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Are you full of Coastal Spirit?

Coastal Spirit…

You know it when you feel it.  Whether it be the feeling that you get when you see the mist over the sea at sunrise, the adrenalin rush when you nail that session, or the inspiration you feel watching a watery blood red sunset.

It’s also the name of a great company in North Wales who McConks has been working with for some time now, and who you can’t fail to notice have been appearing in our social media feeds. So we thought you might like to know more about who Coastal Spirit are.  Roger Chandler is the founder of Coastal Spirit, and he took some time off the water to answer our questions.

Tell us about your watersports background?

From a small child I loved being in and around water. Apparently it was fairly common for me to create a lot of noise when my parents tried to remove me!  It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I took up kayaking and then mainly due to my brother, who was a couple of years younger than me, that I progressed.  While paddling just the two of us on Coniston Water, he capsized and as I frantically paddled to rescue him, he then rolled up!!  So I joined a club as I couldn’t have my younger brother doing something I had no idea about, and got into white water.  We shared some great adventures together.  I then got into the dark art of open canoeing and one bladed skills. I discovered I loved the journeying and exploration.  This eventually led me on to sea kayaking as the kayak could move faster and was far better suited for rough weather on the coast and open sea!

Talk us through your story: What made you decide to set up Coastal Spirit?

Interestingly I never wanted to run my own company. Three things happened that made me consider life and what was important.  1) a very good friend died of Cancer, he was only 40.  2) I had worked for Raleigh International running the sea kayaking in Chile, Patagonia – it had taken 2.5 years to sort out and get 4 months off.  1.5 years later they pulled out of Chile.  3)  I had a bad mountain bike accident in France and as I laid in the ditch, I thought I had broken my back. I had broken my sternum and had whiplash to my neck – 6 weeks off work and physio I was in a much better place!

These three created an understanding, that life can be short, it can change in a moment, that if something is put off it may not happen again. If I couldn’t paddle, that would be very sad.  Actions have consequences, good, bad and indifferent.

I was 39 and looking for less stress and a better lifestyle and this was about getting closer to the mountains and the sea. There were fewer job opportunities in North Wales to do that as part of a company, so starting a company and throwing myself into it had to work.

Have you always been in North Wales?

Since 1990 I have worked in the outdoors. I’ve lived in the Lake District, Shropshire, Lancashire and the Forest of Dean, before moving to North Wales.

2017 is 10 years for Coastal Spirit. Before that I spent many hours driving up and down the motor ways, having been white water paddling, rock climbing, hill walking or sea kayaking up here.

What keeps you off the water?

Ha, ha, good question. Not much, illness and my accounts!

When did you first come across SUP?

About 2 years ago down in South Sands, Salcombe. An area we tended to go down to with good friends, for the last 15 plus years.  I hired a paddleboard for a half day and to be honest had a nightmare.  There was a small swell running and I couldn’t stand up.  Really!!  As far as I was concerned that was it.   Until last April 2016 when Jack Hewlett, who I’ve grown up with being around and sharing adventures, was working with me on the British Canoeing  3* performance sea kayak award.  In his down time he took to a paddleboard.  I was inspired, borrowed his board and managed 50 minutes, BOOM!

Is SUP strictly personal, or do you think it will become part of your business?

In many ways it would make a lot of sense to create a new element in my business.   Yet if I come back to why I started Coastal Spirit, it was for a better balance and quality of life.  At the moment it is strictly personal and to be honest I’m keen for it to remain there.  I’m more than happy for friends and clients to paddle the McConks boards I now have.  I really believe more paddlers, sea kayakers will take it up.  Storing a sea kayak can be a challenge and there is far less kit with paddle boarding.  Although at the same time, never say never!

Where does paddleboarding fit for you?

Since buying a board last May, it’s given me another playful focus and paddleboarding fits really well for me, on those calmer days where I could get bored in a sea kayak after 10 days coaching sea kayaking.  I see paddleboarding as an exercise, rather than going to the gym.  It’s a new challenge. I only need 2-3 hours and if I take the board into the faster flows of The Swellies, then it can still feel mellow.  In the Winter I’m working on downwind runs and seeing what I can manage. It feels exciting to be learning a new skill again.  The reality is I’m on the water more now, than I was even 1 year ago!

Why do you think paddleboarding has become so popular?

It looks believable and easy. There is minimal amount of kit, so less faff and no real technical skill needed to begin with, other than balance! There is also more social media coverage of some amazing stuff on paddleboards now.

Coastal Spirit. What are your aspirations for the future?

Keep doing what I’m doing, listen to clients and hear what they want, keep pushing sea kayak mentoring – an area I love. Keep the balance between, work and play. Ensure more adventures happen and kindle my passion.

Any changes for 2017?

Focused & Specific is a new range of courses, that aims to address areas that clients have said they want, or have difficulties with. Surf & Tide-races is one of those courses and with a ratio of 1:4.  Last year I ran four weekends and they went down really well.  I tend to start off with a brief performance psychology input over coffee and then we look for the best location for the waves.  It’s been a very popular course and great fun.

In-Bedding the 10 items of plastic to collect on each course and I’m really pleased with the response.   I’ve probably been doing it for the last 2 years and now I’m really encouraging it.  Just keep a plastic bag or two in a hatch.

Who are your paddling heroes and why?

Not sure if I’ve got paddling heroes but my first hero probably was my action man. Yep, I played with a doll!  He did everything and spent a number of summers in the paddling pool, having super adventures.  On from there was the Operations Manager at Outward Bound Eskdale, Tony Shepard – he was an excellent climber leading E5, super white water paddler and was just getting into para gliding.  He could also speak confidently to a management group and demonstrated a whole set of rounded skills.

Thanks and shouts?

BIG thanks to P&H Custom sea kayaks for their sponsorship, Mitchelblade kayak paddles, Kokatat paddle wear and of course McConks for their great Paddleboards!

For more information on Coastal Spirit, or to book your adventure visit http://coastalspirit.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/sea.kayaking.northwales

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kit choice dilemmas – the grass isn’t always greener

With so many choices of stand up paddle board available it’s understandable consumers are increasingly confused and not sure which way to turn.

As a beginner looking to buy an inflatable board it’s slightly less difficult. There are some pretty simple questions you need to answer:  Does the board float me?  How is its stability? Is it a reputable brand I’m buying? Is the SUP in question manufactured to a high standard?

Despite what the brands might tell you (and that includes us!), there isn’t a huge amount of difference between one top quality iSUP and another. If they’re guaranteed to more than 22 PSI, the chances are the manufacturing is decent quality, and your choice comes down to shape, fin arrangement and colour.

But, moving on from beginner paddling it becomes a little trickier.  Being a progressing intermediate is probably the most confusing period for kit choice. And if you’re looking for specific performance, i.e. manoeuvrability in waves or speed on a flat race track, then finding your ideal SUP partner as akin to needles and haystacks. We sympathise.

The only advice that anyone should give you – and something we can’t stress enough – is demo, demo, demo.  Don’t believe the shops, don’t believe your peers (even if they’re telling you McConks is your ideal partner), don’t believe the marketing.  Trying as many boards as you can get your feet on is the ONLY way to increase your knowledge base and make the right decision, and get good value for your hard earned £££.

In a short time you’ll discover what style fits your specific needs for general flat water paddling. This will help narrow down your choice for boards that match your needs.  Having nailed the flat water choice it’s then time to consider your other needs: manoeuvrability, speed, tracking or glide for instance.

Where possible, take a few boards out in the conditions you’re aiming to spend most of your time paddling in. As with flat water testing, most reputable brands, retailers and organisations will have a readily available fleet of SUPs (some a few, others more) for you to try out in your preferred environment. So, based on your new found knowledge from previous try outs, it’s off into the deep blue to see where each craft is at performance wise.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that you’ll get to a point where a decision is needed, otherwise you will keep going around in circles, and never making a decision.

So you’ve made your decision, you’ve board your SUP package.  And you’re ecstatic.  And then…?

Then the hard work begins.

With so much ‘info’ available it’s easy to begin second guessing what you’ve chosen. Social media posts, info in mags and on websites, titbits picked up from perceived luminaries of the sport may make you doubt your purchase.  Dan in your SUP club has got a new super AirTechLight Multivariate (AirTLM) paddle.  And the new OxyTech iSUP.  And you think Dan’s also got a bit faster, since their new purchase.  And at this point you doubt your purchase which is no long as new, or shiny as Dan’s. And the next thing you know you’ve traded in your board an alternative.  And the arms race begins.  The next thing you know Dan’s seen the latest advert by Sunboard and must buy the new rail technology, and you really fancy the new BluePaddle RamStick.  And this vicious cycle happens again the next year, and the next, ad infinitum!

And this repeat cycle doesn’t actually help most riders develop skills or improve their enjoyment of SUP.  All it really does is help move money from your bank account into someone elses!

So what’s the solution?

Parting with cash for a new SUP will yield a craft which WILL work. After all, that initial research and demo period does pay off. Therefore the performance differences you’re being led to believe can be found more efficiently elsewhere are only at best incremental, and at worst are non existent. Take paddle surfing for instance. A board that a mag review has said to turn tighter may well do so in the hands of an professional SUP surfer.  But the difference between your board and the contender is likely to be minimal, and the subtle nuances will only to be felt by higher skilled riders. In reality, you’ll only get to the same level having developed your own bag of tricks on kit that’s appropriate for your skill level, and kit that you’ve stuck with for a while and learned to love. The point is: your new SUP will do everything you ask of it (unless you’ve really made the wrong decision and bought a duff). It’s now time to make it happen.

So the best advice? Research, make your choice and then learn how to ride your SUP well over a period of time. In time you’ll be surprised how much progression you’ve made and all without the headache of constantly swapping kit for supposedly something better. As with everything in life the grass ISN’T always greener… And constantly buying brand new kit certainly isn’t green!


If you want to demo our new 2017 McConks board and paddle lineup, you can find out more here

And you can read more about our 2017 touring board here

And our 2017 all round board here

 

 

 

 

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Get your big blue adventure: exploring the world through SUP

Every now and then, we’re going to let our blog be taken over by a company that inspires us and who’s principles align with ours. This article, by Big Blue Adventures based in Cardiff South Wales, is the first in the takeover series! Thanks to Dan and Heleen for the article.

‘Exploring through adventure’, that is one of the key elements of the Big Blue Adventures business. It is also how our mantra Explore.Evolve.Enjoy came about, offering people an outdoor adventure with a range of playgrounds to choose from. From surfing on The Gower Peninsula to coasteering in Pembrokeshire and from canyoning in Brecon Beacons to SUP’ing around The Mumbles. These are our core activities in Wales, and this is the playground where Big Blue Adventures was born. And what a playground it is!

SUP is probably the most accessible activity we offer at Big Blue Adventure, which also explains why it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world! But what we have learned from SUP’ing in Wales, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands is that the real magic behind Stand Up Paddleboarding lies in the ease of exploring new countries, cities, beaches; the choices are endless. Because it’s such a rapidly growing water sport, you can now find a SUP instructor or a SUP board hire spot almost everywhere you go, some better than others.

Exploration with Big Blue Adventures
Group adventures: exploring the Big Blue around the Gower Peninsula

SUP’ing really is an activity that is suitable for everyone – you can learn the basics in a day and start enjoying the paddle straight away. And whilst prone surfing (another of our activities) is also great for beginners, and the basics aren’t too hard, when do you have time to stop and take in the views?  You are just looking for that next wave to catch and practice your new skills.

With Stand Up Paddleboarding you have the time to take in your surroundings and even make it a social day out. Sharing a new experience with others is what it’s all about and with SUP you have the chance to do just that.

We think SUP is one of the most fun and unique ways of exploring a country. Of course, wandering around on two feet is a good way to see a city, but isn’t it more exciting to be sightseeing from a SUP board?  You get a different view of the world from the water than on foot, and on a SUP you can often access places and spots that boat tours cannot get to.

One of the most unique SUP’s we have done was through the canals of Amsterdam. You get a completely different view of the city if you’re on a board. Exploring the miles and miles famous canals, away from the hordes of tourists and with wide views of both sides of the waterways! Amsterdam is probably one of the easiest cities in Europe to explore by SUP because there are canals leading you from one side of the city to the other and they can literally take you anywhere in between. It’s even possible to paddle passed famous Dutch landmarks like the Rijksmuseum (one of the most visited art museums in world!) and The Heineken Experience, paddling under little bridges and next to historic buildings. Whilst dozens of tourists passed us by on bikes, we were one of the few out on the water. Many might not know this, but Amsterdam also has a lovely lake area (Sloterplas) with a small beach and it is paddle distance from city centre. This city really offers the best of both worlds; tranquillity and the buzz of the busy streets.

If you fancy exploring with a local guide (one of Big Blue Adventures is a dutch local) then have a look at our Surfenture Holland package.

SUP’ing in Barcelona was slightly different to our Dutch experience. Around famous Barceloneta Beach there are a few places where you can hire a SUP board, we hired one at the Boardriders shop. It’s the busiest beach of the city and sometimes you even struggle to find a place to put your towel down, but surprisingly we were one of only a dozen people out on the water! You might see a fellow SUP’er here and there or someone swimming or Jet skiing but other than that it was pretty much the two of us, the seagulls and the swell. Don’t underestimate a SUP session in Barcelona though, the winds can get pretty strong with your body acting like a sail, it’s a real work-out and sometimes that’s exactly what you are looking for. It’s fun and zen but Stand Up Paddle boarding is also a great all body workout, with the core especially benefitting. SUP’ing around Barceloneta is safe and you don’t need to go far from shore, the beach stretches for a good few miles. Could it get any better:  A sunny SUP session where we discovered some of the beaches next to Barceloneta with hardly any tourists at all, just locals.  And we finished the day off with a cold Estrella and a Paella.  Cliché’d?  Maybe, but a great way to end the day and a well deserved treat after the day’s paddling.

SUP in Barcelona
Finding Big Blue Adventures in Catalonia: follow us on facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others say that SUP’ing around the globe might just be the best way of exploring a new destination in a different way.  We know it is.  It sure beats an open top sightseeing bus or Segway tour for us.

 

For further information:

www.bigblueadventures.co.uk
www.facebook.com/bigblueadventureswales
www.twitter.com/bbawales
Instagram @ BigBlueAdventures

Owners of the company:
Daniel Manley (Welsh) & Heleen Lamm (Dutch)
Check our ‘about us’ page: https://www.bigblueadventures.co.uk/aboutbigblueadventurescardiff

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Yoga and SUP

SUP yoga for the soul

As someone who’s always enjoyed adventurous activities, I’ve had my fair share of broken bones, pulls and strains. The most significant of these being a broken shoulder about 8 years ago (dumped on a sand bar at Praar Sands after failing to commit/pop in a double overhead situation), and a broken neck when I was 18.
As a result of these injuries, Yoga should be a core part of my daily routine to delay the onset of, or reduce the risk arthritis.   In fact, core strength, flexibility, and breathing control are integral to success in SUP (and all watersports) no matter what your performance goals are.  Therefore Yoga should be an integral part of any watersports enthusiasts daily routine.

Despite this, the integration of yoga into my exercise route and daily life comes and goes.  And the reason for this is as much to do with convenience and cost as it is with motivation.  I’m really not one for sweating in a hot studio with 10 others doing Hot Yoga, or for choreographed routines to music.  And so when yoga has been more prevalent in my life, it’s been when a really good yoga teacher has been running small sessions at a convenient time.  And finding the right Yoga teacher for you is also difficult.  Yoga means many different things to different people, and with such a difference in yoga types, styles and emphasis, then whilst it is very easy to find a yoga class, it’s not so easy to find one that matches your aspirations or goals.

For that reason, there’s always a temptation to go it alone and just follow a video/youtube of some random poses (asanas) or sequences from an unknown Yogi/teacher. And surely if you pick one which has lots of likes/stars you’ll be right?

Well not really. If you’re a seasoned practitioner, then you’re unlikely to do yourself harm from an online sequence.  You’ve already got the basic positions, your proprioception is already good and you can ‘feel’ when your body is in position, and can massage your position to improve the position or posture.  But you lose the eagle eye of the coach spotting minute imperfections, or their ability to spot your weakness and tailor the asana or sequence to build up strength to overcome those weaknesses.  And if you’re not a seasoned practitioner, you can do yourself some real damage.  If you cannot instinctively ‘feel’ when you’re out of position, you can injure yourself.

This is especially true for dynamic sequences where you move from one position to another.  And if you keep repeating that exercise without an experienced teacher correcting you, you can cause long term aches and pains that can severely impact your mobility and performance.

So where does SUP yoga come into this?

Well one of the causes of potential injury is removed with a board. The floor or mat of a gym/living room is hard and unyielding.    And resistance from the floor when you’re out of position is the cause of many of the injuries.  This problem goes away with paddleboard yoga.  If you’re out of position, if you’re unbalanced, then the board moves with you.

This has three benefits:

The first is that you get more immediate feedback on your balance and position. If your board is tipping from side to side, front to back, then you know you’ve got problems.  If your board is nice and stable as you transition through your Sun Salutations then you know you’ve nailed it.  So the feedback from the board helps to develop your proprioception and ‘feel’ for positions.

The second is that it works your balance and core strength more thoroughly than standing on terra firma. So if you want a flat tummy and toned abs, SUP yoga is not to be sniffed at.  And for people like me who need to work on their core strength to improve posture to delay the onset of arthritis, SUP yoga is the way forward.

And the third benefit is protection from injury. Specifically with an iSUP, the board is not an unforgiving as a hard floor with a yoga mat.  And on any SUP, the water is much more forgiving than the floor.  But this isn’t the real benefit.  The real benefit is the in-built protection you get from putting yourself in damaging positions.  Although this is not infallible, the board will typically throw you off before you’ve caused long term damage.

We’ve put together a description of some of the positions and routines that you can put yourself through on a SUP board below. But, just to repeat, you can do yourself damage if you self-manage your yoga routine.  Unless you’ve already got some experience, start off with a few sessions with an instructor.

The Sun Salutation or ‘Surya Namaskar’ is a great way to get into Yoga.  In fact, the ‘Surya Namaskar’ is the traditional way to warm up all muscle groups for a yoga practice, and a core component of Vinyasa yoga warmups.

The sun is the giver of all life. Without the sun there would be no life as we know it on earth, and the Hindu tradition has revered the sun or Surya as the physical and spiritual heart of our world for thousands of years.  And they believe that the sun is the ‘eye of the world’ seeing and uniting all unto itself; a pathway to the divine and enlightment. And even if you don’t believe this, the sun salutation is the perfect asana to stretchA core component of the Sun Salutation is linking your breathing with the movement and rhythm of the asana, bringing you to a more meditative state. And the asana is perfect for every level.  For total beginners it helps to build flexibility, control and strength, and as you become more experienced, there are adjustments and options that increase the difficulty.

There are just eight basic postures to learn to practice the sun salutation, and the image below shows you each of the poses in a complete sun salutation.


Mountain pose is all about finding your connection with the earth and being planted, stable, firm but relaxed. It’s a powerful stance, you should be able to imagine a line of energy running all the way from you inner thighs up through your groin and out through the crown of your head.  Your shoulders should be relaxed with your shoulder blades being pulled to the floor as if by weights, and your tailbone should point to the floor. Breathe in and try to make your belly button touch your spine, and soften your eyes as you relax into the pose.

As you breathe in, turn your palms and arms outwards and then swing your arms up towards to the sky. Keeping your shoulders open touch your palms together and extend your elbows and fingers upwards as if you were saluting the sky (upward salute pose).  Keeping your belly button tucked in to your spine, tilt your head back and if you’re comfortable, tilt backwards into a soft back bend.

As you exhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and hinge at the hips to drop into a standing forward bend. Keep your knees straight, but soft.  Breathe into the pose, lengthening your front torso as you breathe in. And with every breath out, deepen the fold.  If your hands don’t reach the floor fold your arms over your torso.

With a deep breath raise slightly, step one foot back, and plant your hands either side of your front foot in low lunge.  There are numerous variations you can insert into your sun salutation at this point, including the various Warrior I and Warrior II. Or you can transition straight into plank pose.

With both feet back your hands should be shoulder width apart and your feet are hip distance apart. There should be a straight line up your body from your toes to your head.  Do not let your body sag, and pull your belly button towards your spine. As you breathe out bend your elbows so that your body is parallel with the floor.  This is staff pose and if you’ve got weak wrists you might find this pose difficult to hold.

An alternative to staff pose is sideways plank. Lift out of plank pose by rotating around your core, raising one arm to the sky and opening your heart.

For those more advanced practitioners you can insert a one handed peacock into your asana. But this one is not for the faint hearted.

From staff pose, gently lower your knees to the board and raise your hips and chest to the sky in cobra pose. With straight arms but soft elbows tilt your head slightly back and raise your eyes to the sky.

From here step your feet forward into downward facing dog pose.

This is one of the most famous restorative and healing poses in Yoga. As you breathe out push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but keep them soft.  Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.

From downward facing dog step forward into a low lunge on the opposite leg to your previous lunge and reverse the start of the sequence back through the forward bend, upward salute before returning to mountain pose.

And relax…let your breath return to normal. And bask in the inner glow of your first completed Sun Salutation on a SUP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Focus on All round SUP

There are some people who like following the crowds, who will buy the biggest selling boards because everyone else has bought one. It must be the best if everyone has one right? Nothing to do with marketing or dealer margin eh?

There are others who like to do their own thing, who like to create their own stories rather than being part of someone else’s. Those who seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, who want to get close to nature, to escape. And who want to paddlesurf, and who want to take kids or pets with them. If that’s you, or if you’re a little heavier paddler, then our 10’8 Go Anywhere board is perfect for you.

McConks are explorers too, and we’ve designed the perfect board for day and multi day trips. But we didn’t just use our experience. We’ve also spoken to lots of paddlers to really understand what makes a perfect inflatable paddle board for families, day travellers and watermen/women, and used this to set new standards for our all round SUP.

We’ve redefined lightweight touring inflatable paddle boards with our new Enhanced Drop Stitch technology. This uses the latest fusion polymer technology to reduce the weight of the paddleboard compared to many of our competitors, but still provides a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, the 10’8 board packs a massive 278l volume, so will happily carry a load of 200kg, and yet weighs less than 10kg.

Focus on:
Handles
The 10’8 and 10’6 comes with three handles front, back and centre. The handles are triple reinforced to withstand the worst that the seas can throw at you, and the front and back handles have reinforced D rings to connect your leash or tow lines.

Also, every board comes with a mount to attach your cameras and devices.


Focus on Fins

Fins are the key piece of kit that keep your board on the straight and narrow, and the placement of the fin boxes and the type of fin have a significant impact on the performance of the board. The shape (or foil) of the fins themselves, and the position of the centre fin in the centre box all have an impact on performance.

Different days with different conditions might require different fin set ups. That’s why we think having removable fins isn’t just a nice to have, but essential. And we have spent a lot of time testing different fin types, box locations and setups to get the optimum combination.

The centre box is a typical Air7” box found on most high end inflatable SUP. This box is a standard US centre box, and allows flexibility in both fin and fin location. The fin that we provide with the Go Anywhere is a great all rounder. But you can switch it out for specialist fins that are optimised for speed, for weed shedding, or catching bumps. And with the Air7 box, you can move the fin forward to make the tail looser, or slide it back to tighten up your tail.

The side fins use the leading FCS system. Like the US centre box system, the FCS system has served the test of time and has lasted through many cycles of faddish fashion. FCS is here to stay, and that means you will always be able to get replacement or performance fins to pimp your ride. The fins provided with the Go Anywhere board are click fit flexi fins. The click fit means that you don’t need to carry an FCS key around with you to fit or remove your fins. And the flexi fin means that the fins don’t shear off the first time you slide across a reef.
And the benefit of a 2+1 arrangement means that you can ride thruster, single fin or twin based on the conditions you find yourself in.

Focus on Storage
Whether you’re on a day trip with the kids, or on a multiday wild camping adventure, secure storage is important. You need to know that your kit isn’t going to slide around and escape if you get caught in rough seas.

The position of the storage on the front of the board has been carefully designed so that it counterbalances the rider’s weight, and helps keep a perfect trim when fully loaded. And you can be assured that the kit you put here will stay there all day without worry. The 4 double reinforced stainless steel D Rings hold the 8mm bungee cord secure, and the non slip deck strips mean that your kit stays rooted to the board.

Focus on shape
 This board has been designed for true all round use. With the parallel rails at the midsection, this board is fast for an allround inflatable SUP. With so much volume it rides high on the water and just loves to eat up the miles. And the subtle nose rocker is enough to cut through chop without getting massively impacted by a headwind. But it’s the tail shape sets this board apart from all of the competition. The combination of the pintail shape with the real fins means that this board is highly manoeuvrable. Whether you’re looking to shred in shoulder high surf, carve gracefully in shin high swell, or speed around race marks with step back pivot turns, this board will not disappoint. But what takes everyone by surprise is the stability of this board when paddling or gliding in neutral position. The manoeuvrability only kicks in when you take a step back. So this board has achieved the impossible; both stable and manoeuvrable in a single board
The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques and it is the application of this technology alongside good old fashioned trial and error that has delivered a board loved by beginners, families and larger riders.

Available in:

10’8 x 32″ x 6″, 278litres.  For families, nervous beginners and larger orders

10’6 x 32″ x 5″ 218litres.  For less nervous beginners, smaller riders and intermediates.

Available 1 April 2017.

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Focus on touring

There are some people who like being on busy beaches, close to fish and chip cafes and coffee shops.
There are others who like to get away from the crowds, who like to seek out their own hidden beaches and coves, to get close to nature, to escape. Some people even dabble with a bit of naturism, letting it all hang free when away from the crowds.
If you’re more like exhibit B, then our Go Explore touring board is perfect for you. McConks are explorers too, and we’ve designed the perfect board for day and multi day trips. But we didn’t just use our experience. We’ve also spoken to lots of paddlers to really understand what makes a perfect inflatable paddle board for families, day travellers and watermen/women, and used this to set new standards for our touring iSUP boards.<BR><BR>

With front and back storage, and additional lashing points there is ample space on this paddleboard to take day bags or even multi day expedition kit.
We’ve redefined lightweight touring inflatable paddle boards with our new Enhanced Drop Stitch technology. This uses the latest fusion polymer technology to reduce the weight of the paddleboard compared to competitors, but still provide a solid rigid platform for comfortable long distance paddling. To put this into perspective, this board packs a massive 330l volume, so will happily carry a load of 250kg, and yet only weighs 10kg.

Handles
When you’re trying to launch or land your board on a rocky foreshore with an overhead shoredump trying to smash your board and your kit to smithereens, you need strong handles, in the right place. And lots of them. The Go Explore has 6 handles just where you need them to secure the board in swell and to quickly launch or lift the board. The handles are triple reinforced to withstand the worst that the seas can throw at you, and the front and back handles have reinforced D rings to connect your   leash or toe lines.

Two of the handles also double as paddle gloves to keep your paddle secure. We’ve found this really useful for Yoga, to keep the paddle secure when having a picnic or relaxing break afloat, or to store a kayak paddle.

Focus on Fins
Fins are the key piece of kit that keep your board on the straight and narrow, and the placement of the fin boxes and the type of fin have a significant impact on the performance of the board. The shape (or foil) of the fins themselves, and the position of the centre fin in the centre box all have an impact on performance.
Different days with different conditions might require different fin set ups. That’s why we think having removable fins isn’t just a nice to have, but essential. And we have spent a lot of time testing different fin types, box locations and setups to get the optimum combination.
The centre box is a typical Air7” box found on most high end inflatable SUP. This box is a standard US centre box, and allows flexibility in both fin and fin location. The fin that we provide with the Go Explore is a great all rounder. However, you can switch it our for specialist fins that are optimised for speed, for weed shedding, or catching bumps. And with the Air7 box, you can move the fin forward to make the tail looser, or slide it back to tighten up your tail.
The side fins use the leading FCS system. Like the US centre box system, the FCS system has served the test of time and has lasted through many cycles of faddish fashion. FCS is here to stay, and that means you will always be able to get replacement or performance fins to pimp your ride. The fins provided with the Go Explore board are click fit flexi fins. The click fit means that you don’t need to carry an FCS key around with you to fit or remove your fins. And the flexi fin means that the fins don’t shear off the first time you slide across a reef.
And the benefit of a 2+1 arrangement means that you can ride thruster, single fin or twin based on the conditions you find yourself in.

Focus on Storage
Whether you’re on a day trip with the kids, or on a multiday wild camping adventure, secure storage is important. You need to know that your kit isn’t going to slide around and escape if you get caught in rough seas. And it needs to stay in place when you’re dropping the board in, or retrieving it from that aforementioned shoredump.
So we started from the bottom up when thinking about storage. We’ve included two storage areas, the forward one for serious kit storage, and the aft storage in easy reach. The position of the forward storage on the board has been carefully designed so that it counterbalances the rider’s weight, and helps keep a perfect trim when fully loaded. And you can be assured that the kit you put here will stay there all day without worry. The 6 double reinforced stainless steel D Rings hold the 8mm bungee cord secure, and the non slip deck strips mean that your kit stays rooted to the board.
Focus on shape
This is McConks’ fastest and truest board. The Go Explore just wants to go fast, and in a straight line. With the displacement nose and slight nose rocker to cut through chop, this board just eats up the miles, and loves being on open water.

The subtle nose rocker just lifts the nose enough to prevent undue drag in heavy seas, but in general the bottom of the board has a planer surface that glides evenly through the water.

The shape of the board was designed using 3D modelling techniques to give the truest lines and to maximise glide. Testing the prototype on a paddle challenge around Malta has allowed us to make subtle changes to the design, and we believe that this board is the best expedition iSUP on the market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUP hack: Time on the water – quantity over quality?

The old saying: ‘need more time on the water’ is usually used when referring to required improvements in personal SUP performance. And there’s no question racking up the hours will pay dividends.  But is quantity more important than quality?  Is five days straight stand up paddle surfing in average conditions better than one session in groomed perfection?

As with many things paddleboarding, there’s no right or wrong answer to that question!  It’s a difficult one, and a lot of it comes down to individual motivation. From our own experience smashing out the hours has really paid dividends.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment, and that’s true for paddleboarding.  It’s perfectly possible to handle, perform in and enjoy less than idyllic SUP weather and still feel fulfilled at the end.  That said, we do appreciate not everyone is the same. Standing at the water’s edge, staring forlornly at grey skies, bucketing rain and choppy water isn’t for everyone. During these stages of your SUP career you’ve really got to ‘want it’ to enjoy battling against the conditions.

It also helps to have a defined plan. As you watch a paddler head off into harsh conditions, you ay wonder why on earth they’re choosing to paddle in such grim conditions. If they’ve got their head screwed on types, however, there’s almost certainly method in the madness. It’s not necessarily that they’re feeling a little masochistic and fancy beasting themselves stupid (although some do just for kicks!); rather the paddler in question has seen a training opportunity and is making best use of what’s on offer.

Picture the scene. Grey, choppy and cold looking water doing it’s best to make the scene uninviting and put you off paddling. Winds gust around 20 knots and there’s a strong windchill.  And despite you see this a stand up paddler putting in.  Really?  Are they insane? Surely they’re not really going in?  But the rider efficiently launches, turns downwind and begins riding bumps (rolling swell) along the coast, all the time  that nagging breeze helping propel him onwards to the next lump. To the observer on the beach it looks effortless, fun, exhilarating, even a little graceful.  And with prior planning, understanding, skills and knowledge it can be all of those things. But this ride hasn’t been earned overnight.   Over the period of several days you can bet your bottom dollar the paddler in question will have done their dues in unappealing weather.  They will have made the most of all weather to build up increased levels of accumulated muscle memory in tough conditions.  And because of this they have an overall higher skill set than those waiting it out for windows of sweetness and opportunity on the beach.

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not suggesting everyone head for a float regardless of weather (although there’ll usually be somewhere to paddle if you search around). And we also acknowledge that a quality session in optimum conditions will also yield possibly more fun (maybe but see our earlier post on tier two fun). But we do think having that inner motivation to get out there whatever will inevitably help you in the long run – even if it’s simply a few extra hours on the water a week.

With spring a mere sniff away there’s never been a better time to search out a variety of venues that could offer you a bolthole regardless of Mother Nature’s moods. As warmth levels rise, with both water and air temperatures, it could be worth having a plan in place to max out your stand up paddling time and achieve something more than simply floating about. Whether it be working on paddling technique, focusing on board control, tuning your machine (through fin set ups or optimum pressure) and appreciating the subtle nuances of each change, paddling in a more varied range of conditions or anything else you can think of. There’s plenty of opportunity for pushing on your SUP this coming season. Time to get involved!