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Big wave surfing: the “Eddie would go” mentality

22 years ago this week, the 36 year old celebrated big wave surfer Mark Foo flew to the recently discovered big wave spot Mavericks for the first time. It was his last time surfing Mavericks. 

And his last wave ever.  "Eddie would go"

After disappearing beneath the behemoth wall of water, he was found two hours later still leashed to the broken tail end of his ride.

Since then a number of household surf names have succumbed to the big wave; Donnie Solomon and Todd Chesser both caught inside, Malik Joyeux pearling and knocked out by his board, Peter Davi wiped out after allegedly partying too hard, Sion Milosky tombstoned and pinned down.

For many years, instead of these names being a cautionary tale, they have been celebrated, revered even, and a source of inspiration.  You can only really know yourself and the wave if you put yourself in the arms of death. 

Or so the story goes. 

And no-one really knows how many lesser names and amateurs have met their maker on waves bigger than they could handle, following in the footsteps of the giants of the monster waves.

In these days of mega bucks sponsorship, ambulance chasing lawyers, and outdoor instructors being successfully sued by their trainees who fail to understand the principle of individual responsibility, it is surprising that big wave surfing is still a thing that happens in the name of sport.

Ahead of Mark Foo’s death all those years ago,  the organisers of the inaugural Eddie considered calling off the comp because Maverick’s was at its brutal worst, and they knew there was a real risk of death.  Foo himself looked at the break, and in a sentence that was either the most inspiring for a surfer and that sums up the draw of big wave surfing, or worthy of nomination for the Darwin Awards, uttered the immortal phrase ‘Eddie would go'(1), and signed his own death warrant. 

And yet, the industry keeps seeking bigger, more dangerous, more brutal, waves.  And allows the competitions to go ahead in dangerous conditions.  Big waves means big media coverage, and that’s great for sponsors.  And a cynic might say that death or two helps maintain the mystique and allure of big wave surfing, and is also good for the sport in general.

But are things changing?   Yesterday, Twiggy, one of the giants of big wave surfing, and shoe-in for the world title, said of Nazare at yesterday’s WSLs

“Those 20-30 minutes during each heat, on the back of a ski, holding on with all your strength while jumping 10ft foamies, were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life and something I can’t see myself repeating? Deservingly @jamie_mitcho the maddest dog won and hoping all the guys with injuries recover soon. #riskvsreward”

Yesterday was pretty unique in my surfing life, riding a 20ft double up shore break where you have to catch 2 waves in an hour for a @wsl event was a humbling experience. Nazare as a wave is a phenom, as challenging and beautiful as any big wave I've surfed but do the dangers involved out way the rewards? Those 20 minutes during each heat, on the back of a ski, holding on with all your strength while jumping 10ft foamies, were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life and something I can't see myself repeating. The water safety team did a fantastic job and special thanks to them. Of course @jamie_mitcho the maddest dog won and hoping all the guys with injuries recover soon. #riskvsreward ? @despiritosanto

A post shared by Grant Twiggy Baker (@granttwigbaker) on

It’s true that Nazare is one of the most notorious waves, shifting as a well as heavy, and yesterday saw a quarter of the competitors end up in hospital.  So maybe Twiggy’s reaction is entirely understandable, and is  reaction just to Nazare on the day.

Or maybe there is a rational re-evaluation of the risk reward ratio in big wave surfing.

(1) If this means nothing to you, do yourself a favour and hit up Eddie Aikau in Google.   As one of the best known and admired characters and liefsavers on the North Shore, Eddie was renowned for going into conditions that no-one else would, to save people in trouble.  A fact that is often ignored by those who use the phrase. 

“Eddie would go” was about Eddie going into conditions to save people, not charging those conditions.  Although, to be fair, he wasn’t afraid of charging the monsters either.

 

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5 reasons why experiences make the best gift

Economic and behavioural science tells us that having an experience may actually make you more happy than buying the latest new gadget or pair of shoes. I know many aren’t convinced, but the science is seriously solid. Experiences are really where it’s at.

1. We Get More Excited About Future Experiences

It turns out that anticipation is a big component of how much gratification or pleasure we get.  A large scale psychological study (humorously called Waiting for Merlot in a nod to Beckett) confirms that the anticipation is part of the thrill, and actually, this excitement is greater for experiences than it is for material gifts. 

McConks has been part of two amazing experiences this year, one vicariously lived through our boards, and the other attended in person.

These experiences are rather out there, and admittedly most won’t be giving a gift of this value to a loved one.  But just in case you have enough cash burning a hole in your pocket, these experiences will really make the best gift!

So when it comes gift giving why are we so sceptical about giving experiences?  Why don’t we give more experiences overall? Why do we still buy deodorants, moisturisers and shaving foam that just stay in the bathroom cupboard until regifted.  Or another box of chocoloates for Gran, or socks for Grandad?  

The research on presents and enjoyment reveals something really interesting; we always believe that material things will make family and friends happier, even though when ranked side by side against experiences, experiences always rank higher for pleasure and happy memories.  What causes this collective amnesia of the positive feelings from experiences?  The cause is probably related to the media constantly reinforcing the message that the ‘Christmas experience’ involves unwrapping material gifts in front a roaring log fire. 

But we can’t blame it all on advertisers.  So what is the science behind this? And what are the best experiences? 

As a SUP company, you won’t be surprised to know that we think paddle and board sports are the very best experiences to give.  With experiences that range from being at one with nature in inspiring coastal environments, through to adrenalin fuelled whitewater surf fun, paddle sports have something for everyone. 

The links we’ve shared below are for some of our partners and friends, and companies that we guarantee will give your family and friends memories to treasure for ever.  And may even launch a lifetime’s passion in standup paddleboarding.  And with standup paddleboarding being such an accessible and social water sport, may create a whole new circle of close friends.

Tall ships and paddleboards

Your home for one week will be the elegant Tall Ship, the Lady of Avenel. For more information on the ship visit, http://www.ladyofavenel.com/. 2019’s trip will start and end in Oban and will be full of exciting adventures, scenery and activites.

https://www.facebook.com/active360/videos/1991405754239479/UzpfSTEwMDAwMDExOTgwMDMzNjoyNTU3ODg1MjI0MjI1NDQ2/

GoXperience the Croatian islands

Experience the Croatian Adriatic onboard a SeaGib 51 spacious yacht, pilotted by the master seaman Nathan, and with SUP instructors to guide you on unique adventures

Geplaatst door GoXperience op Vrijdag 12 oktober 2018

2. We Get More Value From Experiences Overall

Another study a couple of years ago compared how much pleasure people thought they would get after an experience gift and after a material gift, with the amount of pleasure they actually recorded.  The study found that the majority of people consistently think they will get more pleasure from material gifts than they actually experience, and they underestimate the amount of pleasure they will get from experience gifts.  This is called economic forecasting, and it turns out to be something that most people are really bad at.  But that shouldn’t surprise us given that the experts seem to struggle with it!Interestingly if people are asked which gives better value for money our of material gifts or experiences, they will choose material gifts.  If they are asked which will give more pleasure per pound spent, they choose experiences.  And the reason for this is because we typically underestimate the value of memories when we do our mental calculations of value. 

3. Experiences Give You More Social Connection

Experiences tend to happen in groups or pairs.  And we’re a social species.  Even the most introverted of people actually need community contact and social experiences, even if they sometimes find them uncomfortable.  And the vast majority of us get great pleasure out of the shared learning or shared experiences, especially if these shared experiences are with family, friends, or like minded people who become new friends. 

Studies also show that the best experience gifts keep on giving for many years.  The shared experiences become part of your shared history, and will be laughed over and retold many times in the future.  That story of how Uncle Pete fell off the paddleboard, and a seal popped up behind him to say hello.  And every time we told him to turn around to see, it disappeared again. Over and over.  (This is actually a true story and a family favourite!)

In fact, if you feel that you’re becoming distant from a close friend, it’s proven that buying them an experience gift that you can all share brings you back together.

4. Experiences Don’t Invite Competition Or Envy

A study from a few years ago suggests that the pleasure we get from receiving material gifts, especially at times like Christmas when gift giving is ubiquitous, is often tainted by comparison with the gifts others receive.   And even the pleasure you get from gift giving can be affected.  You thought you had bought Aunty Carol the perfect present, but yet again you sister has upped the stakes and beaten you again.

Experiences don’t suffer from the same direct comparison problems.  Everyone can enjoy them in their own way and their own time.

5. We Get Tired Of Gifts, But Value Memories

We’ve touched on this already, but one of the key reasons why people buy material gifts rather than experiences is because they think they last for longer and are therefore better value.  That new bird table will last much longer than the bird watching experience, therefore must give more pleasure.

But that’s categorically wrong.  Many studies have shown that we’re all subject to something called ‘the hedonic treadmill’ or ‘hedonic adaptation’.   Our happiness quickly returns to its normal state after receiving a new gift – the gift just becomes part of our ‘new normal’ and very quickly stops giving us pleasure.  An experience however generates memories and shared connections that last for much longer.  And a future conversation with a stranger about something entirely random can trigger that memory and release the pleasure hormones again.

For those of you still not convinced, maybe you can combine a material gift with a related experience: a bottle of wine from a local vineyard plus a vineyard trip; an authentic Indian Cookery lesson plus some Indian recipe books and spices; A birdwatching experience and a stuffed bird.  Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.

Having said all of that, the very, very best present you can buy is one that adds to or improves the pleasure your nearest and dearest gets from their experiences. So if you want the gift that keeps giving, then a McConks carbon SUP paddle is THE perfect present.  Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous then what could be a better than a McConks iSUP package?

1. We Get More Excited About Future Experiences
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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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Trust the experts: McConks SUP paddle review

So despite our earlier jibe about the value of expert opinion in this post truth era, many of us look to experts to help us to see past the marketing spiel, and to tell the good, from the indifferent, to the mediocre.  And paddlesports instructors have particular expertise and their opinions are highly valued. 

You might have heard us talk about #themalteseSUPproject.  4 outdoors / paddle instructors took off in November this year to paddle around Malta,  a task that they (by and large) achieved despite a huge storm in the Med.

The maltestSUPproject four

Georgina Maxwell, one of the riders, came to McConks to ask us to pimp her ride.  So George set off with our 12’8 GoExplore board, designed as a touring/expedition SUP, and one of carbon SUP paddles.  George was so blown away with our paddle, that she’s written us great little review, which we just had to share as a special blog post.

McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle.

George ‘standup’ paddleboarding

As part of my sponsorship arrangement with McConks they offered me the McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – this is a 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle. This paddle weighs in at <700g and when it arrived I was struck immediately with its weight and size of which it packed down to.  

On our expedition The Maltese Sup Project a few things were highlighted.

Packing

The paddle came in a tidy padded bag which can fit x2 3 piece split paddles in if you wanted a spare or in our case are trying to combine luggage. The next important thing to note is it fitted inside the SUP bag meaning you have only one bag to check in.

On the water

The paddle is comfortable to use on long distance. The T grip has a shape which sits in your palm in a snug smooth way with no plastic rough finish like I have previously experienced with other paddles.

Its adjustable it can go from as tall as 220cm for adults to as short as 170cm for kids.

3 piece carbon SUP paddle

I discovered the adjustable feature is also beneficial from transferring from feet to knees in the wind and chop. It means you can shorten the paddle with the flick of a switch and still be able to use the T grip.

Because it was 3 piece it didn’t seam to effect the strength in my opinion, even in the toughest of winds and swell I was unaffected by any flex. Dear I say I didn’t notice any but this may because I was so use to using this by this stage.

Miscellaneous

The 3 piece has a clip lock system, which uses little screws to keep it working, on long Jouneys and particularly on expedition I took a spare clasp and after a few days out I checked the tightness of the screws, they were always tight, so prhaps I was over prepared in this field.  

There you have it, I tried my hardest not to say how much I enjoyed paddling with the Vario but I truly did enjoy the paddle and I would highly recommend it particularly for overseas travel.  

 

McConks Carbon SUP paddle
Bamboo / Carbon medium cadence blade

SUP adventure
Loaded up and ready to go

SUP paddle

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The importance of paddles – SUP ‘engine’ choice advice

No-one would dispute that inflatable SUP packages have come a long way in the last few years.  But stand up paddle boarding is a paddle sport above all else, and the quality of the paddle included (often described as a ‘freebie’) sometimes lets the package down.  This point is often missed, punters focusing too heavily on the board and not giving enough attention to the one defining piece of kit you’ll be using.

Walk into any retailer or hit up any inflatable SUP company online and you’ll be confronted by all manner of spangly equipment – most likely with loud boastings about ‘free bag’, ‘free leash’ AND ‘free paddle’. Great, you think! All the gear in one easy purchase. But alas all that glitters isn’t gold.

You have to ask yourself as a consumer, what are you actually getting. Thenarrow-paddle board is usually going to be fine (as long as you’re looking at a reputable brand).  But what about the included ‘stick’ (paddle)?

Firstly what material is the included paddle made from? If it’s an alloy shaft with a plastic blade then you’re not going to be feeling any benefit. Your first run out will probably be on the less than enjoyable side. An alloy paddle will usually bend significantly – too much, in fact (some flex can be a good thing with paddle shafts but not to the detriment of forward propulsion and/or limbs, muscles and joints). The low grade plastic blade will contort when drawn through the stroke (flutter) and after a while you’ll have made next to no ground when compared to someone using a more efficient ‘engine’.  And we’ve met people who have managed to bend their ‘free’ paddle shaft irreparably on their first outing.

Let’s just pause at this juncture. It’s worth pointing out here that if you’ve got nothing to compare your experiences to then you’ll be none-the-wiser when it comes to any type of SUP kit, let alone paddles. At least during those initial forays. While this is true as a general statement, over the period of a few weeks/months you’ll possibly start to notice bodily wear and tear. At first you’ll put this down to being involved in a physically demanding activity. Chances are, however, that it’s not simply the fact you’re paddling that’s causing grief. In many cases the stress and strain placed on your ailing body is down to using badly made equipment.

Here at McConks we don’t supply our gear with rubbish accessories. We see the paddle as a key ingredient – as such our paddles are of high quality and designed to aid your enjoyment of SUP. We’ll not lie, this does add a few extra numbers to the bottom line cost, but when you consider the increased efficiency of a better quality paddle, and this knock on effect to your enjoyment factor, we’re sure you’ll agree the extra expense is worth it. And like for like, you won’t find kit of comparable quality at the same price.

And don’t just take our word for it. We value rider feedback and have had a number of paddlers check out what we offer regularly. Here you’ll find a recent review of one of our paddles which says it all if you ask us – https://standuppaddlemag.co.uk/2016/04/15/travelling-companion-mcconks-adjustable-three-piece-carbon-paddle-review/

In this era of post truth, we know that some people no longer trust the experts.  If you’re one of these people, then you can read what regular customers have said here http://www.mcconks.com/inflatable_SUP_shop/sup-paddles/23-sup-paddles-mcconks-vario-pro-carbon-fibre-sup-paddle-2016-15000.html

Paddles are the main part of stand up paddle boarding – whatever type of SUPing you choose to do, and are your engine.   Whether you own an inflatable or hard board, having as good a paddle as you can afford is key to performance, progression and continued enjoyment. You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari with a moped engine.  Therefore we highly recommend you pay this part of your set up due care and attention and get the paddle that does your board justice.

If you need advice then McConks is only too happy to advise. Give us a shout and let’s have a chat about all things paddle.

 

 

 

paddlebag

SUP paddle

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SUP HACKS: looking after your paddle

 HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR CARBON PADDLE

McConks Carbon SUP paddle
Bamboo / Carbon medium cadence blade

Carbon paddles are beautiful, high performing bits of kit, and definitely

worth investing serious £’s in. When riding, your paddle is an extension of your body, and people become rather attached to a good paddle. So here are some #SUPhacks to help keep your paddle in one piece and have a very happy life together

BEFORE YOU PADDLE

If you’ve got an adjustable paddle, always check the screws for tightness before you get onto the water. They need to be just tight enough to stop the shaft from rotating. Too loose, and the blade can rotate as you paddle. Which is annoying. Too tight and you might damage the clasp or even crack the carbon handle. Good paddles are designed very carefully so that the clasp would break first. However, if the carbon paddle is poorly made or designed, the shaft might crack first. And that’s a problem that can’t be fixed.

DURING YOUR PADDLE

IT’S NOT A GONDOLA POLE Simple enough, but push off sand or a solid object and you risk creasing the blade. Your paddle is made for paddling in water, nothing else. And the lower quality your blade, the greater the risk of this happening.

CARBON IS FICKLE.   Just like any high performance kit, carbon paddles are a compromise. A fine balance between hardiness, strength and weight. Carbon is a pretty fickle material. It has great strength in one plane, but is brittle in the other plane. Therefore a sharp knock in the wrong place can cause a hidden weakness.

So even the very best carbon paddles can snap. By their very nature, mixing a light, strong carbon paddle with mother nature’s most powerful force, can have its risks. To make a paddle ‘unbreakable’ would mean that it would be so stiff and heavy, it would be very unpleasant to use.   Buy a good paddle and the risks are significantly lower. But just like a high performance surfboard, there are forces that will break or damage any paddle.

AFTER YOUR PADDLE

I know, you’ve just had an exhilarating paddle, you’re a combination of buzzed and tired.  The endorphins are kicking in (see our post on tier two fun), and the last thing on your mind is checking your kit.  But that’s absolutely what you should be doing.

CHECK IT.  If you’ve had a tumble and knocked your paddle on a reef or the board, give it a good stress test when you’re out of the water.  Much better for it to fail then than when you’re next on the water.  It’s no fun being up the creek without a paddle!  Also it’s worth checking that that the screws are still tight and won’t fall out in transport

WASH YOUR PADDLE AFTER USE.  This is particularly important for adjustable paddles. Sand and grit in the clasps can damage the male end of the shaft (the bit you stick in), and this can create weaknesses that deteriorate over time. At worst this can cause the shaft to fail, and best it can make it very difficult to get the shaft sections apart or put them back together again. Although this is less of an issue with carbon fibre or fibre glass shafts than aluminium or alloy shafts, it is always worth washing your paddle once you’ve finished.

BETWEEN PADDLES

PROTECT IT Most damage is caused during transport, so make sure your paddle comes with a high quality bag with sufficient padding to protect it from bangs and knocks in the car / van.

DONT COOK IT Did you know you can overheat a carbon paddle?

– Avoid constant exposure to direct heat (eg in a hot car in baking sun) and you will get a long life out of your paddle.

– Keep your paddle in a quality bag with heat protection

BUY SMART.

We would say this, wouldn’t we?  But make sure you buy from a brand who knows about these risks and has designed them out as much as possible. Like McConks.

You can get your hands on one of our carbon bamboo SUP paddles for only £150. And that comes with a free protective heat shield bag.

paddlebag paddle

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Inflatable SUP air pressure and tuning

How do you know when it's inflated properly?
How do you know when it’s inflated properly?

Having purchased your brand new inflatable stand up paddle board it’s now time to show up and blow up (at the beach that is!). Unfurling your spangly steed and connecting the pump you begin to inflate. There are a couple of digits printed on the valve telling you what the board’s max PSI should be. Now then. Should you follow instruction and pump to recommended or back off slightly with not as much air rammed inside. Questions, questions…

Rigidity

Not all iSUPs are the same – this fact has been proven time and again. Although mostly manufactured from Dropstitch (two layers of PVC coupled together with internal microfibers) some boards aren’t worth the materials they’re bound together with.  The lower quality of dropstitch and PVC used give a very different experience.

Even with the recommended air levels inside these cheaper SUPs will be nothing more than floating bananas.  Without wanting to point fingers, anything you can buy for less than £400 for a 10′ plus board is extremely likely to fall in this category.  As for performance? What’s that then? Standing on a sinking deck, with water flowing round your ankles, it’ll be any wonder if you make it back to shore afloat.

High quality SUPS (such as McConks) couldn’t be any more different. Even with the bare minimum PSI levels inside you’ll be able to float, paddle and manoeuvre atop the water. It’s all about rigidity. Generally the more air you push inside your ride (combined with good quality materials) the more efficient it becomes. Sometimes, however, there may be need to release the pressure (or increase it).

Performance

Generally your inflatable’s recommended PSI is for optimum paddling performance in recreational environments – flat water. But SUP is a versatile beast, able to take riders to all sorts of watery wonderlands.  And in different paddle environments, you may need to tweak the ‘feel’ of your air board.

If you fancy a dabble with a paddle in waves, for instance, you will require additional rigidity. And yes, you can easily surf mellow swells with good quality, well manufactured inflatable stand up paddle boards. OK, you may not be ripping huge turns but catching liquid walls, gliding along with the occasional off the lip is certainly doable.

For anyone contemplating the above an extra bit of air pressure is a good thing.  Even though recommended levels of PSI will be highlighted on the board a well manufactured iSUP will have been tested to much higher pressure than stated. In combination with top drawer materials it’s perfectly fine to shove another five (or so) PSI into the board. This will then give you a more responsive and livelier feeling sled, allowing your inflatable to cope when ‘dropping in’ and bottom turning.

River paddling is a different matter.  When facing off against rapids, wave trains and moving white water reducing your board’s air pressure (slightly) will give paddlers a softer machine that’s more forgiving when sliding over undulating H2O. Too stiff a SUP can rebound against the rider when hitting a bump, knocking paddlers into the drink. A softer ride will therefore absorb some of this flotsam and help deliver a drier run.

So, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; not all inflatables are the same.   The above tuning scenarios that can only be achieved with quality iSUPs. And even then paddlers need only tweak air pressure slightly.   Too much, even in top quality boards, is not needed.  Quality boards respond well to minor changes tuning.  Poor quality boards don’t respond as well, and it can be dangerous to push them too far.  Reduce the pressure even slightly in cheap boards, and you end up with a banana. Increase the pressure too much to stiffen it up, and it might go pop!

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Tier two fun – how stand up paddle boarding can be an ‘after event’ reward

Stand up paddle boarding’s easy right?  Simply jump aboard, begin stroking, and after a few initial stumbles you’ll be propelled forwards with smiles all round. Fast forward a few sessions and by this time you’ll have (hopefully) developed a bit of technique, not be stumbling quite as much and generally enjoying your fun in the sun. But what next?

Look at any high performance SUP athlete and their accomplishments will seem a million miles away from the type of paddling you do. Battling ocean swells to gain serious downwind glides, taking a few heavy waves on the head to eventually snag that one awesome barrel or toughing it out across ultra-distance courses for a shot at the podium. All this just looks hard work at the start of your stand up paddle boarding journey, and in fact, never gets any easier. But it’s the reward post-paddling that counts, not how easy the activity was.

Back to your everyday recreational paddling and this is what can be referred to as ‘tier one fun’. Fulfilment comes quickly, with minimal input on your part. That’s not to say there isn’t any effort, quite the opposite in fact. (We’ve all heard about the health benefits of being atop a SUP so we won’t get into this again). By and large, recreational SUP errs towards the easier end of the spectrum. And there’s no real need to change this unless you’re searching for more…

SUP’s popularity is tangible but after a brief spell paddlers may begin seeking their next challenge – this is typical human nature. In its simplest form, as Robby Naish is quoted, ‘SUP is just standing on a board with a paddle’. The rest is down to us as riders and the environments/situations we choose to put ourselves in. Enter ‘tier two fun’ stand up style.

Picture the scene. The wind’s come up, you’re quite a distance from that original launch point, there’s no get out within your immediate vicinity so the only course of action is to hammer down and fight back upwind. As anyone who’s paddled into gusty conditions will tell you, this isn’t the most idyllic kind of SUP you can do, and is actually pretty relentless hard work. Yet with determination, grunt and a positive mental attitude (combined with a degree of technique) there’s no reason why you can’t cover ground and arrive back at point A.  Sweaty,  tired, and a few pounds lighter.

Hitting the beach in a sweaty dishevelled mess you’ll initially be thankful of touching down upon Terra Firma. But soon enough those positive endorphins will make their way to your brain and in no time you’ll be stoked off your noggin – and an achievement it is. This is ‘tier two fun’: not particularly pleasant during the act but upon reflection super rewarding and addictive. It’s why endurance paddlers keep going back for more, surfers refuse to let a big set get in their way and conquering the elements – if only for a brief period – makes you feel truly alive. Retrospective bliss if you will.

There are plenty of ways to up the ante with your SUP activities and feel the benefits of ‘tier two fun’. Enter a race, step it up in surf, tackle a more challenging route you’ve never before paddled, head out in breezy conditions or whatever you fancy having a stab at.

Self-belief, confidence, experience and skill will play their part in your success – we’re not suggesting you head for the gnarliest conditions you can find with limited paddling ability. A ‘slowly, slowly’ approach is optimum, otherwise you’re heading into ‘tier three fun’ realms which usually results in the emergency services being called!

 

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Decisions, decisions: Inflatable SUP or hard SUP?

If you want to race at a high level, and enter sprint and endurance events, or be on the podium for surf SUP comps, you’re almost certainly going to need a quiver of hard boards.

For everyone else, an iSUP is ideal.  Let us tell you more.

Despite recent advances in inflatable technology (eg Red Paddle’s MSL or McConks comparable EDS), inflatable boards still flex slightly in the most extreme conditions. Therefore although some of the race iSUP boards are up there with glass fibre and carbon race boards in the speed stakes, they can’t yet compete racing in swell or off the beach. Although Red Paddle’s 2017 elite race boards with the Forward Flex Control might change that this year. In flat water events, taking place on lakes and rivers, we are now starting to see iSUP on the podiums.

If you’re looking for a performance surf SUP, then an inflatable is unlikely to be your first choice. You can’t have an iSUP custom made for a start, and many of the key variables, such as rocker line, rail shape, bottom profile cannot be fine tuned. Simply put, iSUP’s do not have the variety of bottom or rail shapes that a custom shaper delivers, and therefore you can not expect them to perform like one. So you won’t win surf comps on an inflatable, and you’re unlikely to win race events in difficult conditions.

But for most of us who want to get some exercise, learn to surf SUP, race our friends, get close to nature and just simply have fun, you cannot beat an inflatable SUP.

Does this sound a familiar story?  You want to hire a board for a peaceful sunset surf when on hols, but the surf shop shuts at 6pm. Taking a hardboard on a plane is expensive. And it’s even more expensive when the handlers drop it and snap it in two.
iSUP packages now are as light as 12kg and a dream to travel with. As long as you buy a package with a decent bag, then the board will arrive the other side unharmed. No more excess charges, and no more dinged boards.

But be careful of some of the packages that come with cheap bags. You don’t want to be spending another £100 to keep your prize possession safe. Hell, while you’re at it, make sure you get a package like the very best brands, which come with a sturdy and comfortable rucksack with wheels.

So what are the advantages of an iSUP?

An inflatable board rolls up in a bag, making it easy to jump in a hire car or on a bus with your SUP and find those quiet spots away from the crowds. No need for roof racks and straps.

Paddleboards are long. Generally longer than 9″. And race boards can be 14 foot long. Not everyone has space to store an epoxy or glass board, and if that’s you, an inflatable is just what you need.

Hard boards are much more likely to get damaged.  Whether that be through poor paddle stroke, the rough and tumble of family life, serious abuse in white water river SUP, or regular travel taking its toll.

As long as you buy a good quality iSUP with a high pressure rating (at least 20PSI), with a long guarantee, with twin layer technology, and a decent fibreglass/plastic paddle, then your kit will last you for years without so much as a mark.

They’re robust: Although inflatables come with a repair kit, we don’t know of any customers who’ve needed to use one!

iSUP is a really accessible family friendly watersport.  As long as you follow simple safety rules (see
our blog on paddleboarding with toddlers
), then paddling with kids is great.

How so?

Try as they might, the kids can’t damage the board like they could an epoxy board If they fall, an inflatable causes less bruises than a hard board.

  • If the board hits them in the water at speed it doesn’t do the same damage that a hard board can do
  • They can’t damage the rails of an inflatable as they learn to paddle.
  • An inflatable board has more buoyancy than a hard board, size for size. Beginner paddlers who want to paddle with passengers should start out on a good size board (at least 250l such as our 10’8 Go anywhere
  • Even the largest of paddlers can take passengers, whether that be kids, dogs or both. As your skill, balance and strength improves, you might want to move to a smaller board. But by then your kids are probably paddling the old board by themselves.
  • You can strap even strap a SUP seat to the front of our McConks boards if your little prince or princess ‘needs’ to travel in style.

There’s no hiding the fact that buying a SUP costs quite a lot of money. Even the cheapest lowest quality boards that only last a few weeks start at £275.

Most people don’t want to spend the £1000 plus that some of the brands charge for a decent quality iSUP. But you also don’t want to waste your money on a board and paddle that is so poor performance that you’ll need to upgrade within months. Or worse, one that bursts within weeks.

How can I tell the good from the bad?

With so many brands making so many different types of boards, how can you tell what’s good quality and affordable, and what’s just cheap? If you strip back all the marketing, the pretty pictures and flashy vids, the following are good indicators of quality:

– Manufacturer’s guarantee of at least 12 months.

– No quibble returns policy

– Dual layer technology. Preferably MSL or EDS. This is the latest fusion technology that gives the strongest, lightest, most rigid boards. Anything else is second rate.

– Pressure guarantee of at least 22 PSI. You know you’ve got a board that doesn’t leak if it’s guaranteed to a high pressure.

– Quality paddles. If the basic paddle is a heavy alloy paddle, the brand just wants to sell kit, rather than create paddling experiences.

– Top quality SUP pump. Look out for cheap pumps. If they look cheap and gaudy, they probably are!

– Top quality bag. Many of the cheap boards come with cheap looking bags. If the material is thick, if the fastenings look good, and if the straps and handles look chunky and strong, then the brand cares about quality

Here at McConks WE know you’re buying good quality kit at a fair price. But how do YOU know?

  • Guarantee. We offer a full 12 month guarantee on all parts of the package
  • 28 day returns. If you change your mind within 28 days, you can return the board with no questions asked
  • Personal customer service. We’re a small company. You can phone us or email us and ask us any question, no matter how big or small.

An inflatable SUP is a versatile platform that will suit most paddlers.  There’s a lot of thought gone into our design.  From the unique and acclaimed shape, to the fin choice and positioning, to the exact shape of the paddle blade.  And there’s a lot that goes into buying a standup paddle board. The more research you do, the better informed you will be and that will lead to finding the best paddle board specifically for you!

Here at McConks our only job is to make sure you find that perfect board(s). We’ve kept our range simple to make the process easier, and we only use the very best accessories.  So whatever you buy from us, you can rest assured that it is the very best quality.

 

About our 10’6 Go anywhere iSUP

“Fast, fun, fantastic value No more needs to be said. Top quality paddle, fast board in a straight line, speedy to turn, good fun”

 “The perfect allround iSUP. Tried this at a demo centre and loved it. This board has just the perfect volume and shape for me, a beginner with a few weeks of experience. Stability kept me dry until I and started messing about doing silly things. The manoeuvrability when in a surf stance means that this board is really responsive. It even seemed to carve on flat water when I had enough speed. Only 4 inches thick so you feel in much closer connection with the water. And surprisingly stiff given it’s thickness: No noticeable difference to Red Paddle in terms of stiffness (I currently own a 10’6 by the market leader). The board alone costs more than this package. And this is better. More stable yet also more fun, and better for development of skills. I will be ‘upgrading’ when budget allows!”

“I’m really pleased with my new McConks iSUP package. This is my first board so haven’t got a lot to compare it to but the quality of the board is great. It seems really well made and is easy to inflate. I finally got a chance to use my board at the weekend and I had a really fun time on our local lake. The board is really stable in the water and the paddle is easy to use. I was amazed at the speed I picked up and I didn’t fall in at all! I love the bag with this package, high quality and with wheels and backpack straps it would be really easy to travel with. I can’t wait to use my board again and would recommend this package to anyone, it’s great quality at a great price!”

About our 10’8 Go anywhere iSUP

“There’s something magic about this board. It’s pretty fast cruising, it’s pretty responsive in small surf, and it’s really stable. Really, really clever design, Great value package. The FG paddle is much better than the basic paddles I’ve had in other packages. Really light and good stiffness. And those real fins make such a difference compared to much more expensive competition. Great value and a delight to paddle” “Fantastic package Great quality board, had the whole family out on it, they all love it, can’t wait to go out again, love the carbon fibre paddle, board tracks very well.”

“I’ve been paddling on rental boards for a couple of years, and it’s really good to try a different brand from the usual. Really liked this board. Super stiff. No bounce or sag. The rocker line is good – next to no tail rocker, just enough nose rocker. The PVC seems really tough – it’s a bit like crocodile skin PVC: I believe McConks claim that you can drive a jeep over it and it won’t burst! Rides really well. Rides high on the water, glides well and true, and relatively easy to manoeuver for its size and compared to other boards of the same sze. Pintail made it fun for pivot turns when stood back, and real fins made an appreciable difference to the feel of the board. The bamboo/carbon paddle was a dream. Really light yet really powerful. And quick and easy to adjust. All in all, love this package. Really good quality stuff for the price. Surprisingly so in fact.”

About our carbon fibre
paddles

“The paddles arrived safely and have been tested on Friday! One was for myself and the other for my SUP instructor, feedback is great! We’re both are very pleased, great value! Happy to get a carbon paddle that packs small but still great performance.”

“Feels so good in my hands. So much lighter than the cheap alloy paddle that used to make my arms and shoulder ache, and it’s so pretty. I know it’s a little pathetic, but I really like the fact that it’s clearly a top quality paddle, yet looks so cool, and so different to all the others. That probably says more about me than the paddle 😉 “

“I have been using a Kialoa fixed carbon paddle that is great but at over £350 you would expect it to be. Purchased the McConks because I needed a 3 piece to take with me to the Maldives. It has arrived and it looks fantastic and feels fantastic in the hand. The profile does not look much different to the much more expensive Kialoa so I am expecting it will perform much the same. If it does, then the Kialoa may just end up collecting dust in the garage or put on eBay. The customer service from Andy is also first rate, initially was sent the wrong paddle by mistake (all carbon as opposed to bamboo/carbon) but on contacting him a replacement was sent out same day and he even trusted me to return the other, for which a pre paid label was provided. Now, that is great customer service by any standard. Cant wait to get the McConks wet”