“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions”...
...as an America Author wrote in the early part of the 20th century.
And whilst we’re keen not to get stuck in a rut at McConks, we've not got one foot in the grave yet!
We’re not about making change for change sake, with new colours or minor cosmetic changes every year, but we do like to mix things up. We make improvements if needed, and add to our lineup if we think we can bring something different to the mix.
So earlier in the year we asked our customers and supporters what new stuff they would like to see from McConks. Some of the answers we got back were ridiculous, and have been shelved until someone invents a genie in a bottle that actually works:
- - ‘A paddleboard that’s as easy to paddle upwind as it is to paddle downwind’
- - 'An all-round inflatable board that’s as fast as a carbon race board’
- - ‘An inflatable surf-sup that makes me paddlesurf like Kai’
Although if you read some of the marketing guff out here, you might be forgiven for thinking that these things were possible!
But some of the ideas were worth a second thought:
- - A stable but exciting whitewater board designed for UK waters
- - An inflatable windsurf board that actually planes
- - A high quality surfSUP that doubles as a kids board
- - A more affordable 14 foot carbon allwater race board
- - A more affordable Team SUP
- - An interchangeable paddle system
More on these later.
We also asked our existing customers what could be improved on our current boards. It’s always dangerous asking customers for their views on what’s not so good. It’s a particularly bad idea when some of your customers are trained SUP instructors with many years of experience, and a penchant for sharing their opinions! And even though all of the improvements were minor, we’ve still spent many hours chatting, discussing, and agreeing the finer details. Some might say we’ll never get those hours back again – but getting feedback and making improvements is always time well spent!
Carry that weight
One of the absolute delights of a decent iSUP is how easy they are to transport and move around - perfect for roadtrippin'.
And our customers loved the fact that our boards have more handles than most, making them super easy to get to the put in. Some even thing we've gone overboard with the handles on our whitewater board, sport a total of 9 handles!
But some of the handles on our 2017 boards were just made of webbing. Which was fine if you’re carrying the board for short distances, in light winds and with clean hands. But mix this up with winds trying to blow the board out of your hand, grit and sand, and longer distance portages, and things can get very uncomfortable. As tempting as it was to tell people to get over it and toughen up, we’ve relented and replaced all of our webbing handles with neoprene handles. There is no real weight or environmental penalty to this, and only a minor cost penalty that we’ve just absorbed.
Also, some of the handles weren’t balanced as well as they could have been. This caused a few issues for our shorter customers who didn’t benefit from as much ground clearance as others. So we’ve repositioned the central handles to improve the balance.
Getting to the off couldn’t be any easier now!
Get a grip
Everyone loved the fact that our deckpads are so much more comfortable than the thin diamond cut pads that are
But a very small number of customers noted that the deckpad wasn’t quite as grippy as the very best in class! It's not that they were slip slidin' away, but they weren't quite as good as the very best under the most extreme performance conditions. We’d deliberately moved away from diamond cut deckpads in 2017 because diamond cut can be uncomfortable under the feet for long paddles. We’ve now moved to a crocodile skin finish as minimum grip, and our performance boards benefit from additional cutouts to improve grip without impacting on comfort.
Some riders who liked to race our 12’8 Go Explore boards found that the lack of deckpad at the rear of the board caused them some issues (unwelcome dunkings when trying to pivot around marks), so we’ve now extended it all the way to the back of the board. But we’ve retained the paracord and D Rings behind the paddling position, just positioned them around the deckpad. So now you’ve got a choice – use this area for additional luggage, or remove the paracord and use that area for performance positioning.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
Everyone loved our bags. So it was important that any changes didn’t take away any of the features that were so successful.
Most of the changes are minor, and if we didn’t mention them, most people probably wouldn’t even notice! We’ve added compression straps so that the bags can be shrunk.
Printing the board model on the side of each bag will remove one of life’s little frustrations for our instructor friends: having to unroll a board just to see what model it was gets a little annoying!
And the bags now stand up without support – another source of much irritation to a small number of people!
But to all intents and purposes, the boards and the bags are very similar to 2017. And it will take a trained eye to spot the differences. The volume, weight, rocker, shape, branding and colours all remain the same. And if you’ve read our blog on ethical and environmental marketing and production, you’ll understand the reasons why.
Making a splash in whitewater SUP
Matt Stephenson, a team GB freestyle boater, and SAS Hurley Classic champion for two years on the bounce, has been working with McConks for a couple of years. Being well connected with the fledgling UK whitewater SUP community, he had a bag full of frustrations that he’d picked up from the WWSUP community, alongside his own opinions from having paddled most decent boards on the market. So we set out to produce a board quite different to anything else out there.
We’ve been testing this board for a few months now, and Anthony Ing (StandUp Paddleboard UK) and Justin Douglas (Water, Rock & Dirt) have optimised the final design, which will be available in January 2018. We’re so pleased with this board that it deserved a blog in its own right!
As we were prototyping different rockers on the whitewater board, we realized that the shape made it an absolutely perfect specialist yoga board if we took the rocker away entirely. And so we’ve done that! Our Namaste yoga board will also be available in January 2018.
Catch a wave
Ever since we made our first board, people have been asking about when we’re finally going to make a shorter surf iSUP. Our answer, until now, had always been that there were enough medium performance surf iSUPs out there (i.e. any of them from a decent brand), and that we didn’t think we could bring anything new, either by way of price, or quality, to the beach. But then our eldest lad started to ask about getting his own smaller board at about the same time that defined rail technology came available to us. Having defined rails really ups the game in surf SUP terms, but yet very few iSUP brands have thought it’s worth the extra cost.
The rocker, defined rails, triple stringer and 30PS pressure guarantee will do you well in anything up to head high. But with the shape, rocker and 2+1 fin setup being based on a laid back, drawn out log, you’ll probably have more fun in the waist to shoulder high range.
And just for fun, it’s got a mast foot screw, so it doubles as a development platform for budding windsurfers. But if you want real windsurf performance, you’ll want to get your hands on our new Freeride iSUP.
Blowin' in the wind
Having been disappointed with WindSUP offerings for years, the technology just hadn’t been good enough to tempt us to make a WindSUP. After all, if you can’t get a board planing, what’s the point?
But finally, the stars have aligned to make the perfect freeride windSUP a possibility.
So working with a number of development riders, we’ve been prototyping and perfecting the perfect shape for an inflatable freeride board. The 9’8 x 31 x 6” board has a strong nose rocker and a delicate tail rocker to get you over those bumps with ease. With the same defined rail edge technology as our SurfSUPs, this board planes easily and quickly, and with the extra rigidity from the triple dyneema stringer the board feels very rigid and stable under foot, no matter how fast you’re going or how bumpy the water. The board comes with a 2+1 setup, allowing you to switch between freeride and freewave fin setup, and you can set the footstraps to match your riding style using a velcro fastening system. This really is a revolution in windSUP design.
And it turns out that this board is a remarkably adept river surf board!
Paddle with friends
We thought mega boards or giant boards were a gimmick, and just a toy for hen and stag parties. But having seen them in use by school groups, and put to great effect by instructors in team building exercises, but previous opinions are just like water under the bridge, and we’re happy to stand corrected. And it was these same schools and instructors who’ve persuaded us to make a team board. This isn’t just some generic Chinese board rebadged with the McConks logo. Every single component of this board has been designed by McConks. From the location of the valves, the shape of the rocker, the positioning of the handles, to the shape and design of the deckpad, this comes with the attention to detail you’ve come to expect from us. 18 foot long, 60 inches wide, 8 inches thick, double skin, full length deckpad and four valves is unremarkable in the world of Giant SUPs. But a price of £1000 is very remarkable. In a parallel universe you might a brand who will give it away for less, but not in this one!!
Bat out of hell
We admit it. We said we weren’t going to be a hard board company, and that we’re going to stick to inflatable SUP. We still generally mean that. But we may have flirted with the dark side and be testing some carbon race boards. We got a little carried away when some of our friends started asking for them, and we only got tempted because our paddles are made by one of the best carbon SUP board shaping factories in China, and we knew what quality we could expect. And we knew we could get our friends premium quality race boards at a fraction of the price.
14ft long, 27.5 inches wide, with a bulbous yet piercing nose and a recessed deck pad, the board looks the business. Finished in lacquered carbon, she is a stealth machine just waiting to take on those allwater races. But these boards are strictly limited edition. There are only three in the world at the moment, and they’re all accounted for. And once we’ve satisfied ourselves that these birds are as fast as they look stunning, we will be making them to order. And the price is as stunning as the style – less than £1,500.
…for different days? Smaller blade for surf? Bigger blade for racing? Indestructible polyprop blade for whitewater and river surf? It gets pretty expensive, pretty quickly. Well why not keep the shaft and handle and just switch the blade? That’s the idea behind our new Switch paddle system. More on this to come in 2018