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Scottish lockdown restrictions easing from Friday May 29, 2020: SUP to begin again.

Scottish lockdown restrictions look set to be eased as of tomorrow, Friday May 29, 2020. Lockdown has remained in place even as Britain’s rules were made less strict lifted over two weeks ago. But it appears, as with garden centres opening and listed leisure activities to begin – including golf, tennis, bowls and fishing – stand up paddle boarding will once again be on the cards.

This doesn’t mean COVID-19 has disappeared – far from it. Social distancing will remain whilst any ‘venue’ that needs to open for access will do so with certain rules in place. In a lot of cases it may mean SUP clubs, for instance, won’t open straight away instead requiring a period of time to formulate new operating procedures and have them in place ready to accept visitors. It should also be noted that many waterways will be without lifeguard cover so there’s a weighted risk for anyone going afloat. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has warned that large crowds at beauty spots aren’t wanted because gatherings increase virus transmission risk.

From the Scottish SUP fraternity’s point of view, however, lockdown restriction easing will mean a return to the water for a large number after an extended period away. And we can tell this by the sheer number of enquiries we’ve had from our Scottish friends in the last two days!

You can find out more from the BBC news article here.

For any of our Scottish friends needing stand up paddle board gear to get back afloat just shout.

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SUP hacks, tips and tricks: scoring the flattest possible water to paddle your SUP in wind.

It’s sunny, with blue skies in abundance. You have a window of opportunity and you’re keen to stand up paddle. Load up the car and off you go. Get to the put in but wait! Oh no! As idyllic as everything looked at home your chosen stretch of water is ruffled with wavelets. It’s a light breeze currently but as you stand and stare the wind’s picking up. Pretty soon there are white caps and your enthusiasm is waning. Having paddled in wind before you know how arduous it can be.

Is the above a familiar scenario to you? Has this happened before? Maybe it occurs frequently – particularly during summer, and especially if you’re a coastal paddler. Having scoured forecast data until you’re blue in the face, with no discernible indicators of wind, it can be disheartening to arrive with a blow in the mix.

So how do you go about scoring the flattest water for stand up paddle boarding during high season?

The first thing to realise is that most coastal venues, but particularly those on the southern fringes of Britain, are prone to the sea breeze effect during summer (although a sea breeze can set up at any coastal put in). In a nutshell, a sea breeze is the gradual warming of the land which sees that warm air begin to rise through the morning. Around the middle part of the day, the rising of this warmer air will become more rapid resulting in a void being left below. This gap needs to be filled. Through early parts of summer, in particular, the sea’s cooler than the air and it’s this chillier part that rushes in off the water to plug the gap, thereby resulting in a typical sea breeze. A recirculation mechanism sets up and there it stays until things cool off again. There’s loads more online about how sea breezes work which is worth looking up.

With the above in mind if you want flat water during high season then early doors SUP sessions are more likely to deliver glassy flat, calm conditions – the earlier the better if you can. Evening times can see late in the day glass offs but if the sea breeze is particularly strong, or has a gradient wind top up, it may last until after dark.

Shelter is also a good bet. Some venues allow paddling next to things like sand bars, or breakwaters/sea defences, which block the chop whipped up by wind. It may still be breezy when you go afloat but any form of chop/swell blocking phenomena will make for an easier time of it SUPing.

For anyone hitting coastal venues during a sea breeze then it can be better to look for somewhere that has a harbour, inlet, or estuary. This plays into the shelter point above. It’s possible to find flat water in harbours, for instance, whilst out in open seas the gusts are puffing. Just make sure you’re aware of tide times and understand how tides work in these locations as flow is usually prominent.

For inland stand up paddlers sea breeze effects aren’t as much a problem – it’s more general frontal wind born of weather systems sweeping across the UK. As we all know ‘weather’ can occur at any time in the UK, summer included. It’s still possible to score flat water though, as long as you’re paying attention to the conditions.

River SUPers may find glassier conditions on the side of the bank the wind’s blowing from. It may be a small jaunt across to the opposite side, if you launch into the face of an oncoming blow. But get across to the opposite bank and it’ll be much flatter. It’s the same with a lake. Although for larger lake water we’d suggest actually launching in the lee of the breeze is better than trying to fight gusts to actually get there.

Thinner waterways, such as canals, will (mostly) provide flatter water for paddling when it’s gusting.  Inland SUPers would be well served to find such a put in.

In almost all cases of being confronted with wind there’s a way to paddle flatter water. It may require some prior planning and even a switch of location to that of your normal launch spot. Knowing local areas helps, some reccis to these destinations isn’t a bad idea to get a lie of the land. Understanding wind, sea breezes and how frontal weather systems affect conditions is always worth genning up on as well. The more knowledge you have the better your experience of SUP will be.

Alternatively get on the whole wind or wing SUP train with the McConks Go Fly 5m wing surfing/foiling wing and/or Go Free 9’8 crossover board. Both products offer another option to the paddle when there’re a few puffs in the mix.

If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out what other nuggets of info are in the McConks SUP Knowledge Hub.

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McConks windSUP/windsurf/wing surf/wing foil guide #2 – 5m Go Fly inflatable wing surfing/wing foiling wing overview.

We’ve roped SUPM/WSUK magazine’s Tez Plavenieks in again to give us an overview of the McConks 5m Go Fly wing surfing/wing foiling wing (if you haven’t seen the first part, where he talks about the McConks 9’8 Go Free crossover board, then check it out here). The guys at SUPM have had a few different versions of the Go Fly from prototype through to the 5m version on sale now.

We appreciate for many paddlers, however, not versed in wind sports, the whole wing surf/wing foil thing may be a bit alien. (Even if your interest is pricked). But it’s actually an easy product to use and takes advantage of breezy days at the coast or inland – of which we get a lot of those!

It’d be great to think every time we head for a float we’d be on for glassy conditions. Unfortunately, the changeable, unpredictable nature of the UK’s weather means that’s never going to be the case. If you’re intrigued by the whole wing ding discipline, but not 100%, then check out the video which has a whole load of info. If you still have questions about winging or anything else McConks SUP related then give us a holla.

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National BBQ week 2020: a perfect fit to your SUP life.

The weather’s glorious, the temperatures are on the rise and it’s perfect for getting on the water. But wait! You need a pit stop for eats and drinks. Or, maybe, it’s a warm evening, the sun is setting, and a full blown nosh up’s required. So with the fact Mother Nature’s in a good mood AND you’re enjoying that SUP life, what could be better than busting out the Barbie – especially as it’s National BBQ Week? It’d be rude not to really.

National BBQ Week launched in 1997 and 2020 marks the 24th year of making people better BBQers. It doesn’t matter what type of foody fayre floats your boat board, having it barbequed, with that fired grilled taste (and just a light touch of smoky), makes your scran all the more delectable.

2020’s National BBQ Week’s organisers are also looking for your help with their ‘BARBI for BRITAIN’ campaign. They’re asking you to post your BBQ pics on their Facebook page and donate to either the NHS Together appeal or FareShare Covid 19 to say thank you to carers and frontline staff who’ve been invaluable during the current pandemic. Plus, pics of your SUP barbies will give a different slant to proceedings.

Your McConks inflatable stand up paddle board, we should add, is the perfect BBQ accessory. It makes a great BBQ picnic table for your sizzling delights. And for carting your barbeque gear to where you plan on igniting the fun it’s more than fit for purpose. Just remember not to put hot things near or on your iSUP as it’ll come a cropper!

For anybody wanting even more BBQ goodness in their life why not hit up Fire Masters: BBQ Wars, which airs every night at 20:00 on Blaze TV (Freeview 63, Freesat 162, Sky 164, Virgin Media 216).

And of course, don’t forget to post your SUP BBQ pics to the McConks SUP FB page, in the McConks SUP Community FB group and SUP Hacks FB group to let us see what you’ve been getting up.

McConks SUP BBQ hacks:

If you’re paddling on rivers then crayfish are something you could be lucky to catch (if you’re happy to ‘forage’ for your own food). Where McConks ourselves paddle (River Thames) there’s an abundance of Signal Crayfish which aren’t indigenous. If you catch them, you’re required to dispose of them (or eat them) to give our native white clawed Crayfish a chance. So, there’s a tasty BBQ meal right off the bat! You’d be doing your bit for conservation as well as enjoying tasty nosh – just make sure you don’t catch the native ones – which are protected!

  • If you’re ever at Studland, Dorset, way and fancy foraging for your own food (under the supervision of someone who knows what they’re doing) then check out https://www.foreadventure.co.uk/ who run coastal foraging trips. This is a great way to combine paddling, natural substance and alfresco eating.

The weekend’s inbound, the water beckons and so does the Barbie! Get paddling; get grilling…


Fun BBQ facts:

  • The recent UK Bank Holiday Monday saw around 10 million BBQ occasions (source: nationalbbqweek.co.uk).
  • This number has risen to 2-3 million since then, of May 2020 (source: nationalbbqweek.co.uk).
  • The word barbeque is derived from the West Indian term ‘barbacoa’ which means ‘slow cooking over hot coals’.
  • Both Memphis, TN and Kansa City, MO in the United States duke it out with giant tournaments dedicated to the art of hot coal cooking. But it’s Lexington, NC, that lays claim to being the ‘Barbecue Capital of the World’.
  • BBQs aren’t just for summer. 60% of aficionados say they cook on hot coals year round (source: HPBA.org). We certainly do at McConksWe get very strange looks cooking sausages on the barbecue on the beach in winter!
  • The world’s largest BBQ took place, with 45,000 people, in Nuevo Leon, Mexico (source: guinessworldrecords.com).
  • Two out of three UK households own at least one BBQ. (source: outbackdirect.co.uk). We own five!
  • The first McDonalds burger restaurant was a barbecue joint.
  • If you want to add a smokier flavour to your BBQ sauce then a shot of single malt Scotch whiskey works wonders.

If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out the following –

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Staycation 2020: why you need a McConks sup in your life – alternative uses for your stand up paddle board.

2020 looks set to be a year of the SUP staycation – if you consider that many places will still be off-limits as far as post-lockdown travel goes. Of course, you may be able to get away (if you’re lucky) to some destinations. But by and large home ground is going to the one. Which is why you need a McConks stand up paddle board in your life!

We’re not going to bang on about how McConks SUPs are better than the rest. You either appreciate our quality, how we design and manufacture, our sustainable/eco-credentials, or you don’t. But as far as owning a toy to make use of sunny days at the beach, lake, river, canal or local puddle it’s a great toy to have at your disposal. Plus, there’re more things you can do with a McConks stand up paddle board than simply paddle. As you’ll discover below…

Makeshift pub

If you have a couple of mates who fancy a well-earned pint post-paddle, and you have access to a SUP like the McConks Mega, then it might be suitable for a floating drink quaffing corner. With sunny weather on offer, this makes a delightful alternative to the tradition of supping (pun intended!) in a beer garden.

Diving platform

For those all ‘wilderness’, then using your inflatable SUP as a diving platform is worth a look. It could be you anchor off and go for a snorkel or perhaps head down to the depths a little further…You might even be into freediving?

Adventurous types out there have been know to grab the spear fishing gun and hunt down their evening meal. That’s very ‘Polynesian’ but certainly doable from atop your SUP. Just be careful you don’t shoot the wrong thing if you fancy having a bash! (Like your board or foot…).

Picnic table

Even if you’re not up a float it’s worth carting your iSUP to wherever you head for some R&R. With sunny weather in the mix a picnic can always be a nice thing to do. And your trusty stand up paddle board can always double as a picnic table.

Plenty of surface area to lay your eats and treats out whilst being wipe clean. Just make sure you remove the fins so as to keep the ‘table’ flat. Otherwise it might be a bit off kilter.

Hammock

An air fill board is soft and spongey – at least when compared to a hard shell SUP. Obviously inflating to its recommended PSI is how to eek out all of that McConks SUP performance. But ease off the gas a tad and what you get is a comfortable ‘thing’ to lie on – almost like an air bed. But certainly similar to a hammock.

You can even string up between two fixed points, via the deck’s D-rings, to get that true hammock feeling. Just watch out for the getting on and off parts which may end up featured on Fail Army!

Boat tender

If you’re fortunate to own a boat – be that full size yacht or day boat – a McConks inflatable stand up paddle board is the more wallet-friendly, environmentally greener, solution for getting back and forth between shore and vessel.

Anyone planning on using their SUP for lugging supplies back and forth will be better off with a wider/voluminous version. Once you’re done, simply deflate and stow easier than a more cumbersome tender.

Sun lounger

As with the hammock solution above if you’re out and about, soaking up some rays, then be sure to take your iSUP with you. That way you’ll have a ready made sun lounger to get some recline time. You won’t need to take additional ‘stuff’ and you don’t need to hire anything, your McConks is perfectly suitable for this kind of thing.

Inflate fully for a more rigid platform to lie on or reduce the amount of PSI for a softer sit.

Yoga platform

SUP Yoga isn’t a new thing. In fact, here at McConks we’ve been supplying specialist SUP Yoga products for a while. If a 2020 SUP staycation is your thing this year, and you practise wellness (including Yoga), then now’s the time to get involved if you haven’t done so before.

Check out the range of McConks Yoga and wellness inflatables in the shop.

Camping mat

Perhaps you’re heading off for a spot of touring SUP action with an overnight? Or maybe you’re going nowhere near the water, instead getting amongst it in the wilds and enjoying a spot of camping. In all instances, you’ll need a camping mat to even out that solid ground. Enter stage left your McConks inflatable SUP.

For those with adequately dimensioned tents you can erect and perch on top of your McConks stand up paddle board. Or alternatively, place your iSUP inside of your sleeping abode for a comfy night’s kip.

Kid’s play platofrm

Don’t know about you but we see young children loving playing aboard inflatable stand up paddle boards all the time – on land and in the water. The robust nature of a McConks iSUP makes it perfect for some bouncing action that kids love.

Afloat and it turns into a great jumping off obstacle that’ll provide endless hours of fun.

Fishing platform

SUP fishing has long been a thing but by and large has flown under the radar (unlike its sit on top kayaking brethren). Yet stand up paddle boards – particularly the wider, higher volume versions – are great as a platform where you can drop a line. It doesn’t need to be complicated either. If you want to load up with bait box, beer cooler (compulsory!), fish finder and a couple of rods ‘n’ reels then feel free. Alternatively, attach a line to the tail of your SUP, with a bit of bait attached, and see what’s enticed.

The crayfish on the barbie above is a Signal Crayfish from the River Thames. Once caught you are obliged to kill them because they’re actually alien invaders! So you can do your bit for conservation as well as have a tasty snack!

We will say if you don’t plan on eating your catch then chuck what you snag back in the drink to fight another day.

What are you alterantive used for your McConks SUP? Let us know.

For anyone thing of getting their own McConks stand up paddle boards, for a 2020 SUP staycation, as well as making the most of the outdoors in general check out the McConks web shop or give us a shout with any questions. With a McConks inflatable stand up paddle board 2020’s SUP staycation season has never looked so good!

If you enjoyed this article then be sure to check out our blog where you’ll find plenty of other good reads –

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That was the week that was. SUP gone mad, and Yosemite here we come.

That was the week that was. SUP gone mad, and Yosemite here we come.

This year is turning out to be a little bizarre isn’t it? And that’s the understatement of the year!

Before lockdown we were desperately trying to get gear out to our SUP schools and partner companies in a timely manner before any (unlikely) good weather hit.

Obvs, things have changed and schools/clubs etc are no longer quite so keen for new kit. So we thought we’d be in the doldrums with lots of excess stock for most of the year.

And then BOOM! Government (England only) issues new advice, that means people can paddle again. On their own gear, as long as they’re not away from home overnight. That explains why things have gone a little bonkers in the UK.

“Day 1 of my new love. Thanks Andy. I am so excited for the adventures ahead” Cheers Sam – hope they are many and varied 🙂

But it doesn’t explain why McConks has just gone GLOBAL! In the last two weeks we’ve had enquiries from…

Hawaii, California, South Carolina, Nederlands, Finland, Iceland, Vancouver (Canada), Greece , Norway, Sweden, Austria, France, Denmark, the Gambia, New Zealand and Tahiti.

And we’ve actually finalised sales to California (A not for profit company in Yosemite National Park , Finland, Hawaii (the spiritual home of SUP!), Sweden, Denmark, France and Norway.

So thanks to all of you who have been reading, enjoying, hating, and sharing our content – it all helps to spread the GoInspire message, and helps us grow our brand. We never actually want to dominate the world. That’s not the kind of company we ever want to be. But having not for profit companies around the world want to work with us… That really is what we want to do and where we want to help.

So sorry if we’re a bit slow replying to comms at the moment, but we are a little overwhelmed!

Yosemite here we come

This is something we are beyond excited about. We’re not actually heading to Yosemite ourselves, although, maybe in the future. But we were contacted out of the blue by an outdoor and wellness company based in Yosemite National Park. Here’s the text of our first contact

“Hi Andy, Do you ship to the US? I am an instructor and studio owner, with retail space. I’m shopping for my fleet, and retail ISUPS. I am located just outside of beautiful Yosemite National Park and the environment is very important when considering my investment in a company. I love what I have read about your company!  I realize shipping to the US might not work, and may defeat the purpose of buying sustainable ISUPS. I’m still researching companies, but don’t seem to find any that have your values and transparency.”

Well, when you get an email like that, you get a mix of emotions. Surprised, proud, humbled, excited even. We’ve been talking to Catherine for the last week or so, to see how we could do this sustainably, to check that our ethics and principles really do align, and now Catherine has the long wait for the slow boat between China and Carolina to arrive. But when it does, there will be 11 brand new McConks Go Explore 11’4 being used for adventures and SUP yoga. We CANNOT WAIT to see the photos!

For the data geeks

Our headline numbers from Google Analytics gives an indication of how things have gone bonkers.

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Making sense of it – SUP jargon and terminology

If you’re new to stand up paddle boarding then you may be wondering what all this new language and SUP related jargon is. Even if you’re a seasoned paddler some terminology may have gone straight over your head. With this in mind we’ve listed some of the more popular phrases and words that you’ll come across and what they refer to.

SUP Board

SUP – stand up paddle.

Nose – the board’s front.

Tail – the board’s back end.

Hull – the SUP’s underneath.

Deck – the SUP’s top.

Cockpit – the area you stand and paddle from.

Rail – the sides of the SUP.

Rocker – the general curve (nose to tail) of the SUP. Can also be used to describe individual areas of the board’s shape i.e. nose rocker.

Deflection – a term used to decribe the ‘bend’ point of an inflatable SUP.

Stability – how planted the SUP feels in the water.

Volume – a measurement in litres suggestive of the SUP’s float properties.

Thickness – a measure in inches used to describe the top to bottom thickness of stand up paddle boards.

Vent plug – only found on hard shell SUPs: a way for expanded warm air, inside foam boards, to escape.

Fin – the foiled upright that protrudes from the SUP’s tail giving directional stability and manoeuvrability.

Fin box – where the fin sits. (Types can be US box, powerbox, Tuttle box, FCS, Futures, click fins as well as a few more).

D-ring – attachment points usually found on inflatable stand up paddle boards.

Camera mounts – a fixing point for a waterproof action cam.

Bungee chord – usually fixed to the SUP’s deck as a place to stow your paddling essentials.

Leash – the thing that attaches to the SUP, and the paddler, keeping the two in contact.

Leash retainer – heavy duty chord that attaches the SUP leash to the board.

SUP paddle

Blade – the power part of the paddle that immerses in water.

Face – the part of the blade that faces the paddle during each stroke.

Back – the reverse of the paddle blade.

Edge – the sides of the paddle blade.

Dihedral – a spine or pronounced/raised part of the paddle’s blade designed to aid/direct/deflect water flow during each paddle stroke.

Shaft – the long straight part of the SUP paddle.

Handle – the top part of the paddle.

Clamp – the adjustable fixing point of a telescopic paddle.

Paddle wax – applied to the paddle shaft for extra grip.

Stand up paddling

Stroke – the act of placing the paddle in the water, drawing it along the board’s rail and recovering to start again.

Catch – the part of the stroke where the paddle’s blade enters the water.

Power – the middle part of the stroke that propels you along.

Release – letting the ‘power’ of the stroke off ready to ‘recover’.

Recovery – lifting the paddle out of the water and swinging it back ready to ‘catch’ again.

Cadence – the rate at which you paddle.

McConks idyllic summer SUP

SUP stance

Stance – how your feet are placed on the SUP’s deck.

Offset stance – one foot slightly in front of the other.

Regular – left foot forward; right foot back across the board’s centre line.

Goofy – right foot forward; left foot back across the centre line.

Miscellaneous

Put in – the location you launch your SUP

Take out – the place you get out of the water

Portage – exiting the water with your SUP and paddle to walk around an obstruction/obstacle.

Tracking – how straight and true a SUP board paddles.

Glide – how much momentum a SUP carries with each paddle stroke.

Displacement – a term used to describe a craft that cuts through the water instead of on it.

Planing – a term used to describe a craft that rides on top of the water.

Offshore – when the wind blows straight off the beach.

Onshore – when the wind blows straight on to the beach.

Sideshore/crossshore – when the wind blows left to right on right to left along the beach.

Rip (current) – a surge of water heading back out to sea having dispersed initially as waves break, following the path of least resistance.

Eddy – water flowing back upstream (in rivers) against the main flow of current.

Backwash – tidal or wave energy infused water hitting a solid object then rebounding back.

Surf speak

Session – the duration of time you’re on the water.

Stoke – a feeling of euphoria following a good session.

Dawnie – going afloat as the sun rises.

Sick – a positive way to describe a good session, wave or move.

Gnarly – a word used to describe something extreme within the context of what’s happening on the water.

Wipeout (also referred to as a bail) – falling off.

Frothing/amping – excitement.

These are just some of the terms you hear within stand up paddle boarding circles – there are plenty more…

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SUP by Post: what’s it all about?

Here at McConks, we appreciate not everyone’s in a position to purchase their own stand up paddle board equipment. For various reasons, this mightn’t be the right thing for you. Yet, there may still be a desire, want and need to get on a paddleboard somehow.

Of course, you could always go to a physical SUP school and SUP hire shop but this isn’t always the most flexible option. Fixed opening and closing times mean you don’t get the benefit of those sunrise to sunset paddles, or moonlit paddles. So what if you could actually have your own stand up paddle board, at least for a short period of time. This would give plenty of flexibility and also allow you to assess the ‘best fit’ nature of the kit and whether SUP’s for you. All in your own time on your own terms.

McConks SUP has been operating SUP By Post for a while now. SUP By Post gives you the option to hire any McConks all round, explorer, mega, wind or kid’s SUP for as little as £8.50 a day. Whichever your choice all gear will arrive as a complete package including a McConks carbon paddle and all the necessary bits to get you on the water.

SUP By Post also allows you to accrue points based on how much cash you part with. These can then be redeemed against any McConks product in our online shop. If you spend £10 then you earn £1 back. Or alternatively, you can purchase the board you’ve been hiring if you think it’s the love of your life.

Full details of all SUP By Post opportunities can be found on the website – http://www.supbypost.com/

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Buy and Try your McConks stand up paddle board; NO QUIBBLE 28 day return period.

Thanks to Kathy Marston who snapped the above pic. Check out her Instagram for more – https://www.instagram.com/happiestwhenoutdoors/?hl=en

Can’t decide whether SUP‘s the one for you? Not even sure if you’ll stick with it having purchased your McConks stand up paddle board (even though we know you will!). Maybe there’s an issue surrounding the actual kit – you probably have a couple of different brands in mind (and most likely a few different SUP boards). Perhaps you’re just reticent full stop. This is all usual and no problem. Whether you’re a beginner paddler or someone looking to make an additional SUP purchase parting with cash for ‘a thing’ you’re not too sure about can be a big ask.

But fear not! McConks SUP is here to help in every way we can. That’s why we offer the ‘Buy and Try‘ option to allow you a cool off period, or time to decide, having actually taken the board afloat.

So how does the Buy and Try scheme work? Well, you purchase your McConks inflatable stand up paddle board of choice with four months interest-free credit. At any point within that 28 day period you’re able to return the board, NO QUIBBLE, with just the SUP By Post rental price charged.

What’s SUP By Post we hear you ask?

SUP By Post is another option offered by McConks SUP that aims to get you on the water with the least amount of hassle possible. You can find out more about SUP By Post and the costs by hitting this link – SUP By Post Alternatively give us a shout at McConks HQ with any questions you may have.

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Go Inspire raffle success! Now’s your chance to make a difference – apply now…

Giving something back, via what we know at McConks – stand up paddle boarding (in case you missed that!) – is a top priority and passion of ours. If you haven’t already heard about our charitable Go Inspire Foundation, then where have you been?

But suffice to say that we’re humbled, stoked and overwhelmed following the success of our recent Go Inspire SUP raffle. Over 200 people donated over £1,500 in total. If you were one of them, or even if you just shared and liked our posts, MASSIVE thank you from Team McConks. But now’s the time to do good stuff with the money raised…

We’re offering the chance to any stand up paddle boarding business/venture/charity to apply for up to £500 of the Go Inspire cash. But we want you to use it in a way that benefits others. Particularly those who are normally excluded from our wonderful world of SUP, and who wouldn’t otherwise get the positive benefits of paddleboarding.

Stand up paddling has huge ‘wellness’ benefits (much like surfing, of which the positives have been widely broadcast). Positive endorphins are generated by being on the water. There are also the rehabilitation properties stand up can offer. Simply put: SUP can deliver a raft of health – physical and mental – plus points for all of us.

So are you doing great work with SUP as your tool of choice? Do you need some additional funding to help get your initiative off the ground or boost it to the next level? We appreciate McConks isn’t a huge institution like the National Lottery where hefty cash grants are awarded. But likewise, we know every little helps, so the saying goes, and we’re keen to do our bit. And by keeping the application for funding simple and short (unlike the National Lottery!), we’re hoping we can see this money be put to good use quickly and without signficant form filling!

Applications are now open to anybody needing a helping hand. If you fit the criteria (see below) then give us a shout at andy@mcconks.com to check eligibility.

From the £1,500 raised you can apply for up to £500. We’ll shortlist the applicants who will go through to a public vote where three winners will be selected. If you’re aim is getting vulnerable kids, disadvantaged youths or those less able on the water, for instance, give us a shout now to be in with a chance of getting your share. Entry is open until Sat June 20, 2020. Grants will be made by mid July.

Indicative criteria for eligibility

goinspire donation logo

Use these criteria for guidance. But if you feel unfairly excluded by these criteria, but have a great idea of meeting our overall objectives, then please apply anyway!

  • You are a charity or not for profit business committed to using stand up paddle boarding as ‘vehicle’ for helping others.

OR

  • You are a freelance instructor or micro-entity limited company committed to using stand up paddle boarding as ‘vehicle’ for helping others.

AND

  • Sustainability and ethics are at the core of your set up.
  • You will use the funding entirely to support at least one of the following objectives:
  • increasing the amount of provision (lessons, sessions etc) you make for one of more of the following groups – disadvantaged children and families, vulnerable children and families, disabled/less abled individuals, under-represented groups (BAME)
  • improving your facilities to make it easier to provide for any of the target groups
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NCW, North Coast Wetsuits, who are they?

North Coast Wetsuits (NCW) are based just outside of Cornish surfing town Polzeath. Why are we telling you about them? Because they’re the brand who’ve provided the awesome Long John wetsuit as part of the McConks Go Inspire SUP package we recently raffled off.

All NCW wetsuits and products are designed in the UK with Mark Graham, NCW’s boss man, being a stand up paddler himself. If you’re looking for some new SUP gear (they do other things besides wetsuits) then head over to their website. But we’ve been so impressed with the quality of their gear, and the ethics of the business, that we’re going to start recommending and selling NCW wetsuits via the McConks shop. So soon you’ll be able to find a range of their gear listed on the technical gear section of our shop!

Big thanks to NCW for getting involved with the McConks Go Inspire raffle! The final push where we added the wetsuit took us from under £1200 to over £1500, so massive kudos NCW!

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SUP’s just SUP these days…isn’t it?

Stand up paddle surfing, SUP racing, touring SUP, white water stand up paddle boarding, recreational paddling and so on…You’ve heard all the terms, no doubt read all the pigeon-holed descriptions and are probably aware of a few more disciplines within the discipline, so to speak. And that’s how it’s been since stand up’s renaissance in the early noughties. Paddlers have been more or less defined what type of board they ride, where they paddle and how they do it. But in recent times SUP’s evolved. And for the majority of paddlers the choice of an iSUP remains the piece of kit fit for purpose. So much so that the biggest percentage of floating blade wielders can be referred to as ‘all round’. Or maybe it’s even more simple than that…

You buy your board, paddle and apparel to get afloat then it’s a case of doing the thing. And that’s regardless of wherever, whenever and however. If there’s a bump you try and ride it. If there’s something to discover/inspect in the distance then off you pop. The rest of your family fancy a go? No probs: here’s the gear and away they head. Perhaps you find yourself next to an inland stretch of water. Time to get that float kit! It doesn’t matter what length, width or volume of board you’ve chosen it’s all game for a SUP. And there’s the thing. There really aren’t any descriptive boundaries that apply here: it’s all just SUP. It’s not ever a sport, as some might consider other hobbies to be.

Of course, there are still plenty who subscribe to a particular type of paddling and those who do see SUP as a sport. In these cases you can still attribute the aforementioned titles based on the paddling discipline being practised. For anybody into recreational SUP (currently) who’s looking to progress this may be of interest. Having these descriptive terms will give a little direction for pathway choices. Yet the majority aren’t really bothered. And why should they be? Stand up can be practised without having to consider any parameters. Without boundaries, after all, is a way to broaden the mind. Only when you try and condense things down and begin pinning labels on things do we get hemmed in, build metaphorical walls and effectively shut down to other possibilities. (This isn’t strictly true of SUP as stand up has actually helped broaden people’s activity horizons. But you get the point).

SUP is just SUP these days: one board, one paddle, for anyone to go anywhere, anytime. This is how it should be. And for something that perhaps struggled with identity back in the day (is it a paddle sport, is it a surf sport debates etc?) then now we have it: SUP’s just SUP.

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A car is just a car right?

A car made in one factory is just the same as a car made in another factory isn’t it?

So a Merc is the same as a VW, is the same as a Honda, is the same as a Daewoo right? They’re all made of metal, have engines, steering wheels and tyres, and there’s no difference in reliability, finishing or quality assurance?



So we all know that’s not true. But why the same be true for inflatable standup paddleboards?

All inflatable SUPs are the same

Some brands try very hard to make you think that all inflatable boards are the same, and that their £300 or £400 budget inflatable paddleboard is exactly the same as the £900 from a premium watersports company.

We know that’s not true, and instinctively, you probably do too. If it sounds too good to be true as they say…!

“I just want a cheap board to see if I like paddleboarding”

And that is why there are lots of cheap paddleboards never seeing the light of day in landfill or peoples garages. It’s difficult to know if you’re good at or if you like paddleboarding on board that’s not very good. We have so many customers that bought their first board from a big warehouse, or online snake oil salesman (and there are many), and within months were buying from us.

Rather than buying a cheap inflatable paddleboard that doesn’t help you develop, why not pay to hire a paddleboard for a period of time to test it, or have lessons with an instructor on decent kit?

“I’ll only use it a couple of times a year”

If you get the wrong board, you might only use it a couple of times in the first year. And then probably never again because the valve will have failed, or it’s gone mouldy. If this is your reason for not buying a decent quality board, why not hire a premium quality board instead? You can even have one delivered to your house to take on holidays with you!

The importance of five star reviews

Brands will do anything for five star reviews. They are so important for credibility. Some brands will pay for, or offer incentives for reviews. In the search for perfect reviews, some companies will only repair/replace gear under a non disclosure agreement, so they don’t get negative reviews. Some even buy reviews from magazines on online SUP board review websites. When a review is so important, everything seems to be fair game.

But we know the quality of our competitors gear, and how reliable it is. How? Because people talk. And because we have lots of instructor and business friends who like to keep us up to date.

We there are some brands that have hundreds of five star reviews that might not be perfectly legit. And some instructors/salesmen making a tidy profit from acting as referrers/influencers.

Some of the marketing claims made by these brands/instructors are outrageous. And some of their warranties seem foolhardy based on what we know. One brand offering 5 year warranties has just switched production to a very low cost factory with a known quality assurance problem. And with a cost price of under $200 for those boards one might question the business sense of a 5 year warranty for those boards.

If you want to understand more about the murky underworld of dodgy paid for magazine and ‘independent’ reviews, and why you can’t trust any reviews, check out this article.

We’re a little different

We’re different. We don’t play these games. Authenticity matters to us, so we can make the following promises to you:

  1. If someone recommends one of our boards to you (personally, on social media, via a review, in a magazine) McConks will not have paid for that recommendation.
  2. We do not use influencers. We offer trade prices to trade companies for them to buy our gear to use. But we do not give gear away to influencers. We might give product away as part of GoInspire foundation, but that is for grass roots development and charitable reasons, not purely for marketing reasons.
  3. Ethics, sustainability, principles and values underpin everything that we stand for. We don’t get everything right, but we do everything with the best intentions.

So, that’s us. We’ve built our little company on doing things the right way. Not from selling products. And we hope you can recognise the genuine desire to do things the right way that underpins our whole company ethos!

You might be able to get a cheaper inflatable paddle board which might look the same quality and which might be from a company that claims the same ethical and environmental principles. But we don’t believe that it’s possible to get reliable and repeatable quality and performance from an ethical and sustainable manufacturer at a better price than us.

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SUP staycation 2020?

At time of writing, with lockdown restrictions eased slightly in England, it seems that planned summer holiday of SUP are no longer on the cards. Which makes sense when you think about it. Air travel isn’t exactly conforming to social distancing rules…

So will 2020 be the year of the English SUP staycation?

It could be… But even this may have caveats. Thronging beaches, full of interminglers, is also highly risky. And the last thing any county wants to do is ‘police’ once popular beauty spots – some of which are great of stand up paddle boarding.

Negatives aside, however, and if things should improve, with infection risk dropping further, then maybe your SUP staycation can go ahead. After all, the UK at large is a thing of beauty. Out in the wilds or on the water (inland or coastal) we have stunning vistas, scenery and nature to enjoy. And there’s no better way to experience many of these spots than from aboard a SUP.

With regard to many of the abundant SUP put ins around the country there’s not huge amounts of information – from a stand up point of view that is. Hopefully, McConks can begin to address this though. Look out for our bitesize SUP location guides coming soon. And fingers crossed we can all enjoy a SUP staycation this summer at least.

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McConks SUP fundamentals – stand up paddle board stance types

Where you stand on your SUP board can have a profound effect in terms of performance and feel – not least it can be the difference between staying dry and getting wet. Stance, as much as anything, is trimming the board. It’s also a way in which narrower SUPs, or lower volume types, can be paddled. And if you’re into river running, downwind SUP or paddle surfing then altering your stance accordingly – riding a wave vs paddling on the flat for instance – is key.

Parallel SUP stance

Parallel SUP stance is the classic, staple and most common form of standing atop your board. It’s the one that every paddler does first – mostly because that’s what they’ve seen every other SUPer do. With the centre line of the board running directly through the middle feet are placed either side of this. Ideally, the rider in question will have sussed how far forwards or back (the sweet spot) to actually perch. The board’s nose should be slightly above the water with the tail engaged. Too far back and the rear sinks, causing drag, whereas too far forward and the nose digs in causing inefficient straight-line momentum and slow speeds.

With lower volume boards it’s often the case that the back two-thirds of your board may be underwater. The trick here is to be far enough towards the front that the nose is lifting but not burying. A different stance will be required (see below).

In terms of paddling position and efficient stroking a parallel stance isn’t always the best. During the ‘pull’ or power part of the paddle stroke riders need to twist and rotate at the trunk to the where the blade is submerged. Due to being squared off this isn’t always easy to achieve. In which case (again) a different stance, or tweaking of, may be required.

Offset stance

With an offset stance paddlers will have determined whether they’re most comfortable riding ‘goofy’ (right foot forward) or ‘regular’ (left foot forward). It’s then a case of dropping your preferred trailing foot a tad behind the leading. This may feel slightly odd to begin with but in many cases can lead to a better paddling stroke – on the dominant side.

Of course, being twisted one way will mean an inefficient paddle stroke on the opposite side. To combat this and keep your SUP tracking straight and true employing a J-stroke may be required. Pulling through the main part of the paddle riders finish by sweeping out wide before the recovery. This pushes the board’s nose back in the opposite direction thereby helping to steer a straight course. It’s not foolproof, however, and you’ll probably have to paddle on the opposite side at times. What it should lead to though is less rail to rail changes.

Offset paddling stance can be used to good effect when piloting narrow, low volme stand up paddle boards.

Regular/goofy paddling stance

Taking an offset SUP stance to its extreme riders will go full left or right foot forward, depending on preference and comfort, along the board’s centre line. This gives a great angle of attack for paddling on your dominant side, but as with offset, it’ll require an efficient J-stroke or ability to ‘rail the board’ to keep tracking correctly.

Stand up paddle surfers, downwind bump runners or foilers tend to favour this for when they’re actually riding moving water. Being able to paddle and engage the rail of the board (or foil edge) is reason to paddle like this.

Switch stance

If you can offset your paddling, or ride both regular and goofy, then possibly you’ll find favour with SUPing switch stance. Being able chop and change between right and left foot forwards is super efficient for actually paddling. The downside is having to change sides. This requires practice as you’ll need to jump or hop between each footing which can upset the board’s trim if not done correctly, as well as resulting in a dunking.

For those with time to practise it’s worth having a go at switching your stance around. Who knows, you may find this the most comfortable form of paddling.

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McConks SUP fundamental skills – stand up paddle board pivot turns

Next to actually paddling in a straight line, and having an understanding of what you should be doing with your blade during each stroke, the other skill to have with SUP is (arguably) the pivot turn. (Or step back turn as some call it). It’s a move that can be employed in all manner of situations; from flat water to waves, moving rivers or general recreational paddling environments. It’s supremely practical as both a safety move and functional for positioning in equal measure.

Centre line

The first thing to get your head around (or rather across) is the centre line of your board. Intuitively you place feet inboard as you pilot in straight lines – particular as you pass those early learning stages. If you didn’t you’d be in the drink as weighting each rail is the quickest way to unbalance and take a dunking. Consciously, however, you should be thinking about the board’s centre line and realising this is how to affect your SUP’s behaviour and manoeuvrability. Being pro-active along the board’s centre line (nose to tail) and left to right (rail to rail) can also be referred to as trim. Board trim is a separate topic in itself but worth keeping in mind none the less.

Keeping with the SUP pivot turn theme it’s that stepping to the tail, and back again once the move’s complete, that we’re focusing on here.

The step back

‘Walking the plank’ (or board in this case) is an age old skill that longboard surfers have used to great effect throughout wave sliding’s history. Transferring this to SUP and the goal remains the same. Walk back towards the tail, efficiently foot over foot, to lift the board’s nose and sink the rear. This reduces the wetted area of your SUP and gives a nimble and loose feel ready to pivot.

If you need to use your paddle as you move then by all means do so. Note that it’s better to ‘step’ quickly and without adding a brace stroke, however. Practised pivot turners will use the step back part to swing their paddle forwards ready for the next part.

The pivot and sweep

Reaching the tail of your board knees should be slightly bent with your head and upper body looking at the raised nose and jutting in a forwards direction. With greater nose height comes a more exaggerated form of this movement. Weighting the tail too much will result in a fall whereas bending the front leg, as well as keeping across the centre line, should result in balance and poise. But don’t hang around…

During the step back phase reaching out wide with the paddle, across your chest, the blade should hit the water forwards of where your front leg is positioned. As the board’s nose lifts draw the blade through the water in an arced sweeping fashion. The blade’s power, with you perched on the tail, will cause the SUP to turn quickly, or pivot.

The recovery

In time with the sweep stroke finishing paddlers should be aiming to step towards the nose of the board, keeping across that centre line still, and level it off. (Experienced paddlers can do this in one movement). Head, shoulders and trunk are still forward and knees bent.

As the board returns to a planted, flat platform riders will have completed the pivot turn and be back in their usual paddling stance, or thereabouts.

Tips

For anyone falling off the tail try and pivot in a less extreme fashion at first, gradually increasing the angle of attack as your skills grow.

If there’s a kick block on your SUP’s tail pad then use this to wedge you back foot against during the pivot turn’s initiation.

Keep your head forwards and over the centre line – it’s the heaviest part of your body and accurate positioning will yield best results.

Submerging your paddle’s blade fully during the sweep is best course of action as this is power, resulting in movement, which equals stability.

Wear warm attire to start with – particularly if you’re learning to pivot turn. You’ll probably end up wet during practise so better to be safe than sorry.

Pick a calm stretch of placid water to start with. Avoid flow, chop and waves as this won’t do any favours during the learning phase.

Thanks to Nick Kingston for the pics.

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Lockdown 2020 | Can I stand up paddle board again? | update as of May 13, 2020

Many people are itching to get back on the water, and it seems that some regions of the UK might be starting to slowly release their lockdown. So what’s the current position across the countries of the UK?

For Scotland and Northern Ireland, it’s a straightforward no. You’re only permitted to leave your house for clearly defined reasons, and the exercise reason is for walking, running or cycling close to your house.

For Wales, the Welsh Government and Canoe Wales / Canw Cymru have issued guidance that allows you to paddle if you stay in your local area, and if you walk or drive to your get in only within the local area. The definitive advice is available here

The situation is slightly different in England

On May 10, 2020, PM Boris Johnson announced that people could leave their properties for unlimited exercise and drive (without limits) to visit parks and beaches, as long as social distancing measures are kept, as of Wednesday May 13, 2020.

Watersports are explicitly included in this exercise, but full details of what this means to the management of our waterways/beaches are still being worked through by the relevant management authorities and national governing bodies.

Here’s an update on what this means for different types of water:

Lakes – these are nearly all privately owned, so it is up to the lake owner to ensure social distancing measures can be maintained and to provide safe access. The Lake District tourist board and National Park have asked people to stay away from the Lake Distrcit because of the impact on local communities and because Cumbria currently has the highest rates of infection in England.

Rivers – the Environment Agency is responsible for navigation and management of most rivers in England. They have not updated their online advice since 04 May, but British Canoeing have been in contact with the EA and have said this:

The River Wey navigation, managed by the National Trust is currently closed, although it is reported by British Canoeing to be opening soon. Check here for the latest information.

The Broads Authority who manage the Norfolk Broads have confirmed that the Broads are open for paddling.

Canals – the CRT is responsible for most canals in England, and they have issued a statement saying that exercise on non-powered craft can resume from Wednesday subject to social distancing measures being observed, particularly around portages.

To see which canals the CRT are responsible for check this map. For other canals, you will need to find and check with the current owner/management authority.

Coastal waters – there has never been a restriction on using coastal waters. However, up until Wednesday May 13, you’ve only been able to drive a very short distance or walk for your exercise. Further, the RNLI have been asking people to not partake in watersports in the sea to reduce the risk to their volunteers.

Whilst the restriction on driving to the coast is lifted on May 13, and the RNLI have udpated their advice by removing their previous request to ask people to stay out of the water, many people, businesses and organisations remain concerned about the impact of large numbers of watersports users turning up at locations where the infrastructure (car parks, lifeguards, shops etc) are still operating with limited or no capacity, and where social distancing might be difficult to observe. Although the risk of transmission of SARS- CoV2 is known to be low in outside environments, it is still possible.

British Canoeing have issued pragmatic and balanced guidance to all paddlers which can be found here.

So what do we think?

As of today (13 May 2020), we can stand up paddle board again with the government’s blessing.

Different people will have different views of the risk, and we must all be aware, and empathetic to that. Some people are still shielding and have to stay inside. Others will still choose to to reduce their personal risk of catching coronavirus.

McConks idyllic summer SUP

Others of you will see the risk of catching or transmitting the virus as very small outdoors and be happy to paddle. However, please be aware that water temperature is still icy cold, which almost certainly possess a greater risk than coronavirus to those without experience. And if you’ve not paddled since last summer, you might be in for a big shock, both in terms of water temperature and your personal ability. So take it easy, and stay safe. Having a mishap and needing help from rescue or emergency services will cause a public backlash.

And for us personally, driving long distances to the beach or other put-ins feels wrong, for the reasons mentioned above, but driving short distances to your local quiet put-in seems reasonable.

In order to be safe, you probably shouldn’t paddle alone. The government’s detailed guidance suggests you can do exercise with your family, or you can meet up with one other person outside your family, as long as social distancing measures are observed. So you could interpret that to mean you can paddle with one friend, and that interpretation is supported by British Canoeing.

Whatever decisions you make to go paddling in the near future, please be considerate, be safe, and be alert.

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SUP hacks, tips and tricks – post-lockdown gear checks BEFORE heading afloat.

With a modest lifting of lockdown restrictions happening some stand up paddle boarders may be in a position to head back out and make use of their freedom (in England at least). There are some basic SUP gear checks you should carry out, however, if this is going to be your first outing in a while.

SUP Board

Whether you own an inflatable or hard SUP it’s worth giving your platform a once over. Check for dings and/or splits – no matter how small. If you come across damage then fix it pronto. For inflatable SUPers a basic repair kit should’ve been provided that you can use. Hard shell board pilots may need to seek assistance of board repairs unless you happen to adept. Certainly don’t leave dings and hope for the best…

SUP Paddle

Check all connections of your SUP paddle are solid. Sometimes glue can fail causing shafts and blades to become separated. Same with handles. If you own an adjustable type then tighten screws where applicable and ensure there’s no ‘play’ or movement where the extension is. Hairline fractures can also be an issue with paddles. Inspect all parts of your SUP paddle to try and determine if there are any that’ll affect the paddle’s integrity. These can be hard to spot so worth scrutinising multiple times.

SUP fins

Stand up paddle board fins can pick up all kinds of nicks and damage. In particular fin pins that run along the fin box track of a US box can come loose. Also, the fin head where bolts poke through can snap off so have a look/see. If you’re running side bites then check connections here as well. For dodgy looking fins are those needing repair get yourself a new set.

SUP leash, plug and retainer

It should go without saying that a SUP leash should be replaced regularly. Stresses and strains leashes are under require an update frequently. But it’s not just the leash itself. Make sure your Velcro cuff, retainer, swivel and leash plug (especially on hard SUPs) are in good working order.

Other consdierations

Paddling attire is key during the early part of the UK’s SUP season. It may be sunny but waters are chilly and if you venture out for early morning paddles then you may encounter thin frosts. Make sure your SUP apparel is adequate. Layering is always best practice as you can remove as necessary. For immersive paddling, such as SUP surfing where you’re liable to fall, wear a good wetsuit. As with all the above replace/upgrade kit where necessary.

Note: these checks aren’t just for post-lockdown paddling. They should be carried out as standard before going afloat each session.

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McConks windSUP/windsurf/wingsurf guide #1 – 9’8 Go Free inflatable board overview.

There’s a lot of gear out there in the big wide world of stand up paddling: pretty much, there’s a board, paddle, accessory bundle and combo for all forms of getting wet. As many will already be aware SUP is super diverse – it isn’t JUST about paddling these days.

You can split SUP into many different categories, based on the wants/needs of ‘paddlers’, weather conditions and where riders put in.

McConks has a long heritage with wind driven sports. Our illustrious leaders (more commonly known as Andy and Jen!) both come from a windsurfing watersports background, so the connection’s there . It should come as no surprise, therefore, that we embrace windSUP and did so from the off. In recent times, with the evolution of inflatable technologies, it’s now possible to have proper performance in an air board – particularly with planing windsurfing in mind. And we’re always striving to improve upon this. Our next improvement will be with inset fin boards to remove the last bit of drag stopping boards from planing.

The beady-eyed will have also noticed McConk’s Go Fly wing range. Wings, for those not initiated, have been around for almost as long as windsurfing but only really last year (2019) did they explode onto the scene properly – driven in large by implementing inflatable technology for the production of easier to use wings.

Responding to the ever-growing interest in wind-driven SUP products McConks has developed the 9’8 Go Free board. This is our answer to windSUP, performance inflatable windsurfing and wingsurfing. We appreciate, however, that many SUPers mightn’t be aware of what these products can do. With this in mind, we roped in our good friend Tez Plavenieks, from SUP Mag UK and Windsurfing UK magazines, to give you the lowdown on the McConks 9’8 Go Free. He’ll also be covering the McConks Go Fly wing in part two and we’re hoping that there’ll be some water footage for a third instalment – stay tuned on that one! For now check out the vid below to find out about the McConks 9’8 Go Free windSUP/windsurf/wingsurf inflatable board.

So here, in the words of a rather knowledgeable brummie, is the review.

If you have any further questions about the 9’8 Go Free, the McConks Go Fly wing or any of our other products don’t hesitate to give us a shout.

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Learning to SUP after COVID-19 lockdown – things to consider (in the short term).

Additional pics: Jo Andrews, Richard Smith.

With lockdown restrictions about to be lifted (all being well – as of May 5, 2020) there’s a good chance newbie stand up paddlers will be in a position to get on the water. Total beginners may also have the opportunity, but as we’re all aware, social distancing will still be a thing for a while yet. And that could make getting a SUP lesson tricky.

So could you go it alone and take those first tentative steps with SUP all on your lonesome? Simple answer: yes! It’s a “yes, but” however, There are some points to consider first, particularly safety elements. So if you’re looking to get involved with stand up paddling for the first time, here are the things to consider.

Online SUP resources

Plenty of SUP resources exist online. Simply do a Google search for what you’re after – in this case beginner SUP tips – and you’ll be presented with a raft of results. The trick from your point of view is softy through the ‘noise’. Stick with reputable sources. If it’s a brand, such a McConks, you’re getting info from then you’ll also need to research the company in question – just to make sure. If it’s a media outlet then check who’s actually giving the advice and whether they’ve got pedigree. Yes, this is time-consuming but it’ll stand you in good stead.

Research accredited SUP schools/coaches online

Chances are you’ll come across a bunch of SUP teaching establishments and/or coaches whilst researching online. Most likely there’ll be videos you can watch that’ll give some advice on starting to SUP. You may have to navigate to other platforms, linked to the coach/school in question (such as YouTube), but it’s worth it if you can glean knowledge. As with above make sure the coach/school has the relevant qualifications and endorsements. Check out the map below with some of our recommendations where to get help and instruction.

Choose your stand up paddle board equipment wisely

Board

Length of your SUP isn’t as critical as its volume and width. You’ll need a board that’s got adequate float, so go high volume if unsure. As far as width is concerned this’ll help with stability. Something around 31″ will be fine for average-sized paddlers (smaller SUPers can go a tad less). If you feel like increasing the dimensions of your board then do so. There’s nothing wrong with making life as easy as you can.

Paddle

When you begin an adjustable paddle will be best course of action. This way you’ll be able to learn what length of paddle shaft is optimum for you. Don’t go too short but equally don’t go too long either. When you put a stroke in your knuckles, on top of the handle, should be more or less level with the bridge of your nose. Top tip: remember to paddle with your blade the correct way round. The blade’s rake (or bend) should face forwards.

Leash

Don’t go afloat without a leash! Your leash will keep you in contact with the main form of buoyancy you have: the board! We’ll talk about water states in a moment but either a coiled or straight leash will be fine for placid, flat water.

Paddling apparel

Temperatures are certainly on the increase here in the UK. But don’t forget we can still have chillier days – even in summer. Layering is therefore the best option. A wetsuit works while you’re still in the falling off stage but during warmer periods this may be too hot. There’s plenty of paddling gear available from brands and retailers alike, including McConks. Thinner bottoms and tops, with perhaps a fleece on top and maybe even booties will be the go. If you find you’re getting too sweaty then layering allows removal of garments. Likewise if you start to feel cold then get off the water and warm yourself up! Have a flask of tea or other warm drink ready. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, in terms of body temperature, when afloat.

Additional flotation

If you’re paddling solo then having an additional form of flotation is a good call. Whilst your SUP is primary sometimes leashes can break and paddlers become separated from their board. A buoyancy aid will work well as would an inflatable float belt that fills with air upon deployment, via ripchord and Co2 canister. This is worth having a dig about online for additional info as well.

Emergency communication

A means of communication is essential. Carrying an older or less valuable mobile phone, carefully secured in waterproofing, is worth it. Waterproof VHFs are also available although you’ll need to know how to operate correctly. A whistle and other means of attracting attention ‘on the ground’ should be thought about. Some experienced paddlers also suggest things like flares can be kept onboard your SUP in case of emergency.

Paddling grounds – beginner specific

Where you choose to paddle is extremely important. As much as possible it’d be wise to keep things local and also you’re not looking to cover distance (yet) so keep fairly close to your launch point. The stretch of water you plan on going afloat at should be devoid of all but minimal movement. If it’s coastal then aim for a sheltered venue with little tidal flow. Open seafront locations can also work if the weather’s playing ball. Inland water users need to steer clear of rapid water flow and obstructions/hazards such as weirs, dams and locks.

Weather and tide info

Understanding and knowing weather forecasts and tidal information, for each of your sessions, is something to get your head around. If you’re inexperienced with tides, for instance, then at least know what times high and low water is. And how this affects your location, which is info that can (again) be found online. Also, there are many groups available, such as with Facebook, where seasoned SUPers will only be too happy to impart knowledge about paddling locations. Before you head afloat get an up to date weather report and ideally have some prior understanding of how conditions may affect your chosen location. As with tides, and interpreting this info, weather and local affects info can be sought from experienced paddlers who know your area.

Tell someone

Before you head out (and this applies to any level of paddler) tell someone of your plans: what time you should arrive, how long you’ll be out and what your return ETA is. Stick to the itinerary as well as you don’t want false alarms raised!

Know your limits

We salute anyone who makes moves to get involved with SUP, especially going it alone. It’s definitely a slightly harder route. As much as enthusiasm shouldn’t be curbed, however, you should also be aware of your limits. If it’s blowing dogs off chains, big swells are running, the river’s banks are fit to burst or anything else looks untoward then perhaps can it and wait for another day. You want the best experience possible and in the absence of a qualified instructor to hand calmly calmly, softly softly should definitely be the aim.

Some resources to help you out when learning to SUP without an instructor –

McConks SUP advice for beginners – https://mcconks.com/are-you-a-sup-noob/

Choosing the right SUP – https://mcconks.com/inflatable-sup-shop-premium-affordable-specialist-round-sup/choosing-the-perfect-inflatable-sup-board/

Paddles and paddling – https://mcconks.com/paddles-and-paddling-still-the-most-important-aspects-of-sup/

Windguru (wind and swell forecasts) – https://www.windguru.cz/

Magic Seaweed (swell, surf, wind and tide info) – https://magicseaweed.com/Bracklesham-Bay-Surf-Report/3764/

Met Office weather forecasts – https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

Big Salty weather info – https://bigsalty.com/en/

RNLI SUP safety and tips – https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-activity/stand-up-paddle-boarding

McConks paddling rashvests – https://mcconks.com/product-category/technical-sup-clothing-sunglasses-rashvests-recylced/mcconks-rash-vests/

McConks paddle selector – https://mcconks.com/how-to-choose-a-sup-paddle/

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All inflatable SUPs are the same aren’t they?

“All inflatable SUPs are the same aren’t they?”

That’s something we hear quite a lot. Another one is “All iSUPs are made in the same factory aren’t they?”

Well, let us take you on a little journey…

Back in 2018, when we started making SUP apparel, we thought that one organic fairtrade cotton tee was the same any another fairtrade cotton tee. We thought that any factory that printed digital to garment was the same as any other. After all, they can’t be that different right? So we chose the one that a few pennies cheaper.

On the left is a top quality, top dollar organic, fairtrade tee from one factory, on the right is a top quality, top dollar organic, fairtrade tee from a different factory.

See the difference?

On the left is what the neck on one t-shirt from a (yes, you guessed it) top quality, top dollar organic tee company after a few washes. On the right is one from another blah, blah, blah.

Again – spot the difference?

And it wasn’t just tees either. We found the same with hoodie printing.

On the left is a printed organic fairwear hoodie from yet another factory/printer, and on the right, from ou current printer.

So, top dollar, top drawer product from similar factories perform very differently over time. Some last very well and look as good as they did on the day they were bought. Others, not so much. And that’s for something as simple to produce as a printed t-shirt or hoodie.

Now think about inflatable paddle boards. There’s a lot more technology on an iSUP than in a t-shirt. And there are lots of ways companies can (and do) cut costs – from not using marine grade stainless steel on metal components, to using cheaper valves, or cheaper glue and welding methods. Not applying UV protection is another way that many companies cut costs. Or using cheaper, more brittle, or non standard fitting fin boxes. And most of these cost cutting measures aren’t apparent on the day you buy your board, but can only be seen over time. And they affect the longevity and performance or your board over time, and the resale value of your board when you decide to upgrade.

Most are now desperately finding ways to trim little costs out of their boards to hit a mythical price sweet spot and to compete with the likes of Decathlon or Lidl. You might have noticed the downward drag in the market – with brands that used to have an RRP of around £600 – £700 now being sold most of the year round at around the £500 or less mark. And that’s against a backdrop of increasing wage and raw material costs in China (well that was true pre COVID19). So if prices are coming down, then something has to give (1). And that something is almost certainly quality.

Each to their own of course, but we don’t thing that’s good for the environment or good business sense. We believe that making inflatable boards that last for decades should be the aim, not making disposable, fashion items to be upgraded every couple of years. So we will always use the very best materials irrespective of cost, and we will not compromise on quality.

So back to where we started. A t-shirt isn’t just a t-shirt. And inflatable SUPs aren’t all the same.

If you’re as passionate as we are about ethics and sustainability, and want an inflatable SUP that lasts for many years, then nothing rivals our gear for longevity and robustness. And we honestly, truly, believe that you cannot get a more honest, a more hard working, or a more ethical and sustainable board if you buy from anyone else.

(1) It’s also possible that some companies are deliberately under-pricing in order to buy market share and undermine the market. As one brand own said to us recently “…especially considering our new much lower pricing, but this is because we now have the big brands in our sights and we don’t need to make profit for a few years yet”.