Do you get the most pleasure from having what you want, when you want it? Do you get a thrill from being a little impulsive with your money? Or do you get the biggest emotional pick me up from planning wisely, choosing, and then looking forward to something in the future?
These two types of pleasure are described as instant gratification and deferred gratification respectively. Scientific studies of emotion and hormones have concluded that waiting, anticipating, and looking forward longingly to a special treat is what gives most people the greatest pleasure. But we also know that, in general, people are really poor at choosing deferred gratification over instant pleasure. Ask a kid whether they want one sweet today, or two sweets tomorrow, and they’re pretty certain to choose one sweet today (1). As we get older we typically get a little better at choosing to wait, but but we’re still not (in general!) very good at waiting for the pleasure.
So ask most people if they would rather a used, second hand 2019 paddleboard without a warranty right now, for the same price as a brand new one with a three year warranty in January 2020, and most people will choose the instant gratification. And it goes without saying this is the wrong choice for most people, most of the time.
If you’re smarter than most people, and fully buy into the idea of deferred gratification, and can wait until January 2020 or April 2020 for 30% off brand new SUP packages (2), then McConks are for you. If you’re a SUP school or instructor wanting to take advantage of our preorder deals, register here. If you’re not a business, check out our preorder deals here.
If, however, you need instant gratification, are worried about sustainability, and don’t want to buy new, and are looking for an instant deal check out our ex demo/graded products here (3) – which still come with a warranty and first class return to manufacturer customer service from McConks.
And if you want to know why we’re offering these discounts, check out the slides below. (and if they don’t work, you can view them here)
(1) So established is this as an economic and scientific principle, that it’s built into pretty much every economic model, future benefits being discounted to account for this perceived lower value in the future (2) 50% non-refundable posit needed when order is placed by 15 December 2019, remaining 50% payment before delivery. And you can get 4 months interest free credit with PayPal
A shaft that’s too stiff for your biomechanics is very likely to cause shoulder injury, especially if combined with a less than perfect paddle stroke. At the elite end of the game, the shaft stiffness, flex and blade angle is fine tuned to the individual elite paddler so they get the maximum power from the paddle through the power phase of the stroke, and so that the potential energy stored in the flex of the shaft is released at the end of the power phase as the paddler reduces power. Obviously, we can’t all have paddles designed to our individual biomechanics, but we shouldn’t be deceived into thinking that stiffer is better!
2. “of course it floats, it’s a paddle”.
Not always true sadly. Whether paddle floats or not depends on a number of things
How air tight the paddle shaft is. A one piece piece paddle should be fully airtight, and that should mean that the entrapped air provide enough buoyancy for the paddle to float, irrespective of what it’s made of. A two or three piece paddle is more likely to let water in at the connections, and as the air is replaced by water, what the paddle is made of becomes more important. At the top of of paddle quality, a 100% carbon paddle with air or foam core blade will probably float, even if it’s two or three piece. At the bottom of the performance spectrum, an alloy shaft paddle with a plastic blade is almost certainly going to sink fairly rapidly. In the middle of the range, lower percentage carbon or fibreglass shafts with plastic blades are likely to float for a period until they become waterlogged, and that floating period is likely to get shorter over time as the connections deteriorate and take on water.
3. “A bigger blade will make me go faster”
A bigger blade with the same attack angle, same dihedral, same shaft, paddled at the same cadence might generate more speed than a smaller blade, but that also massively depends on the paddler’s ability to maintain a good stroke rate and paddle form, which is difficult if the blade is oversized. The trend in racing is for smaller blades, and we think this is a good thing; we know lots of beginner paddlers who have developed shoulder injuries because of poorly sized blades. and we know lots of larger, very experienced paddlers who have decided smaller blades is right for them. And we’re not going to disagree!
4. “It must be a good paddle because it says it’s carbon”
Low quality carbon is used as marketing by lots of brands. Some brands are even bundling low quality, very low percentage carbon shaft, plastic blade paddles with their packages and calling them carbon paddles. A 10% carbon shaft on a cheap bendy plastic blade is definitely not a good paddle even if it contains the magic word. Even at the higher % carbon, some carbon tubes are better quality than others.
And as the saying goes, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. So just because you can buy a ‘carbon’ paddle for under £100, it doesn’t mean that you should!
5. I can turn my SUP paddle into a kayak paddle/conversion kit
SUP paddle blades are far too big to have on both ends of a double bladed paddle. And any SUP brand that is happy to risk significant customer rotator cuff injury just so they can sell a few more boards, deserves the ire of paddlers. If you’re seriously interested in sitting down paddling, you need to ensure that you buy a board or boat with a knee or foot brace (paddling sat flat without something to brace against is agony for most people), and then but a cheap kayak paddle alongside your SUP paddle. That gives you some redundancy in case of your SUP paddle breaking, and the cheap kayak paddle will have the right sized blades, and not threaten your shoulder.
But we think the whole kayak conversion thing is a marketing gimmick anyway. How many people do you ever see using their SUP as a kayak? We regularly recommend customers not to buy the UP Seat to use with our 12’8 Go Explore board. We’re 99% sure that those customers who haven’t heeded our advice, have never used the SUP seat… but please prove us wrong!
What’s your favourite fallacy about paddles? Tell us in the comments below!
McConks lenses are HD polarised which makes them different from standard, cheap sunglass lenses. They have a special film fused between the multiple layers of the lens, which only allows vertical light to pass through them. This film eliminates the glare caused by horizontal light reflected off snow and water.
Our lenses are made from Triacetate Cellulose (TAC). TAC is a common lens material used on medium to high end shades, where accurate polarity, impact resistance and clarity are important. Our TAC lenses are made up from multi-layered lens technology formulated to provide complete and thorough elimination of glare, polarised light and harmful UV rays. They provide 100% protection against UVA, UVB & UVC rays up to 400 nanometres, and go beyond the already high standards set by national standards set by the UK, EU, America (ANSI) and Australia and New Zealand. So rest assured, wherever you go in the world, and no matter what the UV conditions, our lenses go beyond the necessary.
TAC lenses are made up of 7 layers. First is the polarising film which forms the central material around which the lens is formed. The second and third layers fuse the polarising film to the outer UV absorbance layers. An additional shock and scratch proof layer is then fused to either side. Glare is further reduced by applying a mirrored reflective layer to the outer face of the lens, and an anti reflection layer applied to the inner face. By building the lens sequentially, with each layer having a very distinct function, ensures that every pair of lenses has identical performance with balanced polarity and standardised UV protection.
The multiple layer build up also provides excellent impact resistance.
Just like HD resin or HD polycarbonate lenses, TAC lenses are only as good as the manufacturer. Injection moulded resin can be warped by a cheap manufacturer, and TAC lenses can suffer from HD clarity if produced with poor quality control. Ultimately, a poor manufacturer produces poor lense with poor clarity and poor polarisation. That’s why we only use the very best!
Sunglasses for watersports
Glasses designed for watersports use should have two additional requirements to normal sports shades:
They should float. The lightness of the TAC lenses, and the low density of the wood, means that our sustainable Bamboo or wood shades all float for at least 15 minutes.
Blue wavelength protection. When you’re on water, you spend a lot of time in reflected light bouncing back at you at different wavelengths that can damage or tire your eyes. Blue wavelength protection isn’t something that’s required in the international standards (ISO, ANSI , CE), and so is not provided by by lens manufacturers. But it comes as standard with all of our lenses.
Indestructible flexible lenses
We’re so confident that this is the best lens technology at this price, that we offer a 28 day money back guarantee if you can find a pair of similar shades at a similar price that have better clarity or polarity!
High definition, superb clarity, best in class polarisation, and light enough to float. What’s not to like? Especially when you couple the lenses with hand crafted wooden frames.
The price of our Go Simple range seems to have caused quite a stir, if the number of emailed questions we've received is anything to go by. Lots of you have been asking how we can keep the price so low, and have been trying to find out where we've compromised on quality. After all, no other UK company has managed to make a heat welded, premium tech, double skin fusion technology inflatable SUP with a fibre-glass paddle at this price. So it's understandable that people might be a little worried.
Hopefully, this article will put some minds at rest!
Never compromise on quality
Although our Go Simple inflatable paddle boards are priced for people on a budget, there are some principles and features that that we absolutely will never compromise on:
All of our products comply with our Ethics and Sustainability policy and are subject to our Fair Price policy. That means you can be sure that that you are buying a board with the lowest cost to you, and the lowest cost to to others and the environment.
Two year guarantee, 28 day no quibble returns
So our kit might be inexpensive compared to all of the other quality brands. But that doesn't mean that it's not a lot of money. When spending that sort of money you need to know that the kit's going to last right? Buy cheap, buy twice is an old adage that just doesn't apply to our kit. There are two reasons why it doesn’t apply. Firstly, let’s be fair, £400 or £600 isn't cheap – it might be cheaper than other quality brands, but it certainly isn’t cheap. And it goes without saying that you won't need to buy twice - because you're covered by our guarantee. We've seen our boards left out in the sun, wind and rain, being abused by beginners at hire centres and been battered by school kids. And they still look as good and perform as well as they did on the day they came out of the factory.
If you can find the same specification package available online at a cheaper price, we will refund you the difference. But we know you won't be able to!
Premium quality, budget prices
We can only offer a three year guarantee (1) because we understand what quality really means, and we know that our kit will last. All of our boards and accessories are made to the same exacting McConks quality. We regularly hear that there are only 'four top quality factories in China' making iSUPs. That's simply not true.
in our opinion. There is only one that meets our exacting requirements for quality, ethics, sustainability and professionalism. All the others pale into insignificance compared to them. We have to pay a little more at our end for the quality and peace of mind. But it's worth every penny. And for that, you can rest assured that every single board is made with the same attention to detail.
(1) This is actually a real guarantee, not a marketing ploy like some brands who offer longer guarantees but who do not honour them!
Double skin, fusion tech, high pressure guarantee
These words might not mean much to you, but they’re possibly the most important ones to consider when looking for a budget inflatable SUP.
Double skin SUP means two layers of PVC. More layers of PVC makes the boards more rigid, and more leakproof (good) but also makes them heavier (bad). After years of experimenting, everyone now seems to agree that two skins is good, one is not so good, and more than two in unnecessary and too heavy.
Fusion techinflatable means the latest technology. Rather than people glueing bits of PVC together, wasting glue and PVC, this method reduces weight and improves the reliability of the board. Different brands have different terms for this. Some call it MSL, some call it pre-laminated heat bonded technology, some call it superlight super layer. Some call it enhanced drop stitch. But they're not all quite the same. Some brands use cheaper drop stitch in their fusion technology (if they don't offer 4.75" or 5" thick boards in their range, you can guarantee they're not using the best drop stitch!), and some brands use a thinner layer of fused PVC (and yet still call it military grade!).
High pressure guarantee. The more air you ram into a board, the more rigid it becomes. But the more pressure you put the seams under the more likely they are to burst, unless the quality control is spot on. And that is why many brands tell you that the pressure range for the SUP is up to 15PSI. The more reliable the board layup, the more confident the brand is in their seams and manufacturing process. Although, sadly, some brands with poor quality layup are now offering a high pressure guarantee - a lethal accident waiting to happen!
Some companies use a cheaper one skin layup on their budget boards. But this sacrifices rigidity and resistance to bursting! Other brands use heavier old style annually glued two skin layup on their budget boards. But we don’t compromise on the quality of our boards, no matter how budget the price is . All of our inflatable SUP boards meet the same premium quality standards – double skin, fusion tech. So whether you spend £400 or £1200, our boards are guaranteed to an industry leading 25 PSI.
Top quality engine to power your inflatable SUP
We've never supplied cheap heavy aluminium or alloy paddles in the past, and we're not going to start now. Trying to paddle with a dustbin lid on the end of a piece of heavy metal isn't anyone's idea of fun. And lots of people have hurt themselves or been put off paddling because of crap paddles. That's why all of our packages come with at least a three piece, adjustable, fibre-glass shaft, nylon bladed paddle. And that includes our budget Go Simple range. Why compromise on your engine?
An iSUP is nothing without a good pump
Inflating an iSUP can be a chore, especially if you're package has compromised with a cheap, stiff pump.. Of course, if your inflatable SUP can only be inflated to 12PSI before bursting, then a cheap pump is fine. But we want to you pump your board up to the max if you need to, to get ti as rigid as a hard board. And to do that you need a premium quality, high high volume, high pressure pump. That's why all of our inflatable SUP packages come with premium quality pumps by one of the two biggest SUP pump manufacturers in the world.
So where have we compromised?
We couldn't make a budget board without cutting costs. But we've only cut them where it's safe to do so.
Our Go Simple boards come with only one handle, unlike our premium boards which have an additional nose and tail handle and lashing points. The additional handles on our premium boards not only make them easier to carry and manhandle, but also make it easier to get back on the board from any position. Some of our premium boards, like our Go Explore or Go Wild boards have even more handles!
Like our premium boards, the deckpad is a 5mm crocodile skin deckpad. Unlike our premium boards however, the design is printed on to the deckpad, rather than the design being formed of different colour EVA. The design is more likely to fade in UV light than a deckpad formed of different colour EVA.
Our Go Simple budget iSUP only come with a single removable centre fin. Like our premium boards, the fin a flexi fin in a US centre box, which means it can be easily upgraded with aftermarket fins if needed. Unlike our premium boards, the Go Simple boards do not come with any removable FCS side fins.
The Go Simple bag is a lightweight rucksack. Unlike our premium SUP sacks, these don't have in built paddle storage, they don't have compression strips, they're not made from heavy duty robust canvas fabric, they don't come with a heavy duty stowable backpack or chunky wheels, and they don't have pump pocket on the front of the bag. They will protect your iSUP in the back of the car or in the garage, but they're unlikely to withstand the sort of abuse airport baggage handlers subject them to!
All of our packages come with premium quality coiled leashes. Our premium packages come with McConks branding on the ankle strap. The leashes on our Go Simple iSUP range are unbranded.
If you're after a strong Ram Mounts camera mount, then you'll need to upgrade to our premium range. Or buy an aftermarket fitting to stick on to the board - if you trust your adhesive skills!
Hopefully this is enough detail to answer your questions. If not, and if you've still got questions, ping us a message using the chat facility, or message us on facebook or email us
We put together a blog article last year to demystify paddleboard fins. We tried to turn all of the jargon into a short, simple article that anyone can understand, even if you don't have a degree in fluid mechanics.
Since then we've been contacted by lots of people asking for more advice about fins. So maybe we didn't do as a job as demystifying as we thought. But those searching for advice are often asking about river fins. This isn't really surprising. It's the fastest growing component of paddleboarding, and one of the most neglected by surf and windsurf focused brands.
So we went away and thought long and hard about the type of SUP fins that our inflatable SUP customers need for river SUP. And we spoke to our customers, our partners and friends, to make sure we really understood what people really needed. And then we went away and found a supplier for exactly the type of fins that most iSUP customers are looking for.
But first a reminder about why fins are needed (apologies if we’re teaching grannies to suck eggs, but don’t forget, there are newcomers to SUP every day who might not have heard this before!
Fins have two main purposes:
To help you stay in a straight line. If you’ve ever paddled a SUP without fins (yes, we’ve done it as well, arrived at the put in, pumped the board up, and realised we have no fins! ) you’ll know how difficult it is to track in a straight line. With a fin in place, the fin counteracts the drive of the paddle, stopping the tail of the board swinging around. The larger the surface area of a fin, the easier it is to paddle your SUP in a straight line, and the more difficult it is to turn. It’s not quite as simple as this, with other factors such as length and shape coming into pay. If you want to find out about the factors, then you want to check out our earlier article.
To slow the board down. This might seem counter intuitive if you’re not a surfer. But the side fins (also known as 'bites' serve to ‘bite’ the wave and provide a focus to pivot on. Surfing with a central single fin is preferred by surfers who prefer gentle and graceful carving. But if you want to slash and hack, then you need a different fin arrangement. With three fins in a thruster arrangement being the most common.
If you keep these two key purposes in mind for the rest of this article, it should all come together by the time you've finished.
In addition to satisfying these two purposes, there are a few other key requirements for river SUP:
The most important requirement was that fins should be interchangeable between all sorts of boards, not just between McConks boards .
All of our centre fins are compatible with all universal centre fin boxes (often called US fin box). Every decent brand in the world uses these on their premium range of boards – Red Paddle, Starboard, Naish, Fanatic. And this applies to the quality UK brands as well – Fatstick, Loco, Freshwater bay. If you’re not sure if your board has a universal box, take a photo of the box, or a fin that fits the box and send it to email@example.com, and we will let you know if your box is compatible.
Our 2” side bites are compatible with all FCS fin boxes, and also with the Kumano and Suru surf click fit system.
In general, the stiffer a fin is, the better the performance. This is true for both centre fins and side fins, as any surfer will tell you. This is great if you’re paddling your SUP in deep water on the sea. If you’re in shallow water, fins have an annoying knack hitting submerged rocks. Or catching on the river bed. The best outcome is the rider is catapulted off the front of the board as it comes to an abrupt and unexpected halt. And narrowly avoids knocking themselves out on a rock. Stepping up the damage scale, if you’re using stiff fins, you’re very like to snap a fin. Stepping it up further, you could crack a fin box, or a rip the fin box off the board, causing expensive or irreversible damage. And right at the top of the damage scale, you could be catapulted off the board walloping your helmet or a flailing limb against a very hard rock. And the possible outcomes there are pretty sobering. Especially if you're in serious whitewater.
So for whitewater paddling, or shallow river paddling, you should always use soft flexible fins. These take much of the impact of rock strikes, and they flex as the bump along river beds. This gives you a flying chance of staying on the board, and reduces the risk damage to the fins, your SUP board, or you.
And even endurance river races such as the #Trent100 start off in shallow river sections that would benefit from flexible fins. Several competitors this year said they wished they’d started the event with a range of fins, including some flex fins.
The other requirements were more fin/discpline specific….
This is the first of our superflexible short river centre fins. This SUP fin is only 5 inches long, which gives you 3 or four inches more clearance than the fins that come as standard with most decent SUP boards with removable fins. These are an awesome compromise between tracking, weed clearance, and speed.
The second is a shorter 3” fin, but with almost the same surface area as the 5” fin. We do this by having a very long fin base (takes up the whole length of a standard US fin box), and by extending trailing edge of the fin well behind the fin box.
These fins fit all FCS box or Sauru surf / Kumano surf click boxes.
Extending behind the box, these have a surprising amount of surface area for the fin depth. Use with the 3" or 5" centre fins for a perfect whitewater SUP setup.
Go and have fun
River fins haven't had the same amount of R&D that surf and open ocean fins have received. So this is a relatively new and exciting playground.
Get out there with different fins, and see what works for you.
Tell the world via SUP hacks if you have experience or comments on what works for you.
If you've got ideas on what would work for you, but doesn't exist yet, speak to us. We like prototyping new products for our customers!
 This is the ONLY good thing about fixed SUP fins. You can’t lose them or turn up to paddleboard without them. In every other way they are inferior to removable fins and detract from your objective of having fun on the water!
 Our 2” river fins will fit the click fin boxes on Badfish SUP and McConks SUP, and any SUP board with FCS fin boxes. So if the mood takes you, you can even shove three 2” fins in your FCS thruster set up on your surf board. By extension this flexibility applies in reverse to our inflatable SUP boards. There are a massive number of SUP fins out there that fit our boards. And this is the real benefit of having a universal centre fin box – the huge amount of choice. Any universal fin (including FCS connect) can be used in the centre box. So you can check out fins from Black Fin Project, or FCS or Futures fins. Or from any of the very many aftermarket fin resellers out there.
They get people on the water, standup paddleboarding or SUPing, for the first time ever. Whether it be at a local beach, on a river, or on a lake. Whether it be with family, friends, dogs, or by themselves, cheap inflatable SUP get people on the water. And with all the well documented health benefits that being in nature, being with friends, or being outside brings, this is a massively positive thing.
But if you can buy a budget board for under £300, why does anyone ever pay more? Is it just because they’ve fallen for marketing by big watersports brands? Is it because there is a real difference in quality?
The answer is a bit of both…
Why inflatable SUP boards by big brands cost more
The big brands typically have a big supporting infrastructure – sponsoring developing riders, major events, and grassroots development amongst other value added benefits, all of which are important for the sport as a whole. It’s OK if you don’t feel part of that, and don’t see why you should pay for it. But it is an explanatory factor.
And of course, many of the brands sell through local shops and retailers. who need to make a margin to keep trading. And these shops often don’t make a massive profit: They do it for the love of the sport, and the stoke. We have seen the number of watersports shops decreasing over recent years as they fail to compete with online direct sales, and as the big brands squeeze their margins. If you don’t want to be part of that scene, that’s OK, and as a direct sales brand, we’re not in any position to point fingers! But these shops also provide value added activities, giving advice on places to SUP for example, or allowing you to try lots of boards. And once they’re gone, they’re gone.
But that’s an aside, and doesn’t address the real issue of whether there is a real difference in quality between premium boards and budget boards. And more importantly, whether this difference is important to beginners.
What we’re going to say here isn’t true across the board (pun intended). We’ve seen some expensive boards with dodgy build quality and poor quality accessories in the past. We’ve also seen some great value budget boards that look like they’re made to last and will really generate that ‘I love SUP’ feeling.
We can of course only speak definitively about McConks, but we suspect that many of the differences we’ve seen between our premium boards and some of the cheaper boards out in the wild apply fairly widely. And when you know what you’re looking for, you don’t need an x-ray machine to determine the quality of the board.
Which leads us on to…
Inflatable SUP build quality and design
Many of the budget boards just look cheap. Like a teenager designed them in an arts project. There’s not necessarily a problem with this, especially if you like the design. But a board that looks cheap is normally indicative of a lack of care and attention.
Something that isn’t always apparent from the marketing photos (which are always the best board in a batch), is just how poor quality control can be. We’ve seen budget boards where the deckpad is cut to shape with a Stanley knife when still attached to the board. Believe it or not, we’ve seen some budget boards where this cut has actually gone through into the board itself, meaning that they leak from day one.
You can spot a premium board from the cut of its gib – they have regular and even overlaps at seams. All of the PVC is fully adhered, and they are well cut. Whilst the look of the board might not matter to you in your keenness to get on the water at the right price, those uneven overlaps and irregular seams are indicative of slapdash manufacture, poor quality control. And are probably just the spot where a seam will burst or you’ll spring a leak.
And we’ve lost count of the number of budget boards we’ve seen where fin boxes are glued on at jaunty angles, or in the wrong place. This can really affect how easy your board is to paddle, and how stable it is.
Despite the claims that the whole process is ‘machine driven heat fused blah blah blah’ or other’, the rails, accessories and deckpads are still glued by hand. The precision with which this happens is really important, especially for the side rails, and that precision costs expensive worker time. Also clearing up glue from around the deckpad and fittings takes time if it’s done properly. This doesn’t necessarily affect the performance of the board. If the board is glued with the very best quality glue, then it doesn’t darken over time. But the cheaper adhesives used on many of the cheaper boards darkens in UV if exposed. This might only be a cosmetic thing, but it does mean that everyone can see that your board has been glued together with cheaper adhesive, and in turn affects its resale price.
There is a question about how well the cheaper adhesives last in heat and under pressure. And that’s why many of the cheaper boards come with stern warning about pressure and letting air out of the board if in direct sunlight. Anecdotally, although all brands have had issues with poorly formed seams, the cheap budget boards have a much greater failure rate.
We’ve seen with our own eyes deckpads coming unstuck, or forming massive airbubbles, fairly regularly on cheap boards. As far as we know, we have only had one board from our 16/17/18 lineup where the deckpad has started to lift. And that’s because we specify what glue should be used, and pay the price for it. Ask many budget board manufacturers or retailers what glue they’ve specified, and they’ll look at you blankly. Ask McConks, and we can tell you straight away! And there is a 4x difference in the price between the cheapest and most expensive adhesive used in SUP manufacture.
Although most budget boards use OK quality dropstitch these days, the quality of the PVC layer fused to it, and that makes up the rails (sides) matters. We’ve seen cheap boards with scorch marks from being placed against something metal in 26 degree heat in the UK. Even if you’re careful not to put the budget board up against hot rocks, at higher temperatures the PVC is weaker, and more likely to be punctured by thorns or scratches. And there’s nothing like the workout you get when you’ve put a slow puncture in your board, and you want to back to land before it turns into a banana and becomes unpaddleable!
We know the thermal tolerances of our PVC, and know chapter and verse about where the drop stitch is made. Our PVC is good in direct sunlight up to 40 degrees. That’s because we specified it, not just taking the cheaper alternative that most suppliers offer you. There’s a price premium of course, but we think it’s worth it. If the best the manufacturer can do is tell you ‘it was made in one of the top 4 factories in China’ when you ask questions, be concerned. McConks can get hold of a 10’6 x 32 x 5” double skin fusion iSUP board for £133 from one of the ‘top 4 factories’, and we wouldn’t sell it to our worst enemy!
There are good valves and there are bad valves. The difference in price (to us as a small company) is $2 – $24. We use the ones that cost us $24 dollars. We’ve tried the $2 and a range of others in the past. And there is a reason why we use the most expensive ones. We know they will last for years, that the metal components are made of marine grade stainless steel, they don’t leak, and are quality tested to within an inch of their lives. The last thing a customer should experience is a board deflating when in use.
Fins and fin boxes
Our fin boxes are expensive. We could get hold of fin boxes for our boards at less than $1 for all three. Our side fin boxes alone cost $9 a pair. And we pay close to $40 for our boxes and fins on our Go anywhere and Go explore range of boards. We specify where our fin boxes come from, and pay the price for this.
Because cheap fin boxes crack easily when knocked, or if left out in the cold, or if you blow on them (joke). But the point is that there are good fin boxes and bad fin boxes. Even we have had two fin boxes that have cracked, but one of these was on the whitewater course at the national watersports centre in Nottingham, and one was with a long windsurf fin in force 5 winds with the rider doing about 30 knots. But that’s two out many hundreds, a really low percentage compared to what we see on the beaches and at event. And when fin boxes are broken, it’s really difficult to change them – it’s probably going to cost you as much as your budget board to get them replaced.
We’ve already covered how well adhered / stuck fittings can be on budget boards. But the materials that they’re made from can be an issue as well. When we specify our boards, we specify the quality of PVC of the D-rings, we know where the handles have been sourced from and what the tensile strength of the webbing is, we have tested the quality of our camera mounts (destructively), we know that all of the metal on our boards is made from marine grade stainless steel. We work really closely with our suppliers to get the very best, rather than accepting the bog-standard fittings normally used.
Budget boards typically come with budget accessories. We don’t think this is a real issue for most people buying cheap boards. Most people buying a board for under £400 are testing the waters (pun intended again) to see if SUP is for them. And the accessories can always be upgraded in the future.
Cheap paddles feel a little bit like a lump of dough on the end of a stick. If you try SUP with a cheap paddle and think it’s too difficult, make sure you borrow a decent paddle before you give it up for good.
And likewise with the pumps. If you think you’re too weak to pump the board up, make sure you try a try a top quality pump from a friend first. Some of the cheap pumps have so much friction, they can put your back out before you even get on the water.
So should you buy a cheaper board?
As we said at the start, budget boards get people on the water, and have their place. Anything that gets more people on the water is a good thing. And hopefully many of the new recruits to this wonderful sport will stay, and buy more reliable kit as they upgrade.
So there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a budget board as long as you are armed with all the facts! And hopefully this article will help you find a better board for your budget.
How can you choose the best budget board?
It’s really difficult. And like we say, not every budget board has all of these issues. Some of them are fantastic value if you get the right board from the batch.
You can always check reviews on facebook or their website. But we’ve seen some pretty dodgy behaviours here by some brands. For example paying people for good reviews, or buying 50 fake reviews on Fiverr for $5. There are some giveaway signs to help you spot these – lots of reviews at around the same time is a tell-tale sign that they have been paid for! Lot’s of cheap pop up companies also claim to sell hundreds of boards every week, or claim to be limited companies despite not being registered in the UK. If a company is selling hundreds of boards a week, but isn’t VAT registered, they’re either tax avoiders or liars!
Asking for opinions on facebook groups is probably more reliable, because at least the groups are moderated. But these groups can be overly influenced by brand ambassadors selling the quality of the brands they are associated with, or shopowners recommending the brands that make them the most margin. But by and large these are relatively easy to spot!
You should also consider the depth of information available on the manufacturers website. If it doesn’t contain detailed information, then the chances are it’s a generic board, mass produced in China with some or all of the above issues. And don’t be tempted by marketing phrases like ‘made in one of the top 4 factories’ or ‘using the latest heat fusion pressed blah blah bah’. Because that no longer means what it did 18 months ago.
What you absolutely should do is try to get out with a local SUP group. They’ve probably got members on boards of all price ranges, and will be able able to offer friendly advice. You can find your nearest local group onSUPhubUK.
And never be made to feel ashamed about the size of your wallet. There are a lot of elitists out there who can afford to spend £1000+ on a board, and think you should as well. Just because you can’t, that doesn’t make you a second class citizen! If the group/page/club/shop is making you feel like a lower class citizen, get out of there and find a different one!
So if you really love SUP, make sure you do your research, and get the very best board you can for your budget.
“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions”...
...as an America Author wrote in the early part of the 20th century.
And whilst we’re keen not to get stuck in a rut at McConks, we've not got one foot in the grave yet!
We’re not about making change for change sake, with new colours or minor cosmetic changes every year, but we do like to mix things up. We make improvements if needed, and add to our lineup if we think we can bring something different to the mix.
So earlier in the year we asked our customers and supporters what new stuff they would like to see from McConks. Some of the answers we got back were ridiculous, and have been shelved until someone invents a genie in a bottle that actually works:
- ‘A paddleboard that’s as easy to paddle upwind as it is to paddle downwind’
- 'An all-round inflatable board that’s as fast as a carbon race board’
- ‘An inflatable surf-sup that makes me paddlesurf like Kai’
Although if you read some of the marketing guff out here, you might be forgiven for thinking that these things were possible!
But some of the ideas were worth a second thought:
- A stable but exciting whitewater board designed for UK waters
- An inflatable windsurf board that actually planes
- A high quality surfSUP that doubles as a kids board
- A more affordable 14 foot carbon allwater race board
- A more affordable Team SUP
- An interchangeable paddle system
More on these later.
We also asked our existing customers what could be improved on our current boards. It’s always dangerous asking customers for their views on what’s not so good. It’s a particularly bad idea when some of your customers are trained SUP instructors with many years of experience, and a penchant for sharing their opinions! And even though all of the improvements were minor, we’ve still spent many hours chatting, discussing, and agreeing the finer details. Some might say we’ll never get those hours back again – but getting feedback and making improvements is always time well spent!
One of the absolute delights of a decent iSUP is how easy they are to transport and move around - perfect for roadtrippin'.
And our customers loved the fact that our boards have more handles than most, making them super easy to get to the put in. Some even thing we've gone overboard with the handles on our whitewater board, sport a total of 9 handles!
But some of the handles on our 2017 boards were just made of webbing. Which was fine if you’re carrying the board for short distances, in light winds and with clean hands. But mix this up with winds trying to blow the board out of your hand, grit and sand, and longer distance portages, and things can get very uncomfortable. As tempting as it was to tell people to get over it and toughen up, we’ve relented and replaced all of our webbing handles with neoprene handles. There is no real weight or environmental penalty to this, and only a minor cost penalty that we’ve just absorbed.
Also, some of the handles weren’t balanced as well as they could have been. This caused a few issues for our shorter customers who didn’t benefit from as much ground clearance as others. So we’ve repositioned the central handles to improve the balance.
Getting to the off couldn’t be any easier now!
Get a grip
Everyone loved the fact that our deckpads are so much more comfortable than the thin diamond cut pads that are
But a very small number of customers noted that the deckpad wasn’t quite as grippy as the very best in class! It's not that they were slip slidin' away, but they weren't quite as good as the very best under the most extreme performance conditions. We’d deliberately moved away from diamond cut deckpads in 2017 because diamond cut can be uncomfortable under the feet for long paddles. We’ve now moved to a crocodile skin finish as minimum grip, and our performance boards benefit from additional cutouts to improve grip without impacting on comfort.
Some riders who liked to race our 12’8 Go Explore boards found that the lack of deckpad at the rear of the board caused them some issues (unwelcome dunkings when trying to pivot around marks), so we’ve now extended it all the way to the back of the board. But we’ve retained the paracord and D Rings behind the paddling position, just positioned them around the deckpad. So now you’ve got a choice – use this area for additional luggage, or remove the paracord and use that area for performance positioning.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
Everyone loved our bags. So it was important that any changes didn’t take away any of the features that were so successful.
Most of the changes are minor, and if we didn’t mention them, most people probably wouldn’t even notice! We’ve added compression straps so that the bags can be shrunk.
Printing the board model on the side of each bag will remove one of life’s little frustrations for our instructor friends: having to unroll a board just to see what model it was gets a little annoying!
And the bags now stand up without support – another source of much irritation to a small number of people!
But to all intents and purposes, the boards and the bags are very similar to 2017. And it will take a trained eye to spot the differences. The volume, weight, rocker, shape, branding and colours all remain the same. And if you’ve read our blog on ethical and environmental marketing and production, you’ll understand the reasons why.
Matt Stephenson, a team GB freestyle boater, and SAS Hurley Classic champion for two years on the bounce, has been working with McConks for a couple of years. Being well connected with the fledgling UK whitewater SUP community, he had a bag full of frustrations that he’d picked up from the WWSUP community, alongside his own opinions from having paddled most decent boards on the market. So we set out to produce a board quite different to anything else out there.
As we were prototyping different rockers on the whitewater board, we realized that the shape made it an absolutely perfect specialist yoga board if we took the rocker away entirely. And so we’ve done that! Our Namaste yoga board will also be available in January 2018.
Catch a wave
Ever since we made our first board, people have been asking about when we’re finally going to make a shorter surf iSUP. Our answer, until now, had always been that there were enough medium performance surf iSUPs out there (i.e. any of them from a decent brand), and that we didn’t think we could bring anything new, either by way of price, or quality, to the beach. But then our eldest lad started to ask about getting his own smaller board at about the same time that defined rail technology came available to us. Having defined rails really ups the game in surf SUP terms, but yet very few iSUP brands have thought it’s worth the extra cost.
The rocker, defined rails, triple stringer and 30PS pressure guarantee will do you well in anything up to head high. But with the shape, rocker and 2+1 fin setup being based on a laid back, drawn out log, you’ll probably have more fun in the waist to shoulder high range.
And just for fun, it’s got a mast foot screw, so it doubles as a development platform for budding windsurfers. But if you want real windsurf performance, you’ll want to get your hands on our new Freeride iSUP.
Blowin' in the wind
Having been disappointed with WindSUP offerings for years, the technology just hadn’t been good enough to tempt us to make a WindSUP. After all, if you can’t get a board planing, what’s the point?
But finally, the stars have aligned to make the perfect freeride windSUP a possibility.
So working with a number of development riders, we’ve been prototyping and perfecting the perfect shape for an inflatable freeride board. The 9’8 x 31 x 6” board has a strong nose rocker and a delicate tail rocker to get you over those bumps with ease. With the same defined rail edge technology as our SurfSUPs, this board planes easily and quickly, and with the extra rigidity from the triple dyneema stringer the board feels very rigid and stable under foot, no matter how fast you’re going or how bumpy the water. The board comes with a 2+1 setup, allowing you to switch between freeride and freewave fin setup, and you can set the footstraps to match your riding style using a velcro fastening system. This really is a revolution in windSUP design.
And it turns out that this board is a remarkably adept river surf board!
Paddle with friends
We thought mega boards or giant boards were a gimmick, and just a toy for hen and stag parties. But having seen them in use by school groups, and put to great effect by instructors in team building exercises, but previous opinions are just like water under the bridge, and we’re happy to stand corrected. And it was these same schools and instructors who’ve persuaded us to make a team board. This isn’t just some generic Chinese board rebadged with the McConks logo. Every single component of this board has been designed by McConks. From the location of the valves, the shape of the rocker, the positioning of the handles, to the shape and design of the deckpad, this comes with the attention to detail you’ve come to expect from us. 18 foot long, 60 inches wide, 8 inches thick, double skin, full length deckpad and four valves is unremarkable in the world of Giant SUPs. But a price of £1000 is very remarkable. In a parallel universe you might a brand who will give it away for less, but not in this one!!
Bat out of hell
We admit it. We said we weren’t going to be a hard board company, and that we’re going to stick to inflatable SUP. We still generally mean that. But we may have flirted with the dark side and be testing some carbon race boards. We got a little carried away when some of our friends started asking for them, and we only got tempted because our paddles are made by one of the best carbon SUP board shaping factories in China, and we knew what quality we could expect. And we knew we could get our friends premium quality race boards at a fraction of the price.
14ft long, 27.5 inches wide, with a bulbous yet piercing nose and a recessed deck pad, the board looks the business. Finished in lacquered carbon, she is a stealth machine just waiting to take on those allwater races. But these boards are strictly limited edition. There are only three in the world at the moment, and they’re all accounted for. And once we’ve satisfied ourselves that these birds are as fast as they look stunning, we will be making them to order. And the price is as stunning as the style – less than £1,500.
…for different days? Smaller blade for surf? Bigger blade for racing? Indestructible polyprop blade for whitewater and river surf? It gets pretty expensive, pretty quickly. Well why not keep the shaft and handle and just switch the blade? That’s the idea behind our new Switch paddle system. More on this to come in 2018
We've had an exciting couple of weeks testing our new whitewater SUP. As everyone surely knows by now, inflatable SUP are the best SUP for whitewater. Being so rugged and robust, yet also very light, nothing beats inflatable SUP in whitewater.
And just to prove it, here's a vid of Team GB freestyle stuperstar Matt Stephenson using the board at the whitewater centre in Nottingham (Holme Pierrepont, National Watersports Centre).
When we set out designing our whitewater board we gathered a team of whitewater experts, from the kayak, canoe and paddlesport fields, and asked them what was missing from current boards, and how current boards on the market needed to be improved.
And the responses we got then underpinned our design. The most important features were:
A wide stable platform, with a deckpad that extends all the way from the nose to the tail to allow movement around the board. Or so they said. We think the real reason was to provide added protection for the 'transition movements' between standing and swimming. We've designed our board to be 36" wide and 9'8 long - the length is a compromise between longer length for stability and forward momentum, and shorter length for river surf and manoeuvrability. The reviews we've had from our prototypers, which range from experts to beginners have confirmed that the width and length provide huge amounts of stability when on whitewater and the design, in particular the rocker profile and the hard edge, allows it to still be really maneuverable. One tester commented that it had an unprecedented amount of secondary stability for an inflatable board. Heady stuff!
Handles. Lots of them. These serve two purposes. Firstly, handles in lots of different locations are good for self recovery and protection. No matter where you are in relation to the board, you need to be able to reach a handle. And this needs to be true for shorter people and beginners as well - more than one awesome female paddler pointed out that handle placement on all other whitewater boards made recovery more than challenging for them. And secondly, they need to make it easier to get the board into and out of the water, and up and down steep river banks. Of course, this needs to be balanced against the risk of entrapment, and so the handles need to be reasonably tight to the board to prevent feet getting trapped.
Full length deckpad. The deckpad covering the whole board is a massive confidence booster giving you somewhere soft to land, whilst enabling you to paddle the board backwards if you get in a real pickle.
Rocker and waterline. The board has been designed by computer modelling, and then optimised through protoyping to ensure that the board is amazingly responsive but stable no matter where you stand (or are thrown to!) on the board. Although this board is not a specialist river surf board, the sporty progressive rocker allows riders to drop into waves, and the responsiveness of the board when on a run allows you to get to those waves when you see them. The stomppad and tail rocker shape means that the tail is responsive and easy to sink despite the board's width.
4+1 fin boxes and proper river fins. The centre box is a standard US centre box, meaning you can use pretty much any aftermarket fin you want. And the side fin boxes are FCS compatible click fit boxes from Kumano. That means you can use normal FCS fins if you choose. But why would you want to with the fins that come as standard? We provide three centre fins, 8", 4.7" and 3" depth fins, all flexi and capable of withstanding significant bumps and scrapes. We've reduced the depth on the 4.7" and 3" fins to reduce the risk of that 'superman' moment when fins catch a rock. But we've maintained overall surface area by sweeping the fin behind the fin box. And the same is true for our 4 x 1" side fins. These have a very low profile, and large surface area for the depth due the swept back profile.
And we also spoke to riders about paddles, and how paddles could be improved. And almost universally they said carbon shaft, polypropylene blade. The carbon shaft for stiffness and the polyprop blade for robustness and damage protection in rocky waters. But they also wanted to be able to have a carbon blade or fibreglass blade for when touring. So we came up with an interchangeable blade system that allows you to choose what blade you want in your carbon shaft.
And just to prove yet again how easy this all is, here's another vid of Matt Stephenson showing us all how it's done. And a more realistic video of a whitewater SUP noob demonstrating that anyone can have fun on the right boards and right conditions! In fact, in one of the boards trial runs at the National Watersports Centre, a total SUP noobie (experienced whitewater paddler, but had never stood on a SUP before!) managed to run all of the features but one without swimming.
One of the factors that makes iSUP so attractive to so many people, is the ease of transport. You don’t need a van or roof bars, and it’s much easier to travel on planes, with the weight of whole packages of top end kit (including paddles) being only 15kg.
But all of this lugging them around leaves them at risk of damage, and can be hard work, so requires a sturdy and easy to use bag.
Chunky wheels – made from recycled plastic bottles
Our customers have been taking the boards to some pretty wild places, and the wheels needed beefing up to cope with the rugged terrain. And the bottom of the bag has been reinforced with recycled plastic so the bag is self-supporting when the board is rolled up in it.
Comfortable, fast wicking, shoulder and hip straps.
And they’ve been being taken to some places where pulling them just wouldn’t work. Up and down cliff paths, through scrubland, and over hill and dale. The new bag has very comfortable padded shoulder and hip straps, and chest straps to keep the shoulder straps in place.
When pulling the gear, or putting into the hold on planes, you want the straps to be safely stowed away so they don’t get caught under wheels or ripped off by rough handlers.
One of the biggest frustrations with SUP bags is how difficult it is to get the board into the bag. Trying to manhandle the board into a bag that only opens at the top or that doesn’t open fully is almost as difficult as most men find putting on a duvet cover. So the entire front of our bag unzips opening up the full compartment.
…for accessories. This means that the pump and the rest of the accessories don’t take up useful space (for wetsuits, towels, picnics etc) inside the bag. All standard accessories fit neatly into the front pocket leaving plenty of space for the remainder of your kit.
Bags of space
.The bag has lots of spare room to take wetsuit and towels, tghere’s even plenty of space for a dry robe, and even enough to hold all your luggage for a short weekend trip. And with compression straps to reduce the depth of the bag if you don’t need all the space.
Comfortable handles, lots of them
…and just in the right places. Perfect for manhandling the gear onto conveyor belts, or into the boot of car. And they’re padded so that don’t cut off all circulation to your fingers!
There are some people who like following the crowds, who will buy the biggest selling boards because everyone else has bought one. It must be the best if everyone has one right? Nothing to do with marketing or dealer margin eh?
There are others who like to do their own thing, who like to create their own stories rather than being part of someone else’s. Those who seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, who want to get close to nature, to escape. And who want to paddlesurf, and who want to take kids or pets with them. If that’s you, or if you’re a little heavier paddler, then our 10’8 Go Anywhere board is perfect for you.
McConks are explorers too, and we’ve designed the perfect board for day and multi day trips. But we didn’t just use our experience. We’ve also spoken to lots of paddlers to really understand what makes a perfect inflatable paddle board for families, day travellers and watermen/women, and used this to set new standards for our all round SUP.
We’ve redefined lightweight touring inflatable paddle boards with our new Enhanced Drop Stitch technology. This uses the latest fusion polymer technology to reduce the weight of the paddleboard compared to many of our competitors, but still provides a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, the 10’8 board packs a massive 278l volume, so will happily carry a load of 200kg, and yet weighs less than 10kg.
Focus on: Handles
The 10’8 and 10’6 comes with three handles front, back and centre. The handles are triple reinforced to withstand the worst that the seas can throw at you, and the front and back handles have reinforced D rings to connect your leash or tow lines.
Also, every board comes with a mount to attach your cameras and devices.
Focus on Fins
Fins are the key piece of kit that keep your board on the straight and narrow, and the placement of the fin boxes and the type of fin have a significant impact on the performance of the board. The shape (or foil) of the fins themselves, and the position of the centre fin in the centre box all have an impact on performance.
Different days with different conditions might require different fin set ups. That’s why we think having removable fins isn’t just a nice to have, but essential. And we have spent a lot of time testing different fin types, box locations and setups to get the optimum combination.
The centre box is a typical Air7” box found on most high end inflatable SUP. This box is a standard US centre box, and allows flexibility in both fin and fin location. The fin that we provide with the Go Anywhere is a great all rounder. But you can switch it out for specialist fins that are optimised for speed, for weed shedding, or catching bumps. And with the Air7 box, you can move the fin forward to make the tail looser, or slide it back to tighten up your tail.
The side fins use the leading FCS system. Like the US centre box system, the FCS system has served the test of time and has lasted through many cycles of faddish fashion. FCS is here to stay, and that means you will always be able to get replacement or performance fins to pimp your ride. The fins provided with the Go Anywhere board are click fit flexi fins. The click fit means that you don’t need to carry an FCS key around with you to fit or remove your fins. And the flexi fin means that the fins don’t shear off the first time you slide across a reef.
And the benefit of a 2+1 arrangement means that you can ride thruster, single fin or twin based on the conditions you find yourself in.
Focus on Storage
Whether you’re on a day trip with the kids, or on a multiday wild camping adventure, secure storage is important. You need to know that your kit isn’t going to slide around and escape if you get caught in rough seas.
The position of the storage on the front of the board has been carefully designed so that it counterbalances the rider’s weight, and helps keep a perfect trim when fully loaded. And you can be assured that the kit you put here will stay there all day without worry. The 4 double reinforced stainless steel D Rings hold the 8mm bungee cord secure, and the non slip deck strips mean that your kit stays rooted to the board.
Focus on shape This board has been designed for true all round use. With the parallel rails at the midsection, this board is fast for an allround inflatable SUP. With so much volume it rides high on the water and just loves to eat up the miles. And the subtle nose rocker is enough to cut through chop without getting massively impacted by a headwind. But it’s the tail shape sets this board apart from all of the competition. The combination of the pintail shape with the real fins means that this board is highly manoeuvrable. Whether you’re looking to shred in shoulder high surf, carve gracefully in shin high swell, or speed around race marks with step back pivot turns, this board will not disappoint. But what takes everyone by surprise is the stability of this board when paddling or gliding in neutral position. The manoeuvrability only kicks in when you take a step back. So this board has achieved the impossible; both stable and manoeuvrable in a single board
The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques and it is the application of this technology alongside good old fashioned trial and error that has delivered a board loved by beginners, families and larger riders.
10’8 x 32″ x 6″, 278litres. For families, nervous beginners and larger orders
10’6 x 32″ x 5″ 218litres. For less nervous beginners, smaller riders and intermediates.