McConks’ Go Skate inflatable white water SUP was made for conditions like this, even if they are manmade. There’s still no denying the power of water with flow, regardless of the chosen SUP playground. Here Beth gets to grips with the Go Skate and the standing wave. It looks simple enough but trust when we say it isn’t. There’re some top drawer skills on display here. We salute anybody who gets amongst it like this.
Pre-COVID days there were a plethora of stand up paddle board events across the country, continent and globe with everything from high level SUP races/surf SUP comps to much smaller grassroots gatherings. At many of these get-togethers you’d find a whole host of SUP brands airing their wares and giving the punter an opportunity to try the various bits of kit. From paddles to boards, wetsuits to accessories there was plenty available for having a bash with. The hope being (from the brand’s side of the fence) that you’d fall in love with a product and then make a purchase.
Demos for potential customers were a way to sift through the seemingly endless marketing bumph – that many couldn’t make head nor tail of – and see exactly how a board or paddle translated to water environments. Was the gear in question likely to fit a paddler‘s wants and needs? Whilst ‘conditions’ (as it were) at many events were never exact replicas of a rider’s local some idea and basic understanding of kit could be garnered. And this goes for inflatables as well as hard boards.
Wit 2020 being the year of COVID, with all but a smattering of comps cancelled, there’s been no real way for punters to test kit. Add the fact retailers have been operating with social distancing in place, with demo/test equipment hard to come by, and you potentially have a nightmare situation for any peddler of SUP gear. After all, if you can’t face to face with your audience, get them using your kit (and promote the benefits of) how you can you expect to sell anything?
But as well know 2020 has seen an unprecedented rise in popularity with SUP. Up until this year, many brands were in a state of consolidation stripping back ranges and focusing on what they were best at rather try and fulfil every pipeline. For some, this was the performance end of stand up whereas others had traction with inflatable markets. 2019 wasn’t the best year for sales of stand up paddle boarding gear the majority of SUP businesses questioning the sport’s longevity. It had already been described as the fastest growing watersport back pre-2010. But then the economic crash of 2008 bit and it wasn’t quite the same after. Proof of that came with a few media publications, such as SUP the Mag, shuttering and once high profile events such as Battle of the Paddle (subsequently rebranded to the Pacific Paddle Games) also ceasing to exist.
With 2020 starting off as a seemingly innocuous year quickly shifted tack with a global pandemic hitting us all. Doom and gloom prevailed at the tail end of winter, seemingly endless rain mirroring the nation’s overall mood. Lockdown was still a few weeks off and the population hadn’t quite gotten its head around what that might look like. And then, bang, we were all confined to barracks…And the sun put his hat on!
A perfect cocktail of events then ensued. Restrictions were lifted and everyone was allowed back out into the world, albeit with a few caveats. Staying on home soil, without having to work (furlough) for a large % of the population which gave a bit of disposable income, plus good weather and the desire to make the most of things led to SUP being one of the headline activities the nation were choosing to do. Suddenly stand up paddle boards, paddles and accessory sales were through the roof. This escalated further as summer rolled in with many brands, including McConks, selling out of stock.
The situation continued as school holidays landed – even though most kids hadn’t seen a classroom for weeks. Everywhere you looked stand up paddle boards were strapped to the roofs of cars, hiding in the backs of vans, or being towed to the river/lake by cycle power. Then there were the actual numbers of SUPers you encountered once afloat! You couldn’t have predicted it. It became self perpetuating…
In the absence of demos, and the ability to try before you buy, questions about various types of kit were being asked online – particularly social media. Brands were being hit up for their info and mates were being quizzed about the gear they’d just purchased. In the end though most paddlers simply took a punt, based on the budget they had, and by and large have been content with their choice. There’ve been a few horror stories but not too many.
So, do demos matter any more? The answer seems to be: obviously not. With SUP being so popular again newbies appear to be happy to own the kit that allows them to get wet. This being the biggest demographic nobody’s really looking for ultimate performance. Stand up is simply a way to enjoy the outdoors and time on the water; with family, with friends or solo. If this is the precedent that chunk of extra cash most brands need for demos and events can be put to other uses. That’s great for any stand up paddle boarding business in the short term. Whether it remains the Status Quo is open for debate, however. Only time will tell…
There’re no two ways about it: winter’s coming and with that the potential for fluffy white stuff falling from the sky. For some this scenario couldn’t be further from needed whereas others revel in flurries of flakes creating white carpets across our green and pleasant land. It can play havoc with travelling, such a driving in snow. Although with COVID restrictions in place perhaps that won’t be too much of a challenge as there could be less people on the roads?
So what’s the suggestion as it stands? With it being a La Nina year, and an 85% probability rating of this lasting through winter, colder dryer conditions may be on the cards. And this could spell snow. For many this will automatically put the kybosh on going anywhere near water and getting afloat. A nice warm fire, cup of tea and a snuggly jumper the preferred option. Yet stand up paddle boarding when there’s snow on the ground is certainly doable.
The fact is: when it’s snowy the air temperatures are actually a bit warmer. Yes, you need it to freeze high up in the atmosphere to actually crystallise the raindrops and turn it to snow. But the blanket cloud that accompanies white stuff actually serves to keep some degree of temperature locked in. And if the sunshine turns on and you get bluebird skies following a dump then you’re on to a winner. The time a dampener may be put on things is if a gale’s blowing in accompaniment. In which case, maybe it’s best to sit it out and wait for a calmer window.
The bottom line, however, is that you can SUP in the snow. With the right protection (water wear) and adhering to SUP safety practises, there’s no reason not to bag a sesh even if fluffy powder’s falling from the sky.
We have to say this is quite impressive. Those dance moves themselves have got rhythm and timing but the fact it’s also aboard the McConks Mega SUP lends additional kudos. This kind of thing isn’t as easy as it looks. Timing, balance and sure footedness are all needed, which are all on display in buckets here.
It seems timely to start this article with a little story about a recent trip to Cardiff. Andy suggested it would be nice for he and I to go for a city paddle whilst the boys had a day out with his parents. Reader, he lied! It was quite a traumatic, unpleasant paddle, for me at least. First, we parked in a less-salubrious area of the city, right next to a police incident support unit, the inhabitants of which were buzzing up and down the river searching for something. Then, as some of our regular readers may remember, some kids threw a traffic cone off a bridge at me, scaring the living daylights out of me – although thankfully it only nudged the board and I escaped injury and a dunking. I was left pretty shaken, and already doubting how ‘nice’ the paddle was. The final nail in the coffin of my enjoyment came when I decided to explore what appeared to be a lovely little tranquil lagoon off the main river just opposite our access point. Paddling in it was beautiful, and looked like a real wildlife haven… Until I looked down. It was fairly shallow and there were lots of white things on the river bed. I looked more closely, and yep, it was covered in sanitary towels. Horrified, I tried to make a quick (and dry) exit. Sadly, just at the entrance of the lagoon, and I have no idea how it happened, but I wobbled and fell in! Safe to say I have rarely got back on the board so quickly, and paddled back to land wishing for a decontamination tent! Although I have seen the odd tampon applicator on the beach, I have never had such a stark reminder of the effects of disposable period products, and if I hadn’t already been a strong advocate of reusable items, it definitely would have made me think!
Environmenstrual Week was launched by the Women’s Environmental Network in 2018 to raise awareness of period issues, including breaking the taboo around the subject, dealing with the inherent social injustices and trying to resolve the problem of disposable period products ending up in the environment. While these are all important issues, it is the latter that is most relevant to our audience here.
WEN report that a whopping 2 billion period products are flushed down Britain’s toilets every year, and they are also the 5th most common item found on European beaches. Britain recently celebrated single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds being banned, yet these are only the 7th most common item found on European beaches! Clearly there’s a massive problem here. Not only that, but sanitary towels can contain up to 90% plastic – a statistic that I certainly wasn’t aware of. Tampons also may have plastic applicators – a feature that isn’t even strictly necessary, as cup users will testify. [Stats sourced from WEN]
These statistics are horrifying, and in a time when plastic pollution is something we are all increasingly aware of, it’s clear that period products are a huge problem. Beyond the yuck factor, such as I experienced, there is the impact on the environment and wildlife of all these disposable sanitary items floating about in our waterways, the ocean and on land.
So as a reusable period product user for over 10 years, what would I recommend? I use a moon cup and Modi Bodi period pants as back up and would heartily recommend both. In fact I’ve been so pleased with them that I haven’t tried any other products. I’d be happy to have a chat about my experiences if you’re interested and would like to know more. However, I would say have a look at the wealth of options available, and have a try, as there’s all sorts from menstrual cups, to period pants to washable sanitary towels. Don’t be afraid – it’s a bit daunting at first, but so many people never look back. Different products will suit different people depending on the characteristics of their period, their lifestyle etc. They’re easy to use, save a heap of money over the course of their useful life and often people (myself included) find they make the whole experience more pleasant – and really who could ask for more! And don’t forget, you’re not only saving yourself money, you’re doing something awesome for our planet!
If I’m preaching to the converted, then I think we can all do our bit by shouting about how great these products are, and being prepared to break the period taboo and talk about it. It’s also worth considering the social injustices inherent in the issue – although these reusable products save money in the long-term, they are more costly up-front and so aren’t possible for everyone. Unfortunately the cheapest disposable products are also the ones that have the most chemicals in their make up, and the most plastic. WEN have a great Environmenstrual Week Tool Kit available via the link below, if you’re interested in finding out what else you can do, and you can also get discount codes for various reusable products:
With autumn already here, and winter just around the corner, the time for waves is now. It doesn’t matter which part of the UK’s coastline you head for you’ve more chance of scoring a surfable/SUPable wave during the off season. Low pressure systems whip up storms, close to shore and miles out at sea, all of which can deliver surf in various forms. But what type of venue and wave should you be looking at if you’re thinking of having a crack?
Waves come in all shapes and sizes: some absolute behemoths while other swells are mellower and smaller. Surf also breaks on all seabed types, from sand to reef and a mixture of the two. Waves can roll in and dump onto steeply shelving beaches as well as curling (refracting) round headlands and peeling either left or right. Basically, there are a multitude of scenarios for SUP surfing but not every one is right for taking those first steps.
A wide open sand bottomed beach will serve you well at first. Picking a spot that isn’t mega busy is also a good call. You may want others around for safety but if too crowded there’s nothing worse than a marauding stand up paddle board dancing through the line up, dragging the rider as the white water surges towards shore. Ample space and room to make mistakes is therefore key. Avoid places where heavy marine traffic is operating as well. The last thing you want to end up is a statistic!
The wave shouldn’t be too big. A stand up paddle board – even inflatable – will catch the smallest of ripples. That said you still want the feeling of riding a proper wave so something between knee and chest high will have enough ‘push’ to shove you along and give you the taste.
Whilst you can surf when it’s breezy there’s no point beasting yourselves if a blow’s puffing onto the beach. A windless or light air day will be much more fun and make getting ‘out back’ a doddle. It should also go without saying that obstacles, such as rocks and wooden sea defences need to be avoided. Simply making your life as easy as possible should be best course of action.
Research your intended surf spot thoroughly. Understand how the beach changes its personality as tides ebb and flow. Know how different wind directions affect the break as well. If you need to ask questions then do so. There’s a plethora of info online and most members of relevant Facebook groups will be able to answer your queries.
Finally, wrap your head around surf etiquette – it applies to SUPing in waves as well. Knowing the rules of the road is key to not annoying others and making sure you have an enjoyable time. Also, be sure to smile. When learning to stand up paddle surf you’re going to do a lot of falling. But this is OK and all part of the learning curve. Enjoy!
Whatever type of adventure SUP you’re planning you need the right gear. This of course means board and paddle but it also means SUP adventure accessories. Fortunately here at McConks we’ve got you covered. Check out the range below and click on the titles or images to navigate to each product for more info.
Truly works of art these fine looking specimens are hand crafted SUP paddles that are so beautiful they’ll make your eyes water. Artisan stand up paddle board equipment such as this isn’t a new thing. Back at SUP‘s modern inception (2005 and on) a handful of woodturners and skilled with saw types were making gear like this. For some reason it all but faded away in the run up to 2020 bar a real small few who kept things going. There are probably a bunch of reasons why this is the case, not least costs of items like this.
Currently Family McConks is putting these gorgeous looking creations through their paces when we go afloat. You can see them in action in the following video –
Stay tuned to hear about our findings with these. As we’ve said in previous posts we’re always looking for ways to evolve the McConks brand. This could be pone such method of adding to our already existing catalogue of SUP paddles.
Here at McConks we’re super keen to promote SUP safety. Stand up paddle boarding may be one of the most accessible watery activities you can do but it isn’t without risks. We’re big fans of quick release safety belt leashes but just recently we were challenged on this and how beginner paddlers, with no prior experience, would cope with them. There’s no evidence to suggest they work in the hands of the uneducated so therefore are they actually the best safety tethering system? Do they add another layer of risk, as far as entrapment goes, that we haven’t thought about?
We bang on all the time about getting accurate weather info, learning to read a weather charts and interpreting that data for your chosen spot. Even inland this is imperative to not getting caught out when SUPing. If you’re new to stand up paddling then proper weather reports (not just the forecast that comes after the news) can be daunting. And yet with so many available websites displaying info in fairly simple to understand ways it can still remain a quagmire until you actually learn and understand what you’re looking at.
That said the UK’s weather, as we all know, is an unpredictable beast. Whilst every effort is made by forecasters and those designing forecast modelling software our land’s geography, in relation to our European conterparts and surrounding bodies of water, means things can change at the drop of a hat. What predictions tell you for your area don’t always come to fruition. But turning a blind eye to weather info is unsafe so it’s certainly best practise to learn, digest and understand. Knowledge is power after all…
Sometimes though the SUP conditions you actually get on the day at your chosen put in are what you could call ‘Forrest Gump’ esque. In the 1994 film, starring Tom Hanks as a man with an IQ of just 75, there’s a classic line: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” To lesser or greater extent this sentiment can be applied to UK weather.
A classic case in point can be reading the a daily chart only to find that gales are forecast with seemingly little chance of SUP in traditional sense – i.e. standing and paddling (windSUP may still be on the cards). But to quote another often used sentence, solidified by Hawaii’s North Shore legend Eddie Aikau’s formidable rep: ‘Eddy would go’ (yep, we’re all about one liners in this article!) meaning if you don’t have a look/see then you could miss out.
OK, we’ll admit. Most of the time weather forecasts do actually prove to be accurate. If it’s predicted to be windy and wet then it most likely will be. But every once in a while you do get ‘Forrest Gump weather’ that doesn’t reflect what the meteorologists tell you, leaving a clear window for a spot of unexpected SUP action… Our advice? Tune in to what’s going on weather wise and when a window opens just go for it!
Dragging the kids out of bed at dawn’s crack, to get on the SUP train for sunrise is made all the more worth it when you get a new day start like the one Team Fam McConks recently experienced. There’re no two ways about it: the weather’s closing in, days are getting shorter and the chilly air’s enough to make ya fingers tingle. But it can be an awesome time for some paddling fun if you can muster the enthusiasm and motivation.
Bad weather may be a common trait during the off season but calmer days, with amazing light and vistas, do also make an appearance. As such setting the alarm and making a beeline for the drink when the sky’s clear and the sun’s shining is so worth it. It’s good for the soul and headspace. Which goes for your offspring as well. In times where too much reliance is placed on screen time and sedentary living winter sunrise SUP sessions totally buck that trend and should therefore be grasped with both hands.
Get some sunrise (or sunset) SUPin’ yourself this winter. You’ll be glad you did!
Did you know McConks have a number of inflatable obstacles that are currently being put to good use via the SUP 32 winter stand up paddle board club at one of our local lakes. We’ve been saying for a while that just because winter’s inbound doesn’t mean your SUP fun has to stop. Far from it! In this instance we’re putting our money where our mouths are and getting as many local stand up paddlers involved in some floating fun as possible.
What do you reckon? Do you think you could do better than the group in the video? It’s not quite as easy as you’d think. But tons of laughs regardless – even if you do fall splat in the drink!
Stay tuned for more updates from the SUP 32 club as we’re sure there’ll be plenty more of this over the coming weeks.
We appreciate not everyone has access to high performance wakeboard gear – ski boat and boards. Plus wakeboarding’s actually quite tricky to master, at least when you compare it to SUP towboating. What’s SUP towboating we hear you ask? Simply put it’s being towed behind any kind of motorised craft whilst aboard your stand up paddle board!
The board you use can be any size and the boat can be a simple as a yacht tender, with small outboard, or watersports rescue RIB such as the one being used in the vid below. SUP towboating’s another example of your inflatable stand up paddle board‘s versatility. You don’t always need to be paddling. SUPs can be used for a whole manner of things. As long as your having fun then whatever really goes. Just look at the smile on Mrs McConks’ face!
Much as with bikes having the ability to boost, increase speed, cadence, climb and aid your efforts having the ability to inject a little extra juice when wing foiling is definitely welcome. Unfortunately, the UK’s wind isn’t as steady as you’d think. It’d be nice to enjoy non-gusty Trade Winds as they do in parts of the world but with weather systems (low/high pressures) controlling our conditions we’re reliant on Mother Nature’s moods. Different wind directions, speeds and all with local effects – such as topography and tides in the mix (at least where the accompanying pics were shot) means you’re forever battling (to some degree) what’s on offer.
Electric hydrofoils and associated boards are definitely gaining traction in terms of interest and desire. The stumbling blocks of price and weight (impacting transport) does halt riders in their tracks – for now. As the tech improves and costs come down it may be we start and see more eFoils at waterway locations. Only time will tell on this.
If you’re already a wing foiler and looking for something to aid your riding (and have access) then an eFoil in the mix when conditions aren’t tip top could be a way to enhance the fun. We’re not going to lie, it’s a tricky thing being able to control a wing and control an electric hydrofoil via the handheld, Bluetooth wireless controller. The throttle is super sensitive meaning a deft touch is needed. On top of which you need to consider foil ride height in relation to water state) and all those puffs of breeze coming at you like aerated bullets.
After a few runs, however, it can be picked up quite easily if you’ve got prior foiling skills in the mix. And we have it on good authority the lightweight, super controllable nature of the McConks Go Fly 5m wing helps things enormously. Whether levitated via the power of electricity or wind alone as soon as you have something like a wing flapping about behind you it does affect stability to a degree. But as we say it’s doable with the right gear.
Our rider in question’s using a 150L board for ample float. Those who’ve seen the McConks prototype eFoil may be intrigued about its eWing foil performance. We also asked the question the answer was that it’s too low volume for a 90kg rider to get into position (for the time being) in patchy breeze. Watch this space though as we know steps are being made to get over that plateau.
What’s more, we think it’s great that Fenwick did the interview whilst actually out on the water with his ever faithful pooch Moona. Helping rid the river of plastic, there’s nothing like authenticity when speaking about your passions! Another of which being swimming and coaching others to do the same – via his H2oTrails business – in cold winter waters of lakes and river predominantly in the north of England.
Adventure SUP can be anything that takes you on an adventure. It can be hardcore paddling, investing what’s round the next bend or simply heading off somewhere to pitch up and relax for a few hours. This was McConks head honch and family’s pathway of choice recently when they upped sticks and headed for the, er, sticks…
It was also a chance to put to the test some of the adventure SUP ‘solutions’ that Andy’s been messing about with for a while. Oh, and Mrs McConks the chance for a nice reclining cuppa. All this proves that with the right kit you don’t need to smash the miles or even smash yourselves when it comes to having a SUP adventure. Nobody cares if you’re giving it ‘Bear Grylls’. As long as it’s fun and fulfilling then that’s all that matters.
Anyone who owns a yacht (or yachties as they’re affectionately nicknamed) likes their toys. After all, that’s why you own a yacht, right? It’s also par for the course that many yachties also like to load up on extra toys for those all-important rest stops and recreational weighing of anchors. Once tied off there’s additional fun to be had to that of just sailing.
Over the last few years it’s been stand paddle boards that many boat owners have stocked up on, and you can see why (it’s still happening as well we might add!). Easily stowable on deck (or below), ripe for a bit of paddling fun having reached the destination in question, they’re a great yacht toy to have. But now there’s a new ‘toy’ that’s also a great fit for the yacht owner crowd…
As many regular McConks blog followers will know we’ve been putting a prototype electric foil through its paces. Yacht owners are one of a few ideal audiences who fit the eFoil buying demographic. Due to their compact nature eFoil boards, just like regular stand up paddle platforms, are easy to stow onboard. The foil itself is modular and therefore break down, again, making it easy to stash somewhere on or below deck. Having arrived at your chose spot it’s then a case of assembling and launching from the boat. Riders don’t need to be anywhere near popular beaches and, in fact, can be in quite deep water with the person’s yacht itself providing not only the launch pad but also a handy rescue boat in case assistance is needed (handy to have that as peace of mind).
With a yacht hard to access locations, at least on foot, can be made a beeline for. Then bust out the eFoil for a cruise around the locale and some additional watery fun. The easy transporting nature of eFoil gear makes it super attractive to anyone already owning a boat. And of course should yacht/eFoil owners want to take their toy elsewhere, away from their boat, then that’s possible. Unlike say a jetski, which requires a trailer, it couldn’t be easier transferring your eFoil to the car or van and heading off for further flights of fun.
If you’re a yacht, day boat or large vessel owner looking to stash some additional toys onboard for moored up laughs then give us a shout to talk about the McConks eFoil: the perfect complement to your yachting life.
There’s no question: life as it currently stands is extremely tricky. Particularly in light of recent announcements regarding restrictions where you may live. COVID has certainly proved, and continues to, make once simple pleasures all the more hard. This, as has also been widely broadcast, does have an impact on well being and mental health.
At time of writing (Oct 13, 2020) further halts have been placed on situations in certain parts of the country. You can’t lead the life you once did. But hopefully this will revert back soon. In the meantime, as we understand, you can still go for your daily round of exercise. If you’re a stand up paddle boarder then this should be welcome and much needed.
We talked about SUP‘s positive impact on mental health before. With life as it stands there’s definitely an outlet needed to restore some sort of calm and balance. Paddling in the outdoors and simply taking a moment whilst afloat can do wonders and help reset the brain. Winter, of course, can be a harder season to get wet but where there’s a will there’s a way. And it’d be encouraged to make use of opportune windows that open. You can even paddle at night, as we talked about in this article, with the right preparation and planning.
It’s a proven fact that exercise, no matter how small an amount, will boost those positive endorphins in your brain. Simply walking briskly for 20 minutes can help immensely. And if you can walk then why not jog? It therefore stands to reason that stand up paddle boarding will have similar effects. So when you can grab your paddle and head off for a blast; you’ll be glad you did.
By the looks of things this winter’s going to be arduous in some ways. Yet hopefully there’ll be time for a SUP sesh at points which should be taken advantage of. Make sure you’re equipped with the right gear, such as a decent wetsuit, boots and gloves, and you’ll be sorted for blade action whatever the weather. If stand up paddle boarding can help you cope with what’s going on in the world, and you’re able to get wet, then do it. We appreciate mental health issues are different for everyone, but if you’re able grab those SUP sessions when you can.
Before we actually talk specifics it should be noted that paddling in the dark does carry slightly more risk than in daylight. As such you’ll need to be mindful of how you do things with an extra eye on safety. Don’t take unnecessary risks, plan things accordingly, and you should be fine.
With days getting shorter and, for some, opportunity to SUP much less (or at least that’s the perception) you may be forgiven for hanging up your paddle until spring. Clocks changing at the end of October and us losing more light and therefore time can be a depressing situation. But it doesn’t have to be. With prior planning and preparation there’s no reason you can’t score an after hours SUP session or two.
Paddling in darkness can be a strange thing at first but if you consider boats and marine vessels navigate at night there’s not really much difference other than you being atop a stand up paddle board. Confidence and skill play a big part. If you’re still at the falling off stage then maybe night SUPing isn’t for you yet. For anyone paddling comfortably, however, it’s more than doable.
Location choices versus the weather should be taken into consideration. Heading out into open tidal water when it’s blowing 30 knots offshore isn’t wise. Seeking shelter in a non-flowing canal will work far better. It may be that you have to wait it out until Mother Nature is feeling in a better mood but that’s OK.
We’ve talked before how reading forecasts is key to scoring decent stand up paddle boarding sessions. Getting fixated on the period you can SUP, and not taking account of the weather and what’s going on conditions wise isn’t the best course of action – especially with night paddling in mind. Just because you want to paddle at a set time and location doesn’t mean you have to. Waiting for appropriate windows is fair wiser.
If you can put in at locations where there’s increased ambient light then this is a good thing. For instance, the location in the accompanying pics is close to a bridge, where streetlights shine brightly, as well as having illuminated premises on the foreshore. This helps with navigation. Wearing a head torch can also help give your chosen paddling path some glow.
Don’t take risks. When/if night SUPing we’re talking about sticking to flat water only. It’s not the time to be hucking waterfalls or trying to ride waves. And definitely wear your leash! At this time of year it’s colder, obviously. Remember that when darkness falls temperatures also drop further so wearing the right attire is a must. If you layer up then removing garments if you get too hot is possible. But better to be warm rather than too cool.
Finally, tell someone where you’re going and what time you’ll plan and getting back. Carry a means of communication, such as mobile phone of VHF stowed in a waterproof pouch.
Paddling at night is a totally calming experience – almost meditative if you get it right. At the very least it’s one way of keeping your SUP sessions going through winter, even if you’re a time lacking sort.
If you’re not aware then wings are a simple, hassle free way to make use of gusty days when a paddle just won’t cut the mustard. Assembled in minutes they fill with air as per your inflatable stand up paddle board and are ready to go quick smart. Then it’s a case of either going afloat with your wing and regular SUP or grabbing a foil board and taking to the air. In either situation the technique for getting up on your feet is the same. Here’s a run through of what you should be doing.
Flipping your wing.
Once you’re in deep enough water (how much will depend on whether you’re riding a board with hydrofoil attached or a regular SUP) you’ll need to flip the wing so the inflatable bladders rest on top of the water. To actually flip the Go Fly wing you need to get hold of one wingtip and rotate the wing away from where the wind’s coming from. This may take a bit of getting used to.
Getting ready to fly the wing.
You should have the wind on your back, then your board in front of you with the Go Fly wing lying on the downwind side of your platform. You can leave the wing to float whilst you get sorted although we prefer having the wing close to us and not having to reel it in with the wrist leash. Either way, your board (at least initially) should have enough float (volume and width) to allow you to get comfortable on your knees whilst you get sorted.
Climbing onboard and readying yourself.
Our method has the wing lying right on the rail of the board or sometimes even resting on the deck. Clamber up onto your SUP whilst keeping hold of the leading edge bladder for additional stability. As you improve you can keep hold of the wing‘s leading edge handle whilst you get in position.
Getting to your kneesand flying the wing.
Once you’re stable the next thing is to kneel, looking in your direction of travel and fly the wing. Lift the wing above your head with the wing‘s leading edge handle. You can then reach down the middle strut with your backhand and take hold of a handle here. Pull in slightly with the back hand to gain some momentum. With forwards propulsion move your front hand to one of the middle strut handles and your back hand further back to find the wing‘s balance point.
The next bit can be tricky but will come with practice. Quickly shift from kneeling with your front leg to having your foot firmly on the board’s deck. A bit of shuffling may be needed to find the optimum position. Keep the wing high but powred by tugging with your back hand. Then in one swift movement shift all your weight onto the front leg and tuck your back leg up to bring your whole self to standing. Maintain a forward looking head and avoid feet gazing. Also, don’t lean outboard, instead try and maintain forward momentum and power in the wing. If you’re on a SUP then now’s the time to look upwind and where you want to go whilst weighting (slightly) the board’s windward rail to edge upwind.
Stand aloft and wing away.
Keep on tracking in the direction travel, heading upwind until you’re ready to turn around.
Time to wingfoil – turn slightly downwind first.
If you’re on a board with a hydrofoil then the next step is getting to ride height. Depending on the strength of the wind will determine how much effort you’ll need to exert for this next part. If it’s light then you’ll need to pump harder. If it’s breezier then not so much.
Turn your board slightly away from the wind (downwind) a little. You do this by simply looking where you want to go. If there’s any kind of chop in the mix then aim to go with it also.
Pumping your wing and board onto foil.
In tandem, whilst keeping the wing high, pull down on the wing‘s handles and pumping up and down with your legs. You should be aiming to weight and unweight the board thereby allowing the foil to release. This needs to be timed with your wing pumping. Keep pointed away from the wind and use any chop or swell (if available) to aid speed and therefore lift.
Foiling lift off!
As the foil begins to lift transfer your weight to a front foot bias stance. Offsetting your feet can help when up and foiling. Keep an eye on the water state and sustaining an efficient ride height (but don’t gaze down) – not too high and not too low. If you over foil (cavitate) then kick the board and foil away from and accept your dunking. It’s then a case of beginning the whole process again.
A few notes on winging.
If you’re planning on riding McConks’ Go Fly wing on a SUP, and not foiling, then it’s worth using a board with a big fin and/or a centrally located type, such as a daggerboard, to aid upwind performance. This will help avoid the ‘walk of shame’ after you’ve drifted downwind.
Leashes, for both wing (a wrist leash) and board (surf, coiled or waist) are a must! There’re no hard and fast rules when it comes to leashes and what type you use. But definitely use them.
If learning to wing foil then do so away from others. Control at this point will be limited and you don’t want to hit anyone. Also, consider a buoyancy aid and/or impact vest and helmet. The rider in these pics has extensive foiling experience, although this doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong. They often can and do.
SUP freestyle’s definitely a thing. And you don’t need waves, moving river water or any other kind of conditions to do it. A millpond flat puddle will do just nicely (as long as you’ve got fin clearance!). If you want to improve your stand up paddle board game then ‘messing about’ and dabbling with a few SUP tricks will certainly help. Here’re a few ideas to get you started – with a bit of creativity who knows what moves you may come up with.
Starting things off simply if you can already pivot turn 180 degrees then keeping it going to perform a 360 is the next step. The wider and more powerful your sweep stroke, combined with a high riding nose of your board, will see the spin happen faster. A 540 is then the next challenge.
One footed paddling
This isn’t as hard as it looks because you have your SUP paddle which acts as a sort of crutch. The tricky part is recovering your paddle for the next stroke and remaining balanced. Keep your head up and eyes forward to avoid dunkings.
Paddling backwards/fin first
If you can paddle it forwards why not pilot your SUP backwards? The nose will be a bit slippy, due to not having any deck grip there, but it’s more than doable and looks cool to boot.
Paddling your SUP upside down
There’s absolutely no functionality with this one. It’s simply something that’ll make you laugh – perhaps others too! Turning your stand up paddle board upside down and paddling it fin up isn’t especially hard, although you’ll need to be aware there’s no grip on the hull and it can get quite slippy. There are a few ways to get your board flipped. You can get in the water next to your iSUP and rock it over, or for those who really love a challenge, try paddling it and then almost performing a kickflip whereby you weight a rail and turn it upside down with you managing to land on the hull without taking a dunking. This is pretty hard and likely to get you wet!
Nose sink pivot turn
This one’s a more advanced version of the usual pivot turn, as performed by Ninja Nathan – one of the SUP instructors at Waterland Outdoor Activities. Rather than pivoting from the tail you sink the nose and pivot from there. It’s a slightly trickier move as there’s no fin to provide lateral resistance. It’s a bit like a pop shuvit skateboard trick, but done on flat water with no air time, obviously. It’s no less a crowd pleaser though!
Be sure to let us see your SUP freestyle pics and tell us what moves of choice you favour.
We already posted this to the McConks Facebook page. But as we’re super excited about new 2021 stand up paddle boarding developments we’re shouting about it again. Not ones to sit on our laurels the McConks team is forever looking at new ideas, concepts and determining what’s viable. We’d love to be in a position where we could offer ALL the toys but sometimes that isn’t possible. Yet, an ever changing market, with different wants/needs for the consumer means we do need to keep on top of things.
To date we’ve already designed and sold a one off hard race SUP. And currently we’re doing our thing with a hard windSUP prototype. And then there’s this, which is being tweaked as we speak. Suffice to say we’re pretty excited about what could manifest. The outcome of this tinkering could prove to be extremely special.
Andy comments: ‘Still need to finalise the transitions, smooth out some of the lines, and the build in the concaves in the hull, but it’s coming along nicely.’ So, hands up if you’re interested!
Waterland Outdoor Activites – friends of McConks SUP – are a case in point. Keeping on with stand up (at our local haunt no less – Lake32 at the Cotswold Water Park) the crew is loaning the McConks inflatable obstacles and a McConks Mega iSUP. Simply put: it doesn’t matter if the days are getting shorter and temperatures are becoming chillier. With fun like this on offer at SUP 32 Club (d’ya see what they did there?) there’s no reason not to indulge.
What are you doing to make winter a season of SUP fun?
It hardly needs pointing out that travel is currently rather tricky due to the global pandemic going on. Even domestic trips are a little more headache inducing than they were. Yet autumn/winter is a time when many peeps get gone. Some choose to head for snow caped peaks while others tend to prefer sunnier climes. As the UK’s weather turns and Jack Frost begins to bite where would you be heading to get you warm water SUP fix? Here’re a few suggestions from our side.
Yep, we kick this off with a good ole UK location that’s been popular for donkey’s. Summer especially sees hordes of holidaymakers (2020 being a case in point) heading Kernow way. But off season sojourns to the first county in England (or is that the last?) can be supreme. Nailing it can means keeping an eye on forecasts and heading SW when a window opens. Even in winter sunny, warmer days can be snagged. And if you manage to score this with a pulse of offshore surf then we guarantee you’ll be smiling from ear to ear. The SUP touring/adventure options can be great as well.
The Canary Islands, Spain
Much like England the Canaries can be hit or miss with winter sun, albeit always in a slightly warmer vein. Being in close proximity to Blighty means traditionally when a weather break appears it was pretty simple to hop on a plane and head across to Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife or one of the less known isles. Whilst the archipelago does get its fair share of warmer off season weather the islands boast some stunning surfing action with flat water SUP options being also rather good. Each island has its own personality so it’s a case of choosing which suits you best.
Perhaps Maui is on your bucket list? If you didn’t already know this is where stand up paddle boarding in modern form hails from. It doesn’t stop there though. The ‘Valley Isle’ is a true watersports’ lovers playground with endless options for getting wet atop whatever craft you feel inclined. The culture is more laid back that the Big Island, and in large parts typically Polynesian. If you’ve never been it’s well worth the long trek but be warned: you may never want to leave!
Barbados, West Indies
One of the more densely populated West Indian islands Barbados never the less is a ‘go to’ destination for surfing, SUP, windsurfing and kitesurfing for many looking to escape the UK winter. With challenging but doable conditions it’s typifies the Caribbean experience with plenty of Rasta culture and Carib vibes in effect. The Caribbean Sea side of the island boasts bubblegum blue waters and a cosmopolitan feel whilst the rugged Atlantic facing coast is much more mellow and somewhere you can get lost for a few weeks but still indulge in a spot of SUP.
The Hebrides, Scotland
For our last location we’re bringing it back to this neck of the woods. For many the Hebridean islands are paradise personified. While not quite as warm as the already mentioned Caribbean its vistas, natural colours and light can rival the Tropics without question. White sandy beaches, azure seas, cobalt coloured coves and stunning green rolling hills/mountainsd leave many in awe. It’s also an awesome destination for stand up paddle boarding – whatever your flavour of SUP.
Where’s your favourite stand up paddle board location?
Unfortunately mishaps do occur and possibly at some point your beloved inflatable stand up paddle board will pick up a nick causing a small puncture to occur. But fear not as repairing an iSUP is pretty easy. You board should come with a puncture repair kit as standard so you’ll have the majority of tools needed to complete the job in hand. You’ll need to grab a spatula and hairdryer with possibly some sandpaper as well.
Inflate your board so it has some air pressure. Then grab yourself some soapy water and sponge. Rub the water on your board and watch for bubbles appearing as air escapes to locate where the hole is.
Dry the area off but make sure you remember where the damage is. Marking lightly with a pen’s a good way to ensure this.
Once the damaged area’s dry take the sandpaper and gently scuff the zone to create a key – but don’t be too overzealous here. You’ll also want to do the same with the patch you’re applying. All good repair kits will have a number of patches, sandpaper, glue and a valve tool – the latter you won’t need though.
Next up deflate the board fully and completely dry off the board. If you need to leave it until all moisture has gone then done so.
Masking tape the area around the hole so the glue doesn’t go everywhere. Apply glue liberally with a paintbrush to the board and use a hairdryer to semi-dry the liquid before placing the patch over the hole. Use a spatula to get rid of any air bubbles. The patch should be equidistant from the hole in all directions.
As the patch dries you can use the hairdryer once more to further aid drying. Then leave for a few hours.
Anyone beady eyed will have noticed of late we’ve been testing a McConks electric hydrofoil prototype. Whilst this might not be for everyone it’s certainly pricked a great deal of interest. If you’re looking to get into eFoiling with the McConks electric hydrofoil board then here’s a handy set up guide that’ll allow you to take those first tentative steps with ease. You can refer back to this article or download the attached PDF document at the bottom.
McConks eFoil set up guide, basic safety considerations and pre-flight checks.
McConks’s eFoil set up, comprising of board, electric hydrofoil, Lithium Ion battery and handheld, wireless Bluetooth trigger throttle is as plug and play as you can get. There are, however, a few things to consider before going afloat and getting those first flights.
Be aware that any kind of hydrofoil activity, but especially electrically powered foiling, carries a degree of risk to you and others.
Pre-flight checks – eFoil safety
DON’T EFOIL CLOSE TO OTHERS! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PLENTY OF SPACE TO LEARN AND PROGRESS. WHEN YOU WIPEOUT THE EFOIL WILL TRAVEL QUITE A DISTANCE. IT DOES HAVE AN AUTO-OFF FAIL SAFE BUT YOU NEED TO HAVE PLENTY OF ROOM.
Choose a sheltered location, preferably with minimal tide, current, swell and wind activity. IF YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR APPROPRIATE WEATHER CONDITIONS THEN DO SO!
Wear a helmet, impact vest/buoyancy aid, wetsuit and possibly boots in case of accidentally kicking the foil.
Make sure your chosen location has deep enough water and is free of obstacles such as rocks, mooring buoys and similar. AVOID BUSY SHIPPING LANES IF ON THE OPEN SEA.
Check to see what local laws, guidelines and legislation is in effect for powered craft. If you need to inform authorities of your intended activities then do so.
Pre-flight checks – battery, throttle controller and foil inspection
Ensure the battery is fully charged. All green LEDs should be illuminated following a two hour charge. Switching the battery on before connection will tell you how much power the battery has.
Check your throttle control is fully charged. This is done via a wireless charging pad included. Holding the righthand palm grip button down more than two seconds will switch it on. The battery metre should be full. Squeezing the front trigger should increase % of throttle whilst the top brake lever brings it down to zero. Make sure everything looks good to go BEFORE going afloat.
The included throttle control trigger has three speed settings – USE THEM! SP1 is 0-100% and can’t be changed, SP2 and SP3 can be set according to rider skill, weight and experience. We’d recommended setting SP2 at 30% and using this first. 30% throttle should give the board enough momentum for riders to get the feel of the eFoil moving forward. Agile pilots may be able to get to their feet and ride the equipment without it flying. This is good practise with learning how to direct and turn the board. SP3 should be set at 70%. When you’re ready to fly hold the break lever down for a few seconds will see the throttle screen change the setting. At 70% a 90kg can easily lift onto foil once standing. Getting familiar with the sensitivity of the throttle control is essential.
Check this video for how to access the throttle control interface and change its settings –
Check your foil connections. Ensure the bolt connectors are tight and not likely to come loose. You should coat all screw threads with Tef-Gel to fend off saltwater corrosion. This should be done before setting the foil up.
Slot the Lithium Ion battery into its deck hold and connect to the motor. Then connect leads to their corresponding, colour coded plugs. If you’ve already gotten a session under your belt make sure the connectors are moisture free. Water will get into the hatch.
Switch your battery on and make sure the controller and battery are paired. This should happen automatically. If for any reason you need to unpair the controller and complete the exercise again then refer to the video above.
Check the controller works by squeezing the trigger gently on land. The eFoil’s propeller should kick into action. WARNING: don’t do this for too long as you can damage the eFoil when not in water.
IF YOU NEED TO INSPECT THE FOIL PROPELLER MANUALLY THEN MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS SWITCHED OFF. THE PROP WILL EASILY REMOVE FINGERS AND THUMBS!
Ensure the eFoil’s battery hatch is shut and secured properly via the hatch screw discs. These should be tightened with your fingers.
Before launching check one final time the throttle and prop are paired by squeezing the trigger quickly.
Throttle recalibration and leashes
If you should fall the eFoil with automatically shut down and disconnect from the Bluetooth controller. Likewise, if you hold the throttle trigger under the water the eFoil won’t power up. The Bluetooth sensor is located in the nose of the board. You need to have this out of the water slightly following a wipeout. Weigh the tail of the board whilst sitting and wait a few seconds until the throttle control display shows a connection. You can then begin again.
When you wipeout riders ideally need to jump/fall clear of the equipment. Having a leash is therefore unsafe as it keeps the rider close to the board and foil. We recommend a leash therefore not be worn during first flights.
Advanced riders, who head out in more challenging conditions, however, may choose to use one. Extra care should be taken if this is your choice. A coiled leash will be the preferred option. There’s no specific leash fixing plug so it’ll need connection to one of the deck mounted handles.
Safety whilst learning to eFoil
Start slowly and build up to fully elevated, foiling flights.
Make sure you’re on the board in prone position BEFORE squeezing the throttle trigger.
KEEP YOUR FEET AWAY FROM THE FOIL!
Don’t ride too shallow and be aware at all times of changing weather, water conditions and users in the vicinity. If you have to stop your session for safety reasons then do so.
If you can get a lesson before going it alone then do so.
Any further questions about the McConks eFoil please get in contact with us at McConks HQ.
So that’s it. Summer is really over now. How can we tell? Because lake 86 is closed until Easter 2021 – and that’s our signal that summer has indeed ended. It didn’t feel like it was time to close in the mid afternoon last Sunday. Water temp was still 18 degrees, air temp was still 20 degrees (in the sun!), and it still felt like summer. But by later afternoon, it was chilly, and feeling less like summer.
It’s been a really strange year for hire and launch businesses (well – for everyone really), and businesses that have done well this year, have needed effort, planning, flexibility, adaptiveness, invention, humour, professionalism and interpretation to make this year work. Luckily, Cotswold Water Park Hire have got all of those skills in buckets (1).
Massive thanks to the guys and gals there this year. As always, Tom and Josh assembled a friendly and fun team, who are able to deal with whatever gets thrown at them, at them. And they have the patience of angels. More than once have we turned up unannounced to drop off a board or paddle for someone to collect, or given them 30 minutes notice of paddlers coming to demo a board. All dealt with an eye roll and a smile 😉
But this year deserves a little more thanks than normal. During early phases of lockdown easing, we were lucky enough to be invited to use the lake before it was open for launch or hire. That was a massive privilege, and gave us a huge mental health boost just when it was needed – which was why Tom and Josh offered it. They knew how important water time was to our lives, and very generously made it happen. It was such a strange time. We were elated, we wanted to share photos of how great it made us feel, and what an amazing time we were having. But at the same time we were really aware how lucky we were, and how others weren’t as lucky. We didn’t want to a) brag, b) make it difficult for the Lake 86 whilst they were figuring out how to make launch safe for them to open.
But it was really appreciated, and we’ve created a gallery of photos taken this spring and summer. Turns out, we took a lot less photos than other years. And we think that’s because this year was all about enjoying the opportunities you get, rather than recording them for others to see. And maybe something to do with phones drowning as well 😉
We finished off the year with our only Mega board session of the year, but what a mega session it was!
So does SUP stop at the end of summer?
Of course it doesn’t. And never have wee need to keep outdoor activities going as much as this year. It’s going to be a long, worrying and hard winter for lots of us, so the longer we can keep paddling, keep laughing, keep socialising, the better for all of our mental health.
Lake 32 – Waterland Outdoor Activities is one answer (2). You can get winter membership for just £80, and they’re open Wed – Sun throughout the winter. There’s a even a cafe for warm drinks. New team member and SUP fanatic Dan has set up a SUP Club which will run through winter, on Thursday evenings (while its still light enough) and Saturday mornings. And maybe the odd sunrise paddle as well. Lots of fun stuff is planned, including mega board play, inflatable SUP obstacles, SUP polo, charity fancy dress events, and, maybe even some skills training.
They’re also going to act as a demo centre for us over the winter period, so if you want to demo our SUP boards, paddles or wings, Lake 32 is the destination of choice. And you never know, maybe even our eFoils.
(1) Sometimes, they even got them out of the buckets to use them
(2) we’ve focussed on our locality here. But there are also other options close to us. Happiest When Outdoors, Rapid Skills, Social SUP, SUP Stroud, SUP bath, SUP YOFI, SUP FOD are all local instructors/groups. Keep your eyes peeled for another post soon!
Inland, sheltered tributary of the Thames with a small weir running under a bridge.
A low to medium flow river spot with a small standing wave that’s created as the water cascade down an incline under a ye olde bridge. For anyone looking to get into white water SUP this is a spot that’s perfect for those first steps.
The river is shallow right next to bridge with the bottom being only mm deep where the flow tumbles under the stones. There’s a slight bit of tow back caused by recirculating water but ultimately you will get spat out downstream. Some overhanging tree branches and river shrubbery need to be avoided. The trail leading to the put in is nettle filled and overgrown so booties a must!
Access to this small nook off the main River Thames is via tiny siding where you can park up. There not much room for more than three cars and with plenty of ramblers/walkers using the trail you don’t want to box anyone in so park coutesously.
White water river SUP is still very under radar so you’ll mostly be paddling here alone or if you run into UK WW SUP pioneer Dave Adams (aka Wavecloud) you could have company. This is his spot, as it were, but Dave’s friendly and will be happy to show you the ropes.
No amenities on site but there’s a small village back along the main road and Oxford itself isn’t too far away. Should you get into difficulties, however, you need to have a backup paln.
Proper medieval middle England this Thames River tributary in Abingdon is a secluded hideaway for SUPers who enjoy peace and quiet. There’re a multitude of other put ins around the area, from flat water to full on high volume whitewater when flows are high. This mellow standing wave is caused by water flowing under a bridge and creating a hydraulic at the bottom. There’s an eddy off to the right where you can take a breather and another across on the opposite bank. Water current boosts straight downstream so whilst the standing wave itself is pretty safe you’ll still end up going for a float should you wipeout. For anyone looking to up their stand up paddle board game and try a bit of river surfing, however, this is a great location to dabble a blade and check it out. You may become addicted…
As an example fin fittings are all very different. If you take the centrally located fin there are a whole host of varied types you can get depending on the company in question. The single screw, front pin US box is still very much the most popular but there are others out there. This can make swapping out and trying different ones a headache if your fin (or fins) don’t match what’s available.
We get it…Whatever product you purchase these days brands want to tie you in. You only have to look at smartphones to see this. For Android users Android apps are only compatible. Some clever Dick may have developed a bypass app which allows you to use Apple products but you won’t get the same level of functionality or features. It’s the same with SUP. Buy from brand A and chances are you’ll be tied in. If it’s a particularly premium SUP company then unfortunately their addon SUP accessories are probably priced similarly.
Whichever SUP you plan on owning it’s worth doing your research beforehand. If you have even the slightest inclination of changing things like SUP fins then make sure you’re aware of what type your board of choice has. Then you can identify if there’re this style available readily.
Back in the day when SUP‘s renaissance first started taking shape there was a mass clambering to (literally) get on board with stand up. Hailed as the fastest growing watersport every man and his dog wanted a slice of the pie – not too dissimilar to 2020 (apart from the lack of Covid!). Stand up paddle boarding, however, was a different beast back then. Whilst the elements that make up performance SUP are still there less emphasis is placed on being a ‘SUP athlete’ and competing.
Of course, there are still those who want to pit their wits and skills against others in a SUP race environment or surfing arena. If you subscribe to this then that route’s certainly an option. What is significantly different, however, are the lack of so called ‘team riders’ in SUP and sponsored/supported paddlers – at least within the UK scene.
Pre-2010 and up until a few years back team riders were everywhere. Mainly put in place to do a job – i.e. promote the brand’s product they happen to be riding. Social media streams are prime outlet for this kind of thing. And before you knew it every FB group you looked at had some kind of team rider spouting how the kit he/she was using is the best. But you can bet if a better offer came along said paddler would instantly change their tune in a heartbeat.
In 2020 team riders and sponsored SUP athletes are still in the mix but there’s less of them. This has gone hand in hand with stand up’s shift to a more recreational activity and focus. Not many SUPers want to smash out the miles on a racecourse or do battle with Neptune’s Revenge in heavy surf environments. Instead SUP has relaxed to the pace of the everyman/woman where all paddlers are free to participate at their own pace in whichever scenario they choose.
McConks has never had team riders per se. We have a few trusted friends who are happy to use our products but that’s about it. And we have to say stand up paddle boarding is all the better for it. What do you think?
Carolyn Smith and Phil May (from Yellowbelly SUP School), as we’ve talked about before, is planning on completing a mammoth stand up paddle board journey (in aid of charity) from Barford to Boston in Lincolnshire. Sept 28, 2020 marks the date when Carolyn and Phil are due to set off.
Covering 32 miles this is no mean feat for Carolyn who has a terminal illness that sees her having to paddle with care. That said we know the lady is extremely determined so one way or another will surely complete the distance.
Here at McConks we wish her well in claiming victory. If you want to follow Carolyn’s progress you can do so via her FB page: Ramblings of a Broken Hiker or via the following tracker link –
We don’t like to update our stand up paddle boards willy nilly like a lot of the SUP industry do. This doesn’t fit with our commitment to sustainability, and we just don’t agree with it. That said, every so often we do feel to tweak things slightly and bring McConks products more up to date – even if that’s only subtle changes. Were not looking for out and out paddling performance changes that’s for sure.
Now don’t get us wrong: we love stand up paddle boarding and everything that goes with it. SUP, however, is certainly responsible for broadening minds, as can be seen by McConks’ diverse range of products. For paddling purists though there’re two paddle sports that are directly compatible with standing and swinging a blade. If you’re looking for a complementary discipline then perhaps one of the following will prick your interest.
Prone paddle boarding
Long before SUP paddling oversized boards was already a thing, albeit with your arms rather than a paddle. Plus, when proning you’re lying down, nose to the deck, and atop much narrower platforms. Because of these reduced dimensions prone paddle boards are very quick. In the right hands they’re actually way more rapid than SUPs. And pronies are also super efficient when chasing bumps downwind style.
Many surfers have used prone paddle boarding to stay fit during bouts of no waves. The action of paddling with your arms, obviously, being exactly the same as piloting a surfboard out back. In the UK there’s a small scene of dedicated enthusiasts, some of whom also switch between stand up paddle and lying down on the job.
One of the most noted prone paddling athletes is Australia’s Jamie ‘Mitcho’ Mitchell who’s won more M2O championships than we’ve had hot dinners. Totally underrated Mitcho is one of the world’s most incredibly gifted paddlers, but many aren’t aware who he is. He’s also a pretty gnarly big wave surfer!
Outrigger canoeing (OC)
OC paddling comes in many forms with teams and individual paddle swingers alike. Noted for it’s side mounted float (the ama) can used for additional stability or lifted entirely for even smoother running on flat water or bumps accordingly. Many OC paddlers adore downwinding as the rounded hull of an OC is suitably efficient for a spot of ‘drift surfing’. It’s also the rounded shape of the OC that can make driving these craft tricky at first.
Back in the days, pre-2010, when SUP‘s renaissance came about following Laird and co’s tinkering, a good many OC paddle makers/manufacturers were the go to oracles for SUP paddle shapes and info – the synergy is undisputable. The biomechanics of paddling an outrigger is similar to SUP paddling. Hence many OC athletes straddled the two disciplines. If you want to know more about these athletes then Google the likes of Danny Ching and Travis Grant, both of whom absolutely smash it on the OC/SUP racing circuits.
For anyone with their interest pricked have a quick sniff around the internet to find out more info about prone and ourigger canoe paddling. Let us know how you get on.
We’re pretty stoked about this as you can imagine. For anyone in the know our feelings about ‘paid for SUP media reviews – whereby the publication in question asks for advertising support for equipment reviews – is something we feel strongly about. After all, if you’re searching for impartial opinion how can this be the case when you’re being asked for money in return for a test report. It’s hardly going to be unbiased as the publication isn’t going to slate the gear in fear of said advertising bill not being paid and disappearing all together.
We’ll not bang on about the health benefits of SUP and why being featured in such a magazine is great. SUP‘s benefits are widely reported – that’s one of the reasons you all participate. It’ll be interesting to see the actual write up so watch this space. We’ll let you know as soon as we do!
Yesterday saw more testing of the McConks eFoil prototype in idyllic sunny, flat water conditions which were perfect. Having now got to grips (literally) with the handheld throttle trigger the act of powering up on foil is a simple act. As long as you keep enough momentum to shuffle to knees before getting to feet then it’s not too difficult – at least, if you have foiling experience. And even without we can see it not taking too much longer to actually gain those skills.
Once up and riding there’s a bit of testing foot placements to find the optimum. Having completed this it’s then a case of employing subtle movements of the head, shoulders and trunk to keep level. Riders will need to be aware of jerky, overzealous, itchy trigger fingers on the throttle. Fortunately you can set the % level to not be too boosty. But suddenly letting the trigger off results in the foil stopping dead and the rider in question exiting stage left (or right) – which is quite comedy to those watching. Stay tuned for more of an in-depth guide to eFoiling coming soon.
If you’re interested to see how the McConks eFoil prototype rides then check out the video below.
It might seem like only recently kids went back to school but October, and therefore October half terms, is edging ever closer. That means there’ll be some time for SUP still left before winter proper kicks in. For anyone not already owning their own equipment and considering a purchase McConks still has some boards, paddles and accessories in stock.
11’4 (a small number left), 10’6 & 10’8 (a handful available). Brand new 9’8 Go Free crossover boards – perfect for paddling and wing if you feel like making the most of autumn winds. These are super stable, given their size, and perfect for surfing, learning to wing SUP and paddling on flat water.
Open water, tidal reef spot with two very distinct faces depending on wave conditions.
When there’s zero to little ground swell (or low winds) Freshwater Bay offers a dramatic flat water SUP location where paddlers can get lost looking down into clear water’s at the rocky bottom below. The bay’s iconic rock stack to the left, makes Freshwater instantly recognisable. With solid swell in the mix Fresh turns into one of the best right hand point breaks on the south coast – but not for the inexperienced. The high tide shore dump alone is pretty hefty!
Rocks, reef and sharp bits generally epitomise the Freshwater Bay paddling experience. When it’s calm and still there’s no issue, however. Just be aware if attempting to surf here. Know where there juts of hard lumps are as you’ll be taking waves in close proximity. Rips can be a hassle as can a packed line up when there’s surf, with a small take off, which only add to the fun. Waves do also break off the foot of Freshy’s stack but it’s even shallower here at certain states of tide with some rock heads sucking dry. Boats also command access so watch out.
Parking is directly across the road from the beach and is pretty standard fayre. It’s then an easy hop and skip until you end up on the fine shingle.
As a general beach Freshwater Bay isn’t that popular as it goes. It does get visitors but even during high season the main bulk of those on the sand/shingle are locals. If there’s surf the water can get busy.
Back into Freshwater village you’ll find a supermarket and other assorted shops, restaurants and pubs. There’s plenty within striking distance as this is a small island after all. In fact, heading back to the Isle of Wight’s capital Newport is fairly rapid. Toilet facilities, a hotel and a selection of other accommodations are available at Freshwater Bay itself.
Freshwater Bay really is a chameleon spot. When a solid groundswell pulses up the English Channel Freshy’s geography means it’s a spot that picks up a large helping of all that juice. Usually in winter you’ll get some days which are pretty serious. Overhead waves reel down the reef quick smart making for an exhilarating ride and/or some decent beatings. If riding reef isn’t your bag then steer clear. The shore pound at the very least will make entry and exits ‘fun’. During calmer periods Freshwater Bay is an excellent touring spot that gives some dramatic vistas from the water. The cliffs to the right, which if you continue along will lead you to The Needles, or Freshy’s iconic stack, leading to the ever popular Compton beach further along the coast make Freshwater Bay a good place to begin your journey – know the lie of the land, tide times and weathr conditions if you plan on long distance paddling though. An abundance of put in options are to be found all along the Isle of Wight’s coastline, depending what you’re after and your skill level.
North facing, open water, tidal location with plenty of wave action.
Harlyn’s geography means it doesn’t pick up the same amount of swell as more westerly facing beaches surrounding. This is both a blessing and a curse. When swell’s small, it’s pretty titchy, which mightn’t be that attractive to the hardened wave warrior. If the rest of the surrounding Cornish gets huge and blow out, however, Harlyn really comes into its own offering shelter and offshores with some seriously punchy walls. The issue is every man and his dog knows this and surfers head to Harlyn from miles around when their local is a whitewashed mess. It’s a rippy, hollow and heavy wave over 2ft but the paddle out can often be dry hair and short.
There’s a small river ever flowing into the sea which you’ll need to navigate to actually access the main beach. A few rocks dot the shoreline that need to be taken into account. And the rips Harlyn can throw up are worth keeping in mind. With a decent swell the wave can be sucky, punchy and heavy resembling in some instances a shore dump rather than a wave. It’ll snap boards easily. Other water users need to be kept clear of during busy times.
Parking is either in the main car park next to Harlyn or across the small country lane in the adjacent field. It gets rammed in summer so be there early if you’re planning a trip during silly season. Both car parks can also be muddy if it’s been raining.
When the surf’s big and blown out at W facing beaches there’ll be every surfer from miles around making a beeline for Harlyn. And in summer, during warmer weather and school holidays, you’ll never be alone. Out of season on smaller swells it’s a lot more peaceful and mellow with fewer people on the beach and in the water.
The Harlyn Inn is right across the country road from Harlyn’s main beach and access point. It offers food and beverage choices with a number of rooms to make use of. There’s an attached beach shop and toilet facilities. Padstow is a short drive away where you’ll find abundant shops, eateries and every other kind of convenience you need. In the opposite direction is Constantine (another popular North Cornwall surfing haunt) with its own microcosm of amenities.
Harlyn Bay is an idyllic white sand beach that typifies the North Cornwall experience. Its azure coloured water, that glistens on sunny days, are begging you to get wet. And during a large part of the season Harlyn offers small to medium, mellow sized waves. When swells ramp up, however, Harlyn can be a fast and challenging spot that delivers a punch in the face close out or fast gunny wall to carve a few turns on. If it’s big and blowy out west then here’s where you’ll find shelter and an offshore. But everyone knows this and therefore Harlyn can get crowded out. There are a few other possibly quieter options in the vicinity, not that far away, but quality of wave can sometimes be lacking. That said Harlyn can be a dream SUP set up when it works and is definitely worth a look. The vibe of the place during quieter periods resemble a throwback to those lost, innocent times before smart phones and surf forecasting websites were a thing. And if you luck out with a flat, calm, windless weather window then SUP touring options can be idyllic.
Here at McConks we’re always evolving and developing our range of products. As many will know one of the big things in watersports at the moment are wings – more specifically wing foiling, albeit with a smaller push on the wing surfing/SUP, non-foiling side of the discipline. And it’s the latter where the McConks 9’8 Go Free strapless wing/SUP crossover board comes in.
With similar trait to our previous Go Free designs in wing surf/SUP mode the idea is to use the provided upright freeride fin in breezy conditions. With enough power it lifts from here and gets quite a wriggle on. The hard rubber release edge on the tail further aids efficient forwards propulsion for those who fancy zipping along. Pair the 9’8 with McConks’ Go Fly wing and you’ve got a killer combo.
For those who still want to paddle in conventional SUP form have no fear. It’s still very much possible to be a stand up paddle boarder atop the Go Free 9’8. Simply swap out the freeride fin and you have an extremely agile and nimble platform for river SUPing, surf SUP and it even does OK on the flat.
Open water, tidal location featuring small to large surf depending on conditions.
Widemouth Bay is an Atlantic facing spot so expect sizable waves at times with the odd day of completely flat water conditions. It’s an exposed beach that has a variety of features making for a changing picture through the tide cycle.
Widemouth Bay isn’t that big a beach really, and is in fact made up of a few different areas – mainly rocky (apart from the actual sandy beach itself) from left to right. The rocks are typically Cornish in geology – slanted scars cut from years of storm, surf and water activity jutting out to sea. In places small stacks of rock vault skywards, the largest and most imposing of which is Black Rock which protrudes to the left – you can’t miss it. Rips can occur at any time but tend to be at their strongest around low water. Other water users can make Widemouth a particularly busy location. The other thing to be aware of is possible landslides if you take a walk along beach around the Black Rock area where the cliffs hem in closer to the beach.
Widemouth boasts easy access via the main car park just off the coast road. It’s then a short hop down the steps to the water’s edge. At low tide it can be a trek with heavy SUPs, however – this is Cornwall after all.
Popularity of Widemouth Bay can vary greatly, depending how in favour the beach is. Obviously, with good surf in the mix, you’ll get a crowd. Being a stone’s throw from Bude town means there’s a large local contingent of surfers all frothing for a wave or three. Plus, Widemouth itself (considering its small village feel) has a large crew of wave riders living in close proximity. And a number of surf schools use the beach for lessons during high season.
A couple of cafes and beach shops can be found right on the beach at Widemouth, as can public toilet facilities. There are a few accommodation options dotted along the coast road for anyone wanting to stay right at the spot. Back into Bude you’ll find plenty of pubs, nightclubs, restaurants cafes, fish ‘n’ chip shops, takeaways and surf shops. Bude also has two other town beaches – Crooklets and Summerleaze – as well as a placid canal and river with some flow, both of which can also be good for a spot of SUP.
Being so close to Bude you’d expect Widemouth to be a super popular spot. And whilst that’s certainly true at times you may luck out and score the place on a much quieter day. Widemouth seems to ebb and flow in popularity like the tide. The beach itself is mostly sand with a few scattered pebbles at high water. It’s worth scoping the place at low tide, however, to identify where the rocks/reef are. Dominated by the imposing Black Rock stack to the left these reefs are actually ridable (for the experienced) at the right stage of tide. In fact, Wanson, as far left as you can go (under the cliff with the Outdoor Adventure Centre perched atop) can be world class on its day. But not for the feint hearted. Widemouth’s wave, in contrast, is much mellower – fatter at high tide and slightly hollower at low. The whitewater on big days can be intimidating and a mission to get through. It might be worth sitting it out when conditions like this materialise. If the sea goes flat then a few touring routes are there for the taking, the most obvious being along the (mostly inaccessible by foot) cliffs back towards Bude. And further afield you’ll discover a whole load more options, from reef to beach, that work on a variety of swell, tide and wind conditions.
Shared thousands of times via the power of social media, as well as being aired on local BBC News, Phil May (from Yellowbelly SUP School) and his students didn’t expect a nosy to seal to make its appearance during a recent SUP lesson and the subsequent video to then go viral. And they certainly didn’t expect the animal to be so bold as to get aboard two of the stand up paddle boards for a closer sniff.
You can see the alarm from one of Phil’s pupils who at first is slightly taken aback by the seal’s actions. But it soon becomes apparent the creature is friendly and just wants to play. Stand up paddle boarding brings riders much closer to nature, which is evident from the video. We’re not suggesting every paddler will have such an experience but still, there’s plenty of opportunity to observe and become immersed in your natural surroundings. And that in its own right is worth standing atop a board and paddling.
The UK’s currently experiencing a lovely spell of Indian summer weather, by and large, that’s perfect for stand up paddle boarding. High mercury levels and warm waters definitely deliver inspiration to get amongst it. It’s also much quieter at this time of year – on the water and off – with schools back in operation and parents at the cool face. If you can sneak out for a float, even if you’re one of those at the coal face (work), then you definitely should.
We’ve talked about adequate protection for you body in various articles this summer but your eyes can also take a beating from harmful UV sunshine rays if you don’t cover these. Over time the sun will do damage to peepers just as it will skin. Fortunately McConks’ bamboo, floating polarised sunglasses are a great solution – whether out SUPing or going about your business on land. They look fab but also serve a purpose for fending off the bright light.
No don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting you wear a pair of McConks sunglasses for the more performance end of SUP, where you’re more likely to fall and lose them (SUP surfing for instance). But on flatter water where dunkings are less likely they fit the bill perfectly. And just as the title suggests sunglasses aren’t just for summer: they work great at other times of year when bluebird conditions swing in.
After a bit of a false start (we won’t get into it) there’s now a solid bout of electric hydrofoil board testing under our belts. For those not aware McConks currently has a prototype eFoil set up we’re putting through its paces to decide if its a thing that has legs – or rather, wings…
Suffice to say after some back and forth with the manufacturer we were on for today (Sept 15, 2020). Conditions for this session ranged from extreme light wind to totally glassy. Tide was high with a very small ground swell running at our test location. The sun was shining and temperatures were hovering around 30C, which for September is pretty good even if we do say so ourselves!
For anyone familiar with foiling the actual act of flying on an eFoil is pretty standard. What’s not standard is the controlling of a very sensitive throttle trigger which will ultimately dictate how easily you manage to get to your feet, get on foil and stay flying. That said with a little bit of perseverance and the correct technique it’s easily achievable.
So far so good then. Stay tuned for more updates as and when.
We’ll start off by saying that our subject in the accompanying pics has only just started stand up paddle boarding and had zero wind activity experience before taking hold of the new McConks Go Fly 6m wing. There’s lots of chat about how wings are super easy to use because of fo their lightweight nature, easy pack capabilities and almost intuitive handling on the water. This theory needed to be put to the test so we asked our friend Oli if he’d be game.
Purposely we gave the chap as little info as poss, instead wanting to see how he coped. Conditions were pretty idyllic, if not that breezy. With Med like weather, warm seas and a mere puff of westerly breeze Oli took the Go Fly 6m and got involved.
You can see from the pics that straight off the bat Oli was up and riding on his knees with the 6m Go Fly placed accurately. Instinctively he made sure the wing had as much power as poss. Compared to windsurf sails, for instance, the sheeting angle of a wing isn’t as critical. At least not until you’re looking at more high performance wing riding such as being on foil. That said Oli did a good job of keeping it in place and getting a wriggle on across the wind. He also managed a few downwind turns (gybes) and was happily huffing back to the beach. There were a few walks back upwind and a couple of stacks into the drink but by and large the chap nailed his first session. Unfortunately the wind died a death soon after so we couldn’t take things further. As far as answering the article’s title question, however, that’s a resounding yes! If you’re looking for a way to make use of breezy autumn days the wings certainly fit the bill and aren’t difficult to get started with.
Here’s an interesting one we spotted over the weekend. Can anyone tell us what’s going on and why these pics of the McConks Go Free 9’8 crossover SUP and KAT Percussion’s KT-200 electronic drum kit have been snapped? No, us either…
What we do know is that our friends at SUP Mag UK do like to get creative with their articles and do something different. We shall wait and see what manifests as all will no doubt become clear in time. For the meanwhile we have to say the gear looks good in the sun.
With so many new paddlers taking to the water this year, there have been a few near misses. And things can go wrong for relatively experienced paddlers as the recent tragedy on the Camel Estuary shows.
We’ve been talking to a few others in the industry over the last few months about our responsibilities as SUP ambassadors and as a brand. Needless to say, some are keen to talk about this, others are less keen. We want to launch a SUP safety year in partnership with all of the major brands and all of the UK homegrown brands for 2021. However, doing something on that scale, and doing anything by committee takes forever. So whilst that idea ferments and slowly develops, we’re paying someone to start to write and gather the best of the existing safety content and information on safety products for a brand independent SUP safety page on SUPhubUK.
We’re also going to be totally overhauling our user guide to better integrate safety information with the product use information. The intention is for that to be structured in terms of a paddler’s progression and development, so that timely information from the user guide is sent by email to our customers at the time at which most new customers would want it.
The other thing we’re going to be doing in 2021 is only shipping our SUP packages bundled with quick release waist belt leashes. We’ve only ever shipped our packages with quality coiled leashes, but with more and more people taking to flowing rivers and fast flowing estuaries, now is the time to move to the next step up, and only use quick release belts with the leashes. Obviously, there’s a little education needed for our customers on how to safely use waist belts, and why they’re important. So we need to get that in place before we make the switch. We also want to work with waist belt manufacturers, to get all the features we want. We’ve started that process now, but it will take the winter to get the belt we want into production in the quantities we need. In the meantime, safety belts are a bolt on that anyone can purchase when they buy any of our SUP boards.
Finally – just a thanks from us at McConks. We know that our customers are great safety ambassadors, and that many of you are generous with your advice and time for beginners looking for advice – both on our facebook groups and in person.
We appreciate that as much as many will want to keep paddling regularly through winter the actual frequency of your SUP sessions may drop slightly because of winter. Less daylight, adverse weather and other things may conspire against you. But you still want to be fresh for when you can SUP. Here are a few suggestions of cross training disciplines from some of our friends to help keep you in shape and ready for it when you can.
Blowy weather become all the more frequent during autumn and winter so why not make use of it? Being able to attach a windsurf sail or fly a wing will still see you utilising your trusty stand up paddle board just in a different way. Fun in its own right wing SUP shenanigans will put a smile on your face regardless of being able to dip a blade. Plus, McConks has the very equipment for you if blowy conditions prick your interest.
Technically no different to your standard stand up paddle boarding apart from it being indoors in a swimming pool. If you’re a member of a SUP club then this may already be an organised activity. Alternatively, why not gather together a few like minded individuals and try and arrange something with your local leisure centre.
You may already indulge in one of these two disciplines (or maybe both). A good many stand up paddlers rig a sail or blow up a kite when it’s not suitable for stand up paddle boarding. Wind sports are the perfect compliment to stand up with windSUP (see above) being the perfect entry into the world of wind, riders progressing to windsurfing/kitesurfing proper haven’t nailed down those fundamentals beforehand.
Not everyone wants to ride a stand up paddle board in waves. Some save SUP for flat days whilst the bust out their trusty ‘stick’ for when swells start to pump. Paddling with arms and sliding along liquid walls is certainly stoke inducing and will certainly benefit your SUP fitness. Likewise paddling stand up paddle boards will also benefit your surfing.
One of the missed by a lot of newbie stand up paddle boarders is the fact SUP requires quite a lot of leg use. Cycling, whether that be road biking or gunning up and down hills in mountain style fashion will see those pins getting regular use, keeping you honed and ready for more stand up paddle boarding when you can get on it.
There are, of course, plenty more cross over training activities you can indulge in that’ll compliment your stand up paddle boarding. Let us know what you get up to.
SUP‘s unprecedented popularity in 2020 has led a few entrepreneurial types to consider getting in on the action themselves – why wouldn’t you? Inflatable stand up paddle boards are perceived as being easy products to ship, store and sell with the previous two attractions being good for owners also. We’ve seen a few messages from potential new iSUP brands and even been asked ourselves how to go about it, and to be honest it’s something we do like seeing believe it or not.
The bigger the market for stand up paddle boarding the better in our opinion. Not everyone wants to shell out for premium boards initially so in some instances a cheaper option will the way to go. In time, when those paddlers come to upgrade or add to their quiver, perhaps they’ll come to McConks. This has happened already and will again.
Here at McConks we’ve spent long hours researching where to get our boards made and who by. Due to manufacturing facilities being a long way away we have to mostly rely on what we read, see and hear online, although we do have feet on the ground in China (a QA person who helps us out). Then it’s a case of making contact, asking questions and seeing how much more info we can get. And you can sometimes tell from their answers on quality control, environment, worker welfare etc whether they’re worth considering further, but its not always the case. Some manufacturers are extremely good with great attention to detail and top notch quality control, and don’t shout about it. Others are very good at telling you what they do, but aren’t very good at delivering. So it’s tricky determining who’s who – there are hundreds of facilities knocking out inflatable products these days. And just a word of warning for anyone considering using Alibaba as their buying platform. The very best factories in China have no need to use Alibaba. It’s only the poor quality ones who need to advertise their services.
Samples and prototyping
Once you’ve decided which manufacturer to use it’s a case of getting samples. In our experience their basic model first to see how quality is. You’ll have to pay as these don’t come free. There’s usually a deal off the final unit price to be negotiated though. Having (literally) set foot on a sample board it’s time to bite the bullet if it’s good enough quality. But be warned, many factories have their samples made by the A team, and then production boards for small customers made by the Z team! You may have a specific design in mind so tweaks to the sample model may be necessary. The generic shapes they use tend not to be particularly well optimised. So your design information info should be relayed to the manufacturer in as clear and as simple terms as possible. You’re dealing with people who have a different language and culture so all the ‘I’s need to be dotted and ‘T’s crossed. You’ll then need to see one of your prototypes in the flesh to make sure everything’s been communicated accurately.
Ordering and storage
Having sorted the above you place the order, which will be a number of ‘pieces’ usually. This needs to be taken into account as storage at your destination needs to be thought about. Whilst inflatables do pack down to relatively small packages having a container load still takes up space!
Marketing and demos
Unfortunately keeping your gear locked up and expecting buyers to rely on what you’re telling them regarding your product won’t cut the mustard. Breaking stock is needed so potential customers can experience your kit for themselves. In some instances you can choose to get the SUP media involved. Most of the mags conduct reviews/tests so sending something to them can be a big help in terms of marketing. Be aware, however, that most expect advertising support first before they will review your kit. Likewise, attending demo events around the country can also be a winner, but you’ll need to ‘pay to play’ here also. Of course, you’re free to employ other methods, such as relying on social media but to be really effective at getting your brand message and wares out there a variety of streams will need to be utilised.
It should go without saying, no matter what price point you target or customer demographic, customer service needs to be at the forefront of everything you do. Poor customer service results in poor brand perception. And there’ll be problems, of course, there always are. How you deal with this is what’ll set you apart, encourage return custom and solidify your brand as a reputable one.
Ultimately all the above takes time – and plenty of it. If you’re aiming to do things right then it won’t be an overnight win. We’re not sure how SUP‘s growth will pan out in the future. Hopefully the unprecedented nature of 2020, due to COVID, won’t be repeated in terms of pandemics. And of course, there’s the brexit uncertainty to deal with. So maybe the growth spurt stand up paddling‘s receiving currently won’t last. In which case you may have missed the boat. But to quote a much love sitcom; ‘he who dares…’ and all that.
Whilst teaching techniques across watersports have evolved massively there’s still a tricky learning curve for anyone looking to learn how to surf in conventional mode. Surfing has mass appeal, perhaps because of its associated ‘cool’ lifestyle which stand up paddle boarding doesn’t quite own (yet). Boardshorts, bikinis, beaches and barrels coupled with blaring sunshine – you know the deal. So many buy into this, even if the UK’s surf scene is anything but Californian.
For those choosing to actually learn how to surf there are certainly applicable ‘tools’ available. Boards suitable for beginners with an experienced coach at a venue with reliable swell will put anyone wanting to get to grips in good stead. The fact is, however, Atlantic juice can be quite powerful for the uninitiated (even broken white water) and a decent learner surf board is still pretty low volume and relative unstable.
Enter stand up paddle boards, inflatable or hard – it doesn’t really matter which. Due to their oversize nature and additional volume SUPs can be good platforms for learning to surf without a paddle. Their dimensions mean you only need a mere dribble of chop to get it propelling forwards. As such, not only are SUPs way easier to get the feeling of riding waves your choice venue suddenly opens up. What mightn’t even be classed as a surfing location is suddenly on the agenda with a stand up paddle board. And as great as this is for adults it’s also bang on for kids.
One of the hardest things when learning to surf is the pop up, or getting to your feet. A surfboard needs momentum and because of its smaller dimensions requires more power to move forwards. In contrast stand up paddle boards jet off at merest sniff of a wave and reach top speed quicker. This instantly gives stability. Add to the mix a SUP‘s wider deck and more voluminous shape and you suddenly have a platform that allows the practising of those previously tricky pop ups more often. Repeating, repeating and repeating again(with the odd rinsing) is the only way to dial in any kind of technique.
We appreciate out test subject in the associated pics isn’t standing. But he’s pretty little (young) and happy to just have fun gliding along on his belly. The point being, however, that at barely three years old our little chap is getting used to swell shoving him along at speed. Intuitively he’s trimming the board to avoid nose dives (or pearling as the surfing term describes it) and is ready to get to his feet. We actually have it on good authority that blondy can stand up with a little help from dad perched on the board’s tail.
The more often the above is practised the more muscle memory can lock in so when the rider in question transfers to a surfboard, rather than SUP, popping up becomes more doable. Learning to surf on a stand up paddle board therefore helps lay foundational skills much quicker in a lot of cases than learning to surf on a Swelly (as beginner surfboards are often referred to). When the time is right transferring these skills should be much easier. Likewise, if he/she never goes near an actual surfboard then we’re pretty there’ll be no loss of fun. After all, the term ‘surfing’ describes the act of riding a wave and however you decide to do it’s all good in our book.
In terms of optimisations each inflated leading edge strut has been configured for its individual square metre size to ensure the aerodynamic properties of each Go Fly is as efficient as possible. The main canopy is attached to the centre strut increasing rigidity and better air flow, which also increases efficiency – especially during pumping if you’re looking to get onto foil.
The beady eyed will have also spotted we’ve got rid of the windows. We appreciate the jury’s out on this but ultimately by not having them means more longevity for the wing – as wing windows can wear down – plus additional canopy rigidity. Having had the McConks Go Fly 5m wing on test extensively this summer it’s deemed that because riders can raise the wing above his/her head this gives a better field of vision than trying to peer through a wing window that’s usually covered in water and debris anyway.
So, whether you plan on wing foiling, wing SUPing or winging on land (which is a thing) get in touch to bag your own Go Fly wingsurfing wing for those blowy days this autumn. Likewise, if you have any questions about winging give us a shout.
All through summer we’ve seen unprecedented amounts of new recruits to stand up paddle boarding taking to the water – which is awesome! What we’ve also seen is newbie paddlers wearing the bare minimum of clothing to paddle, which isn’t so awesome…
This summer, as everyone’s aware, has been cracking for weather, by and large. There’s been plenty of sunshine, warm air temps and warm water. Even during those hotter periods, however, wind chill is still prevalent. In pursuit comes the risk of cardiac shock and hypothermia. The cold waters of the UK – even at the hottest times of year – can cause all manner of problems. Add to the mix our ever changeable weather and the cocktail can be deadly if you’re not careful.
Whilst your paddling mission may start off all rosey it can quickly go awry in the blink of an eye. There’s no accounting for kit failure and other ‘incidents’. Without the proper paddling protection the issue(s) you face could be exacerbated. Cardiac shock occurs when people fall into water that’s cooler than the air. That’s not to say cold water per se. The water may be warm. It just mightn’t be as warm as the air. The body goes into shock and the individual in question can suffer cardiac arrest. Needless to say a decent covering of paddling attire, be that applicable wetsuit or SUP wear, may help cardiac shock be avoided.
Evaporative cooling, meanwhile, can happen after a paddler has gotten wet. With the slimmest of clothing keeping body parts warm the water starts to evaporate, body heat flowing to extremities to fend off chill but leaving his/her core cold. This is when hypothermia can set in. And it can creep up and grip like stink. As with cardiac shock a decent wetsuit or well manufactured paddling garments can prevent this.
In contrast you can wear too much – too much heat can be as much of a problem as the cold. An overly thick wetsuit, for instance, may cause more harm than do good. Taking hot days into account that thick rubber will only serve to overheat teh wearer and cause (potentially) heat exhaustion and dehydration.
The UK’s climate is ever changing with little consistency. Traditional colder months can sometimes be warmer than expected whilst summer may see extended periods of cooler conditions. Choosing the correct clothing for stand up paddling is therefore key. It also means you need a selection of kit if you want to paddle as often as possible.
Winter wetsuits, summer wetsuits, layers such a thermal rashvests that can be worn as stand alone garments and everything else in between. Possibly adding a drysuit – for the coldest periods – and well designed SUP threads for all types of scenario you’ll encounter is good practise. A brimming toy box is always a good idea to make sure you’re a safe as possible when stand up paddle boarding through the seasons, however frivolous this may seem…
Teaching SUP paddle technique is tricky. As individuals we’re wired uniquely to complete the ‘moves’ which best suit our body geometry. Trying to force a SUPer to paddle your way is therefore wrong. What’s much better is to work with the rider in questions and help develop their technique to be as efficient as possible. That said there are a couple of fundamentals which need to be adhered to when talking stand up paddling technique. One of which is burying, or completely submerging, the blade during the catch (power/pull) part of the stroke.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve the correct length paddle shaft of not; whether you’re stance is Bob on or what type of board you’re paddling. In fact, little else matters as much when considering forwards propulsion and momentum. Your paddle is your engine and tickling the water is akin to driving a Ferrari F40 whilst keeping it in first gear. You’re not enjoying the full benefit and stylistically doesn’t look great. Aesthetics aside, however, and it’s the efficiency of your paddling that’s the big one to focus on. Time and again we see paddlers barely tickling the water with their paddle. If that blade was to be fully immersed then even if said paddler doesn’t have the great ‘reach’, a beast mode ‘catch and ‘pull’ or lightening ‘recovery’ then their efficient (and therefore overall enjoyment of SUP) would go up exponentially.
Next time you’re out for a float try it. Reach towards the nose as you would do normally then plunge that paddle blade all the way in. You shoudl feel a degree of resistance from the water but we guarantee you’ll be advancing forwards at a much greater rate of knots than previous. Repeat this all the time so your muscle memory locks it in and the whole process becomes natural.
As far as stand up paddle boarding fundamental tips are concerned this is one of the biggest…
Some of you may already know we’re testing and electric hydrofoil set up. We’re still not convinced this is the right direction to go but curiosity got the better of us and we’re now in the thick of it. For some electric hydrofoils are a great way to make use of the water, in modern fashion, when you don’t have a ready supply of waves and/or breeze to power you along into flight mode. And with many of these eFoil boards being hybrid SUP board designs there’s synergy. For others, however, they may just be a nuisance and detract from the purer parts of stand up paddling. Either way we’re intrigued.
If you’ve never seen an eFoil then check out the video below. This is how the propeller looks when powered up on land – make sure you turn the volume up. As you can see it’s got a lot of oomph! Stay tuned to see how we get on with further eFoil testing.
We love hearing feedback from our customers. Good or bad it helps us evolve as a stand up paddle board brand. Of course, if it’s positive then all the better, such as this recent snippet from a customer who purchased a McConks 12’8 Go Explore three years ago! Still going strong as you see from the below.
‘A quick update, coming up for three years from purchase. So: My granddaughter age 6 loves it. My children love it. My son in law loves it (he’s getting one from you shortly). My wife is even contemplating going out on it!
Not a sign of wear anywhere, despite some pretty lengthy excursions and rough handling. Handles really well on the sea. Tracks straight, suffers fools and novices with impeccable manners
I’ve upgraded to the HP3 pump which is well worth the money for this board – although one of my daughters is also looking at the compressor… The HP3 fills it to 20psi in about 12-15 minutes tops.
The bamboo paddle is a work of art. Because of my height (195cm), Andy (McConkey) fashioned a carbon fibre extension for me which added another dimension.
And finally, the seat is great for my granddaughter to come paddling with me – she feels like she’s a princess in a Disney movie. Which I think makes me a servant! She has her own child’s paddle which she uses as a fantastic way to make grandad work harder.
All in all I can’t recommend the board enough. Excellent value.’
Whilst McConks are a true homegrown, UK stand up paddle boarding company it goes without saying we don’t have our equipment manufactured on British soil – a shame we know. Just like 98% of other companies – whether watersports or not – McConks hardware and gear comes from the Far East. We design, prototype, tweak and take onboard feedback from customers in our own backyard. But when it comes down to the actual making of each bit of equipment there’s no cost effective method of producing it in this green and pleasant land.
When sourcing manufacturers we put a lot of time and effort in behind the scenes to make sure who we use not only can replicate our ideas accurately but do so in as efficient and ethical manner possible. We’re not there on the ground in person, obviously, so we ask questions, do our research and build the necessary relationships. If you don’t get it right then this manifests in poor quality stock. And not every brand does get it right first time. There’ve been plenty having to switch suppliers!
There are a small few (very small!) that have stakes in the manufacturing facilities their gear is made. But that isn’t McConks (yet). In time we’d love to be one of those SUP sellers that does. In the meantime we continue as is.
Why are we telling you this? McConks‘s way has always been to be as honest and transparent as possible. Wearing hearts on sleeve may leave us open to criticism but we feel anyone looking at McConks – for either SUP related info or equipment buying options – needs the full story. As much as we pride ourselves with the brand>manufacturer relationships we’ve built hiccups can still occur. After all, you’re relying on people interpreting your vision, across a vast expanse of land and water, who only have electronic methods of conversing and come from a different country with culture, working methods and general existences different to those of our own. As such comms needs to be tip top.
Continuing to work super hard to deliver the best SUP experience possible to our customers is paramount. If we hit snags we rectify as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the long run the positive feedback we regularly receive tells us things are going well. Moving forwards we’ll carry on giving updates like these, as well as notifications should anything go awry at any other time. Thanks for your continued support. We love seeing all those happy, smiling faces out on the water.
What’s triggered this post? A small batch of Go Free windSUP/windsurf/wing SUP boards without a mast foot insert. Yep! We though that was quite amusing. Still, they make great wing boards and you can, of course, definitely paddle them. SO all not lost…
The new McConks 6m Go Fly wing surfing/SUP/foil wing has literally just landed and will be on sale in the McConks SUP shop imminently. Featuring a new improved design and bigger size for more power, earlier foiling and generally more efficiency.
A tighter wing canopy, achieved by attaching to the middle strut, and giving the leading edge more rigidity improves the low end power delivery without sacrificing teh Go Fly’s light weight. We’ve also taken away the windows which also helps with canopy tension. There a divided camp when it comes to wing windows. From our experience, however, riders tend to lift the wing to spot other water uses so aren’t essential.
The Go Fly’s bigger 6m size also means lighter wind performance, earlier lifting onto the foil (if your riding with one) and better upwind ability. Multiple handles ensure optimum hand holds can be located. One thing remaining, however, is the instantly recognisable colourway which is bold in white and blue. All in the new 6m Go Fly wing is a step up and will allow more time on the water this autumn.
Get in touch for more info on McConks’ wing foil/SUP/surf wings.
Customising your inflatable stand up paddle board is a thing. There are many ways you can do this. There are a couple of ways, however, that are both practical and pimped. In this instance we’re talking about adding extra D-rings so a sit on top kayak seat can be fitted. This SUP hack from McConks’ boss man Andy.
Step 1: You’ll probably need to trim the patches the D-rings sit in so that’ll be your first job.
Step 2: Mark out the position you want them. If fitting a kayak seat it should be centred over the carry handle, so probably about 40 cm in front and behind, but check with the seat straps. Once you have the position mark with a pencil.
Step 3: Use some fine sandpaper to slightly scuff up both the marked area of the board and the bottom of the D-ring.
Step 4: Cut some moulds from foam. You’ll need to apply weight to the outside of the D-rrings to stop them peeling up during setting. We normally cut hollow circles out of the foam that comes with the boards which allows weight to be applied to outside
Step 5: Apply the glue to both board and bottom of D-ring and leave for 20 minutes.
Step 6: Apply more glue to both surfaces and leave to go tacky (between 5 and 10 mins).
Step 7: Firmly push the two surfaces together and apply the foam moulds and a weight.
Step 8: After 10 minutes take weight off and remove any glue residue. Reapply moulds and weight and leave for 60 minutes.
Step 9: Remove moulds and weight to check positioned properly. Reapply and leave for 24-48 hours (the closer to 48 hours the better).
We’re now definitely into post-summer, or autumn if you will. That’s not to say good weather’s done – far from it. There’ll be plenty of chance to get out for a float in the coming weeks for those of a fair weather bent. Anyone one committed will, of course, keep SUPing through winter regardless.
From McConks’ point of view we’re already looking at summer of SUP 2021 – we have been for a while. Anyone following our blog posts regularly will have seen this. There are new products in the pipeline – see this post here for more info on those – as well as keeping with what we know already works. For next year/season we’re keen to build on our relationships with SUP schools, stand up paddle boarding rental businesses, SUP instructors, watersports clubs and adventure centres. We can offer good deals on pre-order stand up paddle boarding equipment. So if you’re looking to replace your fleet of SUP boards, paddles and accessories then now’s the time to get in touch.
And don’t forget: whilst stand up paddle board‘s our bread and butter we know our onions when it comes to the wider world of watersports. We can also supply crossover windSUP/wing SUP boards as well as wing surfing wings themselves and inflatable windsurf rigs which are all great tools for teaching, safe for learning and offer another way of getting wet when the breeze blows.
If you haven’t come across Fenwick Mark Ridley then he’s a determined type who likes a challenge, as can be seen from what he gets up to fun, but all in the name of charity. Fenwick loves a bit of wild swimming but for a reason. And not placid water either, as can be seen from updates on his YouTube channel. Nope, Fenwick prefers it when there’s flow to really test his mettle.
The bearded fella also indulges in a bit of SUP. We say ‘a bit’ as paddling source to sea – Kielder (Hexham) to Quayside (Newcastl-upon-Tyne) is a little more than that. It’s 52.6m according to Google maps. From Mark’s Facebook updates we can work out that parts of the route are quite challenging – even on a McConks 14′ stand up paddle board. But as we’ve already said he’s a determined chap. Suffice to say he managed the feat and topped out at Newburn Bridge yesterday (Sept 2, 2020), even having had an equipment malfunction (snapped paddle) towards the end of his run.
Trim = optimum tracking, glide with least amount of drag = maximum efficiency.
Some stand up paddle boards trim flat whilst others can be railed on an edge (think slightly leaning over). Some like to be paddled from the front, with the tail slightly raised, whilst others prefer an elevated nose and engaged rear. The best thing to do is experiment and find what works best for your board (inflatables too) as every SUP is different.
The biggest thing to consider with trim is your paddle stroke, or rather how inaccurate board trim affects paddle strokes negatively. If your SUP isn’t travelling at maximum efficiency through the water then you’re essentially putting WAY more effort into each stroke and expending more energy quicker. And this goes for just recreational pootling as well as putting the hammer down. In some cases unnecessary upper board paddle work can start to aggravate – especially if you SUP regularly. This wear and tear can ultimately lead to injury, in some cases severe damage such as rotator cuff problems. There can be other contributing factors as well, such as paddle shafts which are too long, but inefficient board trim can certainly be a culprit. On top of this, if simply getting from point A to B becomes too arduous then the enjoyment of paddling slowly wanes and in time you feel inclined to SUP less and less. With temperatures still warm (air and water) it’s an idea to have a play with your board’s trim and discover what works best. Even inexperienced SUPers will find improved performance by altering your stance slightly. And in the long this’ll benefit your overall paddling as well.
Those unfamiliar with Carolyn Smith should take note. ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way‘ definitely rings true as far as this strong lady’s concerned. Carolyn lives with Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects her ‘body’s glue’ as Carolyn puts it. In short Carolyn says it makes her body act ‘like useless wet tissue paper where even a sneeze could cause serious harm‘. But that hasn’t stopped Carolyn from taking up stand up paddle boarding, under the watchful eye of Yellowbelly SUP school’s Phil May from Boston, Lincolnshire.
Having found her calling initially with hiking and rambling Carolyn has since switched most of her attention to stand up paddle boarding and can be found afloat whenever there’s opportunity. She can be found putting in the miles on the River Witham. But it’s not just social paddling as each session is now training…
On September 26, 2020, Carolyn and Phil will be aiming to paddle 32 miles from Brayford to Boston, Lincolnshire, to raise money for four different charities: RNLI, Calm, Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance and Annabelle’s Challenge for Vascular Eds. For someone in the position Carolyn finds herself this a big undertaking but we have it on good authority everything’s been going well and she’s looking forward to the day in question.
If you’re a stand up paddler looking to progress, in whatever discipline you choose, then chances are you already own the applicable SUP kit. The problem with progression, however, can be frustration. Frustration at not moving forwards quick enough; frustration of not getting over that plateau efficiently; frustration at lack of consistency. Often the frustrated stand up paddler in question may put it down to their equipment. It’s an easy trap to fall into with much marketing hype doing the rounds on social media and such. Seeing the next best thing and how that’s ‘guaranteed’ to evolved your stand up paddling is ‘selling the dream’ in the most in your face fashion.
Pics, but more likely videos, of that supposed magical piece of SUP gear in action (often a stand up paddle board) is enough to make anybody salivate. Yet what many forget is the paddler using the kit is probably a gifted athlete, whose job it is to SUP and who gets wet on a daily basis. Basically they’re pro and paid to be one.
But we’re all guilty of being lured by the marketing machine. Pretty soon, believing your next purchase will solve all woes, hard earned cash is leaving your wallet and a new, shiny bit of SUP kit is winging its way to you.
We spoken to enough experienced SUP paddlers in our time and they all concur: you can pretty much achieve a lot with your existing gear. Learning how to use it/ride and paddle it well will put you in a great place for progression. Chopping and changing gear isn’t needed. Racers can podium on their current machine and surfers can carve and slide on their trusty 10fter. Learning the ropes and acquiring those much needed paddle skills is something that should be focused on before swapping out your current SUP equipment for the umpteenth time.
Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not suggesting you shouldn’t upgrade. Of course, if you’ve been riding something aimed squarely at beginners then maybe it’s time for change. What we’re suggesting is NOT part exing and buying new SUP gear every couple of weeks. Believe us when we say we’ve seen this happen a lot with SUP over the years. Instead, get on the horse as often as you possibly can. Get involved with varied conditions, focus on technique and consolidate all that knowledge you acquire. Put it into practice and you’ll be winning.
We’ve said in previous posts the onset of winter doesn’t mean the end of stand up paddling – unless you’re truly fair weather. In fact, it can be the best time for SUP. The fly in the ointment, however, is lack of daylight. 2020 aside, due to its unusual play out, as autumn rolls into winter those long evenings of summer become a distant memory. You may be lucky with kids back at school to score some middle hours session time but mostly it’ll be weekend SUP shenanigans you’ll be confined to. Below are a few tips to nailing it.
Plan ahead (as best you can)
Whilst weather forecasts aren’t 100% accurate more than three days out you can still get an indication of what conditions will be like for your weekend of SUP. Knowing your chosen area and how this info can be interpreted for said location will also help. With this knowledge you should be able to make a loose plan. We say loose because things can often change (see next point).
Prepare to change
This is winter and not least the weather can be volatile. As such it’s best to be in a position where changing plans – and even sacking off your SUP session off altogether – isn’t an issue if everything conspires against you. At the very least have a secondary, back up location in mind. This way you’ll avoid disappointment.
Keeping warm shouldn’t need to be said. But this doesn’t apply to just you in the water. This also applies to your little crew. If you’re a family then keep snuggly blankets close to hand, in tandem with warm winter clothes, to help stave off the chill. If you’re lucky enough to own a surf wagon (van) then deck it out for cosy times so those not in the water will remain comfortable.
Keep fuelled and hydrated
Cold zaps strength and with exercise in the mix you’ll become fatigued and dehydrated much quicker than you think. Fuel up on energy giving foods before your SUP session and make sure you drink plenty of fluid before and after.
Wear the right attire
If you’re going to be in the ocean/lake/river then a decent wetsuit will most likely be your chosen piece of SUP wear. Either that or a high quality drysuit. Don’t scrimp here. Get the best you can afford, and from a reputable brand. Don’t underestimate windchill and the evaporative cooling effect of being in the air once you’re out of the drink either. Hanging about outside in a wet wetty is the quickest way to get hypothermia.
Keep your gear in good working order
After every weekend warrior mission check your SUP gear over and make sure any damage or bits needing replacement are sorted. The worst thing is leaving everything in a messy pile that you have to sift through as you’re about to get wet next time. Chances are, the law of sod being what it is, you’ll find something broken just when the stars seem to be aligning.
Know your limits
Winter generally sees Momma Nature dish up more hardcore conditions than you get in summer. If you’re confronted by a scenario you’re just not comfortable with then sack it off and live to paddle another day. There’ll be other chances of SUP we promise.
Finish off weekly tasks in the week
There’s nothing worse than having lingering tasks hanging over your head. As much as possible get up straight with things like work and household chores in the week so your weekend is free and clear. That way you’ll enjoy your paddling time to the maximum.
Just to reiterate the safety point: stay safe if you’re stand up paddling through winter. Enjoy the season but don’t take unnecessary risks. There’s plenty of SUP fun to be had without.
It’s nearly the weekend – August Bank Holiday weekend 2020 to be precise. Whilst it’s been a strange year in many ways there’s one thing that isn’t changing: everyone loves a Bank Holiday Weekend. And with this one incoming it’ll be no different. On a plus the storms we’ve experienced this week have sloughed off with only remnant conditions left. By and large this’ll disappear as well and come Sunday, broadly speaking, there should be much lighter airs. You may still need to seek a bit of shelter (locally) but we’re pretty confident decent stand up paddle boarding conditions will be found. So it’s definitely worth making the most of it. General weather doesn’t look too bad either, with healthy amounts of sunshine and moderate temperatures.
Here at McConks we’ve had an unprecedented year, as has been spoken about. That said we still have some boards left for you that’ll land in time for the weekend if ordered in the next few days. Our Go Race V 14‘, which can easily double as a touring SUP, is waiting, ready to ride. The tech that’s gone into this iSUP is top drawer – even if we do say so ourselves. Not least the removable fin box. We also have some of the nimble, fun Go Skate 7’2 inflatables left which are perfect for anyone looking for manoeuvrability in surf or on moving river waterways. And there’s a whole load of SUP paddles and accessories ready to enhance your overall SUP experience. Head over to the shop for a nose and to place your order. Let us know if you have any questions about anything.
We appreciate everyone’s been busy paddling, hanging out with the family and making the most of summer. So much so it’s easy to miss some of the stuff we publish to the McConks blog. Have no fear, however, as we’ve conveniently rounded things up for you.
McConks bitesize travel guides
The beady eyed out there may have noticed we’ve featured heavily on the travel area of stand up paddle boarding. There’re a plethora of locations across the UK to paddle – inland and coastal. We’ve started compiling a bunch of bitesize guides to help when choosing where to SUP next. Stay tuned as we’ll be adding to these regularly. Below are the spots we’ve published to date.
Sticking with the domestic SUP travel theme for a moment; we put out an article talking about 5 of the best palces to stand up paddle board in the UK. Obviously there are others, but this 5 will start you off. Feel free to drop us a line with your personal faves.
Many will already be aware that McConks does more than just stand up paddle boards. We cover the whole spectrum, from SUP itself to windSUP, windsurfing, wing and we’re currently looking hard at hydrofoil and hard shell SUPs. There’s plenty to come! With this in mind we’d love to make contact with any watersports clubs that offer mutiple activities. For more info hit this link then hit us up.
Honesty is always the best policy, so we think
If you want an insight top how 2020 has been for McConks then this is the article you need to read. Not least to give an idea of what we have to do to keep this ticking smoothly over, but also so you’re in the full picture as customers.
Recently the International Surfing Association was awarded ‘ownership’ of stand up paddle boarding to take it through (potentially) to its Olympic Games debut. But does the recreational paddler actually care about stuff like this? Read the article and let us know what you think.
5 SUP adventures that await the progressing stand up paddler
Looking out the window, with the rain beating down and wind howling, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s it, all over, done and dusted; Summer of SUP 2020 has gone. But not so fast! It’s still only August and whilst there’s certainly a bit of grotty weather about currently there’s also every likelihood that it’ll pass and we’ll get a decent end of season – an Indian Summer if you will.
Of course, we’re generalising here. And one stand up paddler‘s idyllic is another’s not so great depending where you’re based in the UK. That said, early autumn can often see decent temperatures – possibly more bearable for some than the recent Med like mercury levels – with waters still very much warm. It’s actually this time of year when seas in particular are at their balmiest. Rivers, lakes and canals are pretty good as well.
Also, anyone looking for ‘conditions’, such as better waves for SUP surfing, will find now’s the time. You’re more likely to score proper waves, with offshore winds, in autumn. We’ve talked about sea breezes in the past. The tail end of the year sees less and less of these due to how warm the ocean is, hence why you’re more likely to score glassy SUP sessions.
One fly in the ointment is less daylight. We’re definitely edging towards longer nights. But days will still be the go – right up until end of October for many (unless you’re truly fair weather). And don’t forget: kids will be back at school shortly (COVID allowing) which means potentially additional free time for parents if they can swing it with work.
So now’s not the time to be hanging up your paddle. There’s plenty of SUP time to be wrung from 2020. And even when the depths of winter set in if you pick and choose your times then, as with autumn, you can bag some great sessions.
Rachel Bambrough runs SUP4.co.uk based in London. She doesn’t just teach those wanting to take their first steps in stand up paddle boarding, however. We asked Rachel a few questions about her teaching and SUP in London.
Firstly, tell us how SUP4Beginners came about? – SUP4 was an ongoing idea, albeit without a brand name, logo or structure of how I would make it work, when working full time in the corporate world. It was a dream which I was striving towards but didn’t quite know when it would happen, or how successful it would be. I would spend my days dreaming about being outdoors and on the water. The original plan was to move closer to the sea to make the venture work, but this year I was made redundant from my corporate role which was very much the wake up call I needed to make it all happen. After coaching for various clubs in London and Denmark I decided to go solo and take the plunge to set up my own SUP school.
And where do you normally paddle – what’s good about your area for paddling? – I usually paddle on the non-tidal stretch of the River Thames between Hampton Court and Teddington Lock. It gives beginners and those that want to perfect their skills all the hours in the day to do this as we are not restricted by tide times. It’s a beautiful, picturesque stretch of river which houses many interesting plants and lots of wildlife. The other week I spotted a terrapin.
Is it just beginners you teach? Any plans to take your qualifications further? It’s not just beginners, all levels are welcome. The name SUP4Beginners was more of an idea to make it open and welcome to those that would like to learn. So many people are put off doing sport because they feel like they won’t be able to keep up or find anything in common with larger groups as a beginner. I wanted people from all walks of life, all age groups to come along and try out SUP. My main goal is to make the sport fun and accessible, whilst teaching people how to be at their safest whilst out on the river. I really want to make SUP more accessible to groups of people who wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to try out water sports, whether this be because of a disability or a confidence issue; this is something I am working towards for next year.
What equipment do you use and why? – I am currently using the McConks 12’8 Go Explore touring board, but sometimes switch to McConks’ Go Wild if I fancy a faster trip down river.
Tell us about the wider London area for stand up paddle boarding. It’s not where most people would tend to think of for SUP. – The wider London area has a lot of untouched beautiful spots to paddle on, which you wouldn’t know about just by walking or cycling along the river. I like to find new excitng places to take my pupils. There are many spots to take your SUP board and enjoy local cafes and restaurants as part of your trip.
How many pupils have you taught to date? Since going solo I have taught over 200 people, which hasn’t given me much time to breathe. But I have loved every second. I have taught mixed age groups and abilities from complete newbies to those that would like to build up the confidence out on the water.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a SUP instructor? I love watching people stand and find their balance for the very first time, along with finding the confidence to lead me rather than me leading the client in the water. It’s so nice bringing like minded people together when paddling in groups for sunrise and sunset paddles. I also very much like watching people fall in and having a giggle, actually this is the best part about my job. I keep saying I must get a GoPro attached to the front of a beginners board to capture their funny facial expressions when they fall in. Would make a great exhibition!
What are your SUP plans for the rest of 2020? Ooooo that’s a good question. People will just have to keep an eye out on socials for some of the interesting events that I am planning, but I plan to run the club throughout the autumn/winter months for as long as it’s safe to do so. You can follow me @sup4beginners on Insta or FB. Website www.sup4.co.uk.
Any one you’d like to thank? There are too many people to thank, but those close to me who have helped me grow as a person and build my new venture know who they are.
Open ocean location with plenty of surf to keep everyone occupied.
Mostly, Croyde is surf venue, although it does have flat days (particularly during summer) that can be good for touring and recreational SUP.
Low tide sees the waves of any size dump on the numerous sand back. These can be sand dredging lumps of water that’ll easily pile drive you and your board into the seabed. When Croyde shows size this only increases. Experience barrel hunters relish it. During summer Croyde can be an absolute zoo when the sun’s out. Some rocks at either end and rips aplenty.
Getting to the water at Croyde is pretty simple. You have the main carpark at one end with numerous access points for walking across the sand dunes.
10 in high summer, 8 if the surf’s good (whatever time of year), 2-3 at other times.
There’s plenty of eating/drinking options with an onsite café, toilets and changing facilities (paid for). A camp site can be found just back from the beach whilst in the village you’ll discover The Thatch and Billy Budd’s pubs, both next door to one another. Plus, surf shops, pasty outlets, souvenir places and so on. Surrounding the beach beach you’ll find a plethora of self catering accommodation with high season prices that sky rocket. Out into the sticks has a few small hotels and less pricey room lets.
Croyde’s reputation for low tide barrels is renowned. With solid swell heavy waves unload ferociously onto the sand bars dotted just beneath the water’s surface. Up to around 3ft is doable for most with experience, although even at that size you’ll easily get taken out by Neptune’s power. It’s quite possible to snap a stand up paddle board if you’re not paying attention. Add to the mix a frothing local pack of hungry surfers, mostly over any type of crowds, and it can all be a bit daunting. Yet this doesn’t stop every man and his dog from making a beeline for Croyde in high season. During summer all manner of craft can be afloat and the water gets quite hectic. It’s usually best to indulge in early or late sessions for the most peaceful experience. For many Croyde is a quintessential surfing town, not unlike its southern cousin Newquay. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the hedonistic rep, or back ti back shops, pubs and bars of the former Croyde’s two local pubs – The Thatch and Billy Buds – can serve up some spirited nightlife to say the least. Especially after little one’s bedtime hour has past. On hot days the whole of North Devon can get packed out which may test some people’s patience. Narrow roads in some parts aren’t for the faint hearted. Saunton, around the corner back towards Braunton, can offer respite from Croyde’s full on vibe. That said, score classic low tide Croyde, snag one of the epic kegs and you’ll be bitten by the Croyde bug for life no doubt! On flatter days grab a touring SUP and head out to Baggy Point for some exploring. Just watch out for currents and a change in weather.
When you’re in the market for a new inflatable stand up paddle board chances are you’re looking at dimensions closely. This is your guide, although quoted numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Confirming this once again we were contacted by one of McConks’ SUP friends who had some interesting info based on a side by side test that’d been done.
Having used the McConks 9’8 Go Free crossover inflatable SUP extensively the paddler in question went for a float with a popular, alternative brand’s, 12′ x 31″ wide touring SUP. (For reference the Go Free is much shorter and narrower at 9’8 x 30″). General theory suggests that a longer, wider board should be more stable. In fact, board B sports a squared off tail, much less rocker which all in should mean it ‘wins’ the stability test hands down.
After swapping about during an hour plus session, however, it quickly became apparent this isn’t the case. It’s, in fact, quite the opposite. (Note: having passengers clamber on and off both boards, before jumping off, and paddling with three kiddy guests, while the paddler aims to keep upright is a good test of stability if you ask us!).
Time and again McConk’s model was staying balanced and not tipping everyone in the drink. Which was totally opposite with the 12′. So why is this?
We hear it all the time that inflatable stand up paddle boards don’t really differ much, other than in dimensions, which isn’t true. Manufacturing techniques, type of Dropstitch used, thickness of and quality of PVC, plus length, width and volume of board along with any other design quirks all play their part to make every board ‘feel’ and perform differently. There’s also the user to pop into the equation. By this we mean has he/she put the recommended amount of air into the board as this will affect how your iSUP acts. Also, to a degree, skill level.
In terms of recommended air pressure both the 9’8 Go Free and 12′ tourer/cruiser were filled with their optimum, so that variable can be ruled out. There are some differences in design of both boards, however. The Dropstitch material McConks uses in all its SUPs is super high quality. We#re confident it’s the highest grade you can get. This alone, when the board is inflated correctly, will see superior rigidity when compared to other brand gear that doesn’t use the same spec Dropstitch. It’s exactly the case with PVC used in McConks’ SUPs as well. We don’t cut corners.
Add to the mix the hard release rubber edge that sits on the tail of the Go Free. This not only helps with tracking and glide it also helps with rigidity, minimises bend (deflection) and therefore aids stability. We appreciate not every McConks iSUP has this feature but in the case of the Go Free, which we’re focusing on here, it’s worth mentioning. Fins too; these can help with stability, serving to keep the board level and therefore balanced – IF they’re optimised and positioned correctly. Basically, a well designed inflatable, with all its component parts optimised will give you ‘more’ on the water – whichever aspect you shine a spotlight on – than something which hasn’t had quite the same level of attention.
You can give your brand a funky name, create a pleasingly visual logo, add some nice colours and utilise colourful language when describing your products. You may also drop the price point to as low as you dare go to entice and attract. But ultimately if your products haven’t had the input then they simply won’t fulfil the promise of what you say they’ll deliver on the water.
If you want some honest feedback about McConks SUP products in comparison to others then get in touch. We’re only too happy help. Regardless of which brand you’re looking at we’ll tell it straight.
It’s been a rather busy year hasn’t it? It seems that the world has decided that paddleboarding and biking are the perfect socially distant activities post lockdown.
We think we’ve already told you that we were nearly 400% up on the previous year to the end of July. That came on the back of being 50% down on 2019 to the second week in April. So to say we’ve been busy is an understatement. And being that busy has caused us a few issues. So for those of you who’ve been a little frustrated by us this year, here’s the story of how things went a bit wrong, and what we’ve learned from it.
The container that was due to land end of June that we were promising to ship from on 3rd July didn’t touch ground until 10th July, and took another week before it was unloaded into our distribution centre in South Wales.
We were already struggling to respond to all communications around then because the entire world was asking questions about what kind of SUP to buy, and every person and their dog was asking when there preorder was. At that point we probably should have stopped being so reactive to customers calls, emails, messages, whatsapp etc, and proactively contacted preorder customers in a bulk communication to advise them things were a little delayed. That would have annoyed a few customers for a short period, but reduced calls on our time for that couple of weeks when things were going so manic.
At this point we were also moving more of our products to be fulfilled by the distribution centre (fins, sunglasses, rash vests etc). This helped us by reducing demands on our time at HQ picking and packing these items, but this was an unwelcome distraction for the distribution centre who still weren’t fully up to normal staffing levels in this socially distant world.
We changed our systems integrations with our logistics partners during this period to simplify it for the distribution centre. However in doing so we broke it so that not every order made it to the distribution centre. This was the biggest mistake – making system changes during your busiest period ever without properly testing them! This also had significant knock on effects. We were relying on the distribution centres stock levels to feed stock levels on the webshop. Because they didn’t have every order, it made the shop look like we had more stock that we did. This is turn led to us unwittingly take more orders for some products than we actually had stock.
We also had real problems with the Go Simple product. The QA of the boards was simply not good enough – some boards had cosmetic damage (printing and deckpad finishing), some boards had leaky valves, the accessories were poor with bags falling apart on day one. To solve this problem for the future we’ve discontinued the Go Simple line. We’ve realised, belatedly, that it isn’t possible to make an iSUP product that meets our ethical, environmental and quality standards at that budget price range. As part of our desire to always exceed customers expectations, we offered those customers affected, reduced price upgrades to the premium quality Go Anywhere boards. But in doing so, we were further affecting the stock level management issues, eating further into stock we didn’t have.
At this point, we were being inundated by incoming from customers asking where there kit was. But with the breakdown in comms between our systems and the distribution centres, we were totally unsighted. Finding out if an order had been shipped meant asking the distribution centre. Finding out how much stock we had left meant asking the distribution centre. But the distribution centre were focussing on the most important things – getting our gear out to customers – rather than responding to our requests for information. Further, because not every order was getting to the distribution centre, customers were getting kit out of order. Meaning that sometimes someone who ordered later than preorder customers got shipped kit destined for preorder customers.
Add to this that that some gear that had been dispatched disappeared. Some of it even made it to the final hub closest to the customer before being turned around and returned to a random address nothing to do with either McConks (Perfect Trim Ltd) or our distribution centre (Border Group)!
And then we had a couple of bad boards. That went bang. Literally. That was a real shock for us. We’ve always had a very, very low rate of returns and failures, nearly always due to issues with valves that are easily resolved with the right advice. But, it turns out that we had a very small batch of boards made in 2019 that had inferior adhesive (long complicated reason due to air quality standards and health and safety requirements). We knew about this in 2019, and thought we had stopped these boards being shipped, but it seems that some still got shipped this year when we had pressure on stock. Our boards are guaranteed to 27 PSI and warrantied for four years for a reason. The glue, dropstitch and valves that we use are the absolute best, and can take that pressure. There are much, much cheaper glues that withstand lower pressure, which is why some boards have a much lower recommended pressure, and why they pop when left in the sun (interesting fact, some boards with a high pressure guarantee use cheaper glues, and have a much higher failure rate than we do). And so we had some boards that popped in the sun. This is beyond embarrassing for a company like us who base our reputation on reliability and quality. But, we like to be open and honest, so we’re telling you all about it. And unlike other (less ethical and scrupulous) brands, we replace without quibble, and we don’t make the customer sign a non disclosure agreement before sending a replacement board (yes, there seriously are companies in the UK that do this just so they can claim they have never had a leaky board!)
We hope we’ve now recalled all of these boards, or have come to an agreement with the board owners. But, it you ever have one of our boards with excessive glue staining/yellowing, air bubbles in the rails, or with evidence of a loss of air pressure over days, please contact us ASAP. In the future, every board that’s made will have a unique serial number, and our factory will record the pressure before and after the 72 hour pressure test, and the person that made the board and the person who signed to QA standards off. This adds about another $50 to our raw cost, but it’s worth it to get it right, and to ensure we can easily recall whole batches of boards in the unlikely situation that things go wrong in the future.
By now we had stopped taking any new orders so we could focus on resolving the mess and clearing the backlog. We focussed on SUP packages rather than paddles or accessories, but didn’t have the spare hours in a day to tell people who had ordered fins or paddles that was the case. Again, taking ten minutes out of a very busy day to make a proactive communication would have saved much time responding to individual frustrated customers, but when the company is in the heat of dealing with individual customers it’s difficult to make that decision to step back, ignore calls and contacts, and be proactive. We did everything we possibly could to make sure that every customer had a board, even offering temporary replacements for some customers until the new container arrives at the end of August. But even doing that we couldn’t keep all customers happy. Some customers sadly were left empty handed and the only option was a refund. Which is a horrible thing to do to a customer when it’s soooo hard this year to get hold of quality SUP equipment at short notice. We’ve seen some social media content of customers we let down using boards that we wouldn’t recommend to our worst enemy. And that makes us feel really guilty!
So it hasn’t all be plain sailing. Thankfully, the vast majority of our amazing customers have had the experience that we aim for. But a small minority of you have been let down. And that frustrates us and makes us rather sad. Most of those frustrated customers have been beyond patient with us – thank you all so much, and some of your messages of support have really kept us going through this! We love you all!
But to those of you who have been affected, we’re really, really sorry!
With the next container arriving at the end of August, we’re desperately trying to clear up any outstanding issues. So if you’re still waiting for something, please let us know ASAP to email@example.com.
Last week The Court of Arbitration for Sport awarded the International Surfing Association the right to lead stand up paddle boarding in its Olympic bid for inclusion. After a long legal battle with the ICF (International Canoeing Federation), who also staked a claim, a decision has been reached, which concerned parties now state will accelerate SUP move forwards in a positive fashion. But does the layman paddler actually care?
For anyone actively competitive in SUP this news will be an interesting victory. Ultimately, whatever anyone says, it’s been an ‘ownership’ battle. But those who consider themselves ‘SUP athletes’ should soon have a clear path to the hallowed Olympic platform – arguably ‘the best of the best arena’ where the elite of each discipline can prove themselves.
The majority of recreational paddlers, however, won’t give two hoots about the above. Stand up paddle boarding is, for the masses, about having fun in the sun, floating about with friends and family and enjoying the outdoors. Serious competition is a world away. Granted, a % of newbies may go on to become SUP athletes, but many won’t.
Having staged successful SUP competitions in the past the ISA does have pedigree in the organisation of stand up paddle board events. Its test as an organisation, and whether the CAS decision was correct, will come down to getting SUP into The Games and delivering on its promise to those who’ve made SUP their life goal. Sponsored riders and SUP professionals need an outlet to prove their worth after all.
For the rest of us, we’ll continue as we’ve done so: enjoying time afloat and paddling waterways of all types. Whether or not stand up appears at The Olympic Games is neither here nor there. It may prick interests should that come to fruition at the time but as it stands, whilst this is indeed a landmark decision, 90% of the SUP population won’t have noticed…
Whatever type of stand up paddling you aspire to there’s something for everyone – that’s one of SUP‘s beauties; it’s versatility. Having taken those first tentative paddling steps a whole load of opportunity and SUP adventures await you. Here’re a bunch to get you started.
SUP surfing your first wave
SUP surfing doesn’t have to mean charging the biggest, meanest swells. It can simply be gliding on micro ankle slappers: the experience is the same. Heading out for your first surf can give chills. You have an inkling what’s coming but aren’t quite sure. And then, WHAM!, you catch your first wave and ride along with a stonking grin on your chops. Trust us when we say you’ll be hooked for life!
Running your first river
River SUP is a still very much under the radar in the UK but it’s definitely a thing. Mellow white water, with a small amount of movement, can be just as exciting as hooking massive drop and running grade 5s! Small wave train rapids will get those juices flowing and if you do it with an experienced guide we’re sure you’ll be in for lots of thrills and potentially a few spills – all part of the game…
Entering your first SUP race
Whether you paddle an all round inflatable or hard touring SUP most races these days have a class for you. You don’t need to be vying for the podium – although you may have your sites set there regardless. For most SUP racing is about local battles in the middle of the pack. Taking on your mates to see who can outdo the other. It’s not serious but it sure can be lots of fun!
Day long adventure paddling
With confident paddling comes the ability to load up your SUP with those much needed essentials and head off in the wild for some quality adventure paddling. For the truly committed extending your journey across days may be a thing but to start with simply heading round the next bend, as it were, and making your first SUP adventure a day trip is just as rewarding. Who knows what you may find or where you may end up.
WindSUP or wing SUP
If you’ve never felt the power of wind in your hands then owning a stand up paddle board with a windsurfing attachment will allow this. Even if it doesn’t then fear not! Wings are a thing… In both cases being propelled along with a few breezy gusts can see a whole new world open up before you. Arguably wingsurfing wings are less faff than windsurfing rigs although McConks offers an inflatable version of both. Unlock the additional versatility of your board and get involved!
Yes, we know it’s currently baking in the UK, and winter seems like a way off. But it isn’t really. We’re already into mid-August and soon it’ll be autumn. This isn’t to sound negative. In fact, for many autumn and winter can be the best seasons for stand up paddle boarding – particularly if you want ‘conditions’ and not just flat water. But now’s the time to prepare – you don’t want to get left out in the cold (literally) come time.
Make sure you have good quality paddling attire. A decent wetsuit or drysuit if necessary will stand you in good stead. Mostly, you get what you pay for. Of course, there are deals (particularly if you shop around now) but a decent wetty does mean you have to stump up a little. But you’ll be thankful for it. Also, make sure this part of your kit is durable and robust. When clambering on and off boards you don’t need your wetty getting a hole in it!
Gloves, hood and booties should also be considered. They need to be comfortable and ideally not impede movement. Of course, to some degree, wearing gloves, hood and booties isn’t as ‘free’ as paddling in just boardshorts. That’s why getting the correct fit and type which suits you is important.
Check over your paddle. If you’ve been afloat plenty this summer you may have picked up scuffs and potentially nicks on the shaft, handle or blade. For those using an adjustable it’s worth looking at the locking mechanism. Any SUPer needing to replace their paddle should definitely be looking to before winter. It’s your engine and main form of propulsion so definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Damage to your stand up paddle board will need sorting if you’ve picked anything up – whether hard SUP or inflatable. Fins also. Wear and tear is par for the course unfortunately but is usually easily fixable. You may also be considering an upgrade that’s more in line with the SUP performance you’re after based on the conditions you plan on tackling.
Leashes are another item that tend to show signs of use and therefore need replacing in time. Having a worn leash snap on you while out in the wild isn’t pleasant so make sure you sort before too long. And don’t forget the leash retainer as this can also wear.
Any flotation aids should be checked over before doing battle with Mother Nature. Whether that be a float belt, that self inflates, a PFD or buoyancy aid all of which need to be in good working order. Any other peripheral gear like helmets as well. You may not have had need for these during summer so definitely worth having a look/see.
All in being prepared for winter stand up paddling is the best course of action. If you are then we’re pretty sure you’ll have a fruitful season.
Before we get jumped all over this isn’t THE best 5 places to SUP instead it’s more of a selection of what’s available. Lists like these are always subjective. One paddler’s honey is another’s Marmite. Everyone has an opinion and opinions differ based on circumstance, criteria and a whole host of other factors. The list below, however, will have something in it that’ll prick the interests of many. You may not agree with all but we’re sure you’ll discover a location that you fancy tackling…
Where would you add?
Marazion, Mounts Bay, Cornwall
Being a south-west Cornwall spot Marazion can serve up all manner of SUP kinds conditions; from waves to flat water, choppy to blustery. Whilst it doesn’t face the same direction as its north coast siblings, and therefore pick up the same amount of swell, there’s still potential for a spot of SUP surfing if that’s your bag. Alternatively, and often during the summer months, Mazza (as the locals call it) can be flat. With the iconic St. Michael’s Mount off to the left and Penzance to the right it’s a top SUP touring spot that on a windless, sunny day can resemble a more exotic location. Access is easy, with parking right next to the put in. At low tide it has more expose sand which can be good for families.
The Lake District, Cumbria
The Lakes hardly need introduction, such is their reputation for awe-inspiring mountain vistas and elongated waterways plunged at the foot those troughs and valleys. Walkers, climbers and bikers are well acquainted with this spot but in recent years SUP has been accepted onto some of the lakes. Being a sheltered area there can be blissful, windless days, although weather can still be changeable and exposed corners blustery as strong gusts sweep down steep fells. Still, if you want to experience Wordsworth’s land then from atop a SUP couldn’t be better. Ullswater, in particular, should be on your list.
The Broads, Norfolk/Suffolk
Formed after flooding peat workings The Broads is a (mostly) navigable set of lakes and canals that straddle both counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Offering idyllic flat water touring SUP conditions The Broads is a national park punctuated every so often by historic windmill pump stations erected to keep water levels static. For paddlers there’s miles of water to either meander along in mellow fashion or, for those with inclination, put the hammer down. It should be noted that at certain times of year some stretches do have restrictions so check before launching.
Seven Sisters, East Sussex
Formed out of white chalk cliffs East Sussex’s Seven Sisters are the iconic ends of the South Down’s where many a TV and film crew have pointed their camera (Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood had scenes filmed here). Whether you’re after open water tidal paddling, or more sheltered conditions (found at Cuckmere Valley) you’ll be well served. Staring up at the towering cliffs is jaw dropping out at sea whilst meandering along the Cuckmere River is a rather more chilled out affair.
Tiree, Hebrides, Scotland
During bouts of good weather, with sunshine in the mix (which can often be the case in Tiree as one of the brightest locations in the UK), Tiree’s beaches and lapping Atlantic water resemble a more Tropical destination. The small Hebridean island attracts all manner of watersports enthusiasts with its diverse set of conditions. From BIG waves to more mellow surf and even flat water it’s a location that begs you to put in with your SUP. The overall ambience of Tiree, with its small population, makes the whole island very chilled indeed. Nervous newbies will also find a small sheltered lake for taking those first steps.
Most will now be well aware of stand up paddling‘s unprecedented growth post-lockdown. This weekend, as of August 8, 2020, saw another round of mainstream press coverage which tells you something. There’s nothing and nobody that could’ve predicted how this year would go. Certainly not SUP industry big wigs who in 2019 suggested a consolidation was taking place after things had slowed.
In some ways it’s kind of the opposite to how things were at SUP‘s modern guise inception around 2005. Touted as the biggest thing since sliced bread – or rather ‘the fastest growing watersport on the planet’ – it certainly set off on solid footing before 2008’s economic crash put paid to the metaphorical SUP sales explosion every brand was imagining. Instead, stand up paddle boarding bubbled along at a slightly faster growth rate than average.
At the start of 2020 there were inklings already in some minds regarding the impending global pandemic. But nothing in those crystal balls suggested a re-energised/reinvigorated interest with standing atop boards and paddling. In fact, during lockdown the outdoor industry at large were full of doom and gloom. Then shutters were lifted and the cocktail of staycation, furlough, good weather and time at home conspired to make stand up paddle boarding THE coolest thing do this summer, once again. (We’ll also admit some other outdoor pursuits, such as cycling, have also been enjoying a bumper season).
But what about sustaining this growth? Is that possible or will things cool off?
There’s wide media suggestion about all manner of things come autumn. Unemployment, a potential virus second wave along with Mother Nature’s mood taking on a changeable tone which all could halt proceedings. From a weather/seasonality point of view watersports always slow once we emerge from ‘silly season’. The fact is: most practitioners are fair weather and the UK’s climate isn’t always inviting during autumn and winter. Plus, daylight hours are against those who do regular 9-5 jobs with less time to indulge even if they wanted to. Although, with a more remote work ethic perhaps that won’t be a thing…
Regardless, SUPer numbers on the water will probably dip after September – unless we get a decent October weather window around school half term. Even with the onset of winter, however, stand up paddling certainly doesn’t have to stop. Those who fancy progressing and pushing on can certainly do so with the right ‘tools’ – such as decent wetsuit and such.
So what of spring 2021 and the continuation of stand up paddling‘s popularity? Some economically minded types would suggest that because of the unprecedented re-growth of SUP in 2020 it’ll last into next year. That would be logical if these times we’re living in were normal (which they aren’t). We’d possibly witness the knock effect from this season. By that we mean: person A buys a stand up paddle board which is noted by person B – perhaps a neighbour or work colleague. Person B investigates then also makes a purchase which is noted by person C. And so on, and so on…
Unfortunately, based on how 2020 has been so far, things are never quite that simple. We can’t predict what’ll happen in the next 12 months. We can’t predict what’ll happen next week! But, what we can tell you is anyone who’s gotten hold of stand up paddle boarding equipment for the first time this year will be much better off for it. Of course, SUP isn’t the be all and end all. But in times of chaos it certainly helps to have some form of release – which stand up paddling certainly can offer. So in that sense, for those in a position to get involved next year there’s argument to do so.
For now, enjoy your paddling and the rest of summer in the UK – it’s certainly been one for the records! Only time will tell how 2021 pans out…
Here at McConks we’re already looking towards 2021’s season as before you know it’ll be winter with that portly chap in red suit making an appearance – we can’t sit on our laurels. If you’ve been following McConks for a while you may have seen articles/posts about new gear we’re currently developing across various disciplines – windsurf and stand up paddling. This is based on feedback from various corners including watersports clubs and coaches we currently work with.
McConks has always appealed to clubs because of the versatility, robust nature and fit for purpose nature of our gear. Building on this the range for 2021 will increase. In particular, the inflatable windsurf sails we’ve talked about, kid’s specific SUP kit (windsurf and race SUP), potentially hard crossover windSUP boards (yet to be tested) and a whole bunch of other equipment bits designed to further enhance your water life and living. Basically there’s something to suit all disciplines, from beginners to intermediate right the way up to advanced riders.
If you’re a watersports club specialising in either windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding or both then McConks can offer you decent bulk order rates. We’re keen to work closer with clubs and help more people get into watersports which is why we’re offering this.
Everyone knows that grassroots clubs are where the watersports seed gets sown – especially for kids. Those who mightn’t have access to windsurf and stand up paddle equipment get the opportunity to take part in otherwise inaccessible activities. There are numerous stories of super successful athletes who’ve started out in similar fashion.
For watersports clubs interested in taking advantage of pre-order 2021 deals on McConks SUP, windSUP and windsurfing equipment now’s the time to get in touch and see what we can do for you.
There’s much chat about SUP safety with so many new paddlers coming into the sport. Things like leashes (and what type to wear), weather info and so on are certainly key aspects that need covering/reiterating. One thing that may get overlooked, however, is the following – particularly for paddlers on stretches of inland water. While we’re not trying to be alarmist Weil’s Disease is something to be aware of.
As we all know stand up paddle boarding can (mostly) be practised on any given stretch of water you come across – access allowing. Whilst tidal waters are one thing, as far as SUP safety concerns go, inland locations, such as rivers, canals and lakes have their own set of safety criteria to keep in mind. Something new stand up paddlers might not have considered is Leptospirosis (Weil’s Disease) and the fact you can pick it from these non-coastal locations.
What is it and how does Weil’s disease transmit?
Weil’s Disease is a bacterial infection that can be fatal if untreated. It’s spread by rat urine but can also transmit via cat, fox rabbit, cow and pig urine. If the stretch of water you plan on paddling is next to a cow field, for instance, then there’ll most likely be run off which can carry the bacteria.
Open wounds, such as cuts and gashes, are prime for the disease entering a paddler’s body. Contaminated water, that’s ingested, can also be a route to infection as can nasal passages and eyes. Symptoms include lethargy, muscle pain, diarrhoea, headaches and vomiting – Weil’s Disease can mimic severe flu. The consequences of becoming infected can be serious.
Whilst river/lake/canal water are places stand up paddlers could pick up Leptospirosis infections a little known fact is that river banks, for instance, are also contamination zones. Shuffling and crawling across bankside undergrowth and shrubbery to launch also risks pick up the infection.
It should also be noted that infection rates following rainfall can be higher as the Leptospira bacteria thrives in moisture.
Preventing Weil’s Disease
It should go without saying that any open wounds or cuts should be covered with watertight bandages. In fact, it might be worth holding off paddling altogether until any abrasions or scrapes have healed. Taking a dunking is par for the course with SUP – we all fall from time to time. Keeping mouths and eyes closed if immersed is good practise.
SUP apparel isn’t just for keeping warm and fending off chill. Wearing protective clothing, such as neoprene wetsuits, boots and gloves can block potential infections as well. In hotter weather thinner garments can be purchased so overheating doesn’t also become a problem.
Having anti-bac onsite for post-paddle rub downs is worth it. Then as soon as you can washing hands and face with warm soapy water should be done. Clean down all your gear, including paddle clothing, to get rid of bacteria.
If the area you plan on stand up paddle boarding is known to have problems with Weil’s Disease then avoiding it completely is a good idea. Should you feel unwell after SUPing inland waterways then speaking with your GP straight away can help stop symptoms developing. Early treatment can reduce the severity of any infection and shorten symptom’s duration. There are some preventative medicines available if you can’t avoid what you feel is contaminated water.
It should be noted that paddling in river, canals and lakes doesn’t mean you’re going to contract Leptospirosis. As with everything SUP carries an element of risk. Knowing those risk, however, means you can make informed decisions and keep as safe as possible.
The beady will have noticed there’s LOTS of content to be discovered when you navigate to the McConks SUP Knowledge Hub. From beginner tips, tricks and hacks to more advanced info, brand/product updates, a new travel section and loads of other good stuff. We appreciate, however, that sometimes you may miss things – it’s easy to do. As such you’ll find links below to a few choice articles that we’ve published.
As always if there’s something specific you want to see then let us know.
We took an in depth look at the McConks HP6 dual chamber and HP2 single chamber iSUP pump. As an addition we also got one of McConks’ friends – Chris – to demonstrate them in action.
You may not be aware of it but McConks does its best to innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible with inflatable SUP products. An example of which can be found with the Go Race V 14′.
McConks recently got the go ahead to start actively pushing our Go Sail inflatable windsurfing sails. These will be widely available soon. If you fancy checking them out then hit the link below –
Electric hydrofoiling boards certainly prick interests and we’ve been lucky enough to get one to test. We’re currently putting it through its paces so stay tuned for an update ASAP.
Finally you’ll find a whole bunch of articles relating to UK SUP spots. We’ve started adding to this travel section which’ll be ongoing. If you have a specific location included then message us.
We’re proud of McConks’ Go Race V 14‘, which we talked about in a previous post. But we don’t just want you to take our word for it that it’s an awesome inflatable race board (with plenty of versatility). No siree. For further opinion on the McConks Go Race V 14 check out the latest issue of SUP Mag UK where you’ll find a full review.
As many will know McConks doesn’t do that many of this type of review. Mainly because magazines ask for advertising revenue in return, so essentially ‘paying to play’, which we don’t agree with. Where’s the impartiality in that? We’ve been featured in SUPM’s reviews/tests for a while though which shoudl tell you something.
We talk about weather all the time here at McConks. Many newbie paddlers won’t have teh necessary information for being able to read things like synoptic charts and interpret conditions accordingly at their chosen put in. Some may not even know what a synoptic chart is (which is understandable if you’ve never had to use one). Yet the fact remains: if you SUP, whether inland or coastal, you need some grasp of what Mother Nature’s likely to serve you up – from a safety point of view if nothing else.
Just spotted is this informative and interesting post from Master SUP Coach Glenn Eldridge of ASI fame. Here he talks about different cloud formations and how that can help you determine what weather’s on the horizon. Give it a read and then try and put it into practise next time you’re out for a SUP.
We’re not sure what this’ll look like yet as it was only yesterday evening (Aug 6, 2020) that Andy spoke to The Guardian newspaper. What we do know, however, is the paper will be running a weekend piece on stand up paddle boarding for their lifestyle section. This is quite timely with a UK heatwave starting to hit which’ll see plenty of paddlers out afloat and therefore interests will be heightened further.
As we understand it they’ve also spoke to a couple of others from the UK’s SUP industry and the journalist in question is currently having a lesson with Paul Hyman from Active360 to get a real flavour of what stand up is all about.
The last time SUP was featured in a broadsheet (The Times, a few months back) it wasn’t 100% representative of SUP’s true demographic. Whilst the text was admirable the accompanying images featured too many of the ‘beautiful’ and not really any of those ‘real world’ paddlers most of us are. Hopefully this will be different, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Keep your eyes peeled for the piece this coming weekend in The Guardian.
We’ve already alluded to this in previous posts but being a watersports brand we get a lot of opportunities come our way – some that fall by the wayside (for various reasons) and others that we readily jump at. This is one of those that we’ve jumped at, more out of curiosity than anything.
To be honest we’re still on the fence when it comes to electrically powered watersports craft – in this case an electric hydrofoil stand up paddle board (e-foil for short). It doesn’t really fit with McConks’ sustainability and environmentally conscious ethos. But, as we say, we’re curious. And we said we’d test it for one of McConks’ suppliers and give some feedback.
There’s a lot of chat about foils currently. Wing foil, SUP foil, surf foil, wind foil and kite foil. Then there are e-foil brands suggesting enough of a market and interest for electric hydrofoils to be viable. Is this actually the case? We’re not sure. Toys like these carry a fairly hefty price tag…But then if you take e-bikes as an example, with some being comparable in price, it seems (some) people may be willing to stump up. Maybe that’d be the same for an electric hydrofoil?
Whatever the case we’re keen to see how it performs on the water. Is it just one step away from a jetski? OR is there bona fide fun to be had and it fit as a complimentary toy in our/your quiver. Stay tuned to find out what we think.
If you’ve just purchased your first stand up paddle board then this mightn’t be for you. Or perhaps maybe you’ve already discovered an arm of SUP that really takes your fancy. Either way there’s, at some point, going to be the question surrounding equipment upgrade.
When we talk about upgrading it’s mostly to do with increasing the performance of your board or paddle and therefore overall efficiency and enjoyment. Recreational paddling, which most people do (at least when they start), is all about getting to grips with SUP‘s fundamentals and generally floating about, having fun, mostly in good weather. For some, this progresses to other avenues of the activity and seeing what you can do with your new toy. It could be SUP adventuring, SUP surfing, racing or any one of the other avenues that stand up paddling offer. Whilst your trusty 10’6 is perfectly adaptable to these specific disciplines there are other bits of equipment designed to make things more efficient (we use this word a lot but it’s very applicable).
For instance: if you’re bitten by the adventure SUP bug, and fancy heading off on exploratory sojourns – either short or long paddle journeys – a longer board, that has improved glide and accommodates the storage of on deck essentials – will be a better bet than a shorter more all round board. You’ll find that even when fully laden with gear ground will be covered easier and the whole experience more fulfilling. It’s the same with any other avenue of SUP: the right tool for the job and all that.
Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting chop in your original stand up paddle board. In fact, as you get more into SUP having a quiver of equipment is a good thing. This maximises your time on the water and, again, allows you to choose the right tool for the job in hand. You don’t need to go mad, although some keen beans do own multiple sleds.
It doesn’t just stop at boards either. If you’re a SUPer who knows their onions as far as paddles go then you may want different types for different jobs – especially if you opt for fixed shaft models.
The last scenario, where you may feel an upgrade is necessary, comes down to the quality of the original stand up paddle board you opt for. We appreciate that cheaper SUPs may be the best choice at the time for many as they take those first tentative steps. Pretty quick, however, (depending on how well made your board in question is) a better manufactured SUP could be desired to deliver more fun on the water. It comes down to the efficiency element again. Any SUP designed and produced with better materials will be more efficient on the water – whatever type of paddling you choose. And more efficiency = more fulfilment and fun.
For anyone looking to upgrade their existing stand up paddle boarding equipment give us a shout to discuss your requirements. We can then point you in the right direction.
Esso Beach (Langstone Harbour oyster beds), Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Sheltered harbour, tidal location.
Smooth glassy water at times (sheltered in NE – SE winds), super windy, choppy seas in a blow.
Strong tides, rocks and stones under foot, other water users (windsurfers).
Easy access with a car park (paid) right next to the put in, pollution at times (especially after heavy rain).
Esso petrol station behind the launch which is a 2 min walk. Free parking. The Hayling Billy track (a now defunct historic railway route), which Esso beach’s car park is part of, offers decent flat land cycling for those inclined.
As with Hayling’s seafront West Beachlands location its primary harbour spot, Esso Beach, is a popular haunt for windsurfers being slightly more sheltered and not have any significant shore break. Esso Beach gets its nickname because of the Esso petrol station located just behind the launch. Low tide dries out with paddling opportunities showing around 2.5hrs before high water. Depending whether spring or neap ties may give an additional half hour window or so for getting afloat. If tides drop and catch you out you may end up with a muddy walk back to the beach. Conditions are Mother Nature dependant but Esso can be nor forgiving than the seafront, although it can still be a rough ride in a blow. It’s a good location for beginners with a shingle spit, lying a few yards off the beach giving additional protection. At either end the coast curves and makes Esso more like a lagoon which can inspire confidence also. Anyone not used to rocky a seabed will need to wear appropriate paddling footwear to protect against cuts and bruises. For anyone fancying a spot of touring SUP it can be a good launch spot, particularly for experienced paddlers used to using tides to aid their journey.
Open ocean, Atlantic facing sandy beach exposed to all weather types swinging in from the west.
Whitesands Bay is mostly a surfing beach but as with other wave spots it can go flat if there’s a lack of Atlantic swell action. It’s a spot described as the best surfing beach in all of Pembrokeshire, although that’s more to do with accessibility for all levels.
Rips can occur when there’s surf pulsing in with general open beach current also in affect. Waves can sometimes be heavy as they close out and dump on shallow sand bars or the beach itself. Some rocks need to be heeded and during summer other water users. It gets busy!
Whitesands Bay has easy access from the main car park but as mentioned above it gets rammed during high season.
10+ in summer dropping to 1-2 in winter.
There’s a shop/café and public toilets onsite as you walk down to the sand. If you head back in the UK’s smallest city – St. Davids – there are a few eateries, pubs and restaurants plus shops and such. Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire’s main county town, is a few miles back east and has more in the way of nightlife if you’re after that.
Pembrokeshire is truly the Wild West for many. Being that much further on, and therefore longer to get to than The Gower Peninsula, Whitesands Bay just outside St. Davids is pretty much on the fringe. That said it gets super busy during summer with all manner of water going craft afloat. If the surf’s smaller you can guarantee it’ll be rammed. Add sunshine to the mix and it becomes more so. On quieter days it can be a good SUP surfing spot for some mellow riding. The waves aren’t super hardcore although they do tend to dump a little. A rip at the northern end can help riders get out on bigger days, if you know what you’re doing. This is where the best wave in the bay breaks. But be aware, local surfers tend to flock on good conditions. To the left of Whitesands Bay is Ramsey Island. This is where the notorious tidal race – called The Bitches – forms. Kayakers have been doing battle with this natural, tidal phenomena for years. Of late stand up paddlers have also tested their mettle. BUT, it’s not for the inexperienced and is best undertaken with safety cover.
There’s a lot of snobbery around relating to cost and perceived ‘cheap’ iSUPs vs more costly ones. The fact is, however, with inflatable SUP you get what you pay for. If you shell out around 200 quid on a board that’s what you get: a 200 quid board. For sure, we’ll admit some are better than others, and a good many will serve your purposes well. In these instances you’ll have made a wise purchase. If you want something ‘more’, that will last longer plus deliver more on water performance equating to enhanced fun, then that’s where premium brands come in. McConks is one of those aforementioned premium brands.
We put a lot of time and effort into sourcing the best quality materials we can; the most efficient and cost effective manufacturers; we put an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears into being as innovative as possible. Some of this may get missed with all the ‘noise’ of SUP‘s colourful world. Yet if you look deeper at what McConks provides you’ll see this innovation, progression and performance. And this is ‘stuff’ that filters down through McConks’ whole product range to benefit every paddler. You may not realise it piloting your trusty 10’6 but through development of more performance orientated boards and paddles you’re reaping the rewards.
One such case in point is McConks’ Go Race V 14′. Whilst SUP racing may not be for everyone being able to design and produce something like this board allows us to experiment, try new ideas and see how far we can push inflatable stand up paddle board boundaries. In doing so we may hit on new ideas and concepts that transfer to the rest of McConks’ range.
With the Go Race V 14′ we’ve incorporated double carbon stringers to increase stiffness. Through the tail section there’s a hard release rubber edge (found on some of McConks’ other iSUPs also). This aids unsticking of the tail for increased acceleration and less drag. Upfront, on the Go Race‘s nose, there’s also pronounced Vee which helps shed water when piercing through chop but, again, as with the tail aids overall efficiency. Combined with its flatter rocker these three elements make for a lightning quick sled – not bad when you consider it’s an air filled board.
And then there’s the fin, or more specifically the fin box. We’ve created this to be removable and come in two parts. This makes for easier transportation and storage of the V 14′ when deflated but also helps with on water performance. Fin boxes, protruding from board tails, add drag so being able to have the Go Race‘s sitting flush against the hull reduces this. The board’s pressure (rated up to 25PSI) secures the top and bottom fin box parts to start with. Then a nifty design allows a Velcro strap to run between the two sections and secure them further. As a US Box style skeg holder paddlers are free to chop and change (tune) their fin accordingly making it not only efficient but super versatile.