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Rewilding forests can’t be done on the cheap

Planting a tree in thee right place
Choosing the right partners is a massive part of what we do and who we are. The people, companies and charities we partner with are part of our heartbeat. They say as much about us, as anything we say does. And if we’re not happy with their ethics, their principles, their vision, then we can’t be partners. And we say no more often than is sensible for a company that needs to make a profit! But we are sooooooooo pleased to be a partner of Trees for Life!

Ever since McConks started investigating rewilding and tree planting back in early 2019, we’ve been concerned about the long term sustainability of some tree planting schemes.

We know from our work with organisations like the Woodland Trust that planting a seed can cost as little as £0.10, but that growing a seed into a viable sapling, planting that sapling, protecting that sapling, and replacing it if it withers costs significantly more. And yet there were many commercial tree planting and offsetting organisations that were willing to let us sell our customers a ‘you’ve planted a tree certificate’ for less than £1. And that didn’t seem right to us.

In our research we’ve come across a lot of potential tree planting scams, so we’ve taken significant steps to find a UK based rewilding charity that is fully transparent about its motives and methods. And that’s why we’ve partnered with Scottish rewilding charity @treesforlife. More about that later, but firstly, what are these scams…

Tree planting and offsetting scams

Less than $1.00 to plant a tree – money for nothing scam

At its most basic, this is simply charging $0.10 to plop a seed into a hole and kick some dirt over the top. We can all agree that this is not actually planting a tree, but planting a chance that a tree might grow. And without the right protection, nurturing, watering, and after planting care, the chance that your £0.10 tree grows is pretty close to zero. So the certificate that you get telling you what tree was planted where, how much carbon it consumes in its life, and how it will contribute to the tropical ecology, is based on a false assumption that every seed grows into a tree. In fact, the carbon embedded in energy taken to autogenerate those certificates and email them could even be greater than that one tree will ever consume! Especially if lots of people print their certificates. It costs at least £5 to grow a viable whip of an ecologically appropriate variety, plant it in the right place, protect it, replace it if it dies, and then reap the carbon and rewilding benefits claimed. So make sure you’re paying enough to actually grow a tree – not just plant a seed.

Rewilding – highlands style

Plant them, log them scam

What happens once the tree has matured? In many cases trees are deliberately planted in locations that are ‘farmed’ for logging. So the tree that you’ve paid to be planted will be cut down in 15 year’s time for timber. There is one school of thought that says that if this prevents virgin forest being cut down, it’s a good thing. However, unless this is declared up front, we think this says something about the ethics and business principles of those tree planting companies, and they’re not the sort of businesses we want to partner with!

Further research

There are many other ways that the commercial plant-a-tree and offsetting companies employ to make profit from your desire to do the right thing. One of the best exposes we’ve found is here. But if you really want to find out as much did, search for ‘plant-a-tree’ scams on google, and ask the Woodland Trust and treesforlife for their opinions. The amount of unethical practice out there is beyond disappointing!

Why treesforlife?

So after all of our research, we’ve nailed our flag to the @treesforlife post. We’ve spoken to lots of different charities, and it was a really hard choice. But ultimately, TreesForLife made it easy for us to create a McConks rewilding grove in the highlands of Scotland. We will be able to document the progress of that grove as we add more trees, and see it develop over time.

As an aside, there is very strong scientific evidence that mature trees in temperate zones do not capture as much carbon as those planted in tropical and subtropical regions. And this was a real concern of ours when choosing a Scottish location. But we satisfied ourselves, that this is offset against the fact that trees planted in our corporate grove are part of a wider rewilding project, and will never be logged, and will provide significant additional ecological benefits, all of which have a knock-on impact on that all-important sustainability and whole life carbon cost that matters so much when you really understand and care about the environment.

Doing it right – planting the right trees in the right places!

What happens next

We are going to be planting a tree in our corporate grove for every single SUP board package purchase. Each whip costs us £10 to plant and maintain. And we’re going to be adding 50% of this cost on to every SUP package purchase, so our prices will go up by £5 across the board.

But, Hey! We understand that not everyone agrees with paying £5 to plant a tree. So we will refund you the £5 charge if you email shop@mcconks.com with the email subject being ‘tree refund’

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Let’s talk about sustainability and ethics in the inflatable SUP world

It’s fashionable to claim to be green and ethical.

Everyone is at it these days, with all sorts of claims. So let’s talk about what it really means to be #ethical and #sustainable. 🌍

To us it’s about a whole lot more than planting a few trees, using green energy or doing plastic litter patrols. And being ethical is about a bit more than brands stating that they give lots of money to charity.

All of these things are awesome, and important in their own right. And every company should do more.

But the whole ‘buy more shit you don’t really need’ cycle is fundamentally unsustainable and should be any ethical company’s starting point. It was our starting point anyway – which is why our products are a little more expensive than their cheaper (and less sustainable) competition.

Being sustainable means making sure that your kit lasts for years. And that costs money.

It means making sure that the raw materials are sourced as sustainably as possible. And that costs money.

Being ethical means more than stating on your website that you give to charity. It means, for example, making sure that your raw materials are made in factories where the workers are treated fairly and well, and where the health and welfare is the most important consideration. And that costs money.

And this is just the start of it. And it all costs.

We can honestly say, hand on heart, that if any other brand claims to be truly ethical, or sustainable, but is selling a similar product at a lower cost than us, then corners have been cut somewhere. Whether that is quality, ethics, sustainability or somewhere else, we can’t tell. But rest assured, those costs are cut somewhere.

And if ethics and sustainability really matters to you, and you want it to be a differentiator, it can be hard. Because most companies these days engage in the art of greenwash. Using pretty words and a few green initiatives to claim to be green. But just look at the whole range of products a company sells. That normally gives them away. If they’re happy to sell cheap merchandise, the chances are that ethics and sustainability are words they use, rather the principles they live and die by!

Our apparel might be most expensive than most of our competitors. But we make very little profit on our apparel (to put this into context, we make less than one pound gross profit per tee shirt). The money goes on the quality of the product, ensuring the workers are paid well, using sustainable, water based inks, only printing on demand rather than dumping waste product, using carbon neutral couriers, using green energy to make and print them. And we could go on, but we’re fairly sure noone is still reading!

If you are still reading and want to know more, check out our GoInspire, GoBeyond and rewilding initiatives.

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What is SUP? This is SUP!

What is SUP? This is SUP!

When you look at most paddleboarding content on webpages and social media, you might be forgiven for thinking that SUP is just for young, slim, pretty people, who also happen to be cool and hip.

But paddleboarding is about so much more than that.

SUP is, for many people about about community and fun. For others its a way of escaping from people. But it is absolutely for people of all ages, and all fitness levels. It’s for the young and the old, for the fit and unfit. In fact, it’s a really good way to start to get yourself fit again.

If your balance is awful? Don’t worry – there’s a board out there that makes it easy for you to balance – just get a bigger board until your balance has improved.

And what about if you are less abled? We’ve seen some amazing, inspirational challenges carried out by blind paddlers, and paddlers with significant physical challenges. And it’s also great for mental health.

So to bring this message home, we’ve put together this little video made up of footage provided by our customers, partners and friends. Not from professional video makers, or sales and marketing people.

But real people.

Because that is what paddleboarding is all about.

Thanks to the following for their support and/or contributing!

The Princes Trust

Hurley Foundation

The National Trust

The Scout Association – scout adventures

GoXperience

Beyond Boundaries East Lothian

Able2Adventure

Mere Mountains

Standup Paddle Mag UK

Anyone Can

Water, Rock, Dirt

Cotswold Water Park Hire

Scotland SUP Co

Ramblings of a Broken Hiker

Ben Arthur Photography

Gonzo SUP

Yellowbelly SUP

SUP experience

Rapid Skills

SUPfod

SUPYofi

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Pros and cons of a Compact lightweight paddleboard

Why don’t you…? Compact inflatable paddleboards SUP

The idea of a compact SUP is very alluring. Something light and that fits in cabin baggage seems like a game changer. And in many ways it is exactly what most inflatable paddleboard paddlers want. And we know this because lots of people contact us to ask if we’re making a compact inflatable SUP board!

We, at McConks, have been investigating and testing compact boards for a number of years. But we’re not yet fans of the technology in the compact boards for a few reasons:

  • Although the lighter, more flexible dropstitch that makes up the core of a compact board has been around for several years (1), making a compact inflatable SUP board is not as straightforward as making a standard fusion board. The seams are not as reliable because of the flexibility of the outer shell, meaning that twists and seam failures lead to an unacceptably high failure rate at the factory. Although our factory QA is very high, so we’re confident we could pick up QA failures before they left the factory, there is a significant amount of wasted resources. And we don’t agree with that from a sustainability and environmental point of view.
  • Regular folding along of compact boards has already been shown to cause failures at the crease lines in the short time they’ve been around. There are ways to reduce the risk of PVC breakdown at this stress point, but it will always remain at increased risk of deterioration and failure. We haven’t fully tested the failure mechanism yet, but it appears to be used related failure more than age related failure. So the more you fold at the crease, the greater the risk of failure.
  • Paddles – Four or five piece paddles just don’t work in our opinion. A lightweight four or five piece paddle just doesn’t give us the performance or reliability that we think our customers want. Too much performance is sacrificed for portability.

So as much as we like the idea and principle of a compact board, we’re not quite ready to produce one yet. We’ll keep an eye on the technology, and we’ll keep testing new technology, but we’ll definitely not be selling a compact board in 2020 sorry!

Click the button below for an article on SUPhubUK for the pros and cons of different compact SUP Products

(1) This dropstitch has been around for a number of years and well before the brand that claims to hold the patent for the technology brought out their compact range.

If you’re looking for information on outdoor gear for snow land and water, check out www.globosurfer.com

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The stiffest race ISUP on the market?

Typical stiffness of an inflatable SUP board

According to SUPboarder reviews, and their published results of inflatable SUP deflection tests*, the stiffest iSUPs on the market have a deflection in the high single number mm – 8 or 9mm. That is, then bend by up to 10mm when a person of 75kg stands on them when not supported by water. In this range come boards like the Naish Air Maliko and Starboard Airline 14 foot race boards. In the second tier are cheaper double chamber boards, which are classed as stiffer than normal by SUPBoarder if they have a deflection of 13mm. And many cheaper 14 foot race boards have a deflection of up to 25 – 30mm.

Do inflatable SUP board static deflection tests matter?

We’ve never normally been that bothered about one off static deflection tests. We don’t actually think that static deflection is a great measure of the performance of a board to be honest. A rigid hardboard can have a deflection of up to 5mm, but have no observable ‘bounce’ when you jump up and down on it. And when you paddle a hardboard, you don’t feel any observable bounce when you really put the power on. However, as any paddler of an iSUP knows, when you really hammer the power on, the board deflects and then bounces back as you enter the recovery stroke. And static deflection is not a good indicator of how much the board deflects under dynamic forces. Two boards with the same static deflection can feel very different in terms of how ‘bouncy’ they feel.

However, the benefit of static deflection tests is that they are controlled, and something that can be easily compared between one board and another. Which presumably is why they are still used! So we thought we should join the club and measure the deflection of our newest and stiffest board – our Carbon Go Race 14.

Breaking the rules

As you probably know, we’re not great for following industry rules at McConks. We didn’t have trestles, 75kg weights or tape measures to hand. So we did what we do best; we used what we had to hand.

Thankfully, Waterland Outdoor Pursuits, our test bed for the day, had two tables that were positioned about 2m apart, and free gap between them was 180cm (meaured by the length of a paddle!).

And rather than use a 75kg weight, we used some real people. We’re not going to say how much heavier than 75kg one of them was, but they were the closest to 75kg we could find, and more that 75kg. And to measure deflection we measured the undeflected height of the seam from the floor by using a paddle and some electric tape. And then remeasured the deflected height against the same paddle, again using electric tape to make a mark – example below.

This might all sound a little serious. But it was really just an excuse to lark around on a board.

Real life SUP deflection tests

The reality is that this is a very stiff board. Deflection tests measured between 6mm and 10mm, with an average of ~7.5mm dependant on how the board was placed across the supports and where the paddler stood. That’s not something that you often hear being mentioned in deflection tests is it? You normally only ever hear a single value with the supposition that it’s a very well controlled test. Sadly, really life would suggest that’s not strictly true, and an average, min and max value for each board would be a little more honest.

And don’t forget, our supports were further apart than the regulation 1.7m, and our weight was over 75kg. So that ~7.5mm compares rather well with SUPboarders stiffest board, the Naish Maliko air, which had a static deflection of 7mm. Especially when you realise that our Carbon Go race is over 2kg (20%) lighter than the Maliko.

iSUP Static deflection test

What makes this the most rigid race iSUP?

It’s not rocket science really. Using the very best fusion drop stitch available (which we use in ll of our boards), plus dual full length carbon stringer on both the deck and hull do most of the hard work for us.

A new double layer hard fin box adds some welcome rigidity to the tail of the board. But the fin box is more about reducing drag than about stiffness, and it does a great job of that, by removing the fin box protuberance that you get on almost every other iSUP that uses proper race fins.

And an increased density deckpad makes it feel even stiffer under the feet. But really, it’s just simple common sense. Use the best materials you can, and don’t cut corners. And you end up with probably the stiffest 14 ft board on the market.

  • Static deflection tests are carried out by measuring the deflection of a board under 75kg of weight when it is balanced on two supports 1.7m apart.
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Breaking the myths | Fatter can be faster | McConks race SUP

McConks 14 Go race

Breaking the myths | Fatter (boards) can be faster | McConks race SUP

If you’ve been anywhere near the paddleboard race scene in the last few years, you can’t have helped notice that race boards are getting narrower. And obviously a narrower board has better glide, has less friction, and must be faster right?

That’s the theory. But there are a couple of things to think about before jumping to that obvious conclusion.

How stable are you on a narrower board? Are you really able to properly trim a very narrow board? Whilst a 21″ board might work for the likes of amazing paddlers like Ben Pye, if you don’t have the same well developed and balanced paddle stroke, strong core, and lots of experience of race boards, you will probably find that all those little nervous wobbles on the super skinny board cost you dear. So even if you stay on the board and don’t swim, every little wobble perturbs the board, and the loss of trim increase friction and reduces glide and speed.

We recommend trying different race boards of different widths and having a friend on the bank watching how well you maintain trim. Or if you’re a data geek, you can go the whole hog and do constant effort time trials to see which you’re fastest on. But our experience is always that paddlers suffer from optimism bias about how well they can trim a narrow board, and that most non elite paddlers would be better with a board an inch or two wider than they think they can handle!

Our 14 foot Go Race board is designed at 26.5 inches wide. That’s unfashionably wide in these days of ever more skinny race boards. But this is quite deliberate. This is designed as a board that is easy to trim. It’s extremely rigid due to the woven drop stitch and the twin tensioned carbon stringers, eliminating bounce. It’s therefore really solid when you put the power on, and this, coupled with the all-water rocker means that its stable and easy to trim, but also gives enough feedback for poor footwork or body posture to all you to progress and develop.

And this isn’t just idle conjecture. We used modelling to come up with the perfect profile and rocker, and then prototyped it through a few iterations to fine tune shape, weight and rocker.

And do we have any real life evidence to back this up?

Plenty. But this is our best example….

Carolyn Smith, a very special lady, has helped us design this board. It’s to be used on a 32 mile charity paddle in a day from Lincoln to Boston. This would be challenge enough for most people, but Carolyn suffers from a rare condition called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) that affects the connective tissues in the body. Carolyn explains her condition well if you follow her on Facebook, so we won’t bore you here. But basically, the condition makes a 32 mile paddle more than a challenge. It makes it a life risking feat!

Carolyn, with her coach and friend Phil May of Yellowbelly SUP did the challenge last year. In preparation for last years challenge, Carolyn bought a Loco race hardboard that she called Berty. She trained very hard for months, with Phil giving her expert tuition on trim, body position, paddlestroke etc. In one of the biggest storms of last year, they completed the 32 mile challenge. But Carolyn never felt fully comfortable on the Loco motion board, and has felt scared to paddle it, and by her own admission has sometimes been put off paddling because of it.

But now, having switched up to an inflatable McConks 14″ race board and only paddled it a couple of times, she’s already breaking her fastest mile times by a minute or so. She puts this down to feeling much more stable and comfortable, and being able to focus more on maintaining stroke quality rather than worrying about balancing and not falling in.

Check out the facebook post below to find out more. And if you want to donate to Carolyn and Phil’s charity paddle, then make sure you follow her on facebook .

But to conclude, yes, it is true. Fatter can be faster. Obviously, swimming is slower than paddling, and if you go to thin, you swim. But even before you get to swimming wobbliness, a too narrow board can reduce your speed by reducing trim and increasing turbulence. A slightly fatter board allows you to focus on paddle stroke and trim and increase your overall glide and speed.

You can read more about our Go Race board by clicking the button below.

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Paddleboarding with disabilities

What’s your excuse?

It’s very easy to get caught up in reasons not to do something. Especially if you’re feeling a little low, a little less than your normal self.

Too cold? Too wet? Not feeling it? Don’t think you’re good enough? All easy reasons to decide not to get on the water.

Well hopefully, here’s something to give you a little inspiration… I bet your excuse no longer seems so valid when you watch these.

One of the great things about paddleboarding is the almost non-existent learning curve, and the ease of access to the board. With no gunnels or raised edges, almost anyone can get on a SUP no matter what their physical ability.

Maybe this is why we’ve started to see ‘paddleability’ type instructors and courses springing up around the country. At McConks, we’ve been working with Beyond Boundaries East Lothian for several years now, using their advice to design inclusive kit, and supporting their efforts to get people with a range of abilities on paddleboards.

But in the last few months, the paddleability world seems to be growing at a rate of knots.

We’ve got big things to announce in 2020 all courtesy of our GoInspire initiative. But we can;t tell you much about them yet. Until then, have a look at what some of our friends and partners have got up to.

This video is the inspirational Laura May from Anyone Can, paddling alongside specialist adventure provider able2adventure and with instructor Elspeth Mason from outdoor experience provider Mere Mountains paddling from Fell Foot.

This video is from the very inspirational Beyond Boundaries East Lothian paddling in and around Haddington on the North East coast.

So we’ll ask again? What’s your excuse now? Get out on the water and inspire others!

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Who actually is the #1 SUP in the UK

There must be at least 6 companies who claim to be #1 SUP in the UK. But have you ever seen any evidence to justify it? Red Paddle claim to be the biggest selling SUP brand in the UK, and that is probably true. But the other companies who claim to be the best, the most rigid, the best value. Is there any truth in their claims?

Well, most of them don’t provide any evidence or information to back up their claims so we have no way of verifying them.

But one thing we can do is look back at the SUPhubUK survey that was undertaken in 2018. That survey was completed by over 1200 paddlers and 200 SUP instructors. So whilst we can’t guarantee it is fully representative, it is one of the (if not the) biggest surveys of SUP paddlers that’s publicly available. So it’s not a bad place to start.

That survey tells us something a little different to what you might believe if you only read facebook sponsored posts, or ambassador placed posts!

Who is the #1 paddleboard brand for overall happiness from customers?

  1. Fatstick
  2. McConks
  3. Jobe
  4. JP Australia
  5. Naish

What brand makes the most rigid SUP?

The graph below shows the results of any brand that scored more than 3. However, because of the risk of bias with smaller datasets, the list only shows averages of brand with more than 10 responses

  1. McConks
  2. Loco
  3. JP
  4. Fatstick
  5. Red Paddle

Which brand has the best build quality

  1. McConks
  2. Red Paddle
  3. Fatstick
  4. JP Australia
  5. Jobe

Which brand makes the boards that last the longest?

  1. McConks
  2. Quroc
  3. Red Paddle
  4. Fatstick
  5. Naish

Which brand gives best value for money

  1. McConks
  2. Fatstick
  3. Aquamarina
  4. Sandbanks
  5. Loco SUP

Best accessories bundled with SUP

  1. McConks
  2. Quroc
  3. Naish
  4. Fatstick
  5. Red Paddle

Now, we have to be a little bit honest, we were surprised to be #1 in every category!

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‘Tis the season to be merry: the gift of sustainable giving

‘Tis the season to be merry: the gift of sustainable giving

Giving gifts, when you get it right, is a joy. When you’ve bought a present that makes you happy as well as makes the recipient happy, you know you’ve nailed it.

But if you’re anything like us, you probably find it a bit of a struggle every year to square the circle of buying interesting and meaningful presents and remaining sustainable and ethical.

After the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might be a little sick of false bargains and gimmicky marketing tricks – we definitely are!

So these are our tips for buying gifts that paddleboarders will love, without buying yourself a guilty conscience.

Experience gifts and memories that last

Study after study, and personal experience have shown that the best types of Christmas present are experiences rather than things: you remember and talk about experiences for years, but things lose their value quickly as the next best thing becomes available. And if you don’t to buy an experience (maybe you’re worried about that useless loved one forgetting about the voucher, and it expiring – been there, done that!), the next best thing you can do is to buy thing that helps them get out there and make their own experiences! 

Lots of our brand partners and friends are schools, guides and instructors who offer amazing experiences year round. But on the basis that you might not want to buy a gift to be used in the cold winter months, nearly all of them all also let you buy gift cards. Check out the list of providers who gift cards for experiences belo.

Check out our long read on the 5 psychological reasons why experiences are the best gifts.  If you’re not convinced, this article will convince you!

Buy from a small company

Buying from a small company sometimes takes a bit more effort, or planning, than buying from amazon, or ebay for example. But it is so much more rewarding.  Often, the personal customer service you get is way better than anything offered by a nameless, faceless multi-national. And the products are often much better as well.

We personally recommend all of the small companies in the article below, but also check out the SUPhubUK map to find your nearest SUP shop or SUP provider

At McConks we pride ourselves on being as sustainable and ethical as we can be – whether that be low impact manufacture, or organic and fairwear clothing.  And that’s why you can buy with confidence from us, guilt free.  If you’re interested, you can find out more about our ethical principles here, or you can read about what we do to give something back through our Go Inspire initiative here.

Organic tees

Floating handmade shades for SUPers

Made from organic cotton and recycled ocean waste, and printed with eco dyes, these are as sustainable as they get – and come with plastic free packaging.

recycled tshirts

Ethical clothing for paddleboarders

Made from organic cotton and recycled ocean waste, and printed with eco dyes, these are as sustainable as they get – and come with plastic free packaging.

All about the fins

Made from organic cotton and recycled ocean waste, and printed with eco dyes, these are as sustainable as they get – and come with plastic free packaging.

McConks Elf
Let the McConks Elves do their thing for you!