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SUP hack: Stronger, faster, longer – upping your SUP game

It might not be in your game plan to be stronger, go faster or paddle for longer. Which is fine. After all, standup paddleboarding is meant to be a fun pastime, not a boot camp. But we keep being asked for advice from SUPers who’ve been in the game for a while, and who want to push on and reach that next level.

So, you believe in better. Better what? You need to decide exactly what your targets are. What do you want to improve and why? Having a plan is the bare minimum, and you need to set yourself challenges and targets that drive you on. Are you considering your first race, and if so, are you wanting to increase your stamina across distance? Or are you looking to step up in waves? And it’s really important to be 100% honest with yourself at this stage. It’s no good suggesting improvements or goals if deep down you’re actually happy where you’re currently at. Make sure you have the drive and ambition to improve before you actually set off down this path.

Once you’ve identified your improvement priorities and new goals, it’s time to assess how to get there and plan your route. For most people, the key components to work on are fitness and technique. And despite its easy entry level, SUP does require a certain grasp of technique, especially if you want to bust down next level doors. And the good news is that the requisite paddle skills and board handling can all be taught – at least the theory can be. So the best advice is to hit up your nearest accredited SUP school or instructor, and qualified instructors will be on hand to help. If you hit up the ASI (assocation of surf instructors) or BSUPA (British Standup Paddle Association) websites, you’ll find a long list of instructors and schools.

You can of course try to do it your own way. There are many different online tutorials delivered by luminaries of SUP. However, you need to take care when choosing what to watch. SUP is a new sport, and techniques and technology is evolving rapidly. Whilst for some things the old ways are the best ways, this is not always the case. Some of the tutorials can be outdated with older equipment being used, and with techniques that aren’t appropriate for new technology. And it’s worth remembering one of the truisms of teaching Anything you learn in the comfort of your own home is quickly forgotten unless it is put into practice. So anything you learn from your laptop should always be offset by ‘in the flesh’ sessions, preferably with a coach. That said those tit-bits of info picked up from the internet, from other paddlers and from instructors are all invaluable. Some might not suit you, some might be perfect for you, and you might be indifferent to others. But you need to put them into practice to find out. So be like a sponge and soak up all those tips and tricks from others.

One of the biggest areas for improvement is rider fitness. Paddling more will help, but only when combined with better technique. Simply spending more time on the water with bad technique and/or low end equipment – especially paddles – will do more harm than good. The saying is that a bad workman always blames their tools. It’s true that a good paddler can do wonders with a bad paddle, and a bad paddler can struggle with a good paddle. But choosing the right paddle will make good paddle technique easy. Just the right amount of dihedral, flex and balanced weight make the paddler’s job a lot easier. And prevents long term acute injury that’s the almost inevitable outcome of bad technique and bad equipment. And there’s no greater impediment to improvement than injury.

To get close to podium level, a degree of cross training is probably a necessity. We’re not suggesting everyone hit the weights but some gym work can pay dividends, as can mixing up your sport. Or you can take advantage of the increasing number of outdoor and green gyms that are springing up around the country. If you’re anything like us, you’ll much prefer outdoor exercise than sweating with the masses in a big warehouse. One of the biggest areas to spotlight is legs. You’ll be surprised how much strain is placed on your legs during prolonged SUP sessions. Anything that can help develop more efficient leg muscles, particularly thighs, is therefore a good thing. Biking and running are two such disciplines that will positively benefit your SUP. And to mix it up, why not try freerunning or parcours at the many extreme trampoline parks that are appearing in leisure centres and industrial units right now; have fun while training!

It’s worth repeating what whatever your performance improvement strategy entails, getting help from experts at the outset, even if only for one or two sessions is really important. If you don’t, you run the risk of the wrong kind of ‘training’ leading to injury. Take things slowly, with a little advice, and we’re sure you’ll see improvements soon.

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SUP surfing for air heads – iSUP wave riding

Arguably the most visually impactful area of stand up is waves. There’s nothing like an image of a rider dropping in to peeling waves to grab the attention.  It’s the reason many decide to pick up a paddle and take to the water (even if they never venture anywhere near a moving wall of water).

When Laird, Kalama and co re-introduced SUP to the masses (the Waikiki Beach Boys of the 50s had been paddling for years and stand up can be traced back even further than that) it was all about flow, glide and style – not the hack, bash and slash you see today.

Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP
Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP

In the last few years stand up paddle surf boards have gotten smaller and more technical to ride. The paddlers themselves – while certainly talented – are usually on the lower end of the weight spectrum, most likely sub-25 years old and more often than not have access to idyllic (warm) waves. For the layman this couldn’t be any further from their experience of SUP in surf – especially in this neck of the woods (UK).

Here we have Mother Nature’s fickle temperament to contend with as well as most of us not being in the same demographic to those described above. SUP by its very nature is a relatively pricey sport. For sure there are more expensive activities around but you do need some disposable income if you’re planning on taking up SUP. As such you’ll most likely fall into the middle aged category (or you’re a grom with parents willing to purchase your kit!).  This then means work, family and other associated life commitments that come with being a ‘grown up’ conspire to cut down your water time – not exactly conducive to developing the necessary skills to tackle world class waves!

But do we even need to? Isn’t the point of paddle surfing being able to make use of less than perfect conditions, smaller days and/or waves deemed of no use to surfing’s glitterati?

Listen to any industry pundit within SUP and predictions of wave sliding kit getting smaller, more technical and therefore harder to ride permeate. Yet it doesn’t need to be this way at all. McConks (as you’re well aware from reading this blog) are providers of high quality inflatable stand up paddle boards. And yes, you can quite happily ride waves with your iSUP. OK, you may not be smashing grinding lips or hucking tweaked airs but your inflatable board will take you to more spots than you’d first imagine.

Learning to Surf SUP


Picking your days and locations are key. If it’s macking then chances are these aren’t the right conditions. Up to around shoulder high clean surf, however, will be more than doable. Of course you’ll need to have some fundamental paddling skills under your belt and being aware and adhering to surf etiquette will ensure a harmonious line up. By and large though surfing on an inflatable is more fun than you’d first believe.

And it doesn’t stop at round nose boards. There are tonnes of example online of people ‘surfing’ touring and race SUPs. Our McConks GoExplore is fine for tackling ankle/knee slappers. Gliding along, on barely a wave, when more hardcore surfers aren’t anywhere to be seen, is what makes stand up paddle surfing so special. In the extreme/gnarly times we live, when everything ‘going off’ is pushed by marketing types, ripple riding is far more refreshing and most importantly FUN without being life threatening.

As with all areas of SUP paddle surfing is what you make it. The main point being don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing isn’t correct. SUP can be as elitist as you want while at the same time being mellow and fun. The next time a wave presents itself, why not check out your surf SUP style and broaden your paddling horizons?

Tips for AirSUP surfing

  1. Aim for a quieter location with less water users about.
  2. Add a more PSI (air) to your iSUP to increase rigidity – a trait that’ll help when wave hunting.
  3. Know, understand and adhere to surf etiquette (rights of way).
  4. Gen up on the surf environment and know what hazards to look out for.
  5. Know, understand and be aware of tides.
  6. Ride with others.
  7. If in doubt, don’t go out – know your limits.
  8. Get a lesson!


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Do inflatable SUP prices ever go down?

So, if you’ve been following trade media, or have been attending the merry go round of trade fairs, you will know that the industry is forecasting a 15-20% increase in retail prices for inflatable SUP in 2017. And also that they’re using this as marketing to push sales of their remaining 2016 stock, before prices go up.  This is a pretty common end of year retail strategy to drive sales in the current year, and doesn’t necessarily mean that prices will go up.  However, it is certainly true that the value of the pound has been falling ever since that fateful day in June 2016.  And the cost of inflatable paddleboards to manufacture is pretty much pegged to the dollar.  All the raw materials are priced in dollars, so if the pound goes down, the cost of an inflatable SUP to a UK brand goes up.

But does that mean that prices should go up? A few thoughts on this:

  • A commercially astute large company will be ‘hedging’ currency costs over a period of time before any major stock purchases to lessen the impact of currency fluctuations.  That hedging should help protect the company against needing to hike prices too.    And most of the large brands are already displaying their 2017 lines at trade shows, so the kit could already be sat in warehouses waiting for distribution. It doesn’t matter what the currency exchange rate is now, it matters what it was when the products were purchased some months ago.
  • And this problem is a peculiarly British problem.  Any brand that sells most of their product outside of the UK could probably take a small hit on the UK sales without it having a large impact on their overall profitability.
  • When the value of the pound rises against the dollar, we don’t hear rumours of the retail price dropping.  Does anyone remember the price of kit dropping in 2014 when the pound was worth almost $1.70?

That’s not to say that the price of the pound isn’t affecting smaller brands and retailers.  It definitely is, so if you want to keep getting advice from your local shop, you to need to buy stuff from them, not just from online retailers like us. And don’t assume they will always be there to give you advice if you don’t use them.   On that note, McConks is looking for a small network of perfectly formed demo and retail outlets for 2017.  So if this might be you, drop us a line on the website .

So, the big question, should you rush out and buy inflatable SUP before now before the prices skyrocket?

Firstly – why not enter our competition to win a 10’6 or 10’8 inflatable paddle board package with Carbon fibre paddle?  Register on our website and share this blog to enter.

If that fails, small and large brands alike have made it clear that prices will be going up next year.  Not for McConks however,  the RRP for our 10’8 board, for example, are going to remain at under £700 for a package with a carbon fibre paddle, and under £600 for a package with the fibre glass paddle, and we will have some great discounts as well.  The same package from Red Paddle would be £1,000, and £880 respectively, and that’s at 2016 prices: You can probably add 15% to those prices for 2017.  So if  your heart is set on that Red Paddle Ride, now would be a good time to buy.  But the savvy paddler would save their money and wait for McConks 2017 line.

So if you don’t have the cash to splash right now, don’t worry.  McConks will be there for you in 2017 with our new lineup of with great quality inflatable SUP at fair and affordable prices.

Dollar pound graph
Dollar pound fluctuation