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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.

 

 

 

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SUP paddle

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Why paddleboarding is so popular

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Naked SUP with Orlando Bloom

If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding or SUP. Standup paddleboarding has been around for a decade or see, but it is the evolution of inflatable paddleboards that has really supercharged the appeal and development of SUP.  It seems that everyone has been keen to get in on the act this year, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP in 2017.   And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:

  1. It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle, as long as the board is the right size for the rider and conditions.
  2. All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7.  Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing.  But SUP is independent of waves or wind.  Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for esurfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well.  And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal.  So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
  3. It’s easy. With the correct board for your size and weight, you will  be up and paddling within minutes.  Even the most balance challengd beginners are stand up paddling within 15 minutes.
  4. It’s a great workout. It’s widely reported that SUP is good for the core muscles, and it’s also great for improving all round fitness; an hour paddleboarding will burn around 700 calories.  And because you’re in control of how hard you work and how far you go, it doesn’t matter what shape you start in.
  5. Once you have made the initial outlay in kit, there are very few ongoing costs. And although the initial outlay can seem significant, buying second hand, or buying smartly can reduce the initial outlay.
  6. Getting close to nature. Stand up paddleboarding puts you right out there to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.  With the water under your feet you’ll find that you have the perfect viewpoint to observe
    SUP with dolphins
    SUP with dolphins

    amazing creatures swimming and moving about below you.  You’ll be able to see birds in action, witness a serene sunrise, paddle through mist, or marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Whether you are on a solo, family, or social paddle stand up paddleboarding connects you with your natural surroundings.

  7. Quality time together. Whether river paddling to lunch in a riverside pub, or paddling down river with your children on the boards, SUP can be very sociable.  You can even bring your dog along for the ride.
  8. Stress reduction. Fed up of busy crowded beaches?  Paddle to that secluded island or inaccessible beach around the headland.  Skinny dipping. Paddle far from the madding crowd, strip, and dive in the water.  SUP is a great way to unwind and relax.  Beautiful sunsets, inspirational sunrises, paddling in amazing places reduces stress and recharges your batteries.
  9. Free dinner. Tie a crayfish or lobster pot net behind the board, add bacon and paddle.  Or take a fishing rod with you.  Easy to find your own perfect spot.  And then grill them up on the beach when you get back.  Probably with a cold beer!
  10. Deflate the board, roll up, and pack away in the convenient wheeled rucksack that comes with the best inflatable paddleboards. No worrying about tired dogsarms strapping the boards to the roof or trying to squash everything into the car.  You can be on the road in a few short minutes after getting off the water.

If these reasons don’t make you want to rush out and get your hands on an inflatable paddle board, then nothing will!

Visit our webshop to find out how easy it is to get hold of great quality, affordable paddleboard kit!

 

 

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How to design a multi day touring SUP board

About 6 weeks ago, we got an intriguing email from someone we didn’t know that just said:  “Are you a UK SUP company? Where are you based? Where are your SUPs made?”

Being pleased that someone had even heard of McConks, we drafted a short reply, saying that we were UK based, and that we designed our boards in the UK but sadly, like all of the other iSUP brands, had to use overseas manufacturers to make them, simply because the supply chain isn’t available in the UK.

We then got an even more intriguing email that said: “I’ve got something that might interest you”.

The emails were from Georgina Maxwell, an outdoors professional and coach. She certainly knows how to generate suspense, because we couldn’t find out what was so interesting for a whole afternoon!  We didn’t know it then, but that’s when our involvement in the #malteseSUPproject began.

George explained why her and three of her close friends were going to be paddling around the three islands of Malta in November 2016. George’s enthusiasm was infectious, and we were sold on the concept almost immediately. There were two things that George said that made our decision to be involved really easy.

– The trip is all about how accessible SUP is. They want to show how easy SUP is, even for their friend Sonja and her battles with Malcolm.  Read Sonja’s blog for more information
– She wanted to work with us because she really valued our concept of providing good honest fantastic quality kit, at an affordable price that made SUP much more accessible and inclusive.

We had been beavering away over the summer designing our lineup for 2017, and an expedition board was already set to be part of the lineup. However a prototype hadn’t yet been ordered, let alone manufactured. We worked with George to refine and improve the design of the explorer board, although we refused point blank to make it in shocking pink as requested! It was then a case of working with our supplier to get the board made as quickly as possible.

So, what was behind the design of the George’s board?

Deckpads are a compromise between non slip and comfort. Some of the most ‘grippy’ deckpads, are fine to stand on for a few hours, but not for days on end. Some deckpads actually make McConks feet go numb after a few hours paddling. We therefore worked hard to find the best compromise between grip and comfort.

The Mediterranean can be quite choppy and stormy in November. The board needed to be easy to paddle, stable, and carry lots of kit. Using 3D modelling we settled on a 12’8 x 31″ x 6″ as being ideal for these conditions.

The expedition will be a multi day expedition which could involve carrying the board, plus the attached kit, a decent distance from the shore. Comfortable handles were therefore a must. We’ve worked hard to make sure there are plenty of handles in just the right place for portage. The added benefit is that they can also be used for additional items, such as the obligatory trombone or trumpet, to be lashed to the handles when short of space. These handles also allow George to haul herself out of the water when her expedition partners decide it’s time for her to swim!

Paddling upwind, upcurrrent in the Med in November can be a real challenge. The board has paddle gloves which allow a kayak paddle to be securely held in place, and attachment points for a SUP seat to allow George to sit when two blades are the only thing that will make headway against a 20 knot headwind and 10 knot current!

A standard US fin box with a 6″ fin designed to keep the board on the straight and narrow is supplied. Two additional Futures Fins boxes allow additional side bites to be plugged in in strong cross currents or cross winds. And allow for the board to be used to ride downwind runs, and to bite into what surf swell there may be.

12'8 board
McConks new explorer iSUP. Now with high pressure fusion enhanced drop stitch technology.

Secure storage was essential. A multi day, long distance trip means that George needs to carry all her kit with her, on the board. We therefore designed two separate storage areas, both fore and aft. We also put non slip strips on the deck under the storage to stop kit shifting about on the water and impacting on board trim.

Transportability was hugely important on an international trip, so a good quality bag was essential. Our new bag is sturdy but lightweight. With supersize wheels, the bag is easy to pull through most environments, whether it be a grassy field or airport concourses. For more difficult or uneven terrain, the stowable shoulder and waist straps are really comfortable for long hikes. The internal straps keep the board secure, and the external pockets allow all the accessories to be kept securely in one place. Chunky plastic zips will not be affected by corrosion, and fastenings inside the bag allow safe storage of George’s 3 piece carbon fibre and bamboo paddle.

The weight of the board was an important factor, and we are super pleased to introduce EDS technology to our boards for the first time. EDS technology stands for Enhanced Drop Stitch, and means a stiffer and lighter board than most other double layer boards. EDS means that the drop stitch is surrounded by an airtight and super-light polymer layer just before the outer PVC is fused to it under high pressure. This all happens at the raw material stage, and gives a much higher quality cosmetic finish with no air bubbles or creases. It also makes the boards a lot lighter than traditional two layer boards and much stiffer than normal two layer technology boards at the same pressure. Other brands call this technology MSL.

This board will be available in early 2017 in a package with our light and powerful carbon fibre paddle for less than £700.  Package price is still to be finalized.  Preorders will be delivered in time for Christmas, so if you’re seriously interested,  contact andy@mcconks.com to let us know.

To keep up to date with McConks developments,  keep an eye on our website , or follow us on @mcconksUK (twitter , instagram and facebook).

To find out more about the #MalteseSUPproject, follow George’s blog here.

 

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