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Facts and figures of 2017

2017 – all about the numbers

McConks are not about long celebratory blogs about how great 2017 was.  Or how big 2018 is going to be for us.

We could talk about how great our customers are, and what great reviews we’ve received of our inflatable SUP boards.  We could say how we’ve loved being tagged in our riders photos, loving seeing riders from 4 to 70 on our boards.

We could talk about  the number of instructors, schools and guides who now use McConks inflatable SUP for their businesses.  Or we could talk about the rave reviews our new WindSUP and surfSUP boards have been getting.

Or we could tell you about the development of our new whitewater paddleboard, and how it has been winning fans in unexpected places.

We’re really proud of our environmental credentials, and our ethical and sustainable principles, so we could tell you about that.  Or we could tell you about the charities we’ve supported and how we’re supporting charitable bodies such as the Princes Trust.

But we don’t like bragging, so we’ll just let the numbers do the talking.

McConks inflatable SUP in 2017
2017 facts and figures McConks SUP

 

 

 

 

 

McConks inflatable SUP notable achievements
McConks 2017 in review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Give a little pleasure for Christmas

Give a little pleasure for Christmas

experiences make the best gifts

Did you know that giving someone an experience makes them happier than giving them a physical gift?

The idea that an experience that only lasts for a short period of time compared to a physical gift can make you happier for longer seems wrong. But there is a load of scientific research that confirms this, and we’re going to use this article to help explain why.  And while we’re at it we’re going to recommend some awesome experiences around the UK that you can ask for as presents, or gift to someone else.

Getting excited

The excitement about Christmas is at fever pitch in our household right now, and we’re only just into December. Obviously some of this excitement is about the toys the boys are going to get as presents, but surprisingly, they’re probably more excited about going to cut down the Christmas Tree, decorating it, and about going to see all the Christmas lights.  And about seeing the whole family on Christmas Day, about singing along to all the Christmas songs, and whole heap of other experiences they remember from last year.  And according to the research, the anticipation is greater for experiences than for material gifts, and this is only one of the reasons why experiences make us happier.

Social experiences

Experiences don’t happen alone, they happen in groups or pairs. And even the most curmudgeonly old *** will get pleasure out of shared experiences. Studies have shown that even the shyest, quietest of people need community contact and social experiences, even if they find them uncomfortable.  And most of us love a chinwag with friends, family, and often total strangers during and after shared experiences, and get huge value out of them.   

And the best experience gifts keep on giving for many years.  Shared experiences sometimes become part of family folklore. Our favourite is the one of Uncle Pete falling off the paddleboard, and a seal popping up behind him to say hello.  And every time we told him to turn around to see, it disappeared again. Over and over

Beig surprised with an experience gift

Getting it wrong

If most people are asked which they think they will get more value from, an experience or a material gift, they will say gift. A study a few years ago looked into this.  They asked people before the gift/experience which they thought would make them most happy.  And they asked them again after the gift/experience which had made them happier.  And the majority of people overestimated how much pleasure they got from material gifts, and underestimated how much pleasure they got from experiences. 

Experiences Don’t Invite Competition Or Envy

Every experience is unique and is difficult to compare with something else. And they’re very individual.   So unlike a new phone, or a new handbag, the gift is unlikely to be compared directly other gifts, particularly at times like Christmas or birthdays when people received multiple gifts.  And this even effects the gift giver’s pleasure as well.  It never feels nice knowing that someone has bought the same present or you, or that their present has upstaged yours. And that disappointment can set in even as you’re thinking ‘it’s the thought that counts’ to yourself.

Physical gifts lose their value quickly

Emotionally, the value of a gift to someone decreases from the moment that they first open it. And the more additional gifts someone gets, the lower the value gets.   In terms of happiness and the hormones associated with happiness, this has been proved in research studies.  The best way to explain this is to think about it in terms of kit.  Think of that GPS sports watch you’ve been lusting over for months, but can’t justify the cost.  If someone buys it for you, you will be thrilled.  Your heart might even skip a beat. Your endocrine system will be flooded with pleasure hormones and you will be buzzing.  But here’s the thing.  Once you’ve got it, that watch becomes part of your new normal and your happiness levels return to their normal level. And here’s the important thing - you don’t get a buzz every time you use it.  You might value it still, it might be very useful, it might even improve your paddling. But you don’t get the same release of hormones.  You might get a buzz from the paddling you do while wearing it, but you don’t need the watch to get that buzz.  In fact, the only way to get that same buzz from a GPS sports watch is to buy a new and upgraded one.  (There is a technical term for this, ‘the hedonic treadmill’).

The same isn’t true for experiences. An experience gift gives a buzz when given, and buzz associated with the anticipation, another one when used, and then memories of the experience keep producing happy hormones far into the future.   In fact a future conversation with a stranger about something entirely random can trigger that memory and release the pleasure hormones again.

So what will you choose?

So there you have it. Experiences actually make us happier for longer than material gifts.  So now the only thing to consider is how to go about giving someone an experience. About the only thing that’s better than an experience in terms of happiness and value is a material gift that allows someone to generate their own new experience.  Like an inflatable SUP for example.  But we’ll save that thought for another blog!

So if you’re convinced, here are some of the very best experiences that we’ve pulled together from McConks friends, acquaintances and partners around the country.

If you’re not convinced, then why not buy a Universal SUP gift card that can be used for experiences or for SUP related equipment at ever increasing number of retailers.

SUP introductory sessions for beginners

There are an increasing number of schools, instructors and providers who offer introductory sessions around the country. And if you check out www.suphubuk.com, you will find that most of the schools on the map will offer an introductory SUP session for no more than £30 – £40.

Bath Paddleboard centre are one such example. They are a  Water Skills Academy (WSA) accredited school which means that they know what they’re talking about!  They offer a basic introductory 1.5 hour session which will have you standing by the end of it.  The course covers everything you need to know to get paddling, but they also offer improver lessons and safe paddler lessons for intermediate paddlers. All set on the stunning River Avon in Bath, Trowbridge or Bradford on Avon.

Stand Up Paddle Board UK

Mountain Monkeys

SUP hub

SUP hire

As you might expect with the fastest growing watersport in the world, it’s getting easier and easier to find somewhere safe to hire a SUP board without needing to book an instructor.   Obviously you don’t get the advice and assistance from an instructor, which means that you might learn bad habits from day 1 which are then very difficult to forget. But this is a popular option for a lower cost gift.

In the heart of the Cotswold Water Park, Cotswold water park hire is a great little spot for hiring SUP, canoes, kayaks or rowing boats.   And Tom and Josh are also senior paddlesports instructors who run RapidSkills, so they’re always happy to offer some advice if you’re struggling.

For the more adventurous, why not get vouchers for SUP hire delivered to the door? With the low cost SUP rental offered by SUP by post, you can help people create their own experiences and adventures.  To go exploring in their time, in their own way.  It’s easy to book online, and costs from as little as £10 per day for a full SUP package including inflatable SUP board, carbon fibre paddle, buoyancy aid and dry bag.

Both CWPhire and SUPbypost accept Universal SUP gift cards. CWP hire also offer their own gift cards.

Cotswold Water park hire

SUP by post

Universal SUP gift card

Adrenaline junkies – whitewater SUP

If you’re looking for a present for an adrenaline junkie, an experience with Stand Up Paddle Boarding UK might be just the thing.  Based in Llangollen, North Wales, Stand Up Paddle Boarding UK are the first whitewater SUP tuition providers in the UK.  The undisputed king of WWSUP, Anthony Ing, offers tuition and experiences on the River Dee. But they also offer a whole lot more besides, from flat water SUP, to archery to whitewater rafting. So they have something for everyone, from absolute beginners to experts.

Whitewater SUP adventures

Advanced tuition

Do you know someone who is a bit of a SUP expert and thinking about their next steps? Maybe they’re thinking about doing some training and getting accredited?

Why not get them a voucher for some structured SUP training? Getafix is one of the best known paddlesports training providers in the UK.  Leo and Anna have trained many of the up and coming and leading paddlers in the UK, and they offer the British Canoeing SUP discipline support module for £80.  Find out more on their website.

Getafix.com

Guided adventures

Every day it seems that there are more guided adventures and holidays being promoted. You can check out the events calendar on SUPhubUK to see just a small fraction of the expeditions and adventures offered.

The Norfolk Broads is a beautiful spot for a guided adventure. Although lots of fun can be had exploring the broads and the Norfolk coast by yourself, there are so many hidden gems that you risk missing if you go without a guide.

For simple hire or tuition, check out BoardinSkool. For guided adventures in the backwaters of Broads, whether this be on SUP or in a kayak, check out Norfolk Outdoor Adventures

BoardinSkool accept Universal SUP Gift cards

On the other side of the River Thames in Kent, Lucy at Whitstable SUP is a qualified guide and instructor, and offers guided lessons and experiences (romantic sunset paddle with Champagne anyone?) on the River Stour and around the stunning Kent coast

Whitstable SUP

Boardin Skool

Whitstable SUP

SUP singles

Christmas is the time of year for peace, love and happiness, right?.  So we couldn't write an article about SUP experiences as a Christmas gift without mentioning Psyched SUP's singles SUP events.

OK - so clearly you need to know the person your giving this gift to pretty well, or it might backfire.  But this is such an awesome experience.  Giving the gift of love through paddleboarding.  What's not to love?

 

Psyched paddleboarding

SUP gifts

If we've failed in our mission to persuade you to buy SUP experiences rather than SUP gifts, please make sure you buy ethical or sustainable presents, or ones that can be used to make an experience.  

So maybe an ethical, sustainable, organic, fairtrade guilt free tee shirt or hoodie, or a luxury chunky bobble hat

Or how about a top of the range, beautiful bamboo / carbon SUP paddle.

 

Christmas with McConks

Ethical, organic, fairtrade SUPwear

Paddleboard hardware

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Talking story – McConks’ Q&A

Every brand has a ‘face’ behind the scenes. In the case of McConks SUP that’d be Andy and wife Jen. To get more of an insight into the inner workings of this new kid on the SUP company block Andy was recently put on the Q&A grill to find out what makes him tick, what it takes to get new SUP products to market and where this fledgling company’s heading.

Tell us about your watersports background and when you first discovered SUP?

Jen and I have long been “outdoor adventure and recreation’’ devotees. I grew up in South Wales and spent many long hours in and on the South Wales coast, with my parents, with Scouts and with the South Wales Mountaineering Club. And with the valleys and Brecon Beacons close to hand there was rarely a weekend I wasn’t out in the Welsh countryside or at the coast.

Both Jen and I separately chose universities at the end of civilised world, close to wilderness and on the coast. Me at St Andrews in Scotland and Jen at Aberystwyth. We both studied courses that continued our passion for preserving the natural world and the environment, whilst still taking time to play in the amazing environs we had chosen.

As outdoor adventure activities generalists, it’s fair to say that neither Jen nor I are leaders or instructor level in any particular activity. Depending on the pastime, we’re either competent, or enthusiastic, rather than advanced. But between us we have many years of experience surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, sailing, outdoor swimming, mountain biking, climbing and exploring.

We first saw SUP when it was just breaking in the UK. As keen surfers then I remember looking out back at Rest Bay and seeing my first stand up paddle boarder. I was both jealous and enraged simultaneously. He was getting the best waves, he was getting back out back quickly, and he was able to get to new breaks even quicker. Jen, generally being less quick to jump to opinions and believe what you read in surf magazines (she’s the sensible one), saw the long term appeal. A single board that you can use to explore the coast, to catch some waves and to take you to the best waves; what’s not to like?

However, like many at the time, paddle boarding was just not something we could afford to do. We didn’t have a van, we lived in a small house in the middle of the country miles away from the sea, and we didn’t have much money. In fact, for many years we paddled using ‘old skool’ Mistral or BIC windsurf boards, and split kayak paddles at our sailing club in the Cotswold Water Park (Bowmoor Sailing Club).

[image of paddling an old windsurf board]

What appealed about stand up and what does it offer you personally?

Neither of who like beaches with hundreds of people, competitive localism or elitism. Therefore, a board that can get you away from other people, which you can use to explore the coast, find new beaches and discover new waves was attractive from the moment we first saw a SUP. It’s only in recent years, with our young family, that we’ve discovered how great SUP is for all. Whilst it might be fun for a toddler for a few minutes, watching mummy or daddy rip it up out back, what they really want to do is be part of it. And with very young kids this is only really possible with SUP or canoe. But what really sealed it for me is that the one board you use to take your little ones out on can also give you some serious fun without the kids. Whether that be SUP surfing, river surfing or long distance touring. No other board sport comes close to having that crossover appeal.

Why do you think the masses are attracted to the sport?

It really doesn’t take long to master simple balance and paddling. Compare that to windsurfing or surfing. There is an awful lot to learn before you first catch your first wave or first start planning, let alone before you learn to carve, or to gybe. Many people give up in frustration before they get that far. I know some see this tail off as a benefit because it makes sure that only ‘the right kind of people end up on our waves’. It also creates an endless supply of second hand equipment from people with more money than ability. Whilst I sympathise with these views, and if honest, may even have shared them in the past, I think SUP brings something quite unique. Easy entry as a beginner and then a gradual progression through to advanced rider. No big steps or barriers to development. As I’ve said before one board that can be used in so many different environments.

Another thing that appealed to us was that it’s an all-weather sport. We took up mountain biking after many years of travelling long distances for breaks and holidays to the coast, with cars heavily laden with boards and sails to find no wind or waves. I think we’re probably unique in having had several Easter camping holidays at Newgale and Gwithian without seeing a wave bigger than a foot, and no wind stronger than a little puff. I hate to image how much money we’ve spent on fuel transporting our kit for it not to be used!

And let’s be honest there are large numbers of people who are really attracted to the image of ‘extreme sports’ or the image of the surf lifestyle without really wanting to put themselves in harms way from the off. SUP is a non-threatening way into this lifestyle and image.

Talk us through the McConks story. When did you decide to set up stand up paddle boarding brand? What was the catalyst?

We’re newcomers to the show. Our first thoughts of setting up McConks only emerged in October 2015 after a camping holiday in Dorset. At this stage we were still paddling on old windsurf boards stored at the lake because we couldn’t afford hard boards and had no space at home. We’d heard about iSUPs of course by now, and we knew some people who had boards by the market leader, but their experience of them wasn’t great – they thought they were heavy, and didn’t perform anywhere near as well as rigid boards. But then we saw a mum in her late 20s take her toddler out for a paddle round Portland Harbour on a Naish One, we got thinking. When we looked at the inflatable paddle boards that were available, we were just plain confused. We didn’t feel that big brands ‘spoke’ to us. Even before kids we had become disillusioned with the upselling tactics used by the big windsurf brands and the traditional retailers. They weren’t talking in our target price range (except during the annual discount circus), and we clearly weren’t their target market.

And we realised after talking to the people we met on beaches and breaks, it became clear we weren’t the only ones who no longer felt a connection with these companies. We realised that the traditional methods of manufacturer to distributor to retailer to end-user puts distance between the brand and their customers, and increases prices. That was why we no longer felt affinity and warmth towards bigger brands. So we came up with a new business model that would break down the old-school way of doing things. We wanted to work with our customers, understand what they need and make those products. And this is important to us for lots of reasons, but probably the most important is for environmental reasons: By only selling stuff that ‘normal’ people need, rather than spending lots of money to persuade people that they need stuff, we’re also doing our bit to reduce the impact on the environment.

And why inflatables?

Because that was the board we were in the market for. If there’s a need and the brand/product doesn’t exist, then you create it, right? The obvious advantages of inflatables to our lifestyle meant they were the only choice. Something that is easy to chuck in the back of the car, that’s easy to get up and paddling, that’s indestructible for young kids and that’s easy to store.

And the other key reason is because we didn’t think that the existing iSUP offering was actually very good. There were some good boards by the big brands, with an eye watering price, and with some unacceptable compromises given the price; poor quality fixed fins and cheap aluminium/alloy paddles bundled in the package. If you’re spending the best part of £1k on a board surely you get at least a carbon paddle with it, and the ability to use different fins so you can use you board in different environments?

At the other end of the market there was a good variety of budget boards, but they weren’t particularly good quality. The SUP clubs and facebook groups are awash with real life stories of members being seduced by the latest ‘affordable’ brand that offers the very best quality at the lowest price. You know the ones. “Made in one of the top four factories in China, yet only £400 delivered.” It’s really not possible to manufacture and import a top quality iSUP board and paddle package for £400 unless you’re buying in quantities of thousands. So there’s only a couple of ways these smaller startup companies can do it. Either by compromising on quality, or by buying an off the shelf design and sticking their own brand label and colours on it. Have you ever noticed how many iSUP are the same shape? Brands try to pass this off as being due to plagiarism or because trial and error has ended up with coincident evolution of the same design. Which is a good marketing answer, but not necessarily a true one!

Any chance we might see McConks hard SUPs at some point?

We’ve considered it and have even got as far as knocking up a few designs. I know there’s still a lot of snobbery about hard boards vs inflatables. And this makes sense for those brands that focus on elite surf, downwind or race SUP. But with that elitism, those brands turn off most day to day to day recreational paddlers, both by failing to be inclusive, and with their price point.

It’s also true that there are many excellent quality, UK shaped/designed hard SUPs made in Chinese factories, made by great UK brands at the same price point we would be able to sell at. This just isn’t true with iSUP – no one else sells iSUP with the same attention to detail and design. And the UK has a really vibrant custom shaped scene, and that’s just not a market we want to play in.

So you might see us playing around with a few hard board prototypes in the future if we think we can truly innovate on price or design, or if friends as us to design a board for them, but rigid SUP aren’t a core part of our business for the time being.

When designing a board, paddle and/or accessories where do you start? Are you trying to answer specific ‘questions’ so to speak or just going with your instinct?

New products normally start with a frustration, a lightbulb moment or an idea from a friend or customer. Typically they start with an idea for a shape of a blade or board. And they always start with a sketch.

We then take these sketches to our small network of suppliers to see if our ideas are even possible. Although there are more than 30 iSUP manufacturers in South East Asia (and hundreds of paddle manufacturers) there are only a very small number who meet our exacting QA, environment and worker welfare requirements, who share our passion in innovation and improvement and who have the patience to work with us to constantly modify, tinker with and improve our products. Sometimes our sketch is impossible with current materials and techniques. It’s then back to the drawing board for tweaks and tinkering with the original sketch to make something that works.
Then it’s time for some computer work; 3D design and computer testing of that design with fin placement for example. At the same time we start to think about other parts of the package. Do we need to re-invent the wheel by re-designing a pump, or are off the shelf ones fit for purpose? Fin box type, fin placement and shape? What about the bag?

Once the blueprint is finalised we agree it with our suppliers, and have an agonising and frustrating wait for the prototype to arrive. Sometimes the design has to change during the proto manufacturing phase if it becomes apparent that something doesn’t quite work. We’ll work with our supplier to revise the final prototype design.
If we’ve done our homework right, then the next stage is just a few small changes with accessories or styling. But if we need to go back to drawing board again we will do so. Then it’s full production and another agonising wait whilst the kit is manufactured and shipped to our UK store. The whole process for a new design takes around four months and can take up to eight to finalise.

Any innovations coming from McConks in the near future? If so, are you able to tell us what they are?

iSUP technology hasn’t moved on significantly since 2016/17. Most quality manufacturers have now settled on a variant of enhanced drop stitch for double layer boards. There have been no significant innovations in valve type, deckpad or fin boxes (although we’re still working on the nirvana of low profile iSUP fin boxes flush to the bottom of the board, and a flexible hydrophobic coating that reduces the ‘suckiness’ of iSUP).
And really any brand that is hailing a massive step change between their 2017 and 2018 boards is either only just catching up with the rest of the industry, or using clever marketing!

Our innovations are more to do with our product range. We’ve been prototyping a surfSUP, a freeride windsurf board, and a white water board. None of these are necessarily innovative in terms of the materials used. But they each offer something very different to what’s already on the market. For example:

Freeride board

Surf SUP

Whitewater board

We’re also really pleased to be launching our clothing range in time for 2018. Ethical, sustainable, fair. No other watersports company clothing is organic, fairwear, environmentally friendly, and fun. Or as affordable as ours!

We’re still continuing discussions with some manufacturers about bringing the shaping of our paddles to the UK, and hopefully bringing the entire paddle manufacturing process to Europe within 12 months. But we need to know we can do this and it still be affordable for our customers!

 

How do you see the industry overall? What are your opinions on stand up paddling in general?

SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the world right? So you would expect a lot of positivity, camaraderie and a sense of team. We’ve built our reputation on being open, transparent and fair, but have taken some criticism for this. Apparently, sharing information and opinions, leading by example and suggesting other companies should be open and transparent and actually explain what lies behind the marketing spiel is ‘breaking the code’. We’ve even been banned from some facebook groups for being so unreasonable as to question what others have said in public.

The sport runs the risk of eating itself, and alienating all of those happy go lucky paddlers who just want to have fun. And that’s partly the reason why we’ve worked with some other SUP aficionados to set up SUPHUBUK. To provide an online home for SUP that’s independent of brands, governing bodies and training organisations. Admittedly McConks sponsors SUPHUB right now, but that’s because no-one else has stepped up to the plate. The intention is for SUPHUBUK to become self funded in the future, not needing sponsorship from McConks. And SUPHUBUK is managed by a team of 4 people, and we’re always looking for new team members, so if you think McConks funding is a conflict of interest, come and join the team to make sure it isn’t!

But in general, it is a really happy SUP world out there. Most paddlers just want to paddle and don’t get too involved in the discussions about whether SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport, or care about inter brand shenanigans, or battles between training organisations and National Governing Bodies. And those of us involved in the industry would do well to remember that!

Where do you see the sport going?

I’m going to resist saying too much about foils, because foils and inflatable boards aren’t overly compatible, or desirable, but foils are here to stay for the time being. But probably not for most of McConks customers!

SUP will continue to grow unless the governing bodies and brands manage to price out or alienate the growing SUP community. Hopefully the governing bodies, training organisations and clubs that organise races will work together and start to act in the interests of the whole SUP community once the international courts have decided if SUP is a paddlesport or a surf sport. And even if they don’t, with such an accessible activity, I suspect it will continue to grow as both a sport (racing, technical competitions, endurance challenges), and as a recreational pastime. Much of the growth McConks has seen has been from ‘recreational paddlers’ who don’t see SUP as a competitive sport at all, but a way of life, or a recreational activity alongside the sports they already do.

This is a really brave, and possibly foolish thing to say, but we think the days of the all-round blunt nose iSUP are coming to end. All round boards may be a marketing success, but most paddlers, most of the time, would be better off with either a surf SUP or a touring SUP. We’re now selling more of our Go Explore board to real people than our all round boards. In fact, if it wasn’t for the demand for all round boards from instructors, rentals and schools, we probably wouldn’t be making them in 2018!
And I suspect that discipline specific iSUP boards will become more popular; whitewater boards, river surf boards, surfSUP, longer (15’ +) downwind boards, 14’ race boards, freeride windSUP, freestyle windSUP. And I could go on.

More and more paddlers are arranging themselves into clubs, which is great to see, and it’s a great way to develop the social side of SUP, and to develop SUP skills. And the very best groups are arranging all sorts of SUP trial events for their members – whitewater SUP, SUP yoga, SUP polo, surfSUP lessons, for example – and are entering club teams into race events – all very positive.

And McConks; what’s the overall aim here? Tell us your brand goals moving forwards.

We started the brand after an idea or two, some cash scraped from what limited savings two watersports and travel fans with two children can amass, and some lovely messages of good luck and goodwill from those with similar passions and frustrations as ours. Just over a year later our products have won plaudits from instructors, magazines, experts and customers alike for their design, function, quality and value. We’ll keep increasing our range if people keep asking, and we’ll keep improving what’s currently offer, if it can be improved. But we don’t do that whole annual update cycle in October November just to persuade customers to spend more money. There’s many years of experience that people disregard as clichés, and the one that springs to mind is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Of course, we want to grow and we want to be bigger and better than we are. But we want to always keep the little guy feel and principles. Only by doing so can we keep close to our customers.
How often do you manage to get out for a float?
If we get out twice a week we’re ecstatic. Once a week we’re happy. But we have a business to run and young boys to look after. If they don’t want to go for a paddle, then we’re not going to push them. Our family is still our priority and spending quality time with the smallest McConks members is all important.

Your local put in, tell us about that. Why is it good for SUPers?

We’re based in the Cotswolds, in the middle of the country, so we spend quite a fair bit of time driving to the south coast or to South Wales. However, we do have some great inland water options right on our doorstep, being on the very outskirts of the Cotswold Water Park. The park has over 70 lakes across an area of 40 hectares, and many paddleable rivers, including the River Thames. And when we say River Thames we’re not talking shopping trolleys and pollution. Our local stretch is a beautiful rural idyll with the added benefit of a lovely waterfront pub with campsite! It’s all flat water unless you can find the few river waves that exist, so perfect for beginners and for families. And with so much wetland and open water around it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Hop on your board and you may see water voles, otters, kingfishers and a whole menagerie of fowl.

Do your family paddle? Is it a group affair when you head for a float or do you end up solo?

Flat water paddling is typically a family affair. Our boys love coming paddling with us. Sat or lying on the front of the board, watching the ripples and colours on the water, pretend fishing and spotting wildlife, they have a whale of a time. And although our eldest is only 6 he’s already having a go at paddling, and is always keen to do things himself. And our new 9’ SurfSUP has been designed for two reasons – first and foremost it’s a highly manoeuvrable and fun surfstick. But secondly, it’s a great little kids board. And Toby has already staked his claim on the prototype for him to paddle in 2018!

If we’re ever testing boards in surf or in anything other than flat water we’ll normally lose the boys, or go solo. We’ve had fun in small waves with the boys, but it’s fair to say that they’re not budding surfers yet; recent cries from around our feet have been “too fast daddy” “no, no, no, that waves tooooo big” .

Who are your paddling heroes and why?

We don’t really do hero worship at McConks. Anyone who gets in the water to train at 6am on a winter’s morning; a mum who defeats her nerves and takes her little one on the water for the first time; the 55 year old who’s always had a passion for the ocean, but just missed the opportunities to do something about it, who gets on a SUP board for the first time.

What about life in general? Anyone inspire you to push on.

Anyone who measures their life success in terms of experiences lived rather than property or money acquired. And that’s a lot of the water sports community!
And Jen is my conscience and sanity checker. If ever McConks makes a mistake I’ll be to blame, not her.

Any final thoughts on SUP in general?

I think it was Laird Hamilton who said that SUP would become the bicycle of watersports. The analogy works well. It’s as easy to get on a SUP and paddle, as it is to get on a bike and ride, possibly even easier. But just because you can ride a bike doesn’t mean that you can throw yourself down a black single track in Morzine any more than you’re going to paddle SUP Serpents on the Dee. So just like cycling SUP has something for everyone, from the most gentle to the most extreme, and is a year round sport. And that’s probably why both SUP and cycling are still growing and show no signs of slowing down.

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Inflatable SUP paddle board for beginners

SUP noobs

Are you a SUP noob?

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

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

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

SUP Gear

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

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

SUP board

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

Paddle

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

PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

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

Proper clothing

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

Leash 

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

Sun protection

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

SUP Techniques on the Water

Getting on the SUP

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

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

Staying on the SUP

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

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

SUP Stroke

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

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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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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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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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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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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!