There are some people who like being on busy beaches, close to fish and chip cafes and coffee shops.
There are others who like to get away from the crowds, who like to seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, to get close to nature, to escape. Some people even dabble with a bit of naturism, letting it all hang free when away from the crowds.
If you’re more like exhibit B, then our Go Explore touring 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 touring iSUP boards.<BR><BR>
With front and back storage, and additional lashing points there is ample space on this paddleboard to take day bags or even multi day expedition kit.
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 competitors, but still provide a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, this board packs a massive 330l volume, so will happily carry a load of 250kg, and yet only weighs 10kg.
When you’re trying to launch or land your board on a rocky foreshore with an overhead shoredump trying to smash your board and your kit to smithereens, you need strong handles, in the right place. And lots of them. The Go Explore has 6 handles just where you need them to secure the board in swell and to quickly launch or lift the board. 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 toe lines.
Two of the handles also double as paddle gloves to keep your paddle secure. We’ve found this really useful for Yoga, to keep the paddle secure when having a picnic or relaxing break afloat, or to store a kayak paddle.
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 Explore is a great all rounder. However, you can switch it our 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 Explore 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. And it needs to stay in place when you’re dropping the board in, or retrieving it from that aforementioned shoredump.
So we started from the bottom up when thinking about storage. We’ve included two storage areas, the forward one for serious kit storage, and the aft storage in easy reach. The position of the forward storage on 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 6 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 is McConks’ fastest and truest board. The Go Explore just wants to go fast, and in a straight line. With the displacement nose and slight nose rocker to cut through chop, this board just eats up the miles, and loves being on open water.
The subtle nose rocker just lifts the nose enough to prevent undue drag in heavy seas, but in general the bottom of the board has a planer surface that glides evenly through the water.
The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques to give the truest lines and to maximise glide. Testing the prototype on a paddle challenge around Malta has allowed us to make subtle changes to the design, and we believe that this board is the best expedition iSUP on the market.
If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding or SUP. Standup paddleboarding has been around for a decade or see, but it is the evolution of inflatable paddleboards that has really supercharged the appeal and development of SUP. It seems that everyone has been keen to get in on the act this year, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP in 2017. And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:
- It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle, as long as the board is the right size for the rider and conditions.
- All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7. Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing. But SUP is independent of waves or wind. Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for esurfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well. And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal. So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
- It’s easy. With the correct board for your size and weight, you will be up and paddling within minutes. Even the most balance challengd beginners are stand up paddling within 15 minutes.
- It’s a great workout. It’s widely reported that SUP is good for the core muscles, and it’s also great for improving all round fitness; an hour paddleboarding will burn around 700 calories. And because you’re in control of how hard you work and how far you go, it doesn’t matter what shape you start in.
- Once you have made the initial outlay in kit, there are very few ongoing costs. And although the initial outlay can seem significant, buying second hand, or buying smartly can reduce the initial outlay.
- Getting close to nature. Stand up paddleboarding puts you right out there to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature. With the water under your feet you’ll find that you have the perfect viewpoint to observe
amazing creatures swimming and moving about below you. You’ll be able to see birds in action, witness a serene sunrise, paddle through mist, or marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Whether you are on a solo, family, or social paddle stand up paddleboarding connects you with your natural surroundings.
- Quality time together. Whether river paddling to lunch in a riverside pub, or paddling down river with your children on the boards, SUP can be very sociable. You can even bring your dog along for the ride.
- Stress reduction. Fed up of busy crowded beaches? Paddle to that secluded island or inaccessible beach around the headland. Skinny dipping. Paddle far from the madding crowd, strip, and dive in the water. SUP is a great way to unwind and relax. Beautiful sunsets, inspirational sunrises, paddling in amazing places reduces stress and recharges your batteries.
- Free dinner. Tie a crayfish or lobster pot net behind the board, add bacon and paddle. Or take a fishing rod with you. Easy to find your own perfect spot. And then grill them up on the beach when you get back. Probably with a cold beer!
- Deflate the board, roll up, and pack away in the convenient wheeled rucksack that comes with the best inflatable paddleboards. No worrying about tired arms strapping the boards to the roof or trying to squash everything into the car. You can be on the road in a few short minutes after getting off the water.
If these reasons don’t make you want to rush out and get your hands on an inflatable paddle board, then nothing will!
Visit our webshop to find out how easy it is to get hold of great quality, affordable paddleboard kit!
So, McConks has been a registered company for over 12 months, and we’ve been actively trading since May 2016. We thought now would be a good time to look back at what, if anything, we’ve achieved.
When we opened in June, we were definitely the new kid on the block. Noses were looked down, snooty comments were made by established brands and shops. “Another company importing cheap crap from China” was heard more than once. Even when SUP experts reviewed our kit favourably (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Board Mag UK here), there were squeals that SUPM was not standing up for ‘the industry”. There’s a huge amount of snobbery in watersports hardware, and because neither Jenny nor I were known professional performance paddlers, we were written off.
Hopefully those days are behind us. We’ve had some amazing reviews from expert SUPpers, beginners and everything in between. Observations that keep being repeated by experts and beginners alike are:
- Board shape. We keep getting great reviews which comment on the stability and true tracking of our boards when stood midboard, but really welcome the additional responsiveness that the pintail shape bring when you step back. Rider after rider report that step back/pivot turns are easier than on a big brand equivalent like for like size board
- Fins: It is a recurrent theme in reviews of our kit that real fins really set us apart in our price range, and really improve tracking and surf sup ride.
- The carbon fibre paddles are really very, very good. Just enough flex, just enough power, just enough drive, subtle dihedral, comfortable paddle without needing foam or padding to make the ride comfortable
- Quality: Manufacturing quality is the same as the best of the best, but comes with a much affordable price tag.
We always intended 2016 to be a slow year with organic growth. We wanted to make sure that our supply chain could cope with demand, and that we could achieve the very highest quality consistently. We’ve made no secret of the fact that our kit is made in China (although we’re hoping at some point to be able to manufacture at least some of our products in the UK), and getting supply chains set up over such a distance is time consuming and challenging. And we had a few false starts, due to last minute changes in design and supply chain ability, and we have struggled at times to meet demand.
If we had got all our ducks in line earlier in the year, we could probably have sold more boards and got more people on the water on quality, affordable kit. However, our customers have been so engaging and interested, and have asked lots of questions that take time to answer well; Where can I go paddleboarding? What should I wear when SUPing? Can I paddle on any river? What kit should I wear? Can I just paddle on any lake? (answers to these questions plus all of the other every day questions we get asked coming up in our next blog). It’s been a privilege answering these questions, and helping some slightly nervous beginners get on the water for the first time. After all, getting people who otherwise wouldn’t get on the water is what McConks is all about. Judging by the great feedback and reviews we’ve had from customers about our quick responses to queries, and our non-judgmental responses, two very important thoughts come to mind.
The first is that we need to make sure that our team is big enough to always answer those queries as well as just ship the products. We won’t be dismissive or judgmental when answering your questions. We never want you to be scared to ask a question. If you have a question, rest assured there is someone else who wants to ask the same question, but is too worried to; there’s no such thing as a silly question, just silly answers.
Oh, and to this purpose, we’ve just overhauled our website to make it easier to use.
The second thought is about inclusiveness. We hear time and time and time again that the riders and reps for the big brands are only interested in you if you’re young, pretty or rich. I don’t know how much this is intended, but the perception is real. One of our customers recently travelled from Scotland to the Lake District to meet some SUP heros and some Brand Reps.
“After meeting with (big brand team rider, name removed to protect their identity)” he reported “and having met countless (big brand inflatable SUP) reps in the past, you’re only ever a name on a list, and they don’t have that personal connection to the customer. They’re only your mate for the 5 minutes before you buy a board. I travelled all the way from Scotland to the Lake District yesterday for Sup, Run, Bike, and no-one even offered me a trial of their kit. They’re not interested because I’m old, on the heavy side, and not a pretty young thing, and because I work with a charity with not much money. McConks is punching its weight with the big guys. You keep it real and continue to value your customers”
McConks aim is to get riders on to the water. Big, small, pretty, ugly, good, bad, indifferent. We don’t care. We don’t take strength from how cool or pretty or handsome our riders are, and therefore we’re not going to be damaged by someone with Downs Syndrome on our boards, or hapless beginners. And in fact, nothing makes us happier than seeing people of different abilities or different background using our kit. Two great charities for disadvantaged people, The Princes Trust, and Beyond Boundaries East Lothian are currently trialling some of our demo kit. The managers and technical advisors have bought their own personal kit from us, and we’re now thrashing out a deal for the charities as a whole. And because we’re small, and don’t spend fortunes on marketing or on team riders, and because our passion is to get people on the water, we are surprisingly affordable.
So, has the first year been successful? We think so. Customer feedback has been great. Expert feedback has been great (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Mag UK, and to the team at our demo centre at Cotswold Water Park Hire). We’ve delivered to happy customers all over Europe; including Finland, Spain, France, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Jersey. And we’ve shipped to the USA. We’ve also donated some ex demo stock to some great charities, and we’re still going to make a small profit in our first year. After we have deducted taxes and stuff, and the cost of new stock for next year, we will give 100% of the profit to our charity for 2016 Surfers Against Sewage. Because we’re still growing and expanding our range, most of our income is ploughed straight back into more kit and more prototypes. But we will make sure that SAS has a cheque for at least £200 by the end of 2016.
And what about 2017? Keep your ears to the ground. I hear rumours of a McConks dedicated Surf SUP and a McConks White Water SUP in 2017, once we have got our new Go Explore board out there.