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Love something, change something

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions”...

...as an America Author wrote in the early part of the 20th century. 

And whilst we’re keen not to get stuck in a rut at McConks, we've not got one foot in the grave yet!  

We’re not about making change for change sake, with new colours or minor cosmetic changes every year,  but we do like to mix things up. We make improvements if needed, and add to our lineup if we think we can bring something different to the mix.

So earlier in the year we asked our customers and supporters what new stuff they would like to see from McConks. Some of the answers we got back were ridiculous, and have been shelved until someone invents a genie in a bottle that actually works:

  • -   ‘A paddleboard that’s as easy to paddle upwind as it is to paddle downwind’
  • -   'An all-round inflatable board that’s as fast as a carbon race board’
  • -   ‘An inflatable surf-sup that makes me paddlesurf like Kai’

Although if you read some of the marketing guff out here, you might be forgiven for thinking that these things were possible!

But some of the ideas were worth a second thought:

  • -   A stable but exciting whitewater board designed for UK waters
  • -   An inflatable windsurf board that actually planes
  • -   A high quality surfSUP that doubles as a kids board
  • -   A more affordable 14 foot carbon allwater race board
  • -   A more affordable Team SUP
  • -   An interchangeable paddle system

More on these later.

We also asked our existing customers what could be improved on our current boards. It’s always dangerous asking customers for their views on what’s not so good. It’s a particularly bad idea when some of your customers are trained SUP instructors with many years of experience, and a penchant for sharing their opinions! And even though all of the improvements were minor, we’ve still spent many hours chatting, discussing, and agreeing the finer details.  Some might say we’ll never get those hours back again – but getting feedback and making improvements is always time well spent!

New neoprene comfy handlesCarry that weight

One of the absolute delights of a decent iSUP is how easy they are to transport and move around - perfect for roadtrippin'.

And our customers loved the fact that our boards have more handles than most, making them super easy to get to the put in.  Some even thing we've gone overboard with the handles on our whitewater board, sport a total of 9 handles!

But some of the handles on our 2017 boards were just made of webbing. Which was fine if you’re carrying the board for short distances, in light winds and with clean hands.  But mix this up with winds trying to blow the board out of your hand, grit and sand, and longer distance portages, and things can get very uncomfortable.  As tempting as it was to tell people to get over it and toughen up, we’ve relented and replaced all of our webbing handles with neoprene handles.  There is no real weight or environmental penalty to this, and only a minor cost penalty that we’ve just absorbed.

Also, some of the handles weren’t balanced as well as they could have been. This caused a few issues for our shorter customers who didn’t benefit from as much ground clearance as others. So we’ve repositioned the central handles to improve the balance. 

Getting to the off couldn’t be any easier now!

Get a grip

Everyone loved the fact that our deckpads are so much more comfortable than the thin diamond cut pads that are

new deckpad
new deckpad on our freeride board

common.

But a very small number of customers noted that the deckpad wasn’t quite as grippy as the very best in class! It's not that they were slip slidin' away, but they weren't quite as good as the very best under the most extreme performance conditions.  We’d deliberately moved away from diamond cut deckpads in 2017 because diamond cut can be uncomfortable under the feet for long paddles.  We’ve now moved to a crocodile skin finish as minimum grip, and our performance boards benefit from additional cutouts to improve grip without impacting on comfort.

Some riders who liked to race our 12’8 Go Explore boards found that the lack of deckpad at the rear of the board caused them some issues (unwelcome dunkings when trying to pivot around marks), so we’ve now extended it all the way to the back of the board. But we’ve retained the paracord and D Rings behind the paddling position, just positioned them around the deckpad. So now you’ve got a choice – use this area for additional luggage, or remove the paracord and use that area for performance positioning.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

Everyone loved our bags. So it was important that any changes didn’t take away any of the features that were so successful.

Most of the changes are minor, and if we didn’t mention them, most people probably wouldn’t even notice! We’ve added compression straps so that the bags can be shrunk.

Printing the board model on the side of each bag will remove one of life’s little frustrations for our instructor friends: having to unroll a board just to see what model it was gets a little annoying!

And the bags now stand up without support – another source of much irritation to a small number of people!

But to all intents and purposes, the boards and the bags are very similar to 2017. And it will take a trained eye to spot the differences. The volume, weight, rocker, shape, branding and colours all remain the same.  And if you’ve read our blog on ethical and environmental marketing and production, you’ll understand the reasons why.

Making a splash in whitewater SUP

Matt Stephenson, a team GB freestyle boater, and SAS Hurley Classic champion for two years on the bounce, has been working with McConks for a couple of years. Being well connected with the fledgling UK whitewater SUP community, he had a bag full of frustrations that he’d picked up from the WWSUP community, alongside his own opinions from having paddled most decent boards on the market. So we set out to produce a board quite different to anything else out there. 

We’ve been testing this board for a few months now, and Anthony Ing (StandUp Paddleboard UK) and Justin Douglas (Water, Rock & Dirt) have optimised the final design, which will be available in January 2018. We’re so pleased with this board that it deserved a blog in its own right!

Namaste

As we were prototyping different rockers on the whitewater board, we realized that the shape made it an absolutely perfect specialist yoga board if we took the rocker away entirely. And so we’ve done that!  Our Namaste yoga board will also be available in January 2018.

Catch a wave

Ever since we made our first board, people have been asking about when we’re finally going to make a shorter surf iSUP. Our answer, until now, had always been that there were enough medium performance surf iSUPs out there (i.e. any of them from a decent brand), and that we didn’t think we could bring anything new, either by way of price, or quality, to the beach.  But then our eldest lad started to ask about getting his own smaller board at about the same time that defined rail technology came available to us.   Having defined rails really ups the game in surf SUP terms, but yet very few iSUP brands have thought it’s worth the extra cost.

The rocker, defined rails, triple stringer and 30PS pressure guarantee will do you well in anything up to head high. But with the shape, rocker and 2+1 fin setup being based on a laid back, drawn out log, you’ll probably have more fun in the waist to shoulder high range.

And just for fun, it’s got a mast foot screw, so it doubles as a development platform for budding windsurfers. But if you want real windsurf performance, you’ll want to get your hands on our new Freeride iSUP.

Blowin' in the wind

Having been disappointed with WindSUP offerings for years, the technology just hadn’t been good enough to tempt us to make a WindSUP. After all, if you can’t get a board planing, what’s the point?

But finally, the stars have aligned to make the perfect freeride windSUP a possibility.

So working with a number of development riders, we’ve been prototyping and perfecting the perfect shape for an inflatable freeride board. The 9’8 x 31 x 6” board has a strong nose rocker and a delicate tail rocker to get you over those bumps with ease.   With the same defined rail edge technology as our SurfSUPs, this board planes easily and quickly, and with the extra rigidity from the triple dyneema stringer the board feels very rigid and stable under foot, no matter how fast you’re going or how bumpy the water. The board comes with a 2+1 setup, allowing you to switch between freeride and freewave fin setup, and you can set the footstraps to match your riding style using a velcro fastening system.  This really is a revolution in windSUP design.

And it turns out that this board is a remarkably adept river surf board!

Paddle with friends

We thought mega boards or giant boards were a gimmick, and just a toy for hen and stag parties. But having seen them in use by school groups, and put to great effect by instructors in team building exercises, but previous opinions are just like water under the bridge, and we’re happy to stand corrected.  And it was these same schools and instructors who’ve  persuaded us to make a team board. This isn’t just some generic Chinese board rebadged with the McConks logo.  Every single component of this board has been designed by McConks.  From the location of the valves, the shape of the rocker, the positioning of the handles, to the shape and design of the deckpad, this comes with the attention to detail you’ve come to expect from us.  18 foot long, 60 inches wide, 8 inches thick, double skin, full length deckpad and four valves is unremarkable in the world of Giant SUPs.  But a price of £1000 is very remarkable. In a parallel universe you might a brand who will give it away for less, but not in this one!!

Bat out of hell

We admit it. We said we weren’t going to be a hard board company, and that we’re going to stick to inflatable SUP. We still generally mean that. But we may have flirted with the dark side and be testing some carbon race boards.  We got a little carried away when some of our friends started asking for them, and we only got tempted because our paddles are made by one of the best carbon SUP board shaping factories in China, and we knew what quality we could expect.  And we knew we could get our friends premium quality race boards at a fraction of the price.

14ft long, 27.5 inches wide, with a bulbous yet piercing nose and a recessed deck pad, the board looks the business. Finished in lacquered carbon, she is a stealth machine just waiting to take on those allwater races.  But these boards are strictly limited edition.  There are only three in the world at the moment, and they’re all accounted for.  And once we’ve satisfied ourselves that these birds are as fast as they look stunning, we will be making them to order.   And the price is as stunning as the style – less than £1,500.

Switch paddles…

…for different days? Smaller blade for surf?  Bigger blade for racing?  Indestructible polyprop blade for whitewater and river surf?  It gets pretty expensive, pretty quickly.  Well why not keep the shaft and handle and just switch the blade?  That’s the idea behind our new Switch paddle system.  More on this to come in 2018

A bright new 2018
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How to choose the right size inflatable SUP board

What size board do I need?

How to choose the right size inflatable SUP board

If you’ve decided you want an inflatable SUP board rather than a rigid board, but you don’t know what size board to get, then this article is for you.  If you’re still not sure whether you need a rigid or inflatable board, then check out this article.  And when you’ve read  it, and decided an inflatable is for you, then come back!

So how do you decide what size board you need?

There’s no easy answer to this question because it depends on where you play, your ability, your weight, and how much gear you want to take on the board.  But we’ve put this guide together to help guide you in the right direction.

The most important factor in choosing your board is the type of paddling you expect to spend most of your time doing.  There’s no point setting yourself up with an all round board if you’re going to be spending 99% of your time on the water surfing.  Or on the flipside spending your money on a lovely surfSUP if you’re going to be spending 90% of your time on flat water.

So we’ve broken it down by the types of SUPping you might be doing.

Cruising

Cruising is how most people start out paddleboarding, and is accessible to people of all ages.  It’s great exercise, but you don’t have to set your heartbeat racing, or push yourself too hard.  And there’s no shame in sitting or kneeling if tired, or if the chop is beating your balance.

Many people enjoy the sociable side of SUP, and like to have gentle paddles over moderate distances with friends and families.  Maybe taking in lunch at a riverside pub, maybe stopping for a swim at a beach, maybe stopping off for a little surf on a river wave or a break.  But mostly enjoying being outdoors, enjoying the company, masking the most of the weather and being at one with nature.

If cruising sounds like your thing, then your best board is an all round inflatable SUP.   All round inflatable paddle boards are typically between 10″ and 11″ long, with 10’6 and 10’8 being the most popular sizes.  They’re typically 31 to 34″ wide, and 4, 5 or 6″ thick.  All round boards are by definition a compromise.  By being shorter than a touring or race board they are relatively easy to turn and control, but this: They don’t track quite as well as a long touring board, and require more corrective strokes to keep you on the straight and narrow.  And it means they are also slower.  And compared to a shorter surfSUP, they are not quite as manoeuvrable and have less performance on wave.  But if you do opt for an all round board then you’re in good company.  All-round boards are currently the most popular boards, and we think that our Go Anywhere duo of a 10’6 x 32″ x 4.75″ and a 10’8 x 32″ x 6″  board means that riders of any size and ability have an option perfect for them.

10’8 Go anywhere inflatable SUP

If you’re a nervous beginner, and want a board that gives you a very stable platform to learn on, but also provides challenges as you develop, this is your best choice. It gives you the flexibility and confidence to use anywhere, and has been designed for families and beginners all the way through to intermediates; this is the perfect one inflatable paddleboard fits all.

When stood in the stable paddling position, this board tracks sweet and true, and will generally keep you on the straight and narrow.  However, take a step back, or drop back into surf stance, and the board suddenly becomes much more responsive due to its cleverly designed pintail shape.  With 6″ of volume, this board will float an average family paddler plus a child or dog.  With over 250l of volume, it will take 150kg of weigh before performance is compromised. And intermediate paddlers will be able to manage even more weight comfortably.

It’s also a great platform for learning to surf on; unusually for all round iSUP, this board has removable click fit FCS fins.  When these are fitted, the 2+1 fin arrangement gives you great bite and control when on a wave compared to the fixed fins found as standard on most all round boards.  And if you really want to push the boundaries, you can swap out the flexi fins and fit your favourite performance FCS fins from any hard board range.

So in summary buy this board if you want an all round board, but one where performance errs towards flat water, river or lake paddling.  A great family board.  Lots of volume to take passengers, a higher riding position so front riders stay relatively dry, but very manoeuvrable when taking a step back.

10’6 Go anywhere inflatable SUP

Being only 2 ” shorter than our 10’8, being the same width (32″) and being the same great pintail shape, it’s not surprising that this board performs similarly to the 10’8.  The 2″ reduction in length only makes a minor difference in handling, but the bigger difference is the depth of the board.  Being only 4.75″ rather than 6″ thick, this board suits smaller beginner riders (total weight <100kg, including kit and other riders being carried on the board),  riders looking for a better surf experience, or intermediate riders of a combined personal and kit weight of up to 125kg.

For many of us, cruising remains where it’s at, and that is your paddling of choice for ever.  However, many SUP fans find that as their paddling skills and  fitness level improves they decide to take it to another level and start touring, surfing,  racing or whitewater paddling.  So what size boards do you need if you want to step it up?

Touring, on rivers, canals or the coast

Touring is simply cruising, but for longer, or a little faster,  or in more challenging conditions.  If you like to seek out those quiet beaches, breaks and bays, like exploring with your board both on and off the water, or simply just getting away from the crowds, then you want a touring paddleboard. A full size touring board will be longer than 12′, between 28″ and 33″ wide, 6″ deep, and have a good waterline without a hockey nose!  Being a longer board

The Malta circumnavigation

these boards are faster and require less corrective strokes when paddling, augmenting the speed improvements.

 

McConks 12’8 Go Explore was designed as a specific touring board, and the board has tested it’s mettle on a circumnavigation of Malta.

This board just loves racking up the miles.  It likes to go in a straight line, and turns only slowly unless you step back and throw a pivot turn. However, the deckpad at the back of the board has been sacrificed to make more expedition storage space, so pivot turns can be a little tricky on this board.  This board is great if you’re one of our heavier riders (over 150kg).  It’s also extremely stable for beginners who want to take passengers and is very light, so great for travelling (in fact all of our packages come in at under 15kg including the paddle).  Ironically, because this board is slow to turn, it’s also a beginners dream for learning to surfSUP.  It carves very gently and very slowly, and with the large volume of the board, catches all but the tiniest waves.  And because it’s so fast, and likes going in a straight line, it’s also extremely forgiving to bad paddle technique.

Buy this board if you want to paddle long distances, if you want to paddle fast, if you’re wanting to take lots of kit or passengers, or if you’re a very nervous, but keen to learn surfSUPer.  Also read our article about inflatable SUP racing.  If you fancy entering a race, then this board is the board for you.

For a fuller description of this board, read our focus on touring article.

In surf.

If you’re going to spend most of your time surfing, then you’re in the wrong place.  Although inflatable boards can be surfed (see our article on surfing airSUP), if you are a real surfhead, you would be better off with a rigid board.  And if you are, then take a look at some of the great rigid boards from some great UK companies such as Loco surfing, Freshwater Bay Paddleboards, Fatstick and Neptune.

Racing

SUP racing seems to have decided that long course endurance races are the future, for better or for worse.  Either way, longer, narrower boards are the way forward here, they are faster and have better glide. To place on the podium, you will almost certainly need a hard race board.  but if you’re just after some competitive fun, inflatable SUPs meet that need.  Our 12’8 is a great starter race board, and perfect if you want a fun touring and surf board, but with the odd foray into race.  If you become a convert and need a longer inflatable race board, check out Loco’s 14″ iSUP ,

If you want the benefit of a touring board shape, but want a volume closer to an all round board, then check out Freshwater Bay’s 11’5 compact tourer.

mcconks inflatable white water sup
Matt Stephenson WWSUP extraodinaire

Whitewater and river surf sup

Whitewater SUP and river surf SUP are specialist disciplines and require specialist kit.  You shouldn’t try either of these disciplines with all round SUP boards unless you are with experienced whitewater riders who’ve got your back.  Simple mistakes can cost you your life, and there have been deaths in whitewater SUP in recent years.

Whitewater boards need to be robust and be able to withstand knocks and bangs from ledges and rocks.  They also need retractable or flexible fins, or be able to be ridden without fins.  There’s nothing more likely to buck you off your ride than a fin getting stuck on a rock!

We’re still developing our whitewater and river SUP board and Matt Stephenson is our prototype rider helping us to develop the perfect WWSUP board.

Downwind

Downwind paddling is at the more extreme end of the SUP scale.  Paddling downwind on open water in large swell requires great skill.  The aim is to effectively surf wind driven swell downwind, and glides of over 100metres are heard of.   You need a fast long board for downwind paddling, and the board needs a planing hull to stay on the wave.  You can learn to downwind SUP on a long iSUP, but if you want to get the best out of downwind, you’ll need a rigid carbon board.  Read this article for more information.

 

Any clearer?  If not, then leave a comment below, just drop us a line, or give us a call (+44 7387 383243).  We’ll talk you through the best board for your needs.


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