You’ve read the first part (Talking story part 1) now catch up with the second installment of our chat with McConks SUP’s leader of the charge Andy McConkey.
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 5 he’s already having a go at paddling, and is always keen to do things himself. No doubt he’ll be expecting his own board in a few years.
If we’re ever testing boards in surf or in anything other than flat water we’ll lose the boys, or go solo. Just recently we were out testing our 2017 lineup on the frozen waters of the Thames. Not something we would want to put the boys through, with the air temperature being only -3oC. And as much as we love family paddling sometimes it is more productive and relaxing to get on the water without them
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.
Matt Stephenson – who has been playing with one of our boards in white water – can do things in his playboat that a lad of his age just shouldn’t be capable of. Hurley WW SUP classic champion for two years running, and a name to watch for the future.
And I have to mention Sonja Jones, board member of Canoe Wales. Although we haven’t met her face to face yet we worked with Sonja on the #MalteseSUPproject and have been inspired by her approach to MS. As an accessibility and inclusivity board member for Canoe Wales and a recent SUP convert (she’s now a team rider with Fatstick, but no-one is perfect 🙂 ), Sonja is a great advocate for paddle sports.
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 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 white water 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.
Thanks and shouts?
We need to give a huge thanks to all of our amazing McConks customers. We’ve been thrilled with the reviews and it’s great to follow what everyone is up to on social media. A few customers are currently touring the world with our boards, and that makes for some spectacular viewing.
We must give a shout out to Tom Botterill and all at Cotswold Water Park Hire (cwphire.com). We spent a lot of time on their lake and chewing the fat with them last year. And I’m sure our intrusion wasn’t always welcome!
Paddle instructor Justin Douglas (BCU level 5 instructor, technical advisor, and owner of Water, Rock and Dirt fell in love with our boards early last year and has his been telling everyone why on courses he instructs. And he’s been persuading lots of kayakers to take a chance on SUP, so a vote of thanks to Justin.
Also thanks to Roger Chandler at Coastal Spirit, Sian Sykes at Psyched Paddleboarding, Lucy Bee at Whitstable SUP, Piotr Guidan at Outdoor Explore, Innes MacDonald at Mountain Monkeys, Dan and Heleen at Big Blue Adventures, Dan Scott at Fore:Adventure, Craig and Mark Spence from Aztec Adventure, Amanda Leonard at SUP in a bag, Caroline Carr of SUP school and Steve Nelson and Beyond Boundaries East Lothian.