddle comes out as the star buy!
Of course, it’s not just about the weight. Blade shape, size and angle can all have an equal impact on fatigue and developing good paddle technique, but individual preferences are more important for these factors. Therefore it’s much more difficult to say objectively one paddle is better than another. So that’s the subject for a future blog post.
A one piece paddle will be lighter than two or three piece paddles of similar blade size. Each connection/adjustment mechanism requires additional or thicker carbon fibre and adds additional weight.
And the difference between them will vary depending on the quality of the paddle. So a 100% 3k carbon fibre paddle will be about 80gm heavier for a two piece paddle, or about 200gm heavier for a three piece paddle. As the percentage of carbon decreases, then the weight penalty for two or three piece will increase. But again, don’t sweat the small stuff. Unless you’re an elite paddler, you probably won’t notice an 80gm difference.
If you’re only ever racing, if you only ever use a single inflatable SUP board, if you only ever surf on your SUP, then one fixed paddle might work for you. But surf performance, for example, is enhanced with a shorter stick and smaller blade. Race performance is improved with a longer carbon SUP stick. So if you’re a SUPper who likes to do a little bit of everything (as many are), or if you’re just starting out and don’t really know what type of arena you’re going to use your SUP in, then getting a fixed length paddle might turn out to be an expensive mistake. Unless of course you’ve got very deep pockets, have an understanding partner who lets you accumulate expensive kit, or preferably both.
Something that has long annoyed SUP paddlers about adjustable SUP paddles is the ability of the connector to always end up at the point at which your hand rests on the shaft. This is a serious frustration for some paddlers, and it’s the upper adjustment mechanism that your hand nearly always ends up over. So there’s no difference between a two piece or three piece paddle in this respect – a one piece wins outright if this is one of your big bugbears.
Stiffness and flex
This all comes down to the quality of the connections in adjustable SUP paddles. And it’s probably less about stiffness than consistency of flex. A single solid SUP paddle will have a very consistent flex from handle to blade. Because there are no connections, the carbon tube is a consistent thickness throughout its length (assuming it’s a quality tube), meaning that flex, and rebound from flex, is consistent and predictable. The more connections you have, the more the variability in the flex and rebound. For most paddlers, most of the time, we would content that this isn’t that significant an issue. But elite athletes disagree, and some people claim that they can really feel the benefit of the consistency of flex with a fixed piece paddle.
The more moving parts anything has, the more points of weakness and failure there are. This is a simple fact of life, and is true no matter how good the connections are. Obviously, better quality paddles have better connections, and are less likely to fail. But even these, when compared to single piece paddles are more likely to fail. But this must be compared to the risks of travelling with a single, long piece of carbon, even if this travelling is only in your van!
Which leads us on to transportability
It goes without saying that the shorter the package is, the easier it is to transport. A three price paddleboard paddle is about 1m long in its longest piece. A one piece SUP paddle can be up to 2.3m long. So a three piece adjustable paddle can be thrown in the back of the car, can be put in an inflatable SUP bag, and can be carried on a plane. Also, if you ever need to ship a paddle anywhere, the shipping costs for anything over 2m are prohibitive. And no matter how well protected the paddle is, a 2.3m long pole is at greater risk of being damaged during 3rd party transport, and maybe even in the back of your van, than three 1m SUP paddle sections side by side in a padded bag. There’s strength in numbers you know!
Alloy SUP paddles are always cheap, poor quality paddles bundled with poor quality, budget SUP packages. Some of the worst on the market are no more than a very heavy kids toy, with a blade that flexes and loses all drive as you put the power on. Only the shaft of an alloy paddle is aluminium alloy. The blade will normally be polyurethane or polypropylene. There’s an adage in SUP which says that you can have fun on a bad board with a good paddle. But you can’t paddle a good board with a bad paddle. Alloy paddles have probably done more to put people off paddleboarding than any other single factor and should be avoided at all costs!
Glassfibre Nylon / PU SUP Paddles are a hybrid SUP paddle made from a glass fibre shaft and polypropylene or polyurethane blade. These are a really good paddle for beginners. Significantly lighter than alloy paddles, and normally with a better quality SUP blade, and one that doesn’t bend in a strong gust of wind, these are the best entry level paddle. And the best bit of all? A PP or PU blade is almost indestructible. So, if as a beginner, you scrape the blade along a reef, or smack it into a rock, it won’t be damaged. The fiberglass shaft also has a good level of flex for a beginner. Not being as stiff as a carbon SUP stick, it is more forgiving to bad paddle technique and is less likely to lead to injury or early fatigue.
A 100% Glassfibre SUP Paddle differs from fiberglass / PU SUP paddles by having a glass fibre blade. A glass fibre blade is stiffer than a PU or PP blade, losing less power to flex – therefore more efficient. And they’re lighter than PU/PP blades, and that reduced swing weight makes the paddling experience more pleasant. But the trade is that fibre glass blades are brittle and more prone to damage and dints than a PU/PP blade.
Carbon fibre SUP paddles are lighter and stiffer seems to be the current fashion for SUP paddles. The very lightest SUP paddles are 100% carbon 3k weave paddles. As the carbon percentage decreases, the weight increases. Carbon is also significantly stiffer than glass fibre, and therefore each phase of the paddle stroke generates kinetic force (forward movement), so carbon paddles are the most efficient. However, carbon paddles are very unforgiving of poor paddling technique, and may lead to long term injury if your paddle technique is poor.
Carbon SUP paddles typically also have more attention paid to the blade design – with a more complex shape and dihedral that further improves stability and efficiency in the stroke. McConks carbon SUP paddles for example are shaped by a CNC cutter and have been designed with a fluid dynamics modelling software to optimise the shape and dihedral of the blade.
You can get cheaper carbon paddles with a lower percentage of carbon and higher percentage of glass. This increases the weight and reduces the stiffness. And reduces the cost. The price benefits make these lower percentage carbon paddles attractive to many. However, before you make a similar choice, just bear in mind that McConks 100% carbon SUP paddles are lower cost than many brands 70% or 50% carbon paddles – lighter and stiffer. And we use the very best technology to design them.
So, to wrap up this blog, what our main recommendations?
Never buy an alloy paddle. You will hate it within minutes, and will be upgrading to a better paddle soon. If you’re buying a SUP package that comes with an alloy paddle, decline the alloy paddle and upgrade to a better paddle as soon as you can afford to!
Glass fibre SUP paddles with nylon/polyprop/polyurethane blades are best for beginners. They give the perfect balance between value, performance, weight and stiffness. And they are more forgiving to poor paddle technique.
If you’re ready for the step to carbon SUP paddles, if you want the lightness and the stiffness, and you’re confident that your paddle technique can cope with the stiffness of carbon, go for it. Figure out your budget, see what’s within your budget, and try lots of different paddles. But you won’t find a medium bladed 100% premium carbon fibre paddle for less money than McConks paddles. And McConks paddles consistently beat everyone else in our weight/price value.
If you’re searching for marginal gains and elite performance, and you have deep pockets, lots of storage, and a very understanding partner, then fixed length SUP paddles are for you. For everyone else, two or three piece paddles are a better value/performance compromise.
If you’re into your river SUP adventures, this is one of the most ephemeral or difficult to complete challenges. For most of the year, it’s not possible to SUP England’s most famous river Thames from its source. That’s because for most of every year, and for all of some years, the water level is below ground.
So in the summer if you head to the famous Wadworths pub, the Thameshead Inn, you won’t see the River Thames. In the very upper reaches of the Thames catchment, high up in the Cotswolds, the geology of the river is Cotswold chalk. Which is in effect a big sponge. And this sponge needs to become super saturated from prolonged rainfall before the river sits on the top of it. There are a number of signs in and around the Cotswolds that will let you know if the Thames is might be paddleable at its very source. And right now, early Jan 2018, those signs are evident. And one of the signs is the Thames being visible at the Thames Head Inn!
So to paddle the Thames at the source, what do you need to know?
Parking and access to SUP the source of the Thames
There is no confirmed right of navigation of the very headwaters of the Thames. It is not part of the navigable Thames. Therefore access is likely to be contested by the landowners. McConks believes that there is a presumed right of access for navigation for all inland rivers, and that as long as you access the river from a public highway, and you remain on the water, rather than on the land, you are not breaking any laws. But this is based on long standing traditions, legislation and byelways, and recent access rights cases have not been tested in the English Courts. So landowners might contest that you are breaking the law, and they might co
ntest this with dogs and guns and shouting, rather than pursuing through the courts. But mostly more by farmers shouting at you. If you are willing to take this risk, please make sure you park on public property and cause no nuisance or damage wherever you launch from. And ensure that you respond calmly and non aggressively to any challenges. And it might be a good idea to better understand the legal position and historic rights to be able to ‘discuss’ the matter with any landowners who challenge you.
In the interests of good relations, it might be better to start at Cricklade and paddleupstream as far you can get, rather than start at the source and paddle downstream. The reason for saying this is that the landowners around Cricklade are more used to seeing water users on river that flows through their land. But be aware, that the course of the Thames in the meadows around Cricklade might not be obvious when the river is out of bank, and that there are protected wildflower meadows. Any damage to these wildflower meadows is a criminal act under environmental legislation.
If the source of the Thames is above ground, the water will be fast flowing in places, and large sections of the Upper Thames are likely to be in flood and out of bank. Obstructions, and fast flowing debris could be an issue. You needs to aware of what strainers are, how to spot them and avoid them, and as an absolute minimum you need to be wearing a buoyancy aid designed for river white water, and quick release leash, and a helmet. You should consider whether a leash is a greater hazard than personal safety aid, and should also consider carrying a safety knife. And you will be an experienced whitewater river paddler.
If any of this is new to you, you shouldn’t be attempting to paddle the source of the Thames without a qualified instructor.
And never paddle alone!
You might not want to be using a brand new carbon paddle, because your paddle might become an obstruction clearance aid! So an indestructible plastic bladed paddle is recommended.
An inflatable SUP, designed for river touring, will move fastest, but an all round board (albeit with the right fins) might actually be more maneuverable around and over obstructions.
Standard depth fins are likely to keep catching the river bed in shallow sections. You should consider getting specialist river fins. These are shallower than normal fins, but longer to keep surface area up and improve tracking, and have a strong rake to cut through and shed weeds.
Obviously a mobile phone, well protected from water, is important, but be aware that the Upper Thames is quite rural, so there will be extended sections without mobile coverage.
And remember what we said about personal safety kit.
So there are many obstacles and barriers to trying to standup paddle the Source of the Thames, including access, lack of water, safety, and environmental legislation, which is why so few people have done it. But if you do, please share some photos with us on facebook!
McConks are not about long celebratory blogs about how great 2017 was. Or how big 2018 is going to be for us.
We could talk about how great our customers are, and what great reviews we’ve received of our inflatable SUP boards. We could say how we’ve loved being tagged in our riders photos, loving seeing riders from 4 to 70 on our boards.
We could talk about the number of instructors, schools and guides who now use McConks inflatable SUP for their businesses. Or we could talk about the rave reviews our new WindSUP and surfSUP boards have been getting.
Or we could tell you about the development of our new whitewater paddleboard, and how it has been winning fans in unexpected places.
We’re really proud of our environmental credentials, and our ethical and sustainable principles, so we could tell you about that. Or we could tell you about the charities we’ve supported and how we’re supporting charitable bodies such as the Princes Trust.
But we don’t like bragging, so we’ll just let the numbers do the talking.
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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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