Posted on Leave a comment

Budget inflatable SUP are awesome

Quality iSUP or budget iSUP

Budget inflatable SUP are awesome

They get people on the water, standup paddleboarding or SUPing, for the first time ever. Whether it be at a local beach, on a river, or on a lake.  Whether it be with family, friends, dogs, or by themselves, cheap inflatable SUP get people on the water. And with all the well documented health benefits that being in nature, being with friends, or being outside brings, this is a massively positive thing.

But if you can buy a budget board for under £300, why does anyone ever pay more?  Is it just because they’ve fallen for marketing by big watersports brands? Is it because there is a real difference in quality?

The answer is a bit of both…

Why inflatable SUP boards by big brands cost more

The big brands typically have a big supporting infrastructure – sponsoring developing riders, major events, and grassroots development amongst other value added benefits, all of which are important for the sport as a whole.   It’s OK if you don’t feel part of that, and don’t see why you should pay for it.  But it is an explanatory factor.

And of course, many of the brands sell through local shops and retailers.  who need to make a margin to keep trading.   And these shops often don’t make a massive profit: They do it for the love of the sport, and the stoke. We have seen the number of watersports shops decreasing over recent years as they fail to compete with online direct sales, and as the big brands squeeze their margins.  If you don’t want to be part of that scene, that’s OK, and as a direct sales brand, we’re not in any position to point fingers! But these shops also provide value added activities, giving advice on places to SUP for example, or allowing you to try lots of boards.  And once they’re gone, they’re gone.

But that’s an aside, and doesn’t address the real issue of whether there is a real difference in quality between premium boards and budget boards.  And more importantly, whether this difference is important to beginners.

What we’re going to say here isn’t true across the board (pun intended). We’ve seen some expensive boards with  dodgy build quality and poor quality accessories in the past.  We’ve also seen some great value budget boards that look like they’re made to last and will really generate that ‘I love SUP’ feeling.

We can of course only speak definitively about McConks, but we suspect that many of the differences we’ve seen between our premium boards and some of the cheaper boards out in the wild apply fairly widely. And when you know what you’re looking for, you don’t need an x-ray machine to determine the quality of the board.

Which leads us on to…

The reason why centres and instructors use premium quality SUP is because they last, they’re reliable, and good for beginners and for development.

Inflatable SUP build quality and design

Many of the budget boards just look cheap. Like a teenager designed them in an arts project.  There’s not necessarily a problem with this, especially if you like the design. But a board that looks cheap is normally indicative of a lack of care and attention.

Something that isn’t always apparent from the marketing photos (which are always the best board in a batch), is just how poor quality control can be.  We’ve seen budget boards where the deckpad is cut to shape with a Stanley knife when still attached to the board. Believe it or not, we’ve seen some budget boards where this cut has actually gone through into the board itself, meaning that they leak from day one.

You can spot a premium board from the cut of its gib – they have regular and even overlaps at seams. All of the PVC is fully adhered, and they are well cut.  Whilst the look of the board might not matter to you in your keenness to get on the water at the right price, those uneven overlaps and irregular seams are indicative of slapdash manufacture, poor quality control. And are probably just the spot where a seam will burst or you’ll spring a leak.

And we’ve lost count of the number of budget boards we’ve seen where fin boxes are glued on at jaunty angles, or in the wrong place. This can really affect how easy your board is to paddle, and how stable it is.

Adhesive

Despite the claims that the whole process is ‘machine driven heat fused blah blah blah’ or other’, the rails, accessories and deckpads are still glued by hand.  The precision with which this happens is really important, especially for the side rails, and that precision costs expensive worker time.  Also clearing up glue from around the deckpad and fittings takes time if it’s done properly.  This doesn’t necessarily affect the performance of the board. If the board is glued with the very best quality glue, then it doesn’t darken over time.  But the cheaper adhesives used on many of the cheaper boards darkens in UV if exposed.  This might only be a cosmetic thing, but it does mean that everyone can see that your board has been glued together with cheaper adhesive, and in turn affects its resale price.

There is a question about how well the cheaper adhesives last in heat and under pressure.  And that’s why many of the cheaper boards come with stern warning about pressure and letting air out of the board if in direct sunlight.  Anecdotally, although all brands have had issues with poorly formed seams, the cheap budget boards have a much greater failure rate.

We’ve seen with our own eyes deckpads coming unstuck, or forming massive airbubbles, fairly regularly on cheap boards. As far as we know, we have only had one board from our 16/17/18 lineup where the deckpad has started to lift.   And that’s because we specify what glue should be used, and pay the price for it. Ask many budget board manufacturers or retailers what glue they’ve specified, and they’ll look at you blankly. Ask McConks, and we can tell you straight away!  And there is a 4x difference in the price between the cheapest and most expensive adhesive used in SUP manufacture.

PVC

Although most budget boards use OK quality dropstitch these days, the quality of the PVC layer fused to it, and that makes up the rails (sides) matters.  We’ve seen cheap boards with scorch marks from being placed against something metal in 26 degree heat in the UK.  Even if you’re careful not to put the budget board up against hot rocks, at higher temperatures the PVC is weaker, and more likely to be punctured by thorns or scratches. And there’s nothing like the workout you get when you’ve put a slow puncture in your board, and you want to back to land before it turns into a banana and becomes unpaddleable!

We know the thermal tolerances of our PVC, and know chapter and verse about where the drop stitch is made.  Our PVC is good in direct sunlight up to 40 degrees.  That’s because we specified it, not just taking the cheaper alternative that most suppliers offer you. There’s a price premium of course, but we think it’s worth it. If the best the manufacturer can do is tell you ‘it was made in one of the top 4 factories in China’ when you ask questions, be concerned.  McConks can get hold of a 10’6 x 32 x 5” double skin fusion iSUP board for £133 from one of the ‘top 4 factories’, and we wouldn’t sell it to our worst enemy!

Made in one of the top four factories in China

Valves

There are good valves and there are bad valves. The difference in price (to us as a small company) is $2 – $24. We use the ones that cost us $24 dollars. We’ve tried the $2 and a range of others in the past. And there is a reason why we use the most expensive ones. We know they will last for years, that the metal components are made of marine grade stainless steel, they don’t leak, and are quality tested to within an inch of their lives.  The last thing a customer should experience is a board deflating when in use.

Fins and fin boxes

Our fin boxes are expensive. We could get hold of fin boxes for our boards at less than $1 for all three. Our side fin boxes alone cost $9 a pair.   And we pay close to $40 for our boxes and fins on our Go anywhere and Go explore range of boards. We specify where our fin boxes come from, and pay the price for this.

Why?

Because cheap fin boxes crack easily when knocked, or if left out in the cold, or if you blow on them (joke). But the point is that there are good fin boxes and bad fin boxes.  Even we have had two fin boxes that have cracked, but one of these was on the whitewater course at the national watersports centre in Nottingham, and one was with a long windsurf fin in force 5 winds with the rider doing about 30 knots.   But that’s two out many hundreds, a really low percentage compared to what we see on the beaches and at event.   And when fin boxes are broken, it’s really difficult to change them – it’s probably going to cost you as much as your budget board to get them replaced.

Fittings

We’ve already covered how well adhered / stuck fittings can be on budget boards.  But the materials that they’re made from can be an issue as well.  When we specify our boards, we specify the quality of PVC of the D-rings, we know where the handles have been sourced from and what the tensile strength of the webbing is, we have tested the quality of our camera mounts (destructively), we know that all of the metal on our boards is made from marine grade stainless steel. We work really closely with our suppliers to get the very best, rather than accepting the bog-standard fittings normally used.

Accessories

Budget boards typically come with budget accessories. We don’t think this is a real issue for most people buying cheap boards. Most people buying a board for under £400 are testing the waters (pun intended again) to see if SUP is for them. And the accessories can always be upgraded in the future.

Cheap paddles feel a little bit like a lump of dough on the end of a stick. If you try SUP with a cheap paddle and think it’s too difficult, make sure you borrow a decent paddle before you give it up for good.

And likewise with the pumps. If you think you’re too weak to pump the board up, make sure you try a try a top quality pump from a friend first. Some of the cheap pumps have so much friction, they can put your back out before you even get on the water.

So should you buy a cheaper board?

As we said at the start, budget boards get people on the water, and have their place.  Anything that gets more people on the water is a good thing. And hopefully many of the new recruits to this wonderful sport will stay, and buy more reliable kit as they upgrade.

So there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a budget board as long as you are armed with all the facts!  And hopefully this article will help you find a better board for your budget.

How can you choose the best budget board?

It’s really difficult. And like we say, not every budget board has all of these issues. Some of them are fantastic value if you get the right board from the batch.

You can always check reviews on facebook or their website. But we’ve seen some pretty dodgy behaviours here by some brands. For example paying people for good reviews, or buying 50 fake reviews on Fiverr for $5.  There are some giveaway signs to help you spot these –  lots of reviews at around the same time is a tell-tale sign that they have been paid for!  Lot’s of cheap pop up companies also claim to sell hundreds of boards every week, or claim to be limited companies despite not being registered in the UK.  If a company is selling hundreds of boards a week, but isn’t VAT registered, they’re either tax avoiders or liars!

Asking for opinions on facebook groups is probably more reliable, because at least the groups are moderated. But these groups can be overly influenced by brand ambassadors selling the quality of the brands they are associated with, or shopowners recommending the brands that make them the most margin. But by and large these are relatively easy to spot!

You should also consider the depth of information available on the manufacturers website.  If it doesn’t contain detailed information, then the chances are it’s a generic board, mass produced in China with some or all of the above issues.  And don’t be tempted by marketing phrases like ‘made in one of the top 4 factories’ or ‘using the latest heat fusion pressed blah blah bah’. Because that no longer means what it did 18 months ago.

What you absolutely should do is try to get out with a local SUP group. They’ve probably got members on boards of all price ranges and will be able to offer friendly advice. You can find your local group using the maps on SUPhubUK.

And never be made to feel ashamed about the size of your wallet. There are a lot of elitists out there who can afford to spend £1000+ on a board, and think you should as well. Just because you can’t, that doesn’t make you a second class citizen!  If the group/page/club/shop is making you feel like a lower class citizen, get out of there and find a different one!

So if you really love SUP, make sure you do your research, and get the very best board you can for your budget.

And if you’ve got £400 you might just want to look at our budget range of SUP: No compromise budget inflatable paddleboards | Go Simple

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Finding your nearest SUP litter pick with SUPhubUK

Find your nearest paddleboard litter pick

Maps and events planner

Find your nearest paddleboard litter pick
SUPhubUK map showing litter picks happening in the next 4 weeks

SUPhubUK is a great resource for all things SUP.  Whether it be finding your nearest race, finding the nearest SUP club for your holiday in Scotland, or whether it be finding out when the next SUP retreat is going to happen, SUPhubUK has it covered.

And now there is a new event category of SUP litter picks.

SUP litter picks

Litter picks can be arranged by individuals or clubs, and are a great way of meeting other SUPers whilst doing something to protect our rivers and seas.

This weekend – 4/5th February – there are two litter picks happening, one in the South West with Waterborn SUP, and one in the South East on the Thames with Bray SUP .

Find your nearest SUP litter pick
Litter picks w/e 4/5 February 2018

Head over to SUPhubUK to find out more details.

If ever you want to arrange a litter pick, but are short of boards, the contact us at McConks. We have helped club events and litter picks in the past with the loan of boards. We’re event sending our MegaSUP to the Stroudwater litter pick over Easter weekend!

Happy paddling

Team McConks

p.s. If you want to get your events added to SUPhubUK, whether this be litter picks, SUP yoga session, social paddles or any other kind of SUP event, just email suphubuk@gmail.com and they’ll help.  You can also get your club, school, shop or business added to the SUP maps or even add them yourself!

Posted on Leave a comment

All about SUP River fins

Focus on iSUP fins

Demystifying the fin thing

We put together a blog article last year to demystify paddleboard fins.  We tried to turn all of the jargon into a short, simple article that anyone can understand, even if you don't have a degree in fluid mechanics.

Since then we've been contacted by lots of people asking for more advice about fins.  So maybe we didn't do as a job as demystifying as we thought. But those searching for advice are often asking about river fins.  This isn't really surprising. It's the fastest growing component of paddleboarding, and one of the most neglected by surf and windsurf focused brands.

So we went away and thought long and hard about the type of SUP fins that our inflatable SUP customers need for river SUP. And we spoke to our customers, our partners and friends, to make sure we really understood what people really needed. And then we went away and found a supplier for exactly the type of fins that most iSUP customers are looking for.

But first a reminder about why fins are needed (apologies if we’re teaching grannies to suck eggs, but don’t forget, there are newcomers to SUP every day who might not have heard this before!

Fins have two main purposes:

To help you stay in a straight line.  If you’ve ever paddled a SUP without fins (yes, we’ve done it as well, arrived at the put in, pumped the board up, and realised we have no fins! [1]) you’ll know how difficult it is to track in a straight line. With a fin in place, the fin counteracts the drive of the paddle, stopping the tail of the board swinging around. The larger the surface area of a fin, the easier it is to paddle your SUP in a straight line, and the more difficult it is to turn. It’s not quite as simple as this, with other factors such as length and shape coming into pay. If you want to find out about the factors, then you want to check out our earlier article.

To slow the board down.  This might seem counter intuitive if you’re not a surfer. But the side fins (also known as 'bites' serve to ‘bite’ the wave and provide a focus to pivot on. Surfing with a central single fin is preferred by surfers who prefer gentle and graceful carving. But if you want to slash and hack, then you need a different fin arrangement. With three fins in a thruster arrangement being the most common.

If you keep these two key purposes in mind for the rest of this article, it should all come together by the time you've finished.

In addition to satisfying these two purposes, there are a few other key requirements for river SUP:

Interchangeability

Interchangeable standardised fins
Interchangeable fin system

The most important requirement was that fins should be interchangeable between all sorts of boards, not just between McConks boards [2].

All of our centre fins are compatible with all universal centre fin boxes (often called US fin box).  Every decent brand in the world uses these on their premium range of boards – Red Paddle, Starboard, Naish, Fanatic. And this applies to the quality UK brands as well – Fatstick, Loco, Freshwater bay.  If you’re not sure if your board has a universal box, take a photo of the box, or a fin that fits the box and send it to andy@mcconks.com, and we will let you know if your box is compatible.   

Our 2” side bites are compatible with all FCS fin boxes, and also with the Kumano and Suru surf click fit system. 

Flexible

In general, the stiffer a fin is,  the better the performance. This is true for both centre fins and side fins, as any surfer will tell you.  This is great if you’re paddling your SUP in deep water on the sea. If you’re in shallow water, fFlexible finins have an annoying knack hitting submerged rocks. Or catching on the river bed.  The best outcome is the rider is catapulted off the front of the board as it comes to an abrupt and unexpected halt. And narrowly avoids knocking themselves out on a rock. Stepping up the damage scale, if you’re using stiff fins, you’re very like to snap a fin.  Stepping it up further, you could crack a fin box, or a rip the fin box off the board, causing expensive or irreversible damage.   And right at the top of the damage scale, you could be catapulted off the board walloping your helmet or a flailing limb against a very hard rock. And the possible outcomes there are pretty sobering. Especially if you're in serious whitewater.

So for whitewater paddling, or shallow river paddling, you should always use soft flexible fins. These take much of the impact of rock strikes, and they flex as the bump along river beds. This gives you a flying chance of staying on the board, and reduces the risk damage to the fins, your SUP board, or you.  

And even endurance river races such as the #Trent100 start off in shallow river sections that would benefit from flexible fins. Several competitors this year said they wished they’d started the event with a range of fins, including some flex fins.

The other requirements were more fin/discpline specific….

Centre fins for shallow water racing

After speaking to competitors in some of the endurance river events, it became clear that there was a desire for a flexible, indestructible SUP fin that:

-         Has a large surface area and race foil for effective straight line tracking

-         Has a strong rake on the leading edge that clears weeds and other detritus effectively

-         Is robust enough to take knocks and bumps from rocks and shopping trolleys, but strong enough to maintain its shape in normal conditions

Blue river flexible SUP fin

These fins are 10” long, so provide great tracking.  And digging so deep provide significant stability and directional benefits in cross wind / cross surface chop conditions.

And for the fashion conscious, we even do them in two colours (going against our normal rule of keeping it simple!)

Centre fins for deep water racing

In river races not in shallow water, the benefits of a stiffer fin come into their own, and there's little need to compromise with flexible fins. 

This 8" carbon fin has a strong rake for weed clearance, and the cutout allows for swift pivot turns if needed, whilst still allowing for excellent tracking.

Centre fins for whitewater / river SUP

This is the first of our superflexible short river centre fins.  This SUP fin is only 5 inches long, which gives you 3 or four inches more clearance than the fins that come as standard with most decent SUP boards with removable fins.  These are an awesome compromise between tracking, weed clearance, and speed.

The second is a shorter 3” fin, but with almost the same surface area as the 5” fin. We do this by having a very long fin base (takes up the whole length of a standard US fin box), and by extending trailing edge of the fin well behind the fin box.

2" Whitewater side fins

These fins fit all FCS box or Sauru surf / Kumano surf click boxes.

Extending behind the box, these have a surprising amount of surface area for the fin depth.  Use with the 3" or 5" centre fins for a perfect whitewater SUP setup.

Go and have fun

River fins haven't had the same amount of R&D that surf and open ocean fins have received.  So this is a relatively new and exciting playground.

Get out there with different fins, and see what works for you.

Tell the world via SUP hacks if you have experience or comments on what works for you.

If you've got ideas on what would work for you, but doesn't exist yet, speak to us. We like prototyping new products for our customers!

Notes

[1]      This is the ONLY good thing about fixed SUP fins. You can’t lose them or turn up to paddleboard without them. In every other way they are inferior to removable fins and detract from your objective of having fun on the water!

[2]      Our 2” river fins will fit the click fin boxes on Badfish SUP and McConks SUP, and any SUP board with FCS fin boxes. So if the mood takes you, you can even shove three 2” fins in your FCS thruster set up on your surf board. By extension this flexibility applies in reverse to our inflatable SUP boards.  There  are a massive number of SUP fins out there that fit our boards.  And this is the real benefit of having a universal centre fin box – the huge amount of choice.  Any universal fin (including FCS connect) can be used in the centre box.  So you can check out fins from Black Fin Project,  or FCS or Futures fins.  Or from any of the very many aftermarket fin resellers out there.

Posted on Leave a comment

Adjustable or fixed SUP paddles?

McConks 100% carbon SUP paddle

Fixed or adjustable SUP paddles. What SUP paddle do you need?

Are you wondering about whether you need a fixed or an adjustable paddleboard paddle?   Do you struggle to understand the performance differences between 1 , 2 and 3 piece SUP paddles?  Don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone.  But fret not, this article will hopefully help you understand the differences, and help you make the right choice for you.

SUP paddle weight

The lightest one piece 100% carbon paddles will weigh a featherlight 500 grams or less, whilst most alloy paddles packaged with paddleboard packages will weigh a shoulder-busting three or four times this.  By some measures, if you’re a 75kg paddler on a 10kg board, you might wonder why this minor difference matters. And it’s a very valid question.  Unless you’re an elite paddler, the difference between a 500gm and 600gm paddle will be unnoticeable and irrelevant to you, other than bragging rights of having the lightest paddle.  But the difference between a 500gm and 2kg paddle is more significant. And bear in mind that the paddle is your engine, and most of your effort and wear & tear on your body, is generated through the forces you generate on the paddle. Repetitive movements with a weight that’s two or three times the very lightest can cause early fatigue, poor paddling technique, and general all round misery. In fact, we’ve heard stories of people who have almost given up SUP until they tried a better paddle.   It’s also true that rotator cuff injuries are not uncommon in SUP, and a heavy paddle, alongside a poor technique, can rapidly increase your chances of injury.

If you’re someone who obsesses about weight and value, then you’ll find this graph interesting…

SUP paddle weight price comparison
SUP paddle weight price comparison

 

On a weight/price efficiency factor, our McConks fixed carbon SUP paddle comes out as the star buy!

Of course, it’s not just about the weight.  Blade shape, size and angle can all have an equal impact on fatigue and developing good paddle technique, but individual preferences are more important for these factors. Therefore it’s much more difficult to say objectively one paddle is better than another. So that’s the subject for a future blog post.

A one piece paddle will be lighter than two or three piece paddles of similar blade size.  Each connection/adjustment mechanism requires additional or thicker carbon fibre and adds additional weight.

And the difference between them will vary depending on the quality of the paddle. So a 100% 3k carbon fibre paddle will be about 80gm heavier for a two piece paddle, or about 200gm heavier for a three piece paddle.  As the percentage of carbon decreases, then the weight penalty for two or three piece will increase.  But again, don’t sweat the small stuff. Unless you’re an elite paddler, you probably won’t notice an 80gm difference.

Utility

If you’re only ever racing, if you only ever use a single inflatable SUP board, if you only ever surf on your SUP, then one fixed paddle might work for you.  But surf performance, for example, is enhanced with a shorter stick and smaller blade. Race performance is improved with a longer carbon SUP stick.  So if you’re a SUPper who likes to do a little bit of everything (as many are), or if you’re just starting out and don’t really know what type of arena you’re going to use your SUP in, then getting a fixed length paddle might turn out to be an expensive mistake. Unless of course you’ve got very deep pockets, have an understanding partner who lets you accumulate expensive kit, or preferably both.

Something that has long annoyed SUP paddlers about adjustable SUP paddles is the ability of the connector to always end up at the point at which your hand rests on the shaft. This is a serious frustration for some paddlers, and it’s the upper adjustment mechanism that your hand nearly always ends up over.  So there’s no difference between a two piece or three piece paddle in this respect – a one piece wins outright if this is one of your big bugbears.

Stiffness and flex

This all comes down to the quality of  the connections in adjustable SUP paddles. And it’s probably less about stiffness than consistency of flex.  A single solid SUP paddle will have a very consistent flex from handle to blade.  Because there are no connections, the carbon tube is a consistent thickness throughout its length (assuming it’s a quality tube), meaning that flex, and rebound from flex, is consistent and predictable.  The more connections you have, the more the variability in the flex and rebound.  For most paddlers, most of the time, we would content that this isn’t that significant an issue. But elite athletes disagree, and some people claim that they can really feel the benefit of the consistency of flex with a fixed piece paddle.

Some taller paddlers find that some three piece paddles don’t quite extend long enough for them, or that they have to have the top section at its extremities. This can put the connector and handle under stress, increasing the risk of failure. It can also generate too much flex in the top 30% of the paddle, decreasing performance.  Although, there are some three piece paddles that have been designed with everyone in mind, even the tallest of paddlers.

Reliability

The more moving parts anything has, the more points of weakness and failure there are.  This is a simple fact of life, and is true no matter how good the connections are.  Obviously, better quality paddles have better connections, and are less likely to fail. But even these, when compared to single piece paddles are more likely to fail.  But this must be compared to the risks of travelling with a single, long piece of carbon, even if this travelling is only in your van!

Which leads us on to transportability

It goes without saying that the shorter the package is, the easier it is to transport.  A three price paddleboard paddle is about 1m long in its longest piece. A one piece SUP paddle can be up to 2.3m long. So a three piece adjustable paddle can be thrown in the back of the car, can be put in an inflatable SUP bag, and can be carried on a plane.  Also, if you ever need to ship a paddle anywhere, the shipping costs for anything over 2m are prohibitive.  And no matter how well protected the paddle is, a 2.3m long pole is at greater risk of being damaged during 3rd party transport, and maybe even in the back of your van, than three 1m SUP paddle sections side by side in a padded bag.  There’s strength in numbers you know!

Alloy SUP paddles are always cheap, poor quality paddles bundled with poor quality, budget SUP packages.  Some of the worst on the market are no more than a very heavy kids toy, with a blade that flexes and loses all drive as you put the power on.  Only the shaft of an alloy paddle is aluminium alloy.  The blade will normally be polyurethane or polypropylene. There’s an adage in SUP which says that you can have fun on a bad board with a good paddle. But you can’t paddle a good board with a bad paddle.  Alloy paddles have probably done more to put people off paddleboarding than any other single factor and should be avoided at all costs!

Glassfibre Nylon / PU SUP Paddles are a hybrid SUP paddle made from a glass fibre shaft and polypropylene or polyurethane blade.  These are a really good paddle for beginners.  Significantly lighter than alloy paddles, and normally with a better quality SUP blade, and one that doesn’t bend in a strong gust of wind, these are the best entry level paddle.  And the best bit of all?  A PP or PU blade is almost indestructible. So, if as a beginner, you scrape the blade along a reef, or smack it into a rock, it won’t be damaged.  The fiberglass shaft also has a good level of flex for a beginner.  Not being as stiff as a carbon SUP stick, it is more forgiving to bad paddle technique and is less likely to lead to injury or early fatigue.

A 100% Glassfibre SUP Paddle differs from fiberglass / PU SUP paddles by having a glass fibre blade.  A glass fibre blade is stiffer than a PU or PP blade, losing less power to flex – therefore more efficient. And they’re lighter than PU/PP blades, and that reduced swing weight makes the paddling experience more pleasant.  But the trade is that fibre glass blades are brittle and more prone to damage and dints than a PU/PP blade.

Carbon fibre SUP paddles are lighter and stiffer seems to be the current fashion for SUP paddles. The very lightest SUP paddles are 100% carbon 3k weave paddles. As the carbon percentage decreases, the weight increases. Carbon is also significantly stiffer than glass fibre, and therefore each phase of the paddle stroke generates kinetic force (forward movement), so carbon paddles are the most efficient.  However, carbon paddles are very unforgiving of poor paddling technique, and may lead to long term injury if your paddle technique is poor. 

Carbon SUP paddles typically also have more attention paid to the blade design – with a more complex shape and dihedral that further improves stability and efficiency in the stroke.  McConks carbon SUP paddles for example are shaped by a CNC cutter and have been designed with a fluid dynamics modelling software to optimise the shape and dihedral of the blade.

You can get cheaper carbon paddles with a lower percentage of carbon and higher percentage of glass.  This increases the weight and reduces the stiffness. And reduces the cost.  The price benefits make these lower percentage carbon paddles attractive to many.  However, before you make a similar choice, just bear in mind that McConks 100% carbon SUP paddles are lower cost than many brands 70% or 50% carbon paddles – lighter and stiffer. And we use the very best technology to design them.

So,  to wrap up this blog, what our main recommendations?

  • Never buy an alloy paddle. You will hate it within minutes, and will be upgrading to a better paddle soon.  If you’re buying a SUP package that comes with an alloy paddle, decline the alloy paddle and upgrade to a better paddle as soon as you can afford to!
  • Glass fibre SUP paddles with nylon/polyprop/polyurethane blades are best for beginners. They give the perfect balance between value, performance, weight and stiffness.  And they are more forgiving to poor paddle technique.
  • If you’re ready for the step to carbon SUP paddles, if you want the lightness and the stiffness, and you’re confident that your paddle technique can cope with the stiffness of carbon, go for it. Figure out your budget, see what’s within your budget, and try lots of different paddles.  But you won’t find a medium bladed 100% premium carbon fibre paddle for less money than McConks paddles. And McConks paddles consistently beat everyone else in our weight/price value.
  • If you’re searching for marginal gains and elite performance, and you have deep pockets, lots of storage, and a very understanding partner, then fixed length SUP paddles are for you. For everyone else, two or three piece paddles are a better value/performance compromise.
  • Oh, and have fun on the water

Key differences between SUP paddles

carbon SUP paddle

 

Find out more about McConks one piece, two piece, three piece, carbon and fibre glass SUP paddles.

McConks carbon SUP paddle review

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Christmas present advice. To Dryrobe or not to Dryrobe?

Charlie McLeod outer zipped pocket

Christmas present advice. To Dryrobe or not to Dryrobe?

Are you thinking about buying a Dryrobe this Christmas? Either as a present for yourself or for someone else?  Dryrobes are a great gift idea – who wouldn’t want a warm, waterproof and windproof tent to hide in whilst getting changed?    Dryrobes have an excellent reputation amongst their customers, and having tried them ourselves, we think it’s a well-deserved reputation.  They’re well designed, well thought out and fantastic quality.

But are there alternatives that are just as well designed and thought out, and just as good quality? We decided to find out?

The minimum requirement, in our mind, was a high quality waterproof and windproof outer layer, and very warm high wicking inner fabric. These requirements mean that we’re reviewing five products from just three companies, The Dryrobe Advance short sleeve, the Dryrobe advance (long and short sleeve variants), the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak (long and short sleeve variants) and the Palm Poncho Grande.

Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak long sleeve

 

Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak short sleeve

 

Dryrobe sports changing robe
Dryrobe advance long sleeve

 

Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Dryrobe advance short sleeve

 

Dryrobe sports changing robe - Charlie McLeod
Palm Poncho Grande

 

 

 

Changing robe sleeve length

Short sleeve or long sleeve depends very much on preference. Some people prefer short sleeve for easier arm movements to make getting your kit off easier.  Some prefer a longer sleeve for added snuggliness.

One of the criticisms we have of the Dryrobe short sleeve is that the wind tends to whistle up your arms in cold weather.  The Charlie McLeod has a small and simple design advantage in that it has a push button fastening on the sleeve that allows you to make the sleeve narrower and reduce the gap!

The Palm poncho with no sleeve makes getting changed a little easier (freedom of arms), but this is at the expense of snuggliness.

Zip

McConks think that having a zip is essential in a change robe. We love the Palm Poncho for its ease of use, but actually, pulling a poncho over a cold, shivering, tired wet body can be surprisingly and frustratingly difficult. A reversible zip that can operated from either the inside or the outside gives the Dryrobe and the Charlie McLeod Sports Cloak the edge over the Palm Poncho in our opinion.

Shape

The Dryrobe and the Palm Poncho are a slightly different shape at the shoulders to the Charlie McLeod. The horizontal shoulder line of the Palm Poncho and the Dryrobe are comfortable enough on the poncho style and the short sleeve robe. But this feels slightly odd on the long sleeve version of the robe.  The Charlie McLeod had a more natural fitting that felt more comfortable without impacting on ease of getting changed.  And it also meant that you don’t look out of place wearing the robe as a coat!

Warmth and weatherproof

The long sleeve options from both Dryrobe and Charlie McLeod are definitely warmer on those really cold days, and even the short sleeve options keep the warmth in more than the Palm Poncho. All of the products stand up well in very wet conditions with no obvious leaks or wet patches.

But it is worth just thinking about what conditions you will really use the changing robe in. Will you really be out in all weathers?  And if not, do you really need the maximum warmth that comes with the long sleeve versions, given extra cost and the loss in function that brings with changing being more challenging with a long sleeve.

Modesty preservation

All of the robes offer enough room inside to make changing safe and secure. Although they differ in length by up to 20%, we didn’t think the length actually affected ease of changing or modesty preservation at all. All of them were long enough, and none of them felt too long.  So the other key features here are how easy the robes are to get on, and how easy to get your arms inside.   And all of the products have their strengths and weaknesses in this respect.  The longer the arm length, the more difficult it is to retract your arms inside, especially if they’re wet.   So in this respect the Palm wins. But the lack of a zip makes the Poncho more difficult to get on or off, so the Dryrobe and Charlie McLeod products score for ease of getting on.

Storage

Charlie McLeod outer zipped pocket
Outer zip with easy to pull fasteners

Both the Dryrobe and Charlie McLeod products come with a surfeit of pockets. Both have at least one waterproof zipped pocket, and two internal pockets and two external pockets. The exact configuration differs slightly, with only the Dryrobe having zipped external pockets, but only the Charlie McLeod having zipped mesh internal pockets. All of the products have warm lined external pockets to warm up those cold hands.  The lack of internal pockets on the Palm Poncho was not really a concern to us, but the lack of any zipped pockets was. Although the absence of zips at all on the poncho mean that there is less that can go wrong or break.

Bags

We like the fact that the Charlie McLeod sports cloak comes with a sturdy double pull string bag that doubles up as a standing mat. We also like the additional microfibre towel that is thrown in. If you want a storage bag for your DryRobe compression bag, you’ll need to fork out another £30, and there is no storage option available for the Palm poncho.

Pricing

The Palm poncho is the lowest cost option coming in at £69.95.   If you’re looking for longer sleeves and a zip, then for £10 more, the Dryrobe advance and McLeod short sleeve options are under £80.  But only if you’re a small adult.  If you need an XL, you’ll need to pay an additional £40 for the Dryrobe. This contrasts unfavbourably in our opinion to the Charlie McLeod sports cloak who charge a fixed £79.95 for all sizes.    And the same is true for the long sleeved versions of the Dryrobe and the Sports Cloak.  The Dryrobe is only £10 more than the Sports Cloak if you’re a small adult, but there’s a £30 penalty if you’re an extra large adult.

Charlie McLeod changing robe
Adjustable cuff on the short sleeve Charlie McLeod changing robe

So which is the best changing robe / dry robe in our opinion?

Charlie McLeod Wind sleeve
Charlie McLeod Wind sleeve

If you’re a taller or larger person, you get better value from Charlie McLeod or Palm. With a £40 or £50 XL penalty for the short sleeve Dryrobe, the Charlie McLeod offers all of the same features, with a few additional ones of its own at 2/3 of the price.

If you want the snuggliest, most weatherproof option, then the Charlie McLeod long sleeve is 100% the best option. With the ability to adjust the hood, sleeve and waistband, the cloak’s ability to keep the weather out far surpasses the Dryrobe’s.  Windsurfers and kite surfers used to rigging in icy, rainy, blowy conditions will particularly benefit

If you want maximum colour variety then the Dryrobe advance is the robe for you. With the biggest array of outer colours, and the only option providing a choice of inner colours, Dryrobe is the choice that allows you to match your robe to your style or kit.

If you want the lightest modesty protector that takes the least space in your luggage, then the Palm Poncho Grande is the option for you.

Need more detail? Download our features list and detailed comments for each product.

Posted on Leave a comment

Inflatable SUP paddle board for beginners

SUP noobs

Are you a SUP noob?

Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is a fun relaxing and rewarding way to play on water. Relatively gear free, you can get out on the water, playing in river, or lakes or coastal waters. Stand up paddle boards (SUP) offer a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of gear, you can paddle ocean surf or placid lakes and rivers. And the advent of good quality inflatable paddleboards (inflatable SUP) means that you no longer need a garage to store your own SUP.

It’s well known that SUP is great for both physical and mental health. It delivers a full-body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. In fact, that’s how modern SUP evolved: The great Laird Hamilton was looking for more fun ways to cross train when there was no surf or wind, and modern SUP was born. And compared to other paddlesports, it works the core muscles more rigorously because of the standing position, and you have the benefit of the views that come with a standing position.

So, what do you need to get on the water?

SUP Gear

The good news is, you don’t actually need much gear to get on the water. You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy SUP. It’s fair to say that although you don’t need much kit, the kit you do need costs several hundred pounds. Therefore, you might want to try hiring some kit from a local hire centre, or join one of the ever growing number of clubs before you buy. If you want to find a friendly SUP club or centre, to try a range of kit you’d do worse than looking at the new SUPhubUK maps to find your nearest school or club.

However, should you already know that SUP is your ideal sport and pastime, this is what you need.

SUP board

There’s a bewildering array of boards available, and the type of board you need depends on the type of environment you’ll be paddling in, and your shape, size and skill. Simply put, the heavier you are, and the less competent you are, the bigger the board you need. See our other blogs for advice on whether you should go for an inflatable SUP or a hard paddle board, things you should know before buying a SUP and for advice on what size SUP board you need.

Paddle

You can get a paddle for as little as £40 or even for free with some cheap SUP packages. But these are typically heavy, poor quality alloy paddles, which are hard work, tiring and in some cases simply plain dangerous. Make sure you buy fibre glass or carbon fibre paddles. You have a choice of adjustable or fixed length paddles. For beginners, we always recommend an adjustable paddle. It often takes several sessions to figure our how long you need your paddle (it’s quite a personal decision), and different paddling environments require different length paddles. A decent adjustable paddle will only weigh 100g more than a fixed paddle, and will give you much more flexibility as you develop.

PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

There is a very active debate as to whether you need a PFD in SUP. PFD are commonplace in paddlesports, and less commonplace in surfsports. We won’t get drawn further on this matter, but you should consider whether you need a PFD, and this will be driven by the environments you will be paddling in. Assume you do need a PFD, and not requiring a PFD is the exception!

Proper clothing

In the middle of UK winter, you might need a dry suit or a winter Wetsuit. In the summer, you might only need a pair of boardshorts and a rashie or t-shirt.  Be aware that it's often more exposed on the water than on shore, and windchill has a significant impact if you've had a dunking.  The general rule is you need clothing that is flexible and moves with you, but keeps hypothermia at bay.  

Leash 

All good boards with throw in a leash with the board, but not all of the leashes are good. This is an essential piece of safety kit, and the type of leash you need depends on the paddling you’ll be doing. For most general SUP, a coiled 10ft leash is spot on. If you’re going to be trying surfSUP, a straight leash is better, and if you’re getting into river WW SUP, then you need a specialist quick release leash. People have drowned in rivers because they’ve had the wrong kind of leash. But this is only important at the performance end of the spectrum. Most general paddlers will not need anything other than a coiled 10ft leash.

Sun protection

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And maybe a hat. Especially if you’re fair. The water really reflects the sun!

SUP Techniques on the Water

Getting on the SUP

When you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start out in flat, calm water that’s free of obstacles (like other watersports users, boats and buoys!) It make sense to progress to your knees before trying to stand up! But, if you want to stand up paddle board, this is how you do it:

  • Standing alongside the board in shallow water, place your paddle across the deck of the board and use it as an outrigger. The paddle grip is on the rail (edge) of the board; the blade rests on the water.
  • Hold the board by the rails. One hand will also be holding the paddle grip.
  • Climb onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board.
  • From that kneeling position, get a feel for the balance point of the board. The nose shouldn’t pop up out of the water and the tail shouldn’t dig in.
  • Keep your hands on either side of the board to stabilize it.
  • Once you’re ready, stand up on the board one foot at a time. Place your feet where your knees were. You might also bring a friend to help stabilize the board as you get the hang of standing on it.

Staying on the SUP

To maintain your balance as you stand upright on the board:

  • Your feet should be parallel, about hip-width distance apart, centered between the board rails (edges). Don’t stand on the rails.
  • Keep toes pointed forward, knees bent and your back straight.
  • Balance with your hips—not your upper body.
  • Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
  • Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet.
  • Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.

SUP Stroke

Once you’re comfortable balancing on the board in flat water, it's time to take off on a longer excursion—where the real fun begins.

Posted on 5 Comments

All about SUP fins | McConks SUP

Focus on iSUP fins

Most people know that fins are essential on surfboards and paddleboards, but most people don’t really know why.  Everyone has a vague understanding that they help SUP go in a straight line and give control when surfing, but scratch much deeper, and most don’t understand how fins work.  So, we thought we’d put this blog together to help.

First up, there’s some jargon you need to get your head around, about the fin itself, and about how the fin is positioned on the board.

Base: The base is the top section of the fin when your board is in the water, so closest to the board when installed. It is nearly always the widest part of the fin and it’s this section in particular that helps to stabilize the board and affects tracking.

Tip: The tip is the other end of the fin that’s furthest away from your board. The tip also affects tracking and speed.

Leading Edge: The leading edge is the front part of the fin the bit that hits the water first, and the angle is the called rake or sweep. The leading edge affects how the board turns and pivots and also how fast it releases water.

Trailing Edge: The trailing edge is the back of the fin and it affects how easily, or not, a board turns and pivots. Trailing edges aid in releasing water to greater or lesser extent, which affects speed.

Cant: Cant refers to the angle of the fin in relation to the bottom of the board. Fins that point straight up have no cant.  These are faster than fins where the tips point outwards towards the rail of the board, which are said to have cant. Fins with cant are more responsive when turning, but create more drag.

Flex: The stiffness or flex of a fin has a big impact on handling.  Stiffer fins give more stability, and more bite and control, but can make turns more difficult.  But stiff fins are also more brittle and more likely to be damaged on reefs or in rocky rivers.  Flexi fins make turning a little easier, and are more resistant to the knocks and snags you get on reefs or in shallow rivers.

Rake:  When you’re looking at the arc of the fin and how far back it tilts or sweeps from the front, you’re looking at the fin rake. The greater the rake, the slower the turn, the lower the rake, the more pivot around the fin. For short boards, less rake is great for junkier days, and more rake is good for walls.  For longer SUP we should be looking at a more relaxed rake for more drawn out turns.

The rake also allows the fin to release any weeds that may get hung up on it.

Toe: Toe is the angle at which the fins point relative to the centreline of the board.  Typically the side fins of a 2+1 or thruster set up point towards the nose of the board (known as toe-in). The greater the toe, the greater the grip.

Foil:  The foil is the curvature of the fins around the vertical.  Just as a wing uses its foil to create lift, so does the fin.  A cheap fin will have no foil, and will just have a sharp front edge and a parallel sides.  If the fin gets fatter towards the middle of the fin and then thinner at the back, then it has a foil.

Drag:  Drag is what slows you down and the force that decreases your speed.  The bigger the rake, the bigger the cant,  the bigger the surface area, the bigger the foil, the bigger the drag.  And dependent upon your paddling environment, drag can be a good or a bad thing.  When racing or touring, you want as little drag as possible slowing the board down.  When surfing it’s the drag that gives the bite that helps you turn.

The basics

So if you’ve ever lost a fin (and who hasn’t?), you’ll be aware that without your fin your board pivots from side to side and it’s extremely, difficult to paddle in a straight line. The reason for this is because the fin acts to prevent the tail of the board from slipping sideways as you put pressure on either side of the board as you go through your stroke. Without fins, it is theoretically possible to counter slipping sideways by controlling the trim of the board as you paddle, but this is an expert skill that most can’t master.

The design of the fin also affects speed, stability and how easily you can turn your board.

Some boards, especially inflatable boards, come with fixed fins.  These have the advantage of being simple to use, and cannot be lost.  However, by being fixed in position, if they get damaged, they’re next to impossible to replace, and you can’t change the shape, location or size of the fins to improve your ride. So we think removable, adjustable fins are a better bet.

There are many different kinds of fin box (the bit that the fins slide into) on the market, but there are three standard types.  Ideally, you want to choose a box that is standard, and that has stood the test of time in the surf world.  That way there’s a wide range of fins available from surf shops and online, and the box is robust and reliable having stood the test of time.  The three well know and reliable box types are

US box.  These have been used on longboards and windsurf boards for years.  Very reliable, and US box fins are very widely available.

FCS box.  FCS fins are the mainstay of surf boards.  Again, widely available and very reliable.  A recent addition to the FCS range is click fit fins that click into a standards FCS box.

Futures fins box.  Futures are the latest darlings of the surf world.  Again, widely available and very reliable.

There are other boxes available, many of which have a lower profile and a slide in key to keep the fins in place.  These have had issues with reliability, and the fins are not widely available if lost.  There is only a very narrow range of cheap fins available for these boxes.

So how do you decide what size fin you need?

  • If your priority is going in a straight line above all else, then you want a large surface area fin with a long base and long leading edge. This will help your board to track better (go straighter) and will also help stabilize the board making it feel less tippy side-to-side and make it more predictable in choppy water and swell. However, a larger fin can feel sluggish because it will not cut through the water as easily. It will also take more effort to turn and pivot the board since there will be more resistance to the flow of water around the fin. A strong paddler, or someone who likes to use a stiff paddle with a larger blade, may benefit from a fin that has a wider base and reaches deeper into the water. This type of fin will offer good resistance to t.he extra force exacted by the paddler, which will result in the board tracking better.
  • If you want more responsiveness and speed, then you should be looking at smaller surface area fins. However, a smaller fin will not track as well as a larger fin and it will be harder maintain stability in choppy water. A person who has a more fluid and slower stroke will benefit from a smaller fin as it will compensate for the lack of force by allowing the board to move more quickly through the water.
  • Paddleboard fins that are used for surf-specific SUPs will have a different shape than the fins used on touring, racing and all-around paddleboards. More on this later.

If you are looking to get more performance out of your board, then experimenting with different fins is good place to start. You can have several fins that you use for different applications, or you can find one that does a couple of things well, but may not be the best for any one situation. Either way, there are plenty of options to choose from and it will never hurt to try something new.

Fin arrangements

2+1

The most common removable 3 fin setup on a SUP is 2 + 1: i.e. two equally sized front fins (called sidebites) a few inches in front of, and either side of a larger rear fin.  For maximum flexibility, the front fins should be an FCS box or a Futures Fins box (the most common box types, allowing you to buy additional fins and different shape fins easily and cheaply). The purpose of the sidebites is to channel water through the configuration thereby compressing it and speeding up the flow. This gives the board more power which is essential for riding waves where you need speed to power through your bottom turn and hold the rail in tight against the face of the wave as you move across it. On the other hand, extra fins create more drag in the water, which will decrease your speed if you are not travelling on a wave, which is supplying you with power.

Though first designed for surfing on a SUP, the 3-fin setup is also good for tracking on flat water.   The twin front fins gives a little more protection against lateral drift (sliding slideways in crosswinds) than a single fin, and provide a little more bite in downwind runs.

To tweak this set up, you can reduce the size of the centre fin to something approaching a thruster size to create a traditional 3 fin setup. And the position of the rear fin can be tweaked. Back for better tracking and forward for more slide!

Twin

You can convert the 2+1 setup to a 2-fin setup just by removing the center fin. This leaves you with the two side fins, or “side bites” and really loosens up the tail and makes things lively when in surf.  This is also a great option for river running where the centre fin keeps scraping along the river bed, or catching and trying to throw you off!

Historically, many surfers moved from traditional single fins to two large fin setups when long boards started to become shorter. This, to some extent, paved the way for the aggressive hack and slash now common in surfing, and set up more progressive surfing such as 360’s.  Twin fins aren’t really the flavour of the month in surfing circles,  and a twin set up is very rarely seen on a SUP. However, sometimes it can be great when the surf is small to take out your rear fin and have some fun trying out 360’s in the mush.

Singlefin:

In surf, a single fin converts your SUP to a longboard setup ideal for long drawn out power turns or noseriding. Large single fins create a definite pivot point for your turn and tend to be preferred by exponents of drawing sweeping lines, and looking stylish on a board.

And outside of the surf and whitewater environments, singlefin is your most likely setup.   If you want speed and to paddle in a straight line, and you want stability, a large single fin is your partner in crime. Look for a fin that is between 8-10 inches in size, and make sure you put it as far back as you can in the centre box.

Fin placement can drastically affect the manoeuvrability of your surfSUP, the tracking of your race SUP and the stability of your flat water SUP. Although these are suggestions we recommend that you test the different placements for your own unique position as it really varies by board and rider.

Fin Forward: Placing your fin forward will put less pressure on the tail of the board which creates more manoeuvrability and a quicker turning radius. If you have a three fin set up (thruster) then having the middle fin placed forward will channel the water in a concentrated area and could potentially slow the board down while surfing. That said, if you are looking for less hold and a shorter turning radius then moving the center fin closer to the nose is the answer. 

Fin Far Back: Positioning the fin towards the back of the board will result in more stability, this is because the fin is rigid in its line. More importantly, the board will track better compared to the other placements because it gives more restraint to the tail.

The Happy Medium: The happy medium is always a good default position, it is a balance between control and stability. This placement is the most widely used because of its versatility between turning, tracking and steadiness. If you are surfing and using a thruster then you want the centre fin about 2 inches behind the side fins which allows enough spacing for water to flow around the fins.

The more flexible race fins do not offer the downwind performance benefits of the stiff ones, but you do not have to worry about face-planting if you hit a log or rock.

With the tail positioning mentioned above, you are all set for touring, racing or flat water paddling because the fin position makes the board track better.

For something different, slide that fin forward and position it at the nose of the box. This makes the board easier to turn, which is perfect for whitewater conditions and surfing.

As you shop, you will notice that some of these large fins feature leading edges that are sharper or serrated, which are designed to cut their way through weeds and kelp. Depending on where you do your paddleboarding, this could be a great feature for you.  Our carbon fin is a great example of a race fin with a weed shedding profile.

Zero: Recent proponents suggest that surfing was set back by the addition of fins and the purest form of surfing is still fin-free. With SUP however one has to consider that in effect a paddle can be used as a fin to steer the board as well. Save this one for those small mushy days and have a good laugh. Good luck with your tracking when paddling out!

So, if you haven’t done it yet, have a play around with your fins in the surf this year. Try out different fin set ups and fin sizes in different conditions. And get an understanding of how your fins change the feel and performance of your SUP. It’s one of those things that you just don’t know until you try. (And it will give you another excuse to go out for another cheeky session!)

Posted on Leave a comment

How to choose the right size inflatable SUP board

What size board do I need?

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

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

The Malta circumnavigation

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.

In surf.

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.

Racing

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.

mcconks inflatable white water sup
Matt Stephenson WWSUP extraodinaire

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

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.


For more SUP insider knowledge, come and join the SUP insider community on facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPinsider/

For hacks, friendly advice and non judgmental guidance join the SUP hacks community on facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPhacks/

 


 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

SUP hacks

Why don’t you join our facebook group SUP hacks?  This is a moderated and curated group of the best of the best on the internet and the best from the SUP hacks community.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPhacks/

Designed to share the very best hacks, advice, guidance.  And our motto is ‘there’s no such thing as a silly question’.  Elitist or cliquey replies are not tolerated.  Just friendly advice!

And if you want to find out more about the paddleboard industry, why not join our SUP insider group.  Competitions, gossip, intrigue and dastardly goings-on are all exposed in SUP insider

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPinsider

Posted on Leave a comment

SUP hack: separating a stuck stick

Stuck mast
Image credit http://howtowindsurf101.com/get-mast-unstuck/

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.