With a modest lifting of lockdown restrictions happening some stand up paddle boarders may be in a position to head back out and make use of their freedom (in England at least). There are some basic SUP gear checks you should carry out, however, if this is going to be your first outing in a while.
Whether you own an inflatable or hard SUP it’s worth giving your platform a once over. Check for dings and/or splits – no matter how small. If you come across damage then fix it pronto. For inflatable SUPers a basic repair kit should’ve been provided that you can use. Hard shell board pilots may need to seek assistance of board repairs unless you happen to adept. Certainly don’t leave dings and hope for the best…
Check all connections of your SUP paddle are solid. Sometimes glue can fail causing shafts and blades to become separated. Same with handles. If you own an adjustable type then tighten screws where applicable and ensure there’s no ‘play’ or movement where the extension is. Hairline fractures can also be an issue with paddles. Inspect all parts of your SUP paddle to try and determine if there are any that’ll affect the paddle’s integrity. These can be hard to spot so worth scrutinising multiple times.
Stand up paddle board fins can pick up all kinds of nicks and damage. In particular fin pins that run along the fin box track of a US box can come loose. Also, the fin head where bolts poke through can snap off so have a look/see. If you’re running side bites then check connections here as well. For dodgy looking fins are those needing repair get yourself a new set.
SUP leash, plug and retainer
It should go without saying that a SUP leash should be replaced regularly. Stresses and strains leashes are under require an update frequently. But it’s not just the leash itself. Make sure your Velcro cuff, retainer, swivel and leash plug (especially on hard SUPs) are in good working order.
Paddling attire is key during the early part of the UK’s SUP season. It may be sunny but waters are chilly and if you venture out for early morning paddles then you may encounter thin frosts. Make sure your SUP apparel is adequate. Layering is always best practice as you can remove as necessary. For immersive paddling, such as SUP surfing where you’re liable to fall, wear a good wetsuit. As with all the above replace/upgrade kit where necessary.
Note: these checks aren’t just for post-lockdown paddling. They should be carried out as standard before going afloat each session.
Here at McConks we always try to make things as easy as possible when choosing or deciding your inflatable stand up paddle board and accompanying paddle.
We also try to give as much information as possible, with as little marketing spin as possible, for every product. We want you to have all the information you need to buy the right board for you. But we appreciate you can absorb all the info we have listed for each product, yet you still may be none the wiser at the end of it all.
Reviews can help of course, both from our media partners as well as existing customers. And while these opinions are great we’re still keen to help even further. After all, buying a complete SUP package, for instance, is a pretty substantial commitment.
With this in mind the McConks Stand Up Paddle Board Selection Wizard and SUP Paddle Selection Wizard are worth having a play with. You can fill out the info multiple times to see what comes up. And if all else fails then you can always give us a shout at McConks HQ for a chat about your requirements.
How to choose the right size inflatable SUP board
If you’ve decided you want an inflatable SUP board rather than a rigid board, but you don’t know what size board to get, then this article is for you. If you’re still not sure whether you need a rigid or inflatable board, then check out this article. And when you’ve read it, and decided an inflatable is for you, then come back!
So how do you decide what size board you need?
There’s no easy answer to this question because it depends on where you play, your ability, your weight, and how much gear you want to take on the board. But we’ve put this guide together to help guide you in the right direction.
The most important factor in choosing your board is the type of paddling you expect to spend most of your time doing. There’s no point setting yourself up with an all round board if you’re going to be spending 99% of your time on the water surfing. Or on the flipside spending your money on a lovely surfSUP if you’re going to be spending 90% of your time on flat water.
So we’ve broken it down by the types of SUPping you might be doing.
Cruising is how most people start out paddleboarding, and is accessible to people of all ages. It’s great exercise, but you don’t have to set your heartbeat racing, or push yourself too hard. And there’s no shame in sitting or kneeling if tired, or if the chop is beating your balance.
Many people enjoy the sociable side of SUP, and like to have gentle paddles over moderate distances with friends and families. Maybe taking in lunch at a riverside pub, maybe stopping for a swim at a beach, maybe stopping off for a little surf on a river wave or a break. But mostly enjoying being outdoors, enjoying the company, masking the most of the weather and being at one with nature.
If cruising sounds like your thing, then your best board is an all round inflatable SUP. All round inflatable paddle boards are typically between 10″ and 11″ long, with 10’6 and 10’8 being the most popular sizes. They’re typically 31 to 34″ wide, and 4, 5 or 6″ thick. All round boards are by definition a compromise. By being shorter than a touring or race board they are relatively easy to turn and control, but this: They don’t track quite as well as a long touring board, and require more corrective strokes to keep you on the straight and narrow. And it means they are also slower. And compared to a shorter surfSUP, they are not quite as manoeuvrable and have less performance on wave. But if you do opt for an all round board then you’re in good company. All-round boards are currently the most popular boards, and we think that our Go Anywhere duo of a 10’6 x 32″ x 4.75″ and a 10’8 x 32″ x 6″ board means that riders of any size and ability have an option perfect for them.
10’8 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
If you’re a nervous beginner, and want a board that gives you a very stable platform to learn on, but also provides challenges as you develop, this is your best choice. It gives you the flexibility and confidence to use anywhere, and has been designed for families and beginners all the way through to intermediates; this is the perfect one inflatable paddleboard fits all.
When stood in the stable paddling position, this board tracks sweet and true, and will generally keep you on the straight and narrow. However, take a step back, or drop back into surf stance, and the board suddenly becomes much more responsive due to its cleverly designed pintail shape. With 6″ of volume, this board will float an average family paddler plus a child or dog. With over 250l of volume, it will take 150kg of weigh before performance is compromised. And intermediate paddlers will be able to manage even more weight comfortably.
It’s also a great platform for learning to surf on; unusually for all round iSUP, this board has removable click fit FCS fins. When these are fitted, the 2+1 fin arrangement gives you great bite and control when on a wave compared to the fixed fins found as standard on most all round boards. And if you really want to push the boundaries, you can swap out the flexi fins and fit your favourite performance FCS fins from any hard board range.
So in summary buy this board if you want an all round board, but one where performance errs towards flat water, river or lake paddling. A great family board. Lots of volume to take passengers, a higher riding position so front riders stay relatively dry, but very manoeuvrable when taking a step back.
10’6 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
Being only 2 ” shorter than our 10’8, being the same width (32″) and being the same great pintail shape, it’s not surprising that this board performs similarly to the 10’8. The 2″ reduction in length only makes a minor difference in handling, but the bigger difference is the depth of the board. Being only 4.75″ rather than 6″ thick, this board suits smaller beginner riders (total weight <100kg, including kit and other riders being carried on the board), riders looking for a better surf experience, or intermediate riders of a combined personal and kit weight of up to 125kg.
For many of us, cruising remains where it’s at, and that is your paddling of choice for ever. However, many SUP fans find that as their paddling skills and fitness level improves they decide to take it to another level and start touring, surfing, racing or whitewater paddling. So what size boards do you need if you want to step it up?
Touring, on rivers, canals or the coast
Touring is simply cruising, but for longer, or a little faster, or in more challenging conditions. If you like to seek out those quiet beaches, breaks and bays, like exploring with your board both on and off the water, or simply just getting away from the crowds, then you want a touring paddleboard. A full size touring board will be longer than 12′, between 28″ and 33″ wide, 6″ deep, and have a good waterline without a hockey nose! Being a longer board
these boards are faster and require less corrective strokes when paddling, augmenting the speed improvements.
McConks 12’8 Go Explore was designed as a specific touring board, and the board has tested it’s mettle on a circumnavigation of Malta.
This board just loves racking up the miles. It likes to go in a straight line, and turns only slowly unless you step back and throw a pivot turn. However, the deckpad at the back of the board has been sacrificed to make more expedition storage space, so pivot turns can be a little tricky on this board. This board is great if you’re one of our heavier riders (over 150kg). It’s also extremely stable for beginners who want to take passengers and is very light, so great for travelling (in fact all of our packages come in at under 15kg including the paddle). Ironically, because this board is slow to turn, it’s also a beginners dream for learning to surfSUP. It carves very gently and very slowly, and with the large volume of the board, catches all but the tiniest waves. And because it’s so fast, and likes going in a straight line, it’s also extremely forgiving to bad paddle technique.
Buy this board if you want to paddle long distances, if you want to paddle fast, if you’re wanting to take lots of kit or passengers, or if you’re a very nervous, but keen to learn surfSUPer. Also read our article about inflatable SUP racing. If you fancy entering a race, then this board is the board for you.
For a fuller description of this board, read our focus on touring article.
If you’re going to spend most of your time surfing, then you’re in the wrong place. Although inflatable boards can be surfed (see our article on surfing airSUP), if you are a real surfhead, you would be better off with a rigid board. And if you are, then take a look at some of the great rigid boards from some great UK companies such as Loco surfing, Freshwater Bay Paddleboards, Fatstick and Neptune.
SUP racing seems to have decided that long course endurance races are the future, for better or for worse. Either way, longer, narrower boards are the way forward here, they are faster and have better glide. To place on the podium, you will almost certainly need a hard race board. but if you’re just after some competitive fun, inflatable SUPs meet that need. Our 12’8 is a great starter race board, and perfect if you want a fun touring and surf board, but with the odd foray into race. If you become a convert and need a longer inflatable race board, check out Loco’s 14″ iSUP ,
If you want the benefit of a touring board shape, but want a volume closer to an all round board, then check out Freshwater Bay’s 11’5 compact tourer.
Whitewater and river surf sup
Whitewater SUP and river surf SUP are specialist disciplines and require specialist kit. You shouldn’t try either of these disciplines with all round SUP boards unless you are with experienced whitewater riders who’ve got your back. Simple mistakes can cost you your life, and there have been deaths in whitewater SUP in recent years.
Whitewater boards need to be robust and be able to withstand knocks and bangs from ledges and rocks. They also need retractable or flexible fins, or be able to be ridden without fins. There’s nothing more likely to buck you off your ride than a fin getting stuck on a rock!
We’re still developing our whitewater and river SUP board and Matt Stephenson is our prototype rider helping us to develop the perfect WWSUP board.
Downwind paddling is at the more extreme end of the SUP scale. Paddling downwind on open water in large swell requires great skill. The aim is to effectively surf wind driven swell downwind, and glides of over 100metres are heard of. You need a fast long board for downwind paddling, and the board needs a planing hull to stay on the wave. You can learn to downwind SUP on a long iSUP, but if you want to get the best out of downwind, you’ll need a rigid carbon board. Read this article for more information.
Any clearer? If not, then leave a comment below, just drop us a line, or give us a call (+44 7387 383243). We’ll talk you through the best board for your needs.
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Windsurfers have been battling with this problem for years. How to separate to pieces of carbon fibre/fibreglass that have seized up after a bit of neglect.
And the same problem happens with split paddles. Salt or sand can get between the male and female connectors when putting them together and make separation after use almost impossible. And the problem is even worse with alloy paddles. Saltwater can react with metal and actually fuse the pieces together.
So firstly, prevention is better than cure. So make sure you keep your connectors clear of sand and salt water as far as possible. Not always possible in a shoreline gale, but try. And make sure you separate your paddle as soon as possible after finishing, clean it with freshwater, and always keep it in its protective bag.
And mud, grit, sand, saltwater can all get into the connector if you have a loose connection, so keep your connector as tight as possible (without overtensioning!)
But, sometimes, after a paddle, we don’t always have the energy to properly washdown the kit. You just chuck the paddle in the back of the van in one piece, with good intentions to wash it down and separate it when you get home. But when you get home it’s late, you need dinner and a beer, so you leave it until Monday. And Monday turns to Tuesday, and before you know it a week has gone past and the paddle is now stuck firm. So, what do you do?
So assuming you’ve enlisted the help of friends and tried brute force, twisting and yanking, the next thing to try is lubrication.
Letting washing up liquid seep into the connection overnight is often enough to allow enough movement for twisting and yanking on day two. If it’s not looser on day two, then leaving it soaking with washing liquid any longer won’t work.
So the next thing to try is hot and cold. Put the kettle on, and also fill a bowl with ice and water. Once the kettle has boiled, poor the icy cold water over the part of the shaft that has the male connector, and then the boiling water over the female connector. If you’re able then poor the icy water inside the paddle (this is sometimes possible with 3 piece paddles). And then resort to twisting, yanking and pulling again. Using strap handles to get a better grip on the stick often yields dividends. And make sure to keep enough in the kettle to make yourself a cuppa in celebration or commiseration!
If this doesn’t work, things are getting desperate. You’re now getting into the territory of methods that might damage your stick.
You can repeat the above replacing the icy water with freeze spray (available from most good hardware shops)
Trying to bend the paddle enough to slide a butter knife between the two section can work. Using the knife as a lever to prise the two sections far enough apart enough to allow lubricant or freeze spray to penetrate more thoroughly can also work, but you risk damaging the carbon fibre at the end of the sections.
The very last thing to try is using a vice to hold the upper section firm (use a teatowel to protect the shaft as best you can, but there is a real risk of damaging the stick now!), and twist the blade with all your strength.
If all of this hasn’t worked, the you’ve got a veritable sword in the stone. Then all you can do is take a saw to the shaft. Sawing through the male section will hopefully allow you to work the stuck male section out from the inside, and then at least leave you with an undamaged female section. Obviously this is your very last resort. Unless you know King Arthur.
In an ideal world, every paddler would have a whole plethora of paddles.
One for racing, one for surf, one for whitewater, one for training, one for travelling etc. And each would have different size and shape blades, different angles of attack, different amounts of flex in the shaft, and different length shafts.
We’ve already told you how important the paddle is in a previous article. It’s your SUP engine, and critical to your performance.
However, most paddlers can’t afford a multitude of paddles, and either need to stick with the one that was bundled with their SUP package (normally a heavy aluminium or alloy thing without much going for it!), or, supplement it with a specialist stick that is tailored to their most frequent type of paddling.
But, you don’t need to do that with McConks. Our 3 piece adjustable 100% carbon fibre paddle packs an awful lot of performance and versatility into a low price of just £150 delivered to your door.
To put this into perspective, equivalent paddles with the same versatility from the big brands are at least 50% more expensive, and aren’t as light as our 100% carbon fibre paddle. For example:
- Red Paddle’s equivalent paddle is heavier, has a less streamlined connection between the blade and stick, and racks up at £229.
- Fanatic’s equivalent (at 80% carbon) is heavier and comes at an eye watering price of £309.
So if you’re after versatility, a one paddle for all environments performance paddle, and you don’t want to break the bank, you should buy McConks.
The best thing about this paddle is its versatility. The design allows it to be used for flat-water touring, taking on choppy ocean water, whitewater or surf. The lightweight nature makes it easier to pick up a faster cadence and that will improve your glide and speed. It will also allow you paddle for longer without fatigue and reduce your risk of injury or aches.
Being 3 piece, it fits into your iSUP bag, and is great for overseas adventures. The super light paddle reduces your overall carrying weight, and the heat resistant padded protective carrybag (which also fits inside the McConks iSUP sac) protects your pride and joy from all sorts of nasties. In fact, our McConks 12’8 Go Explore package (our biggest and heaviest board) is only 16kg for the whole package if you opt for the carbon fibre paddle.
The adjustable handle allows you to optimise stick length for your paddling environment; shorter for surfing, longer for race etc.
And the perma grip clasp system means no slip or twist when paddling.
The precision engineered blade is a single size medium cadence blade. The blade shape is slightly longer and slightly narrower than many of our competitors. The differences are tiny but really improve performance. In particular the shape allows it to enter and release from the water faster and more smoothly than others, but still deliver the same amount of drive. And the slight dihedral on the power face reduces paddle flutter to make the drive force more efficient.
And the 9.2 degree blade angle is a perfect compromise across the range of paddling environments.
The medium cadence shape has been selected to cover the widest possible range of paddlers and environments. If you’re 6’8 and wanting to stand on the podium, you probably need a larger blade, but for most paddlers, most of the time, this is ideal.
At under 650 grams this is one of the lightest paddles in its class, and definitely the lightest at the great price of only £150. Which makes it a very affordable premium paddle.
The 100% 3k carbon shaft is light and strong. It’s a simple radial cross section to give maximum strength and stiffness.
The handle is also 100% carbon fibre, and is ergonomically moulded for comfort over long and powerful paddles. In fact most people who have used more expensive padded handles have commented that the shape of the grip is just as comfortable as the padded grips, if not more.
The length of the paddle is adjustable from 170cm to 220cm. This makes it highly versatile and can be shared with family and friends. And you know those really difficult upwind, upcurrent paddles where you end up kneeling just to make headway? Well you can shorten the handle to a perfect length for kneeling. This has been a really popular feature for serious expedition paddlers.
Don’t think you can afford an elite performance carbon SUP paddle? You can with a McConks. You get all of this for just £150.
If you don’t believe us, then maybe you’ll believe others.
Check out our reviews…
or from our customers
If you’re still not sure, then you’ll be able to try our paddles and our boards at our demo centres from April onwards.
Trust the experts: McConks SUP paddle review
So despite our earlier jibe about the value of expert opinion in this post truth era, many of us look to experts to help us to see past the marketing spiel, and to tell the good, from the indifferent, to the mediocre. And paddlesports instructors have particular expertise and their opinions are highly valued.
You might have heard us talk about #themalteseSUPproject. 4 outdoors / paddle instructors took off in November this year to paddle around Malta, a task that they (by and large) achieved despite a huge storm in the Med.
Georgina Maxwell, one of the riders, came to McConks to ask us to pimp her ride. So George set off with our 12’8 GoExplore board, designed as a touring/expedition SUP, and one of carbon SUP paddles. George was so blown away with our paddle, that she’s written us great little review, which we just had to share as a special blog post.
McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle.
As part of my sponsorship arrangement with McConks they offered me the McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – this is a 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle. This paddle weighs in at <700g and when it arrived I was struck immediately with its weight and size of which it packed down to.
On our expedition The Maltese Sup Project a few things were highlighted.
The paddle came in a tidy padded bag which can fit x2 3 piece split paddles in if you wanted a spare or in our case are trying to combine luggage. The next important thing to note is it fitted inside the SUP bag meaning you have only one bag to check in.
On the water
The paddle is comfortable to use on long distance. The T grip has a shape which sits in your palm in a snug smooth way with no plastic rough finish like I have previously experienced with other paddles.
Its adjustable it can go from as tall as 220cm for adults to as short as 170cm for kids.
I discovered the adjustable feature is also beneficial from transferring from feet to knees in the wind and chop. It means you can shorten the paddle with the flick of a switch and still be able to use the T grip.
Because it was 3 piece it didn’t seam to effect the strength in my opinion, even in the toughest of winds and swell I was unaffected by any flex. Dear I say I didn’t notice any but this may because I was so use to using this by this stage.
The 3 piece has a clip lock system, which uses little screws to keep it working, on long Jouneys and particularly on expedition I took a spare clasp and after a few days out I checked the tightness of the screws, they were always tight, so prhaps I was over prepared in this field.
There you have it, I tried my hardest not to say how much I enjoyed paddling with the Vario but I truly did enjoy the paddle and I would highly recommend it particularly for overseas travel.
No-one would dispute that inflatable SUP packages have come a long way in the last few years. But stand up paddle boarding is a paddle sport above all else, and the quality of the paddle included (often described as a ‘freebie’) sometimes lets the package down. This point is often missed, punters focusing too heavily on the board and not giving enough attention to the one defining piece of kit you’ll be using.
Walk into any retailer or hit up any inflatable SUP company online and you’ll be confronted by all manner of spangly equipment – most likely with loud boastings about ‘free bag’, ‘free leash’ AND ‘free paddle’. Great, you think! All the gear in one easy purchase. But alas all that glitters isn’t gold.
You have to ask yourself as a consumer, what are you actually getting. The board is usually going to be fine (as long as you’re looking at a reputable brand). But what about the included ‘stick’ (paddle)?
Firstly what material is the included paddle made from? If it’s an alloy shaft with a plastic blade then you’re not going to be feeling any benefit. Your first run out will probably be on the less than enjoyable side. An alloy paddle will usually bend significantly – too much, in fact (some flex can be a good thing with paddle shafts but not to the detriment of forward propulsion and/or limbs, muscles and joints). The low grade plastic blade will contort when drawn through the stroke (flutter) and after a while you’ll have made next to no ground when compared to someone using a more efficient ‘engine’. And we’ve met people who have managed to bend their ‘free’ paddle shaft irreparably on their first outing.
Let’s just pause at this juncture. It’s worth pointing out here that if you’ve got nothing to compare your experiences to then you’ll be none-the-wiser when it comes to any type of SUP kit, let alone paddles. At least during those initial forays. While this is true as a general statement, over the period of a few weeks/months you’ll possibly start to notice bodily wear and tear. At first you’ll put this down to being involved in a physically demanding activity. Chances are, however, that it’s not simply the fact you’re paddling that’s causing grief. In many cases the stress and strain placed on your ailing body is down to using badly made equipment.
Here at McConks we don’t supply our gear with rubbish accessories. We see the paddle as a key ingredient – as such our paddles are of high quality and designed to aid your enjoyment of SUP. We’ll not lie, this does add a few extra numbers to the bottom line cost, but when you consider the increased efficiency of a better quality paddle, and this knock on effect to your enjoyment factor, we’re sure you’ll agree the extra expense is worth it. And like for like, you won’t find kit of comparable quality at the same price.
And don’t just take our word for it. We value rider feedback and have had a number of paddlers check out what we offer regularly. Here you’ll find a recent review of one of our paddles which says it all if you ask us – https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/2016/04/15/travelling-companion-mcconks-adjustable-three-piece-carbon-paddle-review/
In this era of post truth, we know that some people no longer trust the experts. If you’re one of these people, then you can read what regular customers have said here http://www.mcconks.com/sup-paddles/23-sup-paddles-mcconks-vario-pro-carbon-fibre-sup-paddle-2016-15000.html
Paddles are the main part of stand up paddle boarding – whatever type of SUPing you choose to do, and are your engine. Whether you own an inflatable or hard board, having as good a paddle as you can afford is key to performance, progression and continued enjoyment. You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari with a moped engine. Therefore we highly recommend you pay this part of your set up due care and attention and get the paddle that does your board justice.
If you need advice then McConks is only too happy to advise. Give us a shout and let’s have a chat about all things paddle.