Can you see through the ridiculousness of Black Friday, or are you convinced by the bargains? Our experience is that Black Friday deal aren’t deals at all. Through peak season prices are hiked to guarantee as maximum a margin as possible. Come days like Black Friday during the paddleboarding off season, and what appears to be a reduction is actually a sale price more in line of what the item’s actually worth in terms of tech, performance and quality. Yet time and again we see consumers clamouring for these so called ‘deals’ without a thought for the ‘game’ being played by some companies.
Of course, not every brand is like this. Some are reputable, above board and transparent. McConks likes to think of ourselves the latter. We wear our hearts on sleeves – as can be seen in many posts across this very website and our social media feeds. McConks tells it like it is and prices our stand up paddle boards, paddles and accessories in the fairest way possible. As such you won’t see Black Friday deals on McConks’ website.
We appreciate, even with the above being said, that you still may be looking for a SUP bargain. Have no fear on this as you can rest assured that the cost of McConks SUP kit is as keen as you’re likely to find based on its quality, usability and longevity. Sustainability is something we bang on about regularly and we stake our reputation on the fact McConks iSUPs are fit for purpose, well manufactured and will stand the test of time. And we don’t play marketing games with prices. You can preorder for the next year at a discount – because that saves us money, Or you can buy at full price during the season. Simple, transparent and honest pricing. Same with our paddles; same with our accessories; same with anything we put our name to.
So, no, you won’t find a sudden slashing of prices in the McConks webshop. Instead, you’ll discover fair costs for gear designed to deliver you fun and functionality is the best way we know how. There may be a few additional deals to be had from time to time, via our ex demo equipment. But by and large the new products we offer are available to get you SUPing in no time and progressing down whichever avenue of the sport you feel best suits.
We have to say this is quite impressive. Those dance moves themselves have got rhythm and timing but the fact it’s also aboard the McConks Mega SUP lends additional kudos. This kind of thing isn’t as easy as it looks. Timing, balance and sure footedness are all needed, which are all on display in buckets here.
What would you do whilst atop a McConks Mega stand up paddle board? Here’s another example from back in summer. This is another option we quite like…
We already posted this to the McConks Facebook page. But as we’re super excited about new 2021 stand up paddle boarding developments we’re shouting about it again. Not ones to sit on our laurels the McConks team is forever looking at new ideas, concepts and determining what’s viable. We’d love to be in a position where we could offer ALL the toys but sometimes that isn’t possible. Yet, an ever changing market, with different wants/needs for the consumer means we do need to keep on top of things.
To date we’ve already designed and sold a one off hard race SUP. And currently we’re doing our thing with a hard windSUP prototype. And then there’s this, which is being tweaked as we speak. Suffice to say we’re pretty excited about what could manifest. The outcome of this tinkering could prove to be extremely special.
Andy comments: ‘Still need to finalise the transitions, smooth out some of the lines, and the build in the concaves in the hull, but it’s coming along nicely.’ So, hands up if you’re interested!
We don’t like to update our stand up paddle boards willy nilly like a lot of the SUP industry do. This doesn’t fit with our commitment to sustainability, and we just don’t agree with it. That said, every so often we do feel to tweak things slightly and bring McConks products more up to date – even if that’s only subtle changes. Were not looking for out and out paddling performance changes that’s for sure.
With this in mind our ever popular Go Anywhere inflatable stand up paddle boards have been give an overhaul and we’re pleased with the results. We’ve already posted on social media about these changes so we won’t labour the point here. Suffice to say why not head across to our Facebook post and join the discussion.
Whilst McConks are a true homegrown, UK stand up paddle boarding company it goes without saying we don’t have our equipment manufactured on British soil – a shame we know. Just like 98% of other companies – whether watersports or not – McConks hardware and gear comes from the Far East. We design, prototype, tweak and take onboard feedback from customers in our own backyard. But when it comes down to the actual making of each bit of equipment there’s no cost effective method of producing it in this green and pleasant land.
When sourcing manufacturers we put a lot of time and effort in behind the scenes to make sure who we use not only can replicate our ideas accurately but do so in as efficient and ethical manner possible. We’re not there on the ground in person, obviously, so we ask questions, do our research and build the necessary relationships. If you don’t get it right then this manifests in poor quality stock. And not every brand does get it right first time. There’ve been plenty having to switch suppliers!
There are a small few (very small!) that have stakes in the manufacturing facilities their gear is made. But that isn’t McConks (yet). In time we’d love to be one of those SUP sellers that does. In the meantime we continue as is.
Why are we telling you this? McConks‘s way has always been to be as honest and transparent as possible. Wearing hearts on sleeve may leave us open to criticism but we feel anyone looking at McConks – for either SUP related info or equipment buying options – needs the full story. As much as we pride ourselves with the brand>manufacturer relationships we’ve built hiccups can still occur. After all, you’re relying on people interpreting your vision, across a vast expanse of land and water, who only have electronic methods of conversing and come from a different country with culture, working methods and general existences different to those of our own. As such comms needs to be tip top.
Continuing to work super hard to deliver the best SUP experience possible to our customers is paramount. If we hit snags we rectify as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the long run the positive feedback we regularly receive tells us things are going well. Moving forwards we’ll carry on giving updates like these, as well as notifications should anything go awry at any other time. Thanks for your continued support. We love seeing all those happy, smiling faces out on the water.
If anyone’s got any questions relating to McConks stand up paddle boarding equipment then let us know.
What’s triggered this post? A small batch of Go Free windSUP/windsurf/wing SUP boards without a mast foot insert. Yep! We though that was quite amusing. Still, they make great wing boards and you can, of course, definitely paddle them. SO all not lost…
It’s nearly the weekend – August Bank Holiday weekend 2020 to be precise. Whilst it’s been a strange year in many ways there’s one thing that isn’t changing: everyone loves a Bank Holiday Weekend. And with this one incoming it’ll be no different. On a plus the storms we’ve experienced this week have sloughed off with only remnant conditions left. By and large this’ll disappear as well and come Sunday, broadly speaking, there should be much lighter airs. You may still need to seek a bit of shelter (locally) but we’re pretty confident decent stand up paddle boarding conditions will be found. So it’s definitely worth making the most of it. General weather doesn’t look too bad either, with healthy amounts of sunshine and moderate temperatures.
Here at McConks we’ve had an unprecedented year, as has been spoken about. That said we still have some boards left for you that’ll land in time for the weekend if ordered in the next few days. Our Go Race V 14‘, which can easily double as a touring SUP, is waiting, ready to ride. The tech that’s gone into this iSUP is top drawer – even if we do say so ourselves. Not least the removable fin box. We also have some of the nimble, fun Go Skate 7’2 inflatables left which are perfect for anyone looking for manoeuvrability in surf or on moving river waterways. And there’s a whole load of SUP paddles and accessories ready to enhance your overall SUP experience. Head over to the shop for a nose and to place your order. Let us know if you have any questions about anything.
Check out the full specs of both boards below –
If any boards are ordered before 12:00 noon today (Thursday 27 August) it would arrive on Friday. After 12:00 noon today it’ll arrive on Saturday 29 August.
We appreciate everyone’s been busy paddling, hanging out with the family and making the most of summer. So much so it’s easy to miss some of the stuff we publish to the McConks blog. Have no fear, however, as we’ve conveniently rounded things up for you.
McConks bitesize travel guides
The beady eyed out there may have noticed we’ve featured heavily on the travel area of stand up paddle boarding. There’re a plethora of locations across the UK to paddle – inland and coastal. We’ve started compiling a bunch of bitesize guides to help when choosing where to SUP next. Stay tuned as we’ll be adding to these regularly. Below are the spots we’ve published to date.
- Croyde Bay, North Devon
- Esso Beach, Hayling Island
- Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
- Thames Sailing Club, Surbiton
- Crantock, Cornwall
- Gwithian, St. Ives, Cornwall
- Langstone. Chichester Harbour
- Llangneith, Gower Peninsula, Wales
- Chasewater, Staffordshire
- Chichester shipping canal, West Sussex
- Westward Ho!, Devon
- Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall
- West Beachlands, Hayling Island
- West Wittering, West Sussex
- Chichester Harbour (south), Hayling Island
5 of the best UK SUP spots
Sticking with the domestic SUP travel theme for a moment; we put out an article talking about 5 of the best palces to stand up paddle board in the UK. Obviously there are others, but this 5 will start you off. Feel free to drop us a line with your personal faves.
We need YOU, watersports clubs
Many will already be aware that McConks does more than just stand up paddle boards. We cover the whole spectrum, from SUP itself to windSUP, windsurfing, wing and we’re currently looking hard at hydrofoil and hard shell SUPs. There’s plenty to come! With this in mind we’d love to make contact with any watersports clubs that offer mutiple activities. For more info hit this link then hit us up.
Honesty is always the best policy, so we think
If you want an insight top how 2020 has been for McConks then this is the article you need to read. Not least to give an idea of what we have to do to keep this ticking smoothly over, but also so you’re in the full picture as customers.
There’re no two ways about it: winter is definitely heading our way. But that doesn’t mean you have stop paddling – far from it. Here’re a few things you can do to prepare for the off season and make it as fun as possible.
ISA awarded SUP ‘ownership’
Recently the International Surfing Association was awarded ‘ownership’ of stand up paddle boarding to take it through (potentially) to its Olympic Games debut. But does the recreational paddler actually care about stuff like this? Read the article and let us know what you think.
5 SUP adventures that await the progressing stand up paddler
If you’re one of the many new paddlers this summer then here’re 5 SUP adventures that await you as you move forwards on your paddling journey.
There’s loads more on the McConks SUP blog and the McConks Knowledge Hub pages. If you’re looking for something specific, then as always hit us up and we’ll do our best to accommadate.
West Beachlands, Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Open water, tidal beach.
Everything from smooth glassy water, to solid ground swell surfing conditions and super windy, choppy seas.
Strong tides, heavy shore dump at high water, big swells at times, strong rips at times, sea defences at high tide, other water users (kitesurfers, windsurfers).
Note: At time of writing the local authorities have removed a whole bunch of revetment sea defences along the foreshore. This has impacted parking significantly, as well as increased coastal erosion. This is forecasted to increase as the sea takes back the land. How this impacts conditions on the water remains to be seen. It could be to the benefit, at least as far as waves go. The issue, however, as more beach gets washed away will be access.
Easy access with a car park (paid) right next to the put in.
The iconic Inn On The Beach pub perches right on the water’s edge and offers stunning views out across the English Channel. It’s also a great place to grab a bite or post-SUP pint. For those looking to make an evening of it the Inn serves up restaurant style dining. Behind the IOTB is a café offering snacks, simple meals and refreshments. You’ll also find public toilets here (there aren’t any changing facilities though). For those wanting further board sliding action a fairly decent skate park lies to the east of the put in although this can get busy. And if you’re into golf there’s a public, par three golf course and renowned Links private club west towards Langstone Harbour.
Hayling Island, to many, is the home of windsurfing. The sport was invented here by Peter Chilvers and continues to draw large crowds on breezy low tide days. Kitesurfers are also abundant and of late Hayling has become a centre of excellence for SUP. Whether you want idyllic, glassy flat water paddling, open ocean downwinding, accessible SUP surfing or fun touring options it can all be found depending on the forecast – which is half the battle. Knowing, understanding and interpreting weather, wind and wave data for Hayling Beachlands is key to scoring the type of SUP conditions you’re after. Get it right and the stars align. Get it wrong, however, and your session of SUP could be a right off. Info is forthcoming, however, with a number of SUP brands being based on the island, SUP Mag UK’s headquarters is here, three large sailing clubs can offer advice and a plethora of paddlers reside and frequent Hayling all of whom will be happy to impart their valuable knowledge.
If you weren’t already aware McConks doesn’t just do SUP. We do everything that goes with SUP, including accessories, technical wear and casual wear. Our ethically sourced, organic clothing looks great whether you’re big ripper, SUP nipper or anyone in between.
Adventure SUP can be anything you want it to be: week long sojourns to the outer known; white water runs along your local patch, stopping off to camp along the way. Or more family orientated day trips to quiet coastal corners. Plus, everything else in between.
Depending on what type of adventure(s) you plan on doing McConks has the right kind of inflatable SUP for you. In fact, the adventurous spirit/ethos is deeply ingrained in the McConks brand. Whilst we’re all over other aspects of the discipline it’s this spirit of adventure that sits the best with us. Listed below are a few McConks iSUPs and how they fit the different types of adventure you’re possibly looking at.
The McConks Go Anywhere 10’6 is perfect for a couple of hours mini-adventure. It’s got enough room on deck to store a few essentials for your trip. Whilst glide and tracking will keep you straight line and true until you reach your destination.
For anyone into river running and white water SUP then McConks’ 11′ Go X Wild is the one. A super stable board, with a superior design that’s fit for purpose – and then some.
If you’re thinking of heading off for a longer sojourn then check out the McConks’ 11’4 for those in to day long adventures. With its longer length glide is improved so efficiency over greater distance is top shelf.
McConks’ 12’8 is choice for paddlers wanting to overnight; camping in the wilds, carry all your gear as you go, it may be multiple day trips or longer still. Whatever you’re thinking this iSUP will lap it up.
If you want the ultimate in touring adventure SUP then McConks’ 14′ Go Further is right on the money for multi-day trips. It eats up miles effortlessly whilst carrying you and all that necessary gear. There’re no compromises with the Go Further so why should you?
If you need any advice on what McConks equipment will suit your type of adventure then get in touch.
You can’t fail to have noticed how great the weather was in May, 2020. With lockdown restrictions easing so many people have been out and about and afloat. In fact, there’s been a MASSIVE influx of newbie SUP recruits all vying to get on the water – great! It’s also been busy on the McConks SUP blog, with plenty of new articles being published all with aims of inspiring, educating and stoking that SUP enthusiasm. Here’re a selection of what you may have missed – don’t forget to check back through all McConk’s stand up paddle boarding articles for additional SUP goodness.
Learning to SUP post-lockdown
Although we’re able to head outdoors there’re still a few things to keep in mind, such as social distancing. That said it’s definitely a good time for learning how to stand up paddle – it just may need to be done slightly differently. In this article you’ll find a bunch of tips for how you can safely learn the ways of SUP with post-lockdown rules in place.
Post-lockdown SUP gear checks
Speaking of getting afloat for paddling shenanigans post-lockdown; if you’ve yet to get on the water, but are planning to any time now, then you’ll be needing to give your stand up paddle boarding equipment a once over and quick MOT to make sure all’s in good working order. This post lists a few things to consider before putting in.
SUP’s just SUP – right?
This one looks at how stand up paddle boarding has evolved over the years, to the point where now: SUP’s just SUP – isn’t it? Check out the article to see if you agree.
SUP by Post: explained
Fancying the idea of owning your own McConks inflatable stand up paddle board but not 100% sure? No problem! SUP by Post aims to make heading off on SUP adventures as easy possible. Hit up this post for more info about SUP by Post.
Stand up paddle board jargon
Staycation 2020 and alternative ways to use your McConbks SUP
We all know that getting away abroad, for holidays and travel trips, will be so much harder in 2020. A lot of people won’t actually be leaving the UK at all, instead focusing on the good old staycation. This is why you need a McConks SUP in your life: to enhance your time next to the water. But wait! An inflatable stand up paddle board isn’t just for paddling. In this article you’ll find some suggestions about alternative uses for your iSUP.
Wingsurfing, windsurfing and windSUP – the ultimate guide
Here at McConks we provide a raft of stand up paddle boarding equipment and associated accessories for wide and varied ranges of use. What you mightn’t know much about (yet) is the McConks Go Free 9’8 crossover windSUP/windsurfing/wingsurfing/wing foiling board and McConks Go Fly 5m wingsurfing/wing foiling wing. We’re in the process of adding to this series but you can find the first two parts here and here. Stay tuned for more about wind related SUP.
National BBQ Week 2020
We love a good barbie here at McConks. And just recently was National BBQ Week 2020. Stand up paddle boards offer a great way to transport your barbie kit for a royal nosh up. And just because National BBQ Week 2020 has ended it doesn’t mean you can’t have plenty more hot coal cooking fun in the coming weeks and months.
SUP hacks, tips and tricks
Helping you get the most out of your stand up paddle boarding is a real focus for McConks. That’s why you’ll discover plenty of SUP hacks, tips and tricks articles which is an ongoing thing.
We’ve talked about how to find the flattest water for paddling, helping taller paddlers achieve the correct SUP paddle length, fitting Click Fin side fins and centre US Box fins. Lastly, you can find out how to fix your manual SUP pump’s pressure gauge in this post.
As we said at the start the above are just a selection of useful, informative and (hopefully) entertaining articles and posts you can find on the McConks blog (otherwise known as the knowledge hub). Let us know if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover.
Go Rhyme: It’s all part of being a paddler – SUP Sea Shanty challenge.
A sea shanty, chantey, or chanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labour on board large merchant sailing vessels. The term shanty most accurately refers to a specific style of work song belonging to this historical repertoire. Source: Wikipedia.
Here at McConks we’re big fans of Sea Shanties. We’re also particularly fond of The Fisherman’s Friends – a ragtag crew of real fisherman from Port Isaac, Cornwall, who’ve popularised the genre to modern audiences. FF’s are probably the most popular group of type who’ve been the subject of a TV documentary, had their story told in the 2019 movie ‘Fisherman’s Friends’ (which even has a bit of paddle boarding in it!), have another film planned for release in 2020, have had multiple hit albums, won a BBC2 Radio 2 folk award in 2011 and played the famous Glastonbury Pyramid stage in 2011, among other accolades.
One of our fave Fisherman’s Friends ditties – that the kids love as well – is: It’s all part of being a pirate. The lads performed a special version just for us, with an exclusive dedication to SUPers. Check it out below.
As stand up paddle boarders, whether atop inland water or salty brine, there’s a connection to the sea. Piloting waterborne craft has been a thing for millions of years. And fishermen are well-respected masters of the oceans who know a thing or two about weather, tides, swells and conditions in general. In some ways there’s a synergy between stand up paddlers and men who fish.
A while back this got us thinking about penning and performing our own Sea Shanty, only with a paddle boarding slant. We were being a little too optimistic it turns out, and our rhyming skill let us down. However, the talented Chris Jones came to our help, and together we penned it’s all part of being a paddler, sung to the same tune as ‘it’s all part of being a pirate’ above.
Our favourite, topical, verse of ‘paddler’ is…
Being a paddler is all fun and games until Boris enforces a lockdown
But scared of the virus, don't want to be mindless, and worried 'bout all of the frowns
They stand in their garden, just waiving the carbon, and manage to calm themselves down
Being a paddler is all fun and games until Boris enforces a lockdown
It's all part of being a paddler....
The full lyrics, with guitar and banjo chords can be downloaded from here if you want to 'enjoy' our amazing word scanning and rhyming!
This got us thinking – particularly with times as they are currently. What if we got you, our McConks SUP family and friends, to come up with your own Sea Shanty, or your own verse to ‘paddler’. It needn’t feature pirates (but it could if you like) but it’d be great if it had something to do with stand up paddle boarding. And don’t worry if you can’t sing; you don’t need to be a pop star to make a Sea Shanty work; we’re just looking to see how much better your creative rhyming skills are than ours!
So grab whoever you’re in isolation with and get penning. You could also utilise the wonder of technology and make use of video calling to make it a truly collaborative effort. Once you’ve nailed down the lyrics of your Sea Shanty we’d love you to perform it, film and then post in the comments section of our social media feeds. We’ll then shortlist the three best which will then be voted on by the public. The eventual winner(s) will receive an organic, ethically sourced, recycled McConks ‘it’s all part of being a paddler’ t-shirt. Plus, you’ll have the admiration (and possibly mirth!) of the entire McConks SUP community.
Submit your entries before Monday April 6, 2020, to be in with a chance of being shortlisted. McConks SUP will then choose their three favourites (our decision is final). One entry per SUP household. Final winner will be announced following a public vote on Easter Monday, April 13, 2020.
Coronavirus McConks SUP| Business continuity
We were meant to be publishing a post right now about how we were going to be helping dozens, if not hundreds, of kids get up running with stand up paddling this summer. A network of SUP instructors around the country willing to give up their time to give free lessons to vulnerable children or kids with less access to watersports, with prizes and care kits from McConks SUP. Given the latest government health advice (as of March 17, 2020) and potential for further restrictions in the coming weeks – particularly movements away from homes, such as getting to water – we’ve put this initiative on hold.
Being on a stand up paddle board, away from crowds, and SUPing in the sunlight (hopefully killing all those nasty illness bugs in the process), is one of the best ways of self-isolating and avoiding COVID19. But whilst the government has restricted all but essential travel we’re taking a little pause to decide what the right thing to do is. If you have any comments or opinions about this we’d love to hear them!
SUP supplier protections
It’s times like this that working with the right SUP industry suppliers is worth its absolute weight in gold. Our suppliers treat their workers fairly. Our factories even give paid holidays and support to people off work sick – that’s pretty unheard of in China! But it’s always been a part of doing business with us. Also, our factories operate an aseptic environment to prevent dust and dirt getting into McConks SUP gear. Paid sick leave plus an aseptic environment means that the risk of virus fragments being left on, or in, our kit when it leaves the factory is extremely low. And we only ship our products by sea, therefore the delay between shipping and arriving at our HQ means that the risk of our products carrying live coronavirus is as close to zero as it can get.
Our HQ and our distribution centre in South Wales are fastidious about cleaning hands between product picks. And as family companies, you can rest assured that workers are fully paid if they are self-isolating, therefore there is no pressure on employees to come to work whilst they might be infectious.
We can’t totally eliminate the risk of coronavirus on our products but everything we are doing at McConks SUP is trying to prevent the spread of CV19.
The future for McConks SUP
We don’t know what the world will look like on the other side of this virus but we know it will be different. We’re worried about the future for some of our friends and partners running small businesses. As SUP instructors, outdoor ed centres providing stand up paddle board tuition and tours, SUP rental businesses, riverside pubs and such it’s going to be tough. Sustained loss of income over the next few months will weigh heavily on them, and some might not make it…
McConks is not a business that has sold our soul to the devil in exchange for sales and profits. We’ve never taken on equity partners or massive structural debts. Therefore, unlike lots of others in the industry, we haven’t got a monthly ‘monster’ desperate for all of our money. Our outgoings are relatively low in comparison to many. So if we need to sit on stock for a year we can do so.
But we’re not changing anything in the near future. We’re fully open for business, as is SUPbypost.com. We currently have stock of most McConks SUP products, and we have another container arriving in May to feed the summer boom!?!
So as things stand, unless logistics are forcibly shut down by the UK government, all pre-orders will still be shipped before Easter (for pre-order batch 1), or in May (for pre-order batch 2).
Stay safe and don’t panic!
It’s easy to say. We’re trying to keep a level head ourselves at the moment and it’s difficult. Falling off a cliff in panic, if you let the ‘mental monsters’ overwhelm you, is easily done. We’re not mental health experts but disconnecting from Facebook, TV, radio for a few hours and reading a good book works wonders to reset those anxiety levels. And even better to do that stood on a SUP in the middle of a river or at the coast. If that fails just sit in your garden – after all the weather getting better now…and fresh air, Vitamin D and birdsong in your ear works wonders.
Whatever you do look after yourselves, your family, friends and neighbours. We don’t have immediate family in the risk categories so we’re lucky, but we know parents who are. And friends (both personal and business) who are in vulnerable categories as well – all of whom we’re thinking of regularly and sending all our best wishes to!
If you’re unsure of what practising social distancing may look like then here’s an example. What could be a possibility is driving somewhere you know to be quiet for a paddle on your SUP. We will say this isn’t from an official source, as far as we know, but the points are sensible.
Every brand has a ‘face’ behind the scenes. In the case of McConks SUP that’d be Andy and wife Jen. To get more of an insight into the inner workings of this new kid on the SUP company block Andy was recently put on the Q&A grill to find out what makes him tick, what it takes to get new SUP products to market and where this fledgling company’s heading.
Tell us about your watersports background and when you first discovered SUP?
Jen and I have long been “outdoor adventure and recreation’’ devotees. I grew up in South Wales and spent many long hours in and on the South Wales coast, with my parents, with Scouts and with the South Wales Mountaineering Club. And with the valleys and Brecon Beacons close to hand there was rarely a weekend I wasn’t out in the Welsh countryside or at the coast.
Both Jen and I separately chose universities at the end of civilised world, close to wilderness and on the coast. Me at St Andrews in Scotland and Jen at Aberystwyth. We both studied courses that continued our passion for preserving the natural world and the environment, whilst still taking time to play in the amazing environs we had chosen.
As outdoor adventure activities generalists, it’s fair to say that neither Jen nor I are leaders or instructor level in any particular activity. Depending on the pastime, we’re either competent, or enthusiastic, rather than advanced. But between us we have many years of experience surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, sailing, outdoor swimming, mountain biking, climbing and exploring.
We first saw SUP when it was just breaking in the UK. As keen surfers then I remember looking out back at Rest Bay and seeing my first stand up paddle boarder. I was both jealous and enraged simultaneously. He was getting the best waves, he was getting back out back quickly, and he was able to get to new breaks even quicker. Jen, generally being less quick to jump to opinions and believe what you read in surf magazines (she’s the sensible one), saw the long term appeal. A single board that you can use to explore the coast, to catch some waves and to take you to the best waves; what’s not to like?
However, like many at the time, paddle boarding was just not something we could afford to do. We didn’t have a van, we lived in a small house in the middle of the country miles away from the sea, and we didn’t have much money. In fact, for many years we paddled using ‘old skool’ Mistral or BIC windsurf boards, and split kayak paddles at our sailing club in the Cotswold Water Park (Bowmoor Sailing Club).
[image of paddling an old windsurf board]
What appealed about stand up and what does it offer you personally?
Neither of who like beaches with hundreds of people, competitive localism or elitism. Therefore, a board that can get you away from other people, which you can use to explore the coast, find new beaches and discover new waves was attractive from the moment we first saw a SUP. It’s only in recent years, with our young family, that we’ve discovered how great SUP is for all. Whilst it might be fun for a toddler for a few minutes, watching mummy or daddy rip it up out back, what they really want to do is be part of it. And with very young kids this is only really possible with SUP or canoe. But what really sealed it for me is that the one board you use to take your little ones out on can also give you some serious fun without the kids. Whether that be SUP surfing, river surfing or long distance touring. No other board sport comes close to having that crossover appeal.
Why do you think the masses are attracted to the sport?
It really doesn’t take long to master simple balance and paddling. Compare that to windsurfing or surfing. There is an awful lot to learn before you first catch your first wave or first start planning, let alone before you learn to carve, or to gybe. Many people give up in frustration before they get that far. I know some see this tail off as a benefit because it makes sure that only ‘the right kind of people end up on our waves’. It also creates an endless supply of second hand equipment from people with more money than ability. Whilst I sympathise with these views, and if honest, may even have shared them in the past, I think SUP brings something quite unique. Easy entry as a beginner and then a gradual progression through to advanced rider. No big steps or barriers to development. As I’ve said before one board that can be used in so many different environments.
Another thing that appealed to us was that it’s an all-weather sport. We took up mountain biking after many years of travelling long distances for breaks and holidays to the coast, with cars heavily laden with boards and sails to find no wind or waves. I think we’re probably unique in having had several Easter camping holidays at Newgale and Gwithian without seeing a wave bigger than a foot, and no wind stronger than a little puff. I hate to image how much money we’ve spent on fuel transporting our kit for it not to be used!
And let’s be honest there are large numbers of people who are really attracted to the image of ‘extreme sports’ or the image of the surf lifestyle without really wanting to put themselves in harms way from the off. SUP is a non-threatening way into this lifestyle and image.
Talk us through the McConks story. When did you decide to set up stand up paddle boarding brand? What was the catalyst?
We’re newcomers to the show. Our first thoughts of setting up McConks only emerged in October 2015 after a camping holiday in Dorset. At this stage we were still paddling on old windsurf boards stored at the lake because we couldn’t afford hard boards and had no space at home. We’d heard about iSUPs of course by now, and we knew some people who had boards by the market leader, but their experience of them wasn’t great – they thought they were heavy, and didn’t perform anywhere near as well as rigid boards. But then we saw a mum in her late 20s take her toddler out for a paddle round Portland Harbour on a Naish One, we got thinking. When we looked at the inflatable paddle boards that were available, we were just plain confused. We didn’t feel that big brands ‘spoke’ to us. Even before kids we had become disillusioned with the upselling tactics used by the big windsurf brands and the traditional retailers. They weren’t talking in our target price range (except during the annual discount circus), and we clearly weren’t their target market.
And we realised after talking to the people we met on beaches and breaks, it became clear we weren’t the only ones who no longer felt a connection with these companies. We realised that the traditional methods of manufacturer to distributor to retailer to end-user puts distance between the brand and their customers, and increases prices. That was why we no longer felt affinity and warmth towards bigger brands. So we came up with a new business model that would break down the old-school way of doing things. We wanted to work with our customers, understand what they need and make those products. And this is important to us for lots of reasons, but probably the most important is for environmental reasons: By only selling stuff that ‘normal’ people need, rather than spending lots of money to persuade people that they need stuff, we’re also doing our bit to reduce the impact on the environment.
And why inflatables?
Because that was the board we were in the market for. If there’s a need and the brand/product doesn’t exist, then you create it, right? The obvious advantages of inflatables to our lifestyle meant they were the only choice. Something that is easy to chuck in the back of the car, that’s easy to get up and paddling, that’s indestructible for young kids and that’s easy to store.
And the other key reason is because we didn’t think that the existing iSUP offering was actually very good. There were some good boards by the big brands, with an eye watering price, and with some unacceptable compromises given the price; poor quality fixed fins and cheap aluminium/alloy paddles bundled in the package. If you’re spending the best part of £1k on a board surely you get at least a carbon paddle with it, and the ability to use different fins so you can use you board in different environments?
At the other end of the market there was a good variety of budget boards, but they weren’t particularly good quality. The SUP clubs and facebook groups are awash with real life stories of members being seduced by the latest ‘affordable’ brand that offers the very best quality at the lowest price. You know the ones. “Made in one of the top four factories in China, yet only £400 delivered.” It’s really not possible to manufacture and import a top quality iSUP board and paddle package for £400 unless you’re buying in quantities of thousands. So there’s only a couple of ways these smaller startup companies can do it. Either by compromising on quality, or by buying an off the shelf design and sticking their own brand label and colours on it. Have you ever noticed how many iSUP are the same shape? Brands try to pass this off as being due to plagiarism or because trial and error has ended up with coincident evolution of the same design. Which is a good marketing answer, but not necessarily a true one!
Any chance we might see McConks hard SUPs at some point?
We’ve considered it and have even got as far as knocking up a few designs. I know there’s still a lot of snobbery about hard boards vs inflatables. And this makes sense for those brands that focus on elite surf, downwind or race SUP. But with that elitism, those brands turn off most day to day to day recreational paddlers, both by failing to be inclusive, and with their price point.
It’s also true that there are many excellent quality, UK shaped/designed hard SUPs made in Chinese factories, made by great UK brands at the same price point we would be able to sell at. This just isn’t true with iSUP – no one else sells iSUP with the same attention to detail and design. And the UK has a really vibrant custom shaped scene, and that’s just not a market we want to play in.
So you might see us playing around with a few hard board prototypes in the future if we think we can truly innovate on price or design, or if friends as us to design a board for them, but rigid SUP aren’t a core part of our business for the time being.
When designing a board, paddle and/or accessories where do you start? Are you trying to answer specific ‘questions’ so to speak or just going with your instinct?
New products normally start with a frustration, a lightbulb moment or an idea from a friend or customer. Typically they start with an idea for a shape of a blade or board. And they always start with a sketch.
We then take these sketches to our small network of suppliers to see if our ideas are even possible. Although there are more than 30 iSUP manufacturers in South East Asia (and hundreds of paddle manufacturers) there are only a very small number who meet our exacting QA, environment and worker welfare requirements, who share our passion in innovation and improvement and who have the patience to work with us to constantly modify, tinker with and improve our products. Sometimes our sketch is impossible with current materials and techniques. It’s then back to the drawing board for tweaks and tinkering with the original sketch to make something that works.
Then it’s time for some computer work; 3D design and computer testing of that design with fin placement for example. At the same time we start to think about other parts of the package. Do we need to re-invent the wheel by re-designing a pump, or are off the shelf ones fit for purpose? Fin box type, fin placement and shape? What about the bag?
Once the blueprint is finalised we agree it with our suppliers, and have an agonising and frustrating wait for the prototype to arrive. Sometimes the design has to change during the proto manufacturing phase if it becomes apparent that something doesn’t quite work. We’ll work with our supplier to revise the final prototype design.
If we’ve done our homework right, then the next stage is just a few small changes with accessories or styling. But if we need to go back to drawing board again we will do so. Then it’s full production and another agonising wait whilst the kit is manufactured and shipped to our UK store. The whole process for a new design takes around four months and can take up to eight to finalise.
Any innovations coming from McConks in the near future? If so, are you able to tell us what they are?
iSUP technology hasn’t moved on significantly since 2016/17. Most quality manufacturers have now settled on a variant of enhanced drop stitch for double layer boards. There have been no significant innovations in valve type, deckpad or fin boxes (although we’re still working on the nirvana of low profile iSUP fin boxes flush to the bottom of the board, and a flexible hydrophobic coating that reduces the ‘suckiness’ of iSUP).
And really any brand that is hailing a massive step change between their 2017 and 2018 boards is either only just catching up with the rest of the industry, or using clever marketing!
Our innovations are more to do with our product range. We’ve been prototyping a surfSUP, a freeride windsurf board, and a white water board. None of these are necessarily innovative in terms of the materials used. But they each offer something very different to what’s already on the market. For example:
We’re also really pleased to be launching our clothing range in time for 2018. Ethical, sustainable, fair. No other watersports company clothing is organic, fairwear, environmentally friendly, and fun. Or as affordable as ours!
We’re still continuing discussions with some manufacturers about bringing the shaping of our paddles to the UK, and hopefully bringing the entire paddle manufacturing process to Europe within 12 months. But we need to know we can do this and it still be affordable for our customers!
How do you see the industry overall? What are your opinions on stand up paddling in general?
SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the world right? So you would expect a lot of positivity, camaraderie and a sense of team. We’ve built our reputation on being open, transparent and fair, but have taken some criticism for this. Apparently, sharing information and opinions, leading by example and suggesting other companies should be open and transparent and actually explain what lies behind the marketing spiel is ‘breaking the code’. We’ve even been banned from some facebook groups for being so unreasonable as to question what others have said in public.
The sport runs the risk of eating itself, and alienating all of those happy go lucky paddlers who just want to have fun. And that’s partly the reason why we’ve worked with some other SUP aficionados to set up SUPHUBUK. To provide an online home for SUP that’s independent of brands, governing bodies and training organisations. Admittedly McConks sponsors SUPHUB right now, but that’s because no-one else has stepped up to the plate. The intention is for SUPHUBUK to become self funded in the future, not needing sponsorship from McConks. And SUPHUBUK is managed by a team of 4 people, and we’re always looking for new team members, so if you think McConks funding is a conflict of interest, come and join the team to make sure it isn’t!
But in general, it is a really happy SUP world out there. Most paddlers just want to paddle and don’t get too involved in the discussions about whether SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport, or care about inter brand shenanigans, or battles between training organisations and National Governing Bodies. And those of us involved in the industry would do well to remember that!
Where do you see the sport going?
I’m going to resist saying too much about foils, because foils and inflatable boards aren’t overly compatible, or desirable, but foils are here to stay for the time being. But probably not for most of McConks customers!
SUP will continue to grow unless the governing bodies and brands manage to price out or alienate the growing SUP community. Hopefully the governing bodies, training organisations and clubs that organise races will work together and start to act in the interests of the whole SUP community once the international courts have decided if SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport. And even if they don’t, with such an accessible activity, I suspect it will continue to grow as both a sport (racing, technical competitions, endurance challenges), and as a recreational pastime. Much of the growth McConks has seen has been from ‘recreational paddlers’ who don’t see SUP as a competitive sport at all, but a way of life, or a recreational activity alongside the sports they already do.
This is a really brave, and possibly foolish thing to say, but we think the days of the all-round blunt nose iSUP are coming to end. All round boards may be a marketing success, but most paddlers, most of the time, would be better off with either a surf SUP or a touring SUP. We’re now selling more of our Go Explore board to real people than our all round boards. In fact, if it wasn’t for the demand for all round boards from instructors, rentals and schools, we probably wouldn’t be making them in 2018!
And I suspect that discipline specific iSUP boards will become more popular; whitewater boards, river surf boards, surfSUP, longer (15’ +) downwind boards, 14’ race boards, freeride windSUP, freestyle windSUP. And I could go on.
More and more paddlers are arranging themselves into clubs, which is great to see, and it’s a great way to develop the social side of SUP, and to develop SUP skills. And the very best groups are arranging all sorts of SUP trial events for their members – whitewater SUP, SUP yoga, SUP polo, surfSUP lessons, for example – and are entering club teams into race events – all very positive.
And McConks; what’s the overall aim here? Tell us your brand goals moving forwards.
We started the brand after an idea or two, some cash scraped from what limited savings two watersports and travel fans with two children can amass, and some lovely messages of good luck and goodwill from those with similar passions and frustrations as ours. Just over a year later our products have won plaudits from instructors, magazines, experts and customers alike for their design, function, quality and value. We’ll keep increasing our range if people keep asking, and we’ll keep improving what’s currently offer, if it can be improved. But we don’t do that whole annual update cycle in October November just to persuade customers to spend more money. There’s many years of experience that people disregard as clichés, and the one that springs to mind is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Of course, we want to grow and we want to be bigger and better than we are. But we want to always keep the little guy feel and principles. Only by doing so can we keep close to our customers.
How often do you manage to get out for a float?
If we get out twice a week we’re ecstatic. Once a week we’re happy. But we have a business to run and young boys to look after. If they don’t want to go for a paddle, then we’re not going to push them. Our family is still our priority and spending quality time with the smallest McConks members is all important.
Your local put in, tell us about that. Why is it good for SUPers?
We’re based in the Cotswolds, in the middle of the country, so we spend quite a fair bit of time driving to the south coast or to South Wales. However, we do have some great inland water options right on our doorstep, being on the very outskirts of the Cotswold Water Park. The park has over 70 lakes across an area of 40 hectares, and many paddleable rivers, including the River Thames. And when we say River Thames we’re not talking shopping trolleys and pollution. Our local stretch is a beautiful rural idyll with the added benefit of a lovely waterfront pub with campsite! It’s all flat water unless you can find the few river waves that exist, so perfect for beginners and for families. And with so much wetland and open water around it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Hop on your board and you may see water voles, otters, kingfishers and a whole menagerie of fowl.
Do your family paddle? Is it a group affair when you head for a float or do you end up solo?
Flat water paddling is typically a family affair. Our boys love coming paddling with us. Sat or lying on the front of the board, watching the ripples and colours on the water, pretend fishing and spotting wildlife, they have a whale of a time. And although our eldest is only 6 he’s already having a go at paddling, and is always keen to do things himself. And our new 9’ SurfSUP has been designed for two reasons – first and foremost it’s a highly manoeuvrable and fun surfstick. But secondly, it’s a great little kids board. And Toby has already staked his claim on the prototype for him to paddle in 2018!
If we’re ever testing boards in surf or in anything other than flat water we’ll normally lose the boys, or go solo. We’ve had fun in small waves with the boys, but it’s fair to say that they’re not budding surfers yet; recent cries from around our feet have been “too fast daddy” “no, no, no, that waves tooooo big” .
Who are your paddling heroes and why?
We don’t really do hero worship at McConks. Anyone who gets in the water to train at 6am on a winter’s morning; a mum who defeats her nerves and takes her little one on the water for the first time; the 55 year old who’s always had a passion for the ocean, but just missed the opportunities to do something about it, who gets on a SUP board for the first time.
What about life in general? Anyone inspire you to push on.
Anyone who measures their life success in terms of experiences lived rather than property or money acquired. And that’s a lot of the water sports community!
And Jen is my conscience and sanity checker. If ever McConks makes a mistake I’ll be to blame, not her.
Any final thoughts on SUP in general?
I think it was Laird Hamilton who said that SUP would become the bicycle of watersports. The analogy works well. It’s as easy to get on a SUP and paddle, as it is to get on a bike and ride, possibly even easier. But just because you can ride a bike doesn’t mean that you can throw yourself down a black single track in Morzine any more than you’re going to paddle SUP Serpents on the Dee. So just like cycling SUP has something for everyone, from the most gentle to the most extreme, and is a year round sport. And that’s probably why both SUP and cycling are still growing and show no signs of slowing down.
About 6 weeks ago, we got an intriguing email from someone we didn’t know that just said: “Are you a UK SUP company? Where are you based? Where are your SUPs made?”
Being pleased that someone had even heard of McConks, we drafted a short reply, saying that we were UK based, and that we designed our boards in the UK but sadly, like all of the other iSUP brands, had to use overseas manufacturers to make them, simply because the supply chain isn’t available in the UK.
We then got an even more intriguing email that said: “I’ve got something that might interest you”.
The emails were from Georgina Maxwell, an outdoors professional and coach. She certainly knows how to generate suspense, because we couldn’t find out what was so interesting for a whole afternoon! We didn’t know it then, but that’s when our involvement in the #malteseSUPproject began.
George explained why her and three of her close friends were going to be paddling around the three islands of Malta in November 2016. George’s enthusiasm was infectious, and we were sold on the concept almost immediately. There were two things that George said that made our decision to be involved really easy.
– The trip is all about how accessible SUP is. They want to show how easy SUP is, even for their friend Sonja and her battles with Malcolm. Read Sonja’s blog for more information
– She wanted to work with us because she really valued our concept of providing good honest fantastic quality kit, at an affordable price that made SUP much more accessible and inclusive.
We had been beavering away over the summer designing our lineup for 2017, and an expedition board was already set to be part of the lineup. However a prototype hadn’t yet been ordered, let alone manufactured. We worked with George to refine and improve the design of the explorer board, although we refused point blank to make it in shocking pink as requested! It was then a case of working with our supplier to get the board made as quickly as possible.
So, what was behind the design of the George’s board?
Deckpads are a compromise between non slip and comfort. Some of the most ‘grippy’ deckpads, are fine to stand on for a few hours, but not for days on end. Some deckpads actually make McConks feet go numb after a few hours paddling. We therefore worked hard to find the best compromise between grip and comfort.
The Mediterranean can be quite choppy and stormy in November. The board needed to be easy to paddle, stable, and carry lots of kit. Using 3D modelling we settled on a 12’8 x 31″ x 6″ as being ideal for these conditions.
The expedition will be a multi day expedition which could involve carrying the board, plus the attached kit, a decent distance from the shore. Comfortable handles were therefore a must. We’ve worked hard to make sure there are plenty of handles in just the right place for portage. The added benefit is that they can also be used for additional items, such as the obligatory trombone or trumpet, to be lashed to the handles when short of space. These handles also allow George to haul herself out of the water when her expedition partners decide it’s time for her to swim!
Paddling upwind, upcurrrent in the Med in November can be a real challenge. The board has paddle gloves which allow a kayak paddle to be securely held in place, and attachment points for a SUP seat to allow George to sit when two blades are the only thing that will make headway against a 20 knot headwind and 10 knot current!
A standard US fin box with a 6″ fin designed to keep the board on the straight and narrow is supplied. Two additional Futures Fins boxes allow additional side bites to be plugged in in strong cross currents or cross winds. And allow for the board to be used to ride downwind runs, and to bite into what surf swell there may be.
Secure storage was essential. A multi day, long distance trip means that George needs to carry all her kit with her, on the board. We therefore designed two separate storage areas, both fore and aft. We also put non slip strips on the deck under the storage to stop kit shifting about on the water and impacting on board trim.
Transportability was hugely important on an international trip, so a good quality bag was essential. Our new bag is sturdy but lightweight. With supersize wheels, the bag is easy to pull through most environments, whether it be a grassy field or airport concourses. For more difficult or uneven terrain, the stowable shoulder and waist straps are really comfortable for long hikes. The internal straps keep the board secure, and the external pockets allow all the accessories to be kept securely in one place. Chunky plastic zips will not be affected by corrosion, and fastenings inside the bag allow safe storage of George’s 3 piece carbon fibre and bamboo paddle.
The weight of the board was an important factor, and we are super pleased to introduce EDS technology to our boards for the first time. EDS technology stands for Enhanced Drop Stitch, and means a stiffer and lighter board than most other double layer boards. EDS means that the drop stitch is surrounded by an airtight and super-light polymer layer just before the outer PVC is fused to it under high pressure. This all happens at the raw material stage, and gives a much higher quality cosmetic finish with no air bubbles or creases. It also makes the boards a lot lighter than traditional two layer boards and much stiffer than normal two layer technology boards at the same pressure. Other brands call this technology MSL.
This board will be available in early 2017 in a package with our light and powerful carbon fibre paddle for less than £700. Package price is still to be finalized. Preorders will be delivered in time for Christmas, so if you’re seriously interested, contact email@example.com to let us know.
To find out more about the #MalteseSUPproject, follow George’s blog here.