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Sad demise of Origin paddleboards: impact on the SUP scene

It’s been announced in recent days that Origin Paddleboards is no longer trading, and that many of the kickstarter backers have lost their money.

First up – to all those of you who’ve lost your investment – that really sucks, and if McConks could afford to give you kit for free to in a small way compensate for your lost investment, we’d love to do so.  But sadly, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about what impact the collapse of a small company has on the SUP scene.

The founders of Origin had already gone off grid before McConks burst onto the scene, so we’ve not had the pleasure of meeting them.  But by all accounts they were good guys, with an aspirational vision, strong ethics and morals, and great marketers.

At McConks we were impressed by the story being told by their online marketing material, and admired what they were trying to do.  Maybe we were even a little inspired by them, and shared some of their ideals and ideas; giving a proportion of our profit to charity, focussing on managing the environmental impact of board production, using the very best raw materials and components, producing the very best boards, focus on worker welfare and health and safety.  And we also admired their desire to repatriate manufacturing from the far east to Europe.  It remains an ambition of McConks to return some iSUP manufacturing to Europe, and if possible the UK in the future.

So their demise is a sad day for those of us in the SUP world who think that there’s a better model than the traditional model. And it raises some serious questions for the SUP sector.

  • Does it mean that there is no space in the SUP world for homegrown boards, or homegrown brands?
  • Are ethics and morals no longer affordable in SUP?
  • Are small brands inherently risky?

The good news is that the answer to all of those questions is no.  We can’t speak for the rest of the SUP sector.  But we think:

There’s definitely still space for homegrown brands.  Loco,  Fatstick, Neptune,  Freshwater Bay are going from strength to strength and growing every year.  As are we.   But there’s a key difference between all of these/us and Origin.  Unlike Origin, all of the these brands, including us at McConks, are standing on the shoulders of giants of iSUP, and using factories in South East Asia who are the best in the world at making inflatable SUP boards.  So whilst McConks admires Origin’s attempts to do things slightly differently by bringing production to Switzerland, they were taking on a significant risk in doing so.  Which is probably why they were seeking the risk to be underwritten by kickstarter investors.

The outcome of this is likely to be that customers are less likely to put money up front for kit that isn’t yet on terra firma.  That’s not an issue for us at McConks because we don’t seek part payment on preorder discounts.  But any brand who relies on preorder capital might find it more difficult post Origin.

Ethics and morals. Are they dead?

No, not at all. Our business model is built on strong ethics and morals and we’re still going strong.  There are, of course, issues with using the South East Asia to produce boards.  Many suppliers don’t have an environment or worker welfare policy, and those that do treat the policy with disdain. Shipping the boards all the way from South East Asia has an impact on sustainability and embedded carbon.

But we know, that if you spend the time and effort, it’s possible to find manufacturers who really care about QA, about their worker welfare, and who care about the environment.  It’s just that they’re never normally asked the question.

And are small brands risky?

No.  Make sure you buy from brands using paypal or your credit card.  Then you’re pretty much covered for every eventuality.  McConks doesn’t take money unless we have stock for sale.  Admittedly we flirted with Kickstarter when we were starting out.  But we very quickly realised that wasn’t a sustainable model for us and SUP.  Most people want to pay for decent product, not to fund development for something that may or may not be feasible or deliverable (kudos to those that do!).

So our plea. Please don’t tar all small SUP brands with the sad demise of one brand.  They were very unique, which was both their USP and (in our humble opinion) the root cause of their problems.

If you’ve been affected by the collapse of Origin, and are still looking for new, superlight, top quality paddleboards, please drop McConks a line.  We mentioned earlier that we couldn’t support everyone who had lost their shirts in the collapse.  But we do have a specific discount code just for Origin affected customers.

Happy paddling

Andy and Jenny

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SUP Hack: Maximum glide, minimum effort.

Board trim: a very overlooked and misunderstood topic within the world of stand up paddling.

Perfect Trim (once the original name of McConks SUP and still a registered trading label) is that point where the grace of stand up paddling meets silky waters in perfect harmony.

Perfect Trim means effortless glide being achieved with minimised rider effort.

Perfect Trim results in an optimised machine slicing through the water in a display of listless beauty.  Listless because when you achieve perfect trim deviation from this isn’t needed.

But achieving Perfect Trim requires you to work hard to find that balance.

Perfect Trim, sadly, is also a company name that all but the most experienced waterpeople would associate with hairdressers, which is why McConks was renamed before launch from Perfect Trim!

Now for the tech part. What is trim exactly?

It shouldn’t surprise you that no two stand up paddle board designs are ever the same. Hull contours, rocker, rail shape, volume distribution, tail design, fin placement and so on all make for performance changes on the water. Do one thing with one SUP and it reacts (for better or worse) differently when doing the same with another. Where you stand plays a part, how you paddle another; body weight, body shape, how your muscles are formed, where your power zones are, paddle technique, on water conditions – the list is endless. But finding that sweet spot, the magic combination of all the above is when riders will discover their SUP nirvana.

Some boards can be trimmed from the front, the nose just dipping ever so slightly during each stroke, whereas other SUPs will require paddlers to be positioned further back towards the tail. Railing (leaning to one side) can improve the tracking with some designs while flat as a board (literally) sweeping will yield best results with other shapes.

Which does what, however, is down to you to discover – manufacturers won’t make it easy, by telling you, that’s for sure! And even if they did, you’d be well advised to ignore them, because everyone’s shape, paddle technique, power delivery and weight distribution is different.

So experimentation is essential to discover your perfect trim and your perfect board.  In many cases paddlers simply won’t have the time, inclination or understanding of the technicalities of trim to experiment and achieve perfect trim.

In fact, it’s probably one of the reasons trim isn’t widely spoken about. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. And don’t think for one moment this is just hard SUP specific – it isn’t! Inflatables are also subject to trim. Some more than others, admittedly, but finding that sweet spot is paramount to achieving the best forward momentum for the least effort.

In the case of McConks we know our onions and will happily give you some pointers on best trim results. After all, that’s what we’re here for – to help you along your personal path of SUP enlightenment and development.

We’ll also answer questions (to the best of our ability) you have regarding other kit. After all, we’re not naive enough to believe every paddler in the world will have purchased a McConks iSUP (although it’s a nice thought, and a realistic target for the future ;-).

What we do suggest, however, is the next time you’re out on the water and have some time to mess about then do so. Practice moving your feet about the deck and seeing what happens to your board. Stand with feet wider apart and closer together. Stand forward and back. Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other.  Bend your knees more and get your centre of gravity closer to the board.  Lean your SUP onto its edge, as much as you dare, to see how this affects things. See how far you have to lean out before you tip off.  On an inflatable board you will probably find you have to lean much further from the vertical than you expect before you fall off.  And then try it on the opposite side. At the very least this will give you a greater understanding of your kit, it’s tolerances and thresholds and what it will and won’t do with you on it. In the process you may discover optimum paddling trim.

If not, leave your dabblings for another day before repeating. But trust us when we say this will not only refresh/reenergise your sessions but also drag your skills to the next level.

Have fun, experiment, fiddle and faff and you too will soon discover your Perfect Trim!

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SUP weather issues – Mother Nature’s changing moods

Finally, you’ve got your brand new paddleboard in your hands.  The desperation to get it wet for the first time is almost too much.

Looking adoringly on, your prized machine and engine (paddle) blink lovingly back at you willing you to get to the beach and local put in.  The time is now.  You’re ready to make a beeline for the beach.

But wait, what’s this? Windy? Wet? Icy? 

Or worse. Your put in is out of bounds as Mother Nature unleashes her latest bout of summery chaos on the nation?

No probs, wait a few days for it to clear and all will be right.

Sure enough a small period of time elapses and you’re presented with a window. Quick! To the put in! How sweet that first session is.  This is awesome.  Time to get back to the coalface.  But that’s OK, because you promise yourself that every good wave forecast, you’ll be in the water on your trust steed. 

But then life gets in the way again. Thanks to life commitments your next window of opportunity falls (again) during a period of unhelpful conditions. But wait, it’s working over at xxxxxx? A few calls, a few webpages later, a few social feeds later and yes, it’s confirmed.  It’s working.

Jump in your motor, trundle off to said launch and…skunked! More condition driven obstacles. Rinse and repeat – sound familiar? Such is what we have to contend with in the UK when it comes SUP weather.

OK, we’ll admit the above doesn’t paint an overly positive picture. And while this is tongue in cheek, and somewhat over-exaggerated, every UK paddler will agree: we do battle the elements somewhat in this country when it comes to stand up.  And all watersports come to that. 

For sure those heady golden days of idyllic paddle sessions, often during summer, occur often. But we can get days, or even frustrating week long spells, of unhelpful weather conspiring against us.

Take the current run of chill happening right now for instance. For some it’s not so much of an issue but for those newly subscribed to SUP we can bet our bottom dollar there’s zero inclination for getting on/in the drink. So what to do?

Firstly, you just have to broaden your horizons in terms of where you paddle. Sometimes life means you may just have to take what you can. But at other times you’re free to investigate further afield which leaves you able to optimise your launch based on Mother Nature’s mood. Plus, the added bonuses of investigating alternative put ins will give a more varied knowledge of SUP in general– never a bad thing. After all variety is the spice of life, and experience the best teacher.

If winter’s getting you down right now, then you could consider an overseas holiday. Warmer climes can revitalise and refresh so worth considering if you’re not up to braving the cold. And they can be surprisingly low cost if you’re willing to fly at odd times and stay in budget accommodation. 

Or, invest in some new attire. Having specific condition led water wear is another way to make use of seasonal variances in weather. Most seasoned UK paddlers will have a number of SUP wardrobes ready to combat all the gods can fling at us. Drysuits, wetsuits, compression suits, boardies and amphibious tees.  But this all comes at a cost of course.  So combining different seasons wardrobes can give you additional protection in the winter. A summer wetsuit with rashie windproof outerwear might even be enough if you’re paddling somewhere sheltered and with no risk of being stranded.  It was for me in sub zero temperatures earlier this week!

A positive way to look at it,  is to think of our changeable weather as an ever changing watery canvas you can draw bold SUP strokes on (cheesy but true!). Change should be embraced,  with no one SUP session ever the same as the previous paddle, you never get bored.

Embrace the change and you’ll develop much faster, with your paddling progress being swift.  Paddle, glide, repeat!

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Everyone deserves a chance to SUP

At McConks it’s really important to us to give something back to the community.  And to that end we like to work with charities and groups who work with the disadvantaged in our communities.  Stevie Nelson from Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL) has written the piece below to share their experience of working with McConks.

“Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL) were fortunate to have been given two demo boards from McConks iSUP’s to try out for suitability for our client group which is primarily adults with disabilities and mental health issues. The 10’8 and the 10’6 ‘Go Anywhere’ boards proved to be ideal for our needs in that they are very stable and solid (we inflated to 23psi), plenty of volume meant our members felt safe and confident being on the water, the five fin set up was ideal as we could use a variety of combinations to suit differing abilities, again instilling confidence in the first time paddler, the boards tracked really well allowing for little or no corrective strokes or constantly switching sides, the 3 piece fibreglass paddle had a fair amount of flex but well suited for beginners and learners. McConks very kindly included a seat with the boards which was used for those who were keen to go on the boards but we’re not quite confident enough to even initially kneel, this was a great way to get someone on the board and moving on the water. All of which will lead to progression to standing up paddling.

We liked the boards so much we ended up purchasing 3 x ex-demo board packages and are currently trying out the 12’8 Go Explore package with the 3 piece carbon fibre paddle. Our aim now is to secure funding to purchase a fleet of boards and be able to offer our members iSUP boarding as a regular activity in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks again to  McConks SUP for giving us the opportunity to introduce the iSUP experience to our members.”

Steven Nelson Manager/Activities Coordinator Beyond Boundaries East Lothian (BBEL)

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We’re all just kooks – punk as SUP

Back in its heyday surfing was the unruly child of the sport’s world. Counter culture and going against the grain were par for the course at surfing’s inception. This attitude took a stronger hold towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s. Tune in, drop out, smoke dope, go surfing, care less – you know how it goes. These were the days when getting ink was really counter culture not pop culture.

 

Colourful tales from those heady days abound involving many forms of taboo, and stories of how surfers would actively indulge in said taboos. It’s no surprise surfers (even some of the day’s superstars/icons/pioneers) have tales of drug runs across Federal borders, run ins with Mafioso gangs, fights and scrapes with underworld types and all manner of other colourful goings on. If you want the ultimate slice of this type of shenanigan then check out Da Cat’s (Miki Dora) story – All For a Few Perfect Waves – who personified the anarchic, punk rock surfer attitude before it was even a thing. Both likeable and loathed Da Cat took things to the extreme and created a legend. And the likes of sk8er boys Peralta and Adams amplified the bad boy punk image in the 70s, bringing down and dirty punk attitude to surf culture.

 

These days surfing’s a much more corporate affair with professional attributes that inevitably come with a maturing sport – the mavericks have been tamed, even if Mavericks hasn’t. There are a few characters still knocking about but they’re fewer and further between. Riders these days are less concerned with kicking up stink and more about being athletes and performing.

Which brings us to SUP.

Compared to surfing stand up is still in nappies, and there are huge numbers of people that couldn’t tell you one end of a paddle from the other.

“SUP? Never heard of it…”

Head to certain surf spots and stink eye is rife. In parts of the world this has been known to escalate to vocal threats and the odd bout of biff. Calls of kooks can be common place – especially at headline surf breaks. And those who like to scoff have been known to look on with amusement at so called race/touring SUPs as glorified canoes. Although stand up is increasingly popular it’s still fledgling for the moment and many don’t get it – especially the flat water side.

By its very nature – the fact that not everyone’s doing it (yet) – lends SUP to a punk rock attitude. ‘Do something different’, ‘don’t be the norm’, ‘be original’ and so on.

In times where individuality is seen as a good thing (even if it’s not referred to as punk) then stand up paddle boarding offers that very thing, with having to let go of daily routines and a more conservative approach to life off the water.

OK, we appreciate there are more paddlers in the world than ever. Heading to your local put in just three years ago would’ve have resulted in a probable lone session. These days you’re more likely to bump into a fellow blade swinger. But unlike surfing SUP isn’t the majority. Kayaking still attracts more dabblers each season than stand up with river/white water stand up (in the UK) by no means a thing.

The surface is only being scratched right now. At some point, however, we’ll probably turn round and realise how big stand up paddling actually is, and realise that we’re back in a mainstream sport again. For now, if you want a slice of your own punk rock watersports attitude (without needing to resort to bondage trousers, safety pins and one finger in the air), SUP will give you that, and more. Time to join the kook masses if you haven’t done so already…

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SUP hack: Competitive edge – air board racing for iSUP owners

Having purchased your spanking new inflatable SUP you’ve been quietly beavering away, putting in the miles, working on your paddling technique and nailing down all those fundamental skills needed for a lifetime of stand up paddling. Having overcome the beginner plateau you suddenly become aware of your enjoyment for high cadence mile smashing. Then the cartoon lightbulb above your head goes off as you realise: SUP RACING! Maybe that’s for me, but can I compete in events on an iSUP?

So, can you?

There’s no avoiding the fact ultimate race performance comes from piloting a hard shell SUP. Yet there’s no reason why a paddler can’t enter SUP racing comps using their trusty air board. In some cases, especially at bigger events, such as Battle of the Thames and the SUP Clubs UK Champs, there are inflatable fleets. If entering races without these classes then handicaps will be set, taking into account all riders and making things as fair as possible.

Currently the UK has only one specific inflatable race series that encompasses two events culminating in an overall championship event. This is one design racing and unfortunately dominated by a specific brand – a shame as we’re sure more inflatable racers would enter comps if they were on offer. Still, that’s a debate for another time.

In terms of tips for inflatable racing then you should ideally be using a pointy nose board for maximum efficiency. While it’s perfectly applicable to compete on round nose SUPs there’s no getting away from the fact something with water piercing properties, even if filled with air, will stand you in better stead and make chugging round a race course less arduous.

Although McConks doesn’t offer a specific race sled (yet) our Go Explore 12.8ft will accommodate budding podium finishers no troubles. It may be a board with touring leanings but this won’t detract from its glide and tracking characteristics – something that’ll benefit all SUPers not just those with a penchant for racing.

adventure SUP, touring SUP, expedition SUP
12’8 Go explore SUP

As rigid a board as possible will also stand you in better stead when facing off against the opposition. McConks’ high quality manufacturing techniques allows a bit more air to be squeezed inside. By all means do this as every little helps. And while the fins we supply are perfectly fine for general paddling a more race orientated type will only help when on the race course.

A word of warning regarding the above, however. If you’re considering swapping out your fins then try before you buy! And try as many as you can – as with all gear not everything will suit. Find your optimum and roll with it.

3 piece carbon SUP paddle

Lastly, a point that’s been talked about endlessly, is your paddle type and paddling technique. McConks paddles are top end and certainly applicable for the job in hand – be that recreational paddling or other. Experiment with the correct shaft length and then know and understand what efficient paddle strokes are. Racing will put added strain on your body so an efficient technique will help stave off potential injury.

 

From the above you can see that iSUP racing s certainly doable and as more paddlers enter the sport we’re pretty confident you’ll see more events opening up air board specific classes. Do some research prior to jumping straight in and then it’s down to you. Being a fast paddler is as much to do with the pilot as it is the kit you’re using. Train, learn, adapt, experiment, never give up and above all have fun…

We’d love to hear your experiences of racing an inflatable paddle board. Please give us a shout and let us know your tips, tricks and share your findings and photo finishes with us using the social media sharing buttons above.

 

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Paddle more in 2017

Well, here we are.  At the end of 2016, and the dawn of 2017.  And what a strange year it has been.  In the world of SUP, SUP has generally grown from strength to strength yet again, with an explosion in the number of races, brands, competitors and kit. 

There have been some rumours of oversupply within SUP circles,  but it seems that only the really poor quality brands are discounting heavily in the close season due to oversupply, with some really low quality kit available at around £250 instead of the RRP of £550 – 600. 

But, these problems seem to be few and far between.  The market has generally pushed on, and most acceptable quality brands have improved their offering in 2016, with further marginal improvements in 2017.

So what’s new in 2017? 

Hydrofoil is the next big thing. Or the Emperors new clothes.  We’re not sure there’s a place for SUP foiling in recreational, non elite paddlesports, Others disagree. Which is fine, diversity is the mother of invention!   There will be an increasing number of brands jumping on this bandwagon and making SUP foiling more widely available.  McConks will not be one of them in 2017, however.  We will be focussing on traditional SUP.

Whitewater SUP.  Whitewater paddle boarding is really finding it’s feet this year, and will continue to develop and grow next year.  McConks has seen significant interest from the more traditional paddlesports community and from instructors.   Matt Stephenson, the rising star of WWSUP is helping McConks develop the perfect WWSUP board, which should be available in time for the Autumn rush.

Outside of these areas, 2017 seems to be about consolidation and refreshing the lineup. Not much else has changed in the world of SUP other than marketing. Technology has improved marginally, slightly stiffer, slightly lighter, slightly better fittings. But the improvements are marginal.  Which don’t really reflect well on the typical % increase in prices in 2017.

Which is generally good news for you guys.  You don’t need to spend a bucketload of money keeping up with the latest trends.  And with no significant changes / improvements in technology expected, you can invest now without worrying about your kits becoming outdated within months.

And if you want THE BEST kit at THE BEST prices, you know where to go: www.mcconks.com.

So enjoy 2017, paddle more and enjoy new adventures.

As one of our friends said, lets hope that the next trip round the sun brings us all closer together.