As a young pup, pre-pubescence, a happy-go-lucky attitude is usually par for the course. Not always but usually. Running around – rather tearing about – without a care in the world. Just as it should be. Fast forward slightly to that time in life when hair starts sprouting from unusual places, anatomical morphing leads to unexpected sizing of muscular areas and mentally, hormonally everything changes into a whole new entity. At the same time those tiny chemical particles that inhabit your brain can also shift, in some cases being a little (to a lot) out of balance.
During teenage years our subject in question always knew there was something a little off, deep down. But as was the case back then, unlike now, no labels were available. Instead – at first subconsciously – that mildly odd feeling, which couldn’t quite be shook off, was termed: ‘doom feeling’. That suggests something bad might be impending but actually it was simply born of the musical and literacy interests of the subject.
Manifesting itself as only unease into twenty’s there wasn’t too much to be concerned by. Sunnier situations outweighing the dark were far more in abundance. Only every so often, as far as can be recalled, would the little black cloud move in to cast shadows. At this point it was often dismissed, our subject resorting to proven methods of blowing the clouds away. Most notably getting creative and using the ocean as a source of cleansing.
Unfortunately conditioning and onset of further aging can never really quell these feelings. Instead, alongside additional responsibility – a factor of life as we grow – the unease grows in tandem. At this point society began to recognise mental health challenges. Terms and descriptions have been doled out and it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about issues in public. Anxiety, which is what we’re referring to with this story, is a very real thing, as many will know.
To lesser or greater degrees this is what our subject deals with. Some days can be more severe than other periods. And there’s not really any trigger to put fingers upon. Life can be peachy; life can be hard; yet anxiety comes and goes with no discernible way of identifying the cause. What is true, however – certainly of this instance – is anxiety can often be seen trundling along mental health tracks in the distance, it’s final destination the subject’s mind.
Big life-changing events do nothing to help anyone with anxiety. In fact, these circumstances make it worse, exacerbating the experience. That once below the surface bubbling can emerge as something more. In this instance manifested as frustration and mild anger, especially when thinking about normally innocuous situations.
It’s long been communicated hobbies such as stand up paddle boarding – exercise in general – can help when dealing with anxiety – mental health problems in general. Buying in to the Zen-esque phrase: ‘leave all your problems ashore’ isn’t quite right as those problems still remain, even when you’re indulging in your chosen discipline. You never forget, even when out in the ocean. But paddling can serve as a release – sometimes. We say ‘sometimes’ as unfortunately SUP can make things worse. In the case of our subject, who searches for ‘conditions’, having studied at length weather info, swell data, wind patterns and tides and such. When the planets don’t align, which can be regularly, as let’s face it: Mother Nature isn’t exactly consistent, those frustrations mentioned above can be heightened.
Mental health is a discussion topic on many people’s lips currently. It’s certainly seen as less taboo than previous. How to deal with it personally, however, is very individualistic. Talking can help as well as knowing oneself intimately and recognising the signs. If others are aware they can also be on hand. And physical activity like stand up paddling, on the whole, is a release valve that can be put to good use mostly…
If you’re struggling talk to someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
It’s been mentioned countless times in the past, by much more informed paddle sport luminaries than us, yet with each year’s new influx of SUPers entering the fold it’s still often missed. The fact is: paddles and paddling (the actual act of catching water, drawing through the stroke and recovering to repeat a momnet later) are THE most important aspects of SUP. In reality the paddle you’re holding – blade, shaft and handle – is THE defining piece of equipment you own as a stand up paddle boarder. The clue’s in the name. If paddles and paddling weren’t so important, and just a secondary afterthought, then we’d be referred to as stand up floaters…And nobody fancies that.
Of course, stand up paddlers need a craft. Yet look at the evidence. With SUP, or rather standing and paddling, being millennia old it’s not an actual board you ‘need’. The second coming of SUP, if you want to call it that, peddled via Laird, Kalama and crew back around the start of the noughties, seems to be more about boards than paddles if you follow the marketing by the big brands. But further back in history, way back before the Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu, Hawaii, featured sleds that may just have been crudely shaped, dug out, hollow pieces of tree trunk. Although, crude might not be fair, as our paddling forefathers sure knew a thing or two about propelling ‘machines’ forwards with a stick and blade or two.
The efficiency and quality of a paddler’s paddle back in those days could literally be life and death. Standing and paddling, as well as sitting and paddling, wasn’t recreational. It was a means to source food; hunt and feed your family. A way to transport necessary items for everyday life – and we’re not talking the weekly shop! Although in days gone by foraging from the land and water was the equivalent of visiting a supermarket – just a natural, environmentally sustainable one.
Paddling is also a route to new lands and was even how some continents were discovered. It’s written in history the ancient Polynesians discovered their extensive and vastly spread archipelago using a paddle. In some ways the paddle can be compared to the sail, which as we’re all aware is another form of harnessing natural power to travel, investigate, locate and discover.
Back to SUP, and it’s clear that paddlers should be thinking hard about what ‘engine’ they’re going to pairing that shiny new SUP board with. Here at McConks we offer a variety of spangly new inflatable boards to do battle with mother nature, explore and discover. Even if something as hardcore as ‘doing battle’ isn’t your thing McConks still has the right tool for the job. We even bundle our kit to get you going, out afloat and on the brine as soon as your gear lands at your doorstep.
So if have made your board choice, but are still wondering where to spend that hard earned cash allocated to a paddle, may we suggest having another look/see at the paddle currently in your basket. We’re pretty confident that a McConks SUP paddle, whatever part of the range it sits in, will be more than fit for purpose. And if you want the very best performance, our carbon race paddles are worth checking out.
And for those of you that don’t have any extra budget, fear not. You can always upgrade your paddle in the future when you have a bit more cash. As long you remember that your paddle is of utmost importance then you’ll be sweeping ahead – quite literally.
We also try to give as much information as possible, with as little marketing spin as possible, for every product. We want you to have all the information you need to buy the right board for you. But we appreciate you can absorb all the info we have listed for each product, yet you still may be none the wiser at the end of it all.
Reviews can help of course, both from our media partners as well as existing customers. And while these opinions are great we’re still keen to help even further. After all, buying a complete SUP package, for instance, is a pretty substantial commitment.
[Wye Valley, Gloucestershire, 27/04/2020] – Serial charity fundraiser, Stacey Smithson-Grey,is attempting to walk 100km non-stop in 24 hours in May 2020.
Stacey is a passionate mental health campaigner, having been impacts by suicides during her job as a Highways England Traffic Officer, therefore is challenging herself to raise money for the Charity Mind.
“On a personal level, I’m doing this because suicide is an issue close to my heart, and Mind do such amazing work on suicide prevention.
“I know two individuals who took their own lives in 2019 and I have a close friend who has severe PTSD. Sean, my husband, has just left the Army after 22 year’s service. As a military wife, I understand the struggles that servicing and ex-service personnel can have with their mental health. Most notably individuals suffering from PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“And metal health is a growing issue during lockdown, and something I really want to help raise awareness of.”
SUPhubUK is the online home for standup paddleboarding in the UK, maintaining maps of where to paddle, where to find an instructor or rental spot, and keeping a calendar of SUP events. SUPhubUK is sponsored by McConks SUP, a Cotswold based standup paddleboard manufacturer and brand.
Stacey is also keen standup paddleboarder, being an ambassador for one of the world’s largest SUP brands, Starboard.
Stacey is also training to take part in 9 x 100km ultra marathons around the UK. These should have happened in 2020 but are being postponed
The donation page is JustGiving page. JustGiving are currently not charging any platform fees, so 100% of everything donated will go directly to Mind! Stacey is currently 66% towards achieving my target of £5k, which is beyond amazing with two weeks to go.
I’m alright jack just doesn’t cut it right now | what McConks are doing to help
So we’ve been happily telling everyone how much we’re enjoying lockdown. Pizzas and camping in the garden, no commute to work, exploring the woods and picking wild garlic, listening to woodpeckers whilst studying wild orchids, and a whole heap of other reasons why our life is better right now than under ‘normal’ conditions.
That doesn’t escape from the fact that there’s a whole heap of misery and pain out there for some people, but it’s fair to say that we feel a bit helpless right now. We’ve offered up our van or bike and Andy as a driver to help distribute meals / food packages / medicines via local Cotswold groups, but this hasn’t been needed. So other than helping out a few people with yeast and flour (of which we have lots), we’ve not really been able to do much other than stick to the rules, and try and generate some content to keep people interested. But our role so far has been limited.
But we’re in the very lucky minority. It’s 99.9% certain that McConks will survive this episode, plus Andy’s salary from his water and environment consultancy work keep us pretty comfortable. We’re not really stressed by massive monthly outgoings (we haven’t got a massive mortgage or many monthly subscriptions), so we know we’re lucky right now.
In contrast to us, many people have lost loved ones and are suffering. Lots of others have their loved ones working long days and nights at risk of catching this horrible virus. And lots of people have significant financial and job worries. So it doesn’t feel to us like we’re doing enough right now to support the wider community.
What more can a SUP brand do to support our charities?
We’ve been thinking about what we can do to raise some money for charities who are struggling to raise money right now. And we’ve come up with the following ideas. If you’re feeling unable to help, like we are, then please contribute!
A charity raffle.
We’re going to be raffling off one of our SUPerlight SUPer strong inflatable SUPs. We’re going to be selling tickets via the webshop, and we’ll be raffling one of our Go Simple 10’6 all round beginner inflatable paddleboards, plus some smaller prizes. We’re also hoping to be able to add some experiences from our instructor and business partners and friends, but nothing is confirmed yet.
We’re not launching this just yet. There are a few other brands doing charitable activities (check out Fatstick’s / Sandbar SUPs charity auction, and the giveaway on the East of England Paddlesports page), and some brands doing marketing giveaways (not for charity sadly, which seems like a missed opportunity!), so we won’t be launching straight away to avoid competing with them. But we are intending to go live within the next couple of weeks. We haven’t yet decided on the charity/ies, so if you’ve got any to recommend, please let us know in the comments!
We’re going to be designing a fairtrade eco SUPisolation t-shirt and hoodie series, and all profits from that will go to charity.
p.s. If anyone wants to donate their drawing/design skills to the cause, we’d love to hear from you! It goes without saying you’ll get namechecked and a free t-shirt!
We’re going to be donating 2.5% of all sales revenue between 01 April 2020 and the end of this current stage of lockdown. We’ve set no maximum limit, but we have set a floor limit of £200. We’ve already donated £50 to Stacey Smithson Grey’s #lockdown100 challenge, and £50 to our local Trusell Trust foodbank. And we will donate the remaining £100 split evenly between a mental health charity and a charity supporting key workers. If you want to nominate a charity, please do so in the comments below!
SUP mastermind charity quiz
We’ve been beavering away for over a week now on a SUPer paddleboarding quiz. At over fifty multiple choice questions, it is the absolute quiz of quizzes covering all things paddleboarding. We’re not entirely sure when we’ll finish it, but when we do, there will be prizes for the top 3 on the leaderboard, and we will ask for a small donation to the RNLI for every entry.
How do I get involved?
Please comment below if you want to nominate a charity.
If you want to be notified when any of these comps/initiatives go live, please comment below, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (links in the header at the top of the page).
The BIG SUP bounce back is in full effect. Paddlers everywhere are preparing themselves for when beaches and waterways are available for stand up paddle boarding once again. We’re not suggesting everybody’s fully out of the woods just yet – as far as COVID-19 goes. There’s still a long way to go in terms of a vaccine and a return to ways of life that once were normal (minus all the bad elements we hope). But following developments closely, and seeing how other countries are operating – particularly those who’ve managed the outbreak well – we can see light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s no question: when we’re allowed to bounce back to SUP properly we’ll have to do so in a different way – change, after all, can sometimes be a good thing. Stand up will become more solitary, with perhaps only a couple of fellow paddlers in the mix during your session (at least in the short term). Social distancing, even when afloat, will still need to be kept. And that’s OK, as long as we all have in mind best safety practises.
Can I SUP surf my McConks inflatable stand up paddle board?
Pics: Richard Heathcote
‘Surfing’: such an ambiguous term in the grand scheme of things. For some surfing will never be anything other than using arms to propel a prone surfboard, without a paddle, out into the brine to do battle with clean, overhead and hollow sets marching in procession from the deep Atlantic. For others ‘surfing’ is any act that involves sliding along, or upon, a moving piece of oceanic energy otherwise known as swell (this can also include stand up paddle boards).
Using a paddle to get from point A to B has been done for thousands of years. Standing and paddling also isn’t anything knew. It may also surprise you to learn that standing, paddling and riding waves is also an old technique that some fisherman (and women) of the world have employed for centuries. Only in the last few decades has sliding liquid walls become more a recreational activity with no real purpose other than fun.
It’s no secret stand up paddle board can give you ‘more’ in wave environments. Especially those locations where the surf is slack, inconsistent, small or hard to access. Perhaps it’s a combo of all those elements. You won’t necessarily get higher numbers of wave rides than a person piloting a longboard nose rider. But you will get longer slides if you become particularly adept with a SUP and paddle.
For ultimate SUP surfing performance you need a hard board, there’s no two ways about it. Hard boards are just that: hard. Whereas air-filled boards, or iSUPs, are enclosed cavities, with a top and bottom joined together by fine strands of thread – commonly known as Dropstitch. An iSUP’s deck and hull are then secured to one another but the board’s rails. There’s a bit more to it than that but in a nutshell there you have an inflatable SUP. The only thing left to do is fill it with air.
The continuing search for more and more rigid iSUPs, and technology/solutions to make it so, is ongoing. All air boards have what’s known as a deflection point. This is the part of the board that even when filled with optimum amounts of air (PSI) will still ‘give’ slightly. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a trait of inflatable SUPs. When surfing though, due to inflatables having deflection points forwards of where the paddler stands (generally), it tends to ‘give’ slightly as you take off. Therefore adjusting your SUP surfing technique is a requirement. If you don’t you’ll ‘pearl’ or nose dive.
Sliding along waves on a hard SUP allows the pilot to engage the board’s rail. You can’t do this with an inflatable as the PVC material is rounded and won’t grip. That said, with practice you’ll learn how to coax your inflatable SUP onto the green face of a wave to track down the line.
In recent years some brands have employed a ‘hard release rail’ which is usually a strip of rubber, though harder than the board’s material itself is still malleable enough to allow your iSUP to be folded when not in use. This edge aims to fake a rail and get air boards to grip more than without. It can also increase rigidity to a degree.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards are generally made from PVC. This tends to stick, or suck, to the water. As riders take off on swells they won’t get quite the acceleration a hard SUP will give. But with a few glides under your belt this will be forgotten.
So can you surf your inflatable SUP? Answer: yes, of course you can. And iSUPs are much more efficient at SUP surfing these days than they were a few years back. There are some limitations if you compare to a hard shell board. But then if you’re comparing it’s a bit like putting apples and pears next to one another – it’s not like for like so isn’t a fair test so to speak.
Many paddlers use inflatables for surfing. The benefits of being able to pack them down, stow them in the boot of car, or travel overseas without too many excess baggage fees, means they’re the practical choice. There’s plenty of fun you can have atop an iSUP in waves as long as you approach sliding swells with an open-minded view. But don’t take our word for it. Next time you get chance to chuck a McConks inflatable stand up paddle board at some surf why not? We guarantee it’ll put a mile-wide smile on your chops…
SUP hacks, tips and tricks – alternative stand up paddle board leash attachment options.
Leashes, or more accurately what type of leash for the environment you’re paddling in, have been talked about for years. If you’re SUP surfing at coastal venues then a straight leash is considered the go-to whereas river paddlers will be wearing a quick-release belt at the waist.
But what about if you’re paddling flat water recreationally? Should you go straight surf leash or coiled?
Ultimately your leash is a way of keeping you in contact with your stand up paddle board and therefore a safety feature of stand up paddling. But leashes can get in the way, particularly when stepping back to pivot turn. Leashes can also slip off your SUP’s deck and cause inefficient forwards momentum.
One solution could be attaching your leash to the board’s centrally-located carry handle. On some hard boards there’s a leash plug in the same place. As long as you’re not paddling in performance SUP environments then adopting this form of SUP tethering should be no issue. It may feel odd at first having your leash in front of you but quick smart you’ll get used to it and be enjoying a snag-free ride.
If you have side/rail handles you could also try fitting your leash here as well. Experimenting with SUP settings a sure-fire way to discover your optimum and what suits your SUP scenario the best.
Don’t forget to keep your SUP tricks, hacks and tips coming.
We’ll back on the water stand up paddle boarding soon! There’s no question. Our world may have changed irreversibly by then but maybe for the better in the long run. Maybe we’ll be kinder to each other, have more empathy with others. Maybe we’ll travel less now we’ve explored our what’s in our back yards a bit more thoroughly. Maybe we’ll buy more locally more regularly. There are hopefully lots of positive changes coming out of the COVID19 hiatus. But one element that won’t have altered is our appreciation, want and desire to get outdoors, to experience nature and be part of something natural.
SUP is just that…The act of paddling stood on top of a floating craft – inflatable or rigid – is a ‘real feel’ activity and feels like you’re immersed in nature. Even just bobbing along, without paddling feels good, and leaves you feeling revitalised and fulfilled at the end of the SUP-session. It’s hard to convey in words, or to quantify in pictures and video, yet all SUPers know the feeling only too well.
As the government starts to think and talk about the end of lockdown, we’re looking towards the future and can start to see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That first dip of your paddle blade; the first glide from the river bank; the first sight of a kingfisher; the first sight of a dolphin or otter;practising those pivot turns (you not the otter); that sense of excitement as your round the bend not knowing what delights you might find; heart rate increasing; sounds of nature, sun beating down; a slight breeze maybe; a touch of swell in the mix. This is what we’ve got to look forward to. It will happen again when we bounce back.
And bounce back McConks will too! Stand up paddle boarding is not disappearing from the world any time soon. We all need activities like SUP in our lives. It might be even more a solitary (or small group) sport in the next few weeks, months and years, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The shared experience will still be there when we communicate having been on the water, even in virtual communication.
Bouncing back from setbacks is human nature. Learning and becoming more resilient and learning from past mistakes are also signs of the human ability to evolve. Paddling for many is a release; a form of escapism yet we’ll also evolve within SUP and as a community with common interests. Despite some of the heated discussions that there have been around whether one should paddle during lockdown, there is more that unites most of us than divides us!
Check your existing SUP gear over. Make sure there’s no damage to your board, paddle or fins (especially if you’ve been larking around with them in the garden like we have! If there is, and you can repair, then do so. If you need to replace some bits then do it sooner rather than later. We’re already sending out replacement fins and screws to the most forward looking paddlers. And supply chains across the SUP space have been interrupted, so supplies of spares might run dry if demand exceeds supply.
Give your paddling apparel a look/see. Make sure it’s clean and fresh for that first session back afloat. If wetsuit zips are corroded with salt you’ll need to sort them out. For anyone needing new kit then hit up the McConks shop where there’re plenty of available accessories like SUP pumps, rashvests, polarised sunnies and more.
If you’ve been holding off getting your first SUP, replacing your old machine or adding to your quiver then now’s the time. Make sure you’re adequately kitted out with some quality McConks SUP gear, all of which you can find in our online shop.
It’s been tough for some people to keep on top of fitness during lockdown. If like us you’ve been cultivating a lockdown belly, it’s time to kickstart training for the BIG SUP bounce back. So, go for a run (safely of course). Maybe get your bike out. If you need to familiarise yourself with balancing again then bust out the balance board. If you don’t have one check out the range of McConks balance boards we have in the shop (produced by the awesome daddyboards).
Get planning! Decide where you’re going to paddle and how you’re going to achieve this. It doesn’t need to be an epic journey, race or surf sesh. A mellow float up and down your local stretch will suffice. Get your head back into SUP and thinking like a paddler. If you’re looking for inspiration about where to paddle, make sure you check out SUPhubUK – the most complete map of spots, events, instructors and clubs covering the UK.
You can also start perusing weather forecast data again. Whilst predictions a few weeks out aren’t 100% accurate they can at least give some indication of general conditions, and help you spot when the next settled period of dry and calm weather is likely to be.
We’ll not lie: it’s not going to be easy coming out of this lockdown period. We’ve all experienced all kinds of stresses and strains – whether than be financial worries, personal loss, job security or a whole heap of other possible concerns. But there are few better tonics to stress and anxiety than spending time on or near water. And as we all know, SUP is far and away the best thing to do on water! It’s by no means the be all and end all but it’ll help.
McConks SUP: bouncing back into stand up paddle boarding since 2020!
A change is gonna come | the perfect song for our times?
Hope you’re well friends. It’s Andy here.
I’ve recently been asked to do that social media chain thing – 10 albums that influenced your life, no description etc etc. Being the kind of person that I am, I straight up ignored the rules that say not to include any description, not to explain why and so on. I want to tell people why that particular album was so important to me (the one that was my favourite when I broke my neck when I was 18 for example). That does mean that sometimes I don’t get around to posting every day because it takes a bit more time to think and compose. But everything in good time!
As part of this process, I was reminded of an album that was pretty important to me as a 16 year old. Yellow Moon by the Neville Brothers is a relatively unknown album the from the late 80s – even it even sounded a bit early 90s in places. The lead singer Aaron Neville has a very unique falsetto voice that puts the Bee Gees to shame, and his brothers Art, Charles, Ivan and Cyril provide perfect backing vocals over the rhythm they all provide. And the whole album feels like it has been touched by genius – as you might expect being produced by Daniel Lanois, with a little help from Brian Eno.
Amongst many of the stunning covers on the album, the Sam Cooke song “A Change is Gonna Come’ is a tour de force. Written by Cooke in 1964 against a backdrop of segregation and apartheid, and apparently inspired by Dylan’s blowin’ in the wind, the lyrics of the song look forward to a significant change in how people respect each other as people (link to video and lyrics at end of article).
The song was inspired by various personal events in Cooke’s life, most prominently an event in which he and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana. Cooke felt compelled to write a song that spoke to his struggle and of those around him, and that pertained to the Civil Rights Movement and African Americans. The song contains the refrain, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”
Sam Cooke was sadly murdered at the young age of 33 by a motel owner at a motel he was staying in mysterious circumstances, and there are many theories as to why he was shot if you’ve got the time to research them – from label infighting, to arguments over women and drugs, to the government killing him. But we’ll probably never know the truth.
Times have changed massively since the 60’s of course. And Cooke would probably be surprised if he could see the world now. Whilst there have been massive steps forwards in equal rights, he would probably be somewhat dumbfounded to see a racist and bigot in power in the White House. A bigot whose words have the power to (and possibly already have) knocked the civil rights movement back decades.
But he would also be surprised to see how the lyrics, although written for a very different time and reason, resonate very strongly right now, during the Coronavirus outbreak. In fact, almost every single paragraph has meaning in 2020.
“Just like the river I’ve been running ever since”.
Other than the last two weeks, where this virus has physically forced us to down tools and take a bit of time out with our immediate family, has there been a time when you haven’t felt like you’ve been constantly running.
Running for that next coffee from Costa, from meeting to meeting. From work to school pick up. From a sneaky paddle to work? And right now, we’ve been forced to stop running. And doesn’t that just feel quite nice, like part of the world we’d like to see after COVID19? Obviously it’s not true for everyone; some people are working harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives, and to those people, we truly salute you. And we recognise that not everyone’s experience is the same. We feel extremely lucky to live on the outskirts of a small town, with a big enough garden for barbecues, camping and trampoling.
It’s a lot more difficult to relax in the way we’ve been able to if you’re stuck in a tower block in central London, with your local park closed, and with the police moving everyone on who dares to sit on a bench for 5 minutes.
“it’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”.
How relevant does that feel right now? The fear of death frames some people’s response to this pandemic more than others. Sometimes it’s those who are broaching the reality of their mortality for the first time who seem to have the strongest opinions about how strictly one follows the lockdown guidance. Whereas some of a grander age who have already accepted their mortality, and who, according to government guidance should be fully self isolating, are those who are happy to go shopping daily for a loaf of bread. For those, enjoying what’s left of their life might be more important than preserving it for as long as possible. What’s most important for all of us, is to remember that different individuals have different emotional needs, and that metaphorically pointing fingers on social media achieves nothing but inciting division and hatred in the long run.
“Then I go to my brother and I say, “Brother, help me please” But he winds up knockin’ me back down on my knees”
There are soooo many heart warming stories about how people are supporting others and helping their communities. And just look at how the community has got behind Major Tom for example…. But contrast this with the vitriol poured over social media when a member of our sup community recently asked for some advice about whether they can paddle during times of lockdown. The advice is now reasonably clear (finally), with the RNLI imploring every water user not to partake in watertime to reduce the potential for accident and impact on emergency services. But at the time the question was asked, the government guidance was very vague, and probably deliberately so.
And the way that people knocked down different interpretations was simply shameful.
Q. l live next to a river and paddling is my daily exercise.
A. What’s so ****Ing difficult to understand about #staythe****athome.
The real answer (at the time, things have changed now!) should have been something like “it really isn’t clear. The government advice is that you can do one form of exercise a day. The Canal and River Trust and Environment Agency haven’t closed their waters, and British Canoeing and Surfing England are still actively encouraging watersports as a form of physical exercise and mental recuperation. Furthermore, the health secretary has made it clear that any form of exercise is acceptable, not just running, cycling and walking. However, many people and organisations, including the RNLI have asked people to be careful to make sure you don’t put any more pressure on emergency services and the NHS that are going to be under severe pressure in the near future. On this basis, many people have chosen not to paddle, and you might incur the wrath of those people who are choosing not to paddle for the good of everyone. And what you think to be safe paddling for you, might not be for everyone. And there is a real risk that people who don’t have your experience will see you, think that paddling is safe, and get themselves into trouble.”
Of course, it’s all changed now with almost every organisation, including those above now agreeing that now isn’t the time to be paddling, and asking all paddlers and watersports enthusiasts to stay off the water. The waves and water will still be there in a few weeks time. But that initial response from some, refusing to accept that there were alternative points of view was shocking and hugely disappointing. Even if you disagree with a point of view, there are better ways to respond that just simply knocking the person down.
In times like these we should be standing together no matter how deep our differences of opinion run. And taking time to thoughtfully reply to honest questions and points is beholden on all of us. Resorting to insults should be left to the playground.
“There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long. But now I think I’m able to carry on.”
At the start of the lockdown, I was anxious. Like many of you, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep it up without going stir crazy. Outdoor stuff is what our family does. And the idea that we might be like caged animals in our house filled me with dread. The outdoors is our mental health release, and I really didn’t know how we would deal with life without that regular escape to blue and green places.
But we’ve got used to it. Actually scrap that, we’ve more than got used to it. We love being able to hear the birdsong without the road traffic every morning. We’ve heard woodpeckers on our bike rides almost every day for two weeks now. We’ve found new bike routes to get to see our local rivers, and we’ve discovered that there is so much more right on our doorstep. We’ve uncovered new copses and coverts, and watched the spring flowers unfurl – Anenomes, Bluebells and Celendines right on our doorstep. Most years we might have driven to a woodlands to watch this happening. But it’s right here on our doorstep. Who knew?
We’ve spoken to more people in our local community more often, and for longer, than we have before. Because lots of people have more time. And are willing to talk. And I have absolutely proved that I need to stop driving so much. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and others have proved (to me at least), that our reliance on the car/van is over. We can massively reduce our miles but still maintain the same level of service for customers. And hopefully the same is true for those irresponsible companies that fly all over the world in the name of business.
Air quality is better all around the world, the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted has dropped significantly. And we’re eaten better quality food than we ever have – because we’re buying even more locally sourced food that we did before, and supporting more local businesses. And have more time to prepare it.
Of course, and as said above, we recognise that not everyone is as lucky as we are. And if truth be told, we’re exhibiting classic signs of survivor syndrome because we feel guilty almost every day because we’re so lucky!
But that notwithstanding, not only am I now more comfortable than I was three weeks ago that I can just carry on. It goes way beyond that. I think we can all carry on. We can all learn lessons from this. And it seems that I’m not alone. So many people we speak to feel the same – and a recent poll shows only 9% of us want life to return to ‘normal’ after COVID19 is under control. We just need to make it happen!
So let’s not put the unsustainable world back in place as an exact facsimile of the pre-COVID19 world. Don’t mourn the fact that we won’t return to normal after this. Celebrate it. A change for the better. The planet definitely is, so why shouldn’t we?
A change is gonna come – Neville Brothers
“A Change Is Gonna Come” words and music by Sam Cooke
I was born by the river in a little tent Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since
It’s been a long, a long time coming But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will
It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will
I go to the movie and I go downtown Somebody keep telling me don’t hang around
It’s been a long, a long time coming But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will
Then I go to my brother And I say, “Brother, help me please” But he winds up knockin’ me Back down on my knees
There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will
He was a little odd that’s for sure. Some may even call him a weirdo, but that’s a tad derogatory in my book. Reclusive, shy, maybe agoraphobic and I suppose anti-social but not weird. None the less the chap had never done anything to harm me or cause issue. Even when my ever so faithful, but oh so dumb, chocolate Lab decided to empty his bladder on the poor guy’s houseboat.
I say houseboat…It was more a dilapidated shed perched precariously on the river bank. In all the years I’d been walking Wilbur here the shed had weathered the storm. Severe gales, lashing rain and rising water levels had done nothing to undermine the house boat’s (seemingly) sturdy foundations.
On a couple of occasions, usually after particularly bad weather, I’d seen him fixing up window panes or bodging holes with bits of two by four. Every time I’d approached he’d made a quick getaway and disappeared inside.
At one point I felt I should knock and see if the chap wanted anything; supplies or whatever. Thinking better of it I decided he wasn’t a cripple and could quite easily get to the shops. He would therefore have all he needed.
The recluse’s behaviour did nothing to enamour the local kids. Time and again I heard the spiteful jeers and name-calling from neighbourhood youths. On a couple of occasions, I’d also heard what I assume to be breaking glass. Presumably, stones splintering windows after being chucked. Kids can be so horrible! But in some ways I got it – after all, I’d been a kid once. And I remember similar with regard to the ‘Cat Lady’ who lived down my road. Back in the day, she’d been the target of me and mate’s abuse for nothing other than her fondness of felines. Yet kids being kids we’d decided she should put up with a tirade of name-calling and heckling. I guess Mr Recluse was this generation’s version of Cat Lady from my teenage years.
I put these thoughts to the back of my mind, instead focusing on the warm spring sunshine that was belting down. Not a cloud in the sky, the riverside path quiet and Wilbur roaming free. Occasionally he’d stop, point, listen and then dart off into the undergrowth convinced he was going to find something fun to play with. It was probably rats or some other wild riverside dwelling creature.
My gaze turned towards the river. It wasn’t particularly full but was flowing fast. The weir, just upstream where Recluse’s houseboat was, would be a lot of fun today. If I had time I’d head home, grab my kayak and hit it. There was also a decent stopper hole for some rodeo action quite close which made this area one of the reasons so many boaters chose to reside close by. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time and my ankle was still giving me jip after a mountain bike spill. Oh well, you pays your dues I s’pose.
Suddenly my idle daydreaming was rudely interrupted by shouting and screaming. I was just round the bend from Recluse’s house but I knew that’s where the kerfuffle was coming from. And there was something different about these shouts. It wasn’t the usual jeering and jibing. There was urgency and alarm to the tone. No, make that fear…
Instinctively I began to run with Wilbur following heel side, tail wagging, tongue hanging out thinking this was the beginning of a fun new game with his master. My pace picked up. Rounding the bend, the weir and the houseboat came into view. I also caught the act of Mr Recluse legging it over the side of the railing with what appeared to be a stand up paddle board. He lobbed it in first before deftly vaulting the wooden houseboat rail – paddle in hand – and landing dead central across the centre line of the board. He had no top on and his lean, toned and tanned body glistened in the sun. I couldn’t work out whether he was sweating or had just got out of the shower.
As I’d previously noted there was quite some flow, yet Recluse was completely wobble free on his stand up paddle board. He began sprint paddling the short distance to the weir. As I ran I could see three lads gesticulating and animatedly pointing to the weir. I didn’t know what was happening at first but then it hit me. With horror I realised someone had obviously gone in and was now facing a life or death situation.
Knowing weir hydraulics intimately I put the hammer down, Wilbur still hot on my heels, although his panting was becoming more pronounced. If someone without any experience of moving river water had fallen in they were going to be in plenty of schtuck. The recirculating liquid at the weir’s base will do its level best to drag you to the bottom when the flow’s powerful. At first you go to the green room (some may even say this is quite pleasant), but then, pretty quick everything goes black as you’re pinned down in the depths. Any experienced kayaker will try and ride it out, relying on their buoyancy aid and buoyancy of the boat to eventually aid popping out. If you’re not used to this, which most aren’t, then you panic, try to fight it (which is fruitless) and in fact make matters worse. From the movement of the three lads I concluded whoever was in the drink wasn’t having the best of times.
I arrived next to the boys just as Recluse touched down at the weir. I squinted into the bubbling depths and couldn’t see anything. The water was a spiralling cauldron or whirlpools, froth and foam. Just as I was beginning to think the worst Recluse stepped forwards on his board towards the nose, engaging it with the recirculation. He expertly kept the board flat with quick and efficient brace strokes. The board was almost stationary, both sets of water movements pushing and pulling to keep his craft stock still. Yet I wasn’t fooled, there was a hell of a lot of skill going on here.
Spray and water bounced frantically off the nose of Recluse’s board. The relentless cascade of aerated fluid was also making him considerably more wet. Even though the sun was warm I started to fear for Recluse’s safety also – after all hypothermia can set in fast if you’re not wearing adequate protection. And here he was, paddling with bare torso. If he happened to fall, then he too would be in dire straits.
Suddenly, with swift and precise movement, Recluse dropped to his knees and reached down into the water. His hand disappeared below the surface for a split second before he yanked a person’s arm and finally whole body free of the weir’s clutches. Weighting the opposite rail of his stand up paddle board he pressed on the overhanging paddle blade, to further remain braced, while continuing to haul with his free arm.
The whole scene was horrifically compelling and all playing out in slow motion. How the hell Recluse managed it I don’t know but with the blink of an eye a teenage boy was now draped across the SUP’s deck. Recluse was now on his knees, using the paddle deftly again to keep things level as he let the board drift backwards. Once out of the main flow he used a ferry gliding technique to get back to the bank where the teen was hauled ashore. He was unconscious but breathing – fortunately.
Recluse wiped the sweat and additional moisture from his forehead, looked and smiled at me. Before I could say anything the sound of paramedics behind caused me to whirl round…
John, the teen who’d fallen in the river, made a full recovery – much to the relief of everyone. It was touch and go at first with him drifting in and out of consciousness on the way to the hospital. Secondary drowning was a concern but it seemed John hadn’t inhaled too much water and was therefore well on the mend a few days later.
Apparently John and his mates had been drinking. They’d made a quick stop off at Recluse’s riverside houseboat for some ‘fun’ (John’s mum had clipped him round the ear upon hearing this but then burst into tears and began cuddling her son while shaking). One of John’s mates had chucked a stone too hard and smashed a window resulting in the group legging it. Unfortunately for John he’d been too close to the bank and slipped and fell. The weir currents had grabbed hold and dragged him towards impending doom. Recluse, or rather Richard Wilson, had observed events as they unfolded and without thought or concern for his own safety had acted.
After everything had calmed we’d had a chat. It was at that point I realised I knew Richard only too well. He’d aged a little, was slightly gaunter, but was the same Richard Wilson that for years had charged some of the fiercest high volume water on the planet. He also had an addiction to ‘hucking’ massive waterfalls and drops, which resulted in a broken back five years ago. This put paid to his professional kayaking career overnight.
Depression set in, he told me, along with anxiety. He’d felt worthless and without purpose. A whole life’s ‘work’ and career down the pan. Following an extended period of rehab, he’d opted for a simpler life, taking on the dilapidated houseboat as a ‘doer upper’ project. Planning a full renovation instead it had become a chore waking every day with mental health problems. And then, six months ago, he found his love of paddling again – this time in stand up mode. By sheer luck than judgement Rich realised he had the perfect white SUP water training ground right on his doorstep – literally. Things had started to improve from there.
Rich didn’t quite know why stand up paddling had been an attraction. Whatever the case, it was damn fortunate for John that Rich was around and had such paddling expertise. Anybody else would’ve drowned that day…
I still see Rich from time to time – sometimes stomping shuv its aboard his SUP riding the weir (his level of skill is unquestionable). Rich’s antics often grab local news attention and social media groups are always buzzing about Rich when the river’s in flow. Recently a bunch of US white water stand up paddlers made the trek across the pond to check out Rich’s spot. Rich blew them all out the water!
He very much continues to be a recluse. But at least I get a nod of recognition these days. Wilbur still thinks it’s a good idea to urinate against Rich’s house boat as well…
There are lots of videos doing the rounds on social media about how to achieve this currently but in case you’ve missed these here are McConks’ top ways of achieving virtual SUP Nirvana in your own domain.
Probably the easiest way to get some resistance on your SUP paddle shaft is attaching some bungee chord. You’ll need a firmly fixed point to actually attach the bungee at one end. And then paddlers will need to locate the fulcrum point on their paddle shaft. Too low or too high and it won’t work. Raising yourself off the ground will help with clearance if you’re going to be using an actual stand up paddle board paddle – more on this in a mo.
If you want to increase the power, and you have long enough chord, doubling up the bungee will increase resistance. Whatever you do make sure that both the end attached to a fixed point and the end attached to your paddle is solid. The last thing you want is the bungee pinging back and spanking you in the face!
An inflatable board is perfect for a spot of virtual home SUP. Unlike a hard board you don’t need to be ultra-careful not to damage it. Obviously, though, remove the fins! It’s then worth raising your SUP up a fraction to help with paddle blade clearance. You also don’t want to damage your blade!
IMPORTANT! Make sure whatever used to raise your stand up paddle board is solid and not likely to collapse, fail and cause you injury. You can use a trellis system, bricks or even a wobble cushion more commonly paired with balance boards. And speaking of balance boards: if you’re particularly cat-like then placing your SUP on top of balance board and using in the same way atop a roller will further enhance your experience. Again, if you do opt for this then BE CAREFUL! Attach your SUP to the balance board via roof rack straps. Just make sure they’re tight enough.
If you want to take things a step further then you can add additional ambience for enhanced land SUPing. We’ve seen virtual reality headsets used but that may be too techy for many.
Getting the hosepipe out and having your kids or partner spray you with wet stuff is an obvious one. If no hose to hand then get a bucket of water chucked your way. Just don’t blame us if they decide to also lob the bucket at you! (Fortunately, the UK’s weather at the moment is sublime so getting a little damp is no issue – you’ll dry off quickly).
We also talked about using sounds from apps like Spotify and radio.garden in our virtual SUP holiday post. It’s the same with virtual home SUP in general. Ambient sounds of the sea or other can help create an atmosphere fit for stand up paddling – whatever floats your boat, er SUP, really.
Let us know your tips for home SUP or stand up paddle boarding in general.
Out and about – virtual stand up paddle boarding trips/holidays in the comfort of your own home.
Shouldn’t you be on your annual early-season SUP trip right about now? Maybe you were waiting for Easter hols before hitting go. Or perhaps that paddling holiday was a few weeks away, but now not likely to happen due to global health events. So what to do?
Taking this a step further creating a ‘holiday ambience/vibe’ around your virtual paddling is one solution to the SUP trip conundrum during lockdown. If it’s a sandy escape you’re looking for then scattering some around your SUPing area can be a good shout – kiddy play pits a good source for the grainy yellow stuff. Alternatively, if you have to be inside, then sand coloured carpet could work. Failing that colour in some bits of paper yellow and place beneath your board.
If you’re outdoors then you can utilise things like inflatable paddling pools and any offspring willing to help splash you with water. Wear your shorts/bikini or lighter weight paddling apparel; don’t forget your sunnies and make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen. (Fortunately the UK’s weather, in a lot of places at least right now, is bright and warm enough for this to not be a chore). There are lots of other ways you can recreate SUP in home or back garden – let us know your ideas.
Then you’ll need to create the actual ambience of being
abroad on away on a trip.
Plenty of ‘tools’ are available to help with this. Spotify,
for instance, has lots of options to help create an illusion of SUP. From
Comfortable Californian Ocean Waves sounds –
There’re literally hundreds. You could have something like this
playing out of smart speakers or coming through your ear buds, depending on how
crowded your location is and not potentially wanting to annoy some with your
Another option is utilising something
like Radio Garden http://radio.garden/which
gives access to radio stations across the globe. Perhaps you fancy a stab at
some French SUP action down Biscarosse way? No probs; click on the relevant station
link to have your space filled with French accents, and voila! instantaneous
thoughts of Francais SUP and you being virtually transported to the land of
baguettes and berets –
Maybe you then combine the above with some oceanic sounds via another device (x2 soundways) to give even more of an authentic paddling experience. Basically, getting creative will yield best results. We know it’s not the real deal but during times like this needs must. Using your imagination is a must but it’s something fun to mess about with and while away the hours until actual paddling is back on the cards. Oh, and we’ll add that a McConks inflatable stand up paddle board is perfect for this kind of thing as you’ll have no fear of damaging your SUP whilst messing about on land.
Let us know what you’re doing to make sure your paddle trip still goes ahead during lockdown.
Over to Tez who spills the beans on electrical tape and its multiple uses within stand up paddle boarding. Who’d have thought?
Electrical tape can be used for al sorts of things within SUP. Tez suggests carrying a spare roll with you on the water. That way if the connection between you handle and paddle shaft, or paddle shaft and blade becomes damaged you can quickly fix it. It’s not a long term solution but it’ll suffice to keep your session going.
Also, if you’re after extra grip on your paddle you could use shaft wax. That, however, doesn’t always suit everyone as it can be a bit messy. Enter our old pal electrical tape again. Simply wind some tape around the shaft and enjoy better grip/non-slip. You can also customise your paddle with funky electrical tape designs. Leave it a while to adhere before going afloat and you’ll be all set.
Are you wanting to ensure that your kids stay safe in and around water once this current lockdown is over? And maybe more importantly, are you looking for more informative and fun stuff to keep your offspring busy during lockdown? If so, the RNLI has launched to your rescue! The lifeboatds charity has launched a Facebook live event, occurring weekly at 10:15 on a Wednesday, alongside some fun downloadable challenges and puzzles.
Explaining the initiative, Sam Johnson, RNLI’s National Water Safety Education Partner said: “During these uncharted times, some of you may be looking for ways to engage, educate and entertain your children at home. And even more of you will have family, friends and loved ones in the same boat.
“From Wednesday (1 April), we’ll be hosting a live, interactive video for primary school age children from the RNLI’s central Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RNLI), with each session lasting for around 15 minutes. It’s the first in a series about water safety that we hope to continue for the foreseeable future, while children are unable to attend school.
“Each week, we’ll focus on a different water safety message – this week, it’s ‘Stop and think: Spot the Dangers’. Also, we’ll be linking to some fun educational resources for families to have a go at as well.
“We know that Governmental instructions are to stay at home so with this in mind, we would like to provide the resources for young people to continue to learn essential and lifesaving water safety for when the Government advise that people can resume back to normal life and may be visiting beaches.”
Ex-RNLI lifeguard and a member of the RNLI’s Water Safety Team, Liam Fayle-Parr, who has two young children himself, will be hosting the sessions.
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