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SUP surfing: reading waves and how to take off more accurately.

There’s been a bit of surf about the last few days. And we don’t mean whomping, ‘eat ya board’ death bombs where surfvival is key. We’re talking more accessible waves that allow progression. Big enough, but not life threatening. In particular, the south coast is getting a round of windless juice that’s enticing many a paddler into the action.

With the influx of newby SUPers this year the knock on to winter paddling, it seems, also continues. It’s certainly not as big numbers as seen in summer 2020 – the cooler weather puts paid to that. Yet new recruits are certainly out to experience this side of the sport.

One question we’ve heard is: ‘how do I take off on waves properly?’. As inexperienced riders ‘reading’ (interpreting) the conditions and proper positioning are new skills to learn. Simply paddling for any old lump like a hyperactive puppy doesn’t yield best results. Some thought and a plan of attack needs to be put in place.

All waves aren’t the same. And no surf break works like the rest. There are similarities but that’s about it. We should also add that no two waves break in identical either.

The best word to describe how a SUP surfer should act is ‘proactive’. Sitting in one spot and not moving in rhythm with the ocean won’t get you a ride. Of course, surf etiquette should be adhered to. (If you’re unsure of surf etiquette then familiarising yourself is essential). With proper conduct, however, there shouldn’t be a problem with working your way to the peak. We should add that knowing and understanding tides and factor such as rips is info you’ll need to stay safe as much as actually SUP surfing.

The peak is where the wave starts to form, jack up and become more vertical. At most beach breaks, which is where you should be riding (to start), multiple peaks will exist. This’ll be where the bulk of surfers are sitting. Either side may offer the odd alternative section but it’s the peak you generally need to be on. Note: quieter peaks do exist at many surf spots. You may just have to walk a little to find them. If you’re learning this is worthwhile.

As waves pulse through some will be bigger while others will be smaller. Spotting a set incoming and paddling either out or in, depending on how you judge the size, is a good idea. Your chosen wave should be as vertical as possible. Timing is everything and this only comes with practice. Aiming to drop down the wave face at the wave’s apex is the route you’re aiming to take. Make sure you look around and spot others who want the same wave – avoiding collisions is wise. Looking also means peering behind you, over both shoulders, to see how the wave is stacking up and which way it’s likely to peel. Keep your head up and don’t shoe gaze.

When you feel the I ocean’s energy lift you and your SUP paddle hard! You should already be in surf stance and aiming to trim the board, nose to tail, to stop the front submerging and you bailing or the wave rolling beneath you and you falling off the back – a balanced almost martial arts stance is needed. Look in the direction of travel as you continue to stroke. Don’t stop paddling until you’ve 100% caught the wave and are being propelled along. Bend your knees, trim the board and avoid standing tall with your paddle in the air grinning like a Cheshire cat. We get the stoke factor but this’ll mean you just run straight as opposed to along the wave. It also means you’ll have further too paddle back out against lines of white water. Hopefully you’ll then score a fun ride and be ready for more.

Surf SUPing is something that needs to be done more to improve. With careful practice, however, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy a fulfilling winter of riding waves.

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The importance of inflating your stand up paddle board to the correct PSI.

Inflatable stand up paddle boards are designed with a certain PSI in mind – most are somewhere between 15-18 PSI although quality iSUPs, made from top grade Dropstitch material (like McConks) can cope with more air inside. Lesser quality inflatables not so much. If you try and force too much air inside they simply pop, or the Dropstitch comes away from the PVC deck and hull internally.

We’re pretty sure you’ve discovered this for yourselves but when you go past a certain amount – usually around 8 PSI or so – it actually becomes harder work getting your board to its correct pressure. This is especially the case if you’re using a manual pump. The resistance is greater therefore it takes more force to inflate.

Using a quality dual iSUP pump will help although there’ll still be force needed on your part. And it’s vitally important to inflate correctly. The main reasons being, if you don’t deflection becomes greater and performance on the water, such a tracking and glide, becomes inefficient and/or less resulting more effort and less enjoyment on your part.

Deflection is the amount of bend an air filled board will show. This bend is usually around the mid-point of the board where a rider stands. With too little air deflection is exacerbated and your board will resemble a floating banana. Your SUP’s ‘cockpit’ area will sink below the water line and the nose will raise and begin pushing water. Around the tail fins will be elevated and not engage correctly. The whole experience will be underwhelming and not that enjoyable.

As mentioned above your stand up paddle board will be supplied with a quality pump – at least if you purchase one from McConks. Electric versions are available to take some of the inflation hassle factor away but these should be considered carefully. The wrong type can actually damage your board. (Check the McConks SUP shop for what we recommend).

Ultimately for the best SUP experience possible you should know how much air your iSUP needs (many brands print this info on or next to the valve) and get the correct PSI inside. Once inflated it’s fine to leave, if you choose to do so. Again, with a McConks SUP, we’re confident it can stay inflated, without loss of integrity, for considerable lengths of time because of its quality build, should you choose not to deflate at the end of every session. Our boards live on the top of our van for much of the season. Which brings another question – why inflatables at all? Well, they’re just so much more rugged and robust than hard boards. And when you’re messing around with kids on rivers, shingles beaches, rocky shores etc, then that ruggedness is essential!

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You’ve bought your first stand up paddle board – now what?

If you’re one of the many who’ve recently purchased a stand up paddle board, and have yet to use it, or looking for a few ideas of what SUP adventures you can get up to then read on.

Adventure SUP

With your new found toy there’s never been a better way for exploring and discovering new vistas, waterways and destinations. A stand up paddle board can be locked and loaded for all kinds of adventures – from day long sojourns to just a few hours. Those truly free spirited types may even fancy big adventure SUP challenges that cover weeks. If this is your bag then plan, plan and plan some more. That old age saying: ‘prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance’ has never been more applicable.

Family paddles

If you’re fortunate enough to have acquired more than one stand up paddle board then it’s time to get the family involved. SUP sessions can be a great way to spend quality time with the rest of your brood, whilst getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors. With modern life being so hectic slowing it right down and indulging in some family paddling is a way to reconnect.

SUP surfing

Even with an inflatable you’re free to get stuck in to a spot of stand up paddle surfing. It doesn’t need to be ‘going off’ and huge – in fact, we’d argue against this. SUP‘s beauty in surfing waves is they don’t need to be particularly big, ripples can actually suffice. Small swell is just as fun as bigger stuff for many. And this will teach all those fundamental skills in case you fancy taking stand up paddle surfing further.

WindSUP

Does your stand up paddle board have a windsurf sail attachment? If so, use it! When it’s too breezy to paddle stick a rig on and away you go. Inflatables, especially, can be great for anyone looking to learn how to harness the power of wind. And iSUPs are great for kids beginning their paddling and windsurf journey.

River running

We’re not suggesting doing battle with high volume white water – if this appeals then steadily working your way up and developing skills over time needs to be sorted first. Mellow runs on moderately moving rivers, however, can certainly be done. Just make sure you know your route and have in mind what hazards are about. Don’t take on anything that’s out of your league. Scout beforehand to assess.

SUP racing

In the UK there’s a large number of SUP racers that compete both seriously and for fun. You don’t have to be vying for podiums in the elite classes either. Battling your mates and using the whole experience to better you SUP ability is what a good many enter events for. And inflatable board owners are just as welcome as hard SUP riders.

SUP diving/fishing

If less exertion is what you’re after from your paddle boarding then using your SUP as a diving or fishing platform could appeal. ‘Gear heads’ may love the idea of going ‘all in’ and tricking out your board to reel in that big one. Divers meanwhile need not be waiting around for motorised propulsion to their chosen site.

The above are just a few examples of what you can use your stand up paddle board – there are many more. Let us know what you do atop your stand up paddle board or what you’re considering.

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SUP hacks, tricks and tips: home paddling edition.

SUP hacks, tricks and tips: home paddling edition.

As part of our ongoing series hacks, tips and tricks for stand up paddle boarding, and combined with our recent post about virtual SUP holidays/trips, we thought we would share a few ideas about how to keep paddling at home.

There are lots of videos doing the rounds on social media about how to achieve this currently but in case you’ve missed these here are McConks’ top ways of achieving virtual SUP Nirvana in your own domain.

Bungee

Probably the easiest way to get some resistance on your SUP paddle shaft is attaching some bungee chord. You’ll need a firmly fixed point to actually attach the bungee at one end. And then paddlers will need to locate the fulcrum point on their paddle shaft. Too low or too high and it won’t work. Raising yourself off the ground will help with clearance if you’re going to be using an actual stand up paddle board paddle – more on this in a mo.

If you want to increase the power, and you have long enough chord, doubling up the bungee will increase resistance. Whatever you do make sure that both the end attached to a fixed point and the end attached to your paddle is solid. The last thing you want is the bungee pinging back and spanking you in the face!

Elevation

An inflatable board is perfect for a spot of virtual home SUP. Unlike a hard board you don’t need to be ultra-careful not to damage it. Obviously, though, remove the fins! It’s then worth raising your SUP up a fraction to help with paddle blade clearance. You also don’t want to damage your blade!

IMPORTANT! Make sure whatever used to raise your stand up paddle board is solid and not likely to collapse, fail and cause you injury. You can use a trellis system, bricks or even a wobble cushion more commonly paired with balance boards. And speaking of balance boards: if you’re particularly cat-like then placing your SUP on top of balance board and using in the same way atop a roller will further enhance your experience. Again, if you do opt for this then BE CAREFUL! Attach your SUP to the balance board via roof rack straps. Just make sure they’re tight enough.

If you haven’t seen McConks’ awesome balance boards, made by the amazing Daddyboards, then check them out. If you want an additional training tool for SUP, or just fancy something for messing about on whilst improving your balance, then head over to the shop and the balance board page – https://mcconks.com/shop/technical-sup-clothing-sunglasses-rashvests-recylced/balance-boards-by-daddyboards/mcconks-balance-board-by-daddyboards/

Additional ambience

If you want to take things a step further then you can add additional ambience for enhanced land SUPing. We’ve seen virtual reality headsets used but that may be too techy for many.

Getting the hosepipe out and having your kids or partner spray you with wet stuff is an obvious one. If no hose to hand then get a bucket of water chucked your way. Just don’t blame us if they decide to also lob the bucket at you! (Fortunately, the UK’s weather at the moment is sublime so getting a little damp is no issue – you’ll dry off quickly).

Looking to Easter Weekend

Some showery rain is likely this #Easter weekend, and as cooler air moves in there will be a drop in temperatures too, though it will still be warmer than average for most.Despite some fine weather, remember to #StayHomeSaveLives

Posted by Met Office on Wednesday, 8 April 2020

We also talked about using sounds from apps like Spotify and radio.garden in our virtual SUP holiday post. It’s the same with virtual home SUP in general. Ambient sounds of the sea or other can help create an atmosphere fit for stand up paddling – whatever floats your boat, er SUP, really.

Let us know your tips for home SUP or stand up paddle boarding in general.