Being an inland family McConks has to rely on lakes and rivers to get our personal fill of stand up paddling and watersports fun. Our nearest spot is the Cotswold Water Park where we have a great relationship with manager Tom Botterill. Tom regularly lets us mess about on the lake, sometimes after hours! he also recently got to play with the latest McConks toy; electric hydrofoils (as long as he could play as well!) So we quizzed him about that. Check out the interview below and thanks for all your support Tom!
Firstly tell us a little about your job and what your duties entail at the lake.
Through the summer I run Cotswold Water Park Hire based on Lake 86 in the Cotswold water park (funnily enough) our main focus is hiring kayaks and paddleboards and making the water as easily accessible to as many as possible without loads of faff whilst keeping it a safe enjoyable experience. This seems to be popular and one of the parts of my job I love in particular is seeing the same customers week on week, season on season. Often eventually with their own equipment and telling us about their adventures and trips.
How does stand up paddle boarding fit in?
We opened at the start of the paddleboard boom and it has always been our most popular sport for everyone, both experienced ‘watersporters’ and complete newbies never having been out on water before.
Have you seen as much growth with newbie SUPers turning up to use your facilities? Do you think this is likely to continue?
Definitely, if we look long term, when we opened in 2014 we had 12 paddleboards for hire and in 2019 we had 50 and these would still be booked up through the summer! These last two ‘weird years’ we’ve had 25 boards on the water pretty much every hour of opening, however we’ve also seen a huge rise, maybe 3 or four times the numbers of people launching their own paddleboards, this year especially as I think plenty of companies made sure they over-stocked after the shortages last year.
Will it continue? I’m not sure, I find it easier to look at polars, one of the problems we see with paddleboards across the industry is that it is relatively easy and accessible without any experience, with this in mind I believe the RNLI had some record-breaking rescue numbers earlier on in the year nearly exclusively paddle boards, if this trend continues, could we maybe see places trying to ban paddleboard access? Similarly with so many new brands bringing in very low quality paddleboards for not even budget prices possibly a newbie buying a poor quality board will not enjoy the experience and decide that SUP isn’t for them and move on.
This said, the brands invested in the market (rather than the quick buck brands) are aware of the issues and are working with their own experience and communicating with each other and experienced professionals such as us and Rapid Skills to ensure they are pushing the forefront of the sport safely, encouraging learning and a slightly deeper understanding.
When did you first come across McConks?
Andy and Jen were actually launching their own funky looking boards at the lake wayyy back at the beginning, we had a few casual conversations all being paddlers at heart and were interested in their prototypes, we offered some opinions based on our knowledge of wear and tear as our hire is a great test of how a board will last long term. This is one of the reasons we were using very expensive Red paddle boards at the beginning and just accepted the wear and tear. Through that summer we were a demo centre for the McConks boards and at the end of the season I couldn’t believe that they had little to no damage compared to the Red Paddle boards retailing at twice the price which had handles re-glued and missing sections of deck pad. The following season we bought a fleet of McConks and haven’t bought anything else since. Our difficulty now is working out which of the McConks boards are from which season.
How do you work with Andy and Jen these days?
Partly I imagine I frustrate them by always trying to fit a few more boards onto each order or suggesting a new obscure product but myself and Josh, owner of Rapid Skills and our Head of Coaching at the lake, do get the pleasure of playing on most of the new products as they arrive offering some broad opinions and generally discussing the shape and direction of paddlesport. Recently I have also spent as much time as possible stroking Marley, their dog.
Did you manage to have a bash at eFoiling? What did you think?
I did, I’d never done it before but definitely looked fun, I’m a keen wakeboarder (keen but not necessarily good) and found that just carving the powered board around on the lake was awesome fun by itself. Getting up (and staying up) on the foil became the challenge and with little to no idea between us other than some quick youtube videos I got frustrated that everything I did seemed to make it worse. So I stole it from Andy for the weekend. I spent most of it climbing back on or falling off and still have no idea what I’m doing but did manage a few short foil rides having totally changed my original technique of “just pretend it’s a wakeboard”.
Of late there’ve been some interesting sessions off the back of certain McConks equipment. Talk to us about that.
Social media is a wonderful thing, I put a very short clip on my Instagram story of me on the board just cruising on a glassy lake (pretty hard life), and I’ve never had so many messages asking what it was, where they could have a go/get one/how much…. Andy then posted a compilation of our
fails first attempt and there were more comments asking about sessions.
From a relatively small sample there was a very high percentage of interest shown.
Any thoughts on how eFoiling might evolve at the lake or inland venues in general?
I’m not sure this will be the next SUP as SUP’s popularity came from its accessibility and low difficulty level, however, it could be the new JetSki trend from the early 90’s, I think it would work really well as a taster session, learning how to do it for an hour or two and then hiring to improve skills. I think all of this would boil down to the cost to buy them too.
Got any SUP or eFoiling ambitions for the rest of 2021?
Depending on what we are allowed to do this winter I’m keen to do some kind of remote self supported SUP trip or if staying close to home I would love to be casually foiling around the lake come the start of next season – this probably depends on if Andy or Jen notice I’ve still got their foil…
You can find our more about the Fly McConks eFoil range via the link below –