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

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

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

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

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 Some of the tutorials can be outdated with older equipment being used, and with techniques that aren’t appropriate for new technology.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SUP Hack: Maximum glide, minimum effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the tech part. What is trim exactly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, can you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 piece carbon SUP paddle

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

 

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

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

 

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SUP surfing for air heads – iSUP wave riding

Arguably the most visually impactful area of stand up is waves. There’s nothing like an image of a rider dropping in to peeling waves to grab the attention.  It’s the reason many decide to pick up a paddle and take to the water (even if they never venture anywhere near a moving wall of water).

When Laird, Kalama and co re-introduced SUP to the masses (the Waikiki Beach Boys of the 50s had been paddling for years and stand up can be traced back even further than that) it was all about flow, glide and style – not the hack, bash and slash you see today.

Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP
Surf SUP on an inflatable SUP

In the last few years stand up paddle surf boards have gotten smaller and more technical to ride. The paddlers themselves – while certainly talented – are usually on the lower end of the weight spectrum, most likely sub-25 years old and more often than not have access to idyllic (warm) waves. For the layman this couldn’t be any further from their experience of SUP in surf – especially in this neck of the woods (UK).

Here we have Mother Nature’s fickle temperament to contend with as well as most of us not being in the same demographic to those described above. SUP by its very nature is a relatively pricey sport. For sure there are more expensive activities around but you do need some disposable income if you’re planning on taking up SUP. As such you’ll most likely fall into the middle aged category (or you’re a grom with parents willing to purchase your kit!).  This then means work, family and other associated life commitments that come with being a ‘grown up’ conspire to cut down your water time – not exactly conducive to developing the necessary skills to tackle world class waves!

But do we even need to? Isn’t the point of paddle surfing being able to make use of less than perfect conditions, smaller days and/or waves deemed of no use to surfing’s glitterati?

Listen to any industry pundit within SUP and predictions of wave sliding kit getting smaller, more technical and therefore harder to ride permeate. Yet it doesn’t need to be this way at all. McConks (as you’re well aware from reading this blog) are providers of high quality inflatable stand up paddle boards. And yes, you can quite happily ride waves with your iSUP. OK, you may not be smashing grinding lips or hucking tweaked airs but your inflatable board will take you to more spots than you’d first imagine.

Learning to Surf SUP

 

Picking your days and locations are key. If it’s macking then chances are these aren’t the right conditions. Up to around shoulder high clean surf, however, will be more than doable. Of course you’ll need to have some fundamental paddling skills under your belt and being aware and adhering to surf etiquette will ensure a harmonious line up. By and large though surfing on an inflatable is more fun than you’d first believe.

And it doesn’t stop at round nose boards. There are tonnes of example online of people ‘surfing’ touring and race SUPs. Our McConks GoExplore is fine for tackling ankle/knee slappers. Gliding along, on barely a wave, when more hardcore surfers aren’t anywhere to be seen, is what makes stand up paddle surfing so special. In the extreme/gnarly times we live, when everything ‘going off’ is pushed by marketing types, ripple riding is far more refreshing and most importantly FUN without being life threatening.

As with all areas of SUP paddle surfing is what you make it. The main point being don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing isn’t correct. SUP can be as elitist as you want while at the same time being mellow and fun. The next time a wave presents itself, why not check out your surf SUP style and broaden your paddling horizons?

Tips for AirSUP surfing

  1. Aim for a quieter location with less water users about.
  2. Add a more PSI (air) to your iSUP to increase rigidity – a trait that’ll help when wave hunting.
  3. Know, understand and adhere to surf etiquette (rights of way).
  4. Gen up on the surf environment and know what hazards to look out for.
  5. Know, understand and be aware of tides.
  6. Ride with others.
  7. If in doubt, don’t go out – know your limits.
  8. Get a lesson!

 

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SUP HACKS: looking after your paddle

 HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR CARBON PADDLE

McConks Carbon SUP paddle
Bamboo / Carbon medium cadence blade

Carbon paddles are beautiful, high performing bits of kit, and definitely

worth investing serious £’s in. When riding, your paddle is an extension of your body, and people become rather attached to a good paddle. So here are some #SUPhacks to help keep your paddle in one piece and have a very happy life together

BEFORE YOU PADDLE

If you’ve got an adjustable paddle, always check the screws for tightness before you get onto the water. They need to be just tight enough to stop the shaft from rotating. Too loose, and the blade can rotate as you paddle. Which is annoying. Too tight and you might damage the clasp or even crack the carbon handle. Good paddles are designed very carefully so that the clasp would break first. However, if the carbon paddle is poorly made or designed, the shaft might crack first. And that’s a problem that can’t be fixed.

DURING YOUR PADDLE

IT’S NOT A GONDOLA POLE Simple enough, but push off sand or a solid object and you risk creasing the blade. Your paddle is made for paddling in water, nothing else. And the lower quality your blade, the greater the risk of this happening.

CARBON IS FICKLE.   Just like any high performance kit, carbon paddles are a compromise. A fine balance between hardiness, strength and weight. Carbon is a pretty fickle material. It has great strength in one plane, but is brittle in the other plane. Therefore a sharp knock in the wrong place can cause a hidden weakness.

So even the very best carbon paddles can snap. By their very nature, mixing a light, strong carbon paddle with mother nature’s most powerful force, can have its risks. To make a paddle ‘unbreakable’ would mean that it would be so stiff and heavy, it would be very unpleasant to use.   Buy a good paddle and the risks are significantly lower. But just like a high performance surfboard, there are forces that will break or damage any paddle.

AFTER YOUR PADDLE

I know, you’ve just had an exhilarating paddle, you’re a combination of buzzed and tired.  The endorphins are kicking in (see our post on tier two fun), and the last thing on your mind is checking your kit.  But that’s absolutely what you should be doing.

CHECK IT.  If you’ve had a tumble and knocked your paddle on a reef or the board, give it a good stress test when you’re out of the water.  Much better for it to fail then than when you’re next on the water.  It’s no fun being up the creek without a paddle!  Also it’s worth checking that that the screws are still tight and won’t fall out in transport

WASH YOUR PADDLE AFTER USE.  This is particularly important for adjustable paddles. Sand and grit in the clasps can damage the male end of the shaft (the bit you stick in), and this can create weaknesses that deteriorate over time. At worst this can cause the shaft to fail, and best it can make it very difficult to get the shaft sections apart or put them back together again. Although this is less of an issue with carbon fibre or fibre glass shafts than aluminium or alloy shafts, it is always worth washing your paddle once you’ve finished.

BETWEEN PADDLES

PROTECT IT Most damage is caused during transport, so make sure your paddle comes with a high quality bag with sufficient padding to protect it from bangs and knocks in the car / van.

DONT COOK IT Did you know you can overheat a carbon paddle?

– Avoid constant exposure to direct heat (eg in a hot car in baking sun) and you will get a long life out of your paddle.

– Keep your paddle in a quality bag with heat protection

BUY SMART.

We would say this, wouldn’t we?  But make sure you buy from a brand who knows about these risks and has designed them out as much as possible. Like McConks.

You can get your hands on one of our carbon bamboo SUP paddles for only £150. And that comes with a free protective heat shield bag.

paddlebag 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!