Sunday, 19 May 2019

McConks Carbon Sport LiftSUP Handle

Board Modifications

Getting a prototype board from the other side of the world is always a bit of a risk, you know the numbers that went into the software, you know what you and the designer wanted to achieve but you don’t know how it will turn out until you unpack it and get it wet. Back in April 2018 I blogged about McConks first go at a hard board and that worked out pretty well with only two minor niggles on an otherwise splendid board; the handle wasn’t the one specified and there was some glue on the deckpad. 

Of those two the handle turned out to be more than a niggle; because it wasn’t deep enough carrying the board any distance was a pain as was retrieving the board from pontoons or jetties. So much of a pain that I started to look for a solution and for someone who could implement that for me here in Sweden. After talking to some of the locals I approached who are based not too far away outside Varberg. 

My three options were;
1 replace it with a larger, deeper recessed handle custom made for the board by Crosswater.
2 leave it and add carry straps to the deck
3 remove it and add a LiftSUP handle

Of the three the LiftSUP was the more interesting option but also the trickiest to get, it was the end of October ’18 before I could book her in for her modifications.

Given the surgery that the McConks was about to have it was time to address the one problem that had developed, the deck where I stand most of the time was starting to show signs of compression. I’m a big lad and that has happened on other boards that I’ve paddled a lot.

Time passes slowly when a board is in the workshop but after 3 weeks I got the call, come and get her…

The result is a very stealthy board!

McConks Carbon Sport with LiftSUP Handle

What was done

The original deck pad was removed, along with approximately half a kilo of glue! Then the carbon was cut away from around the handle including the compressions in the deck. The core of the board  in that area was then removed and replaced with a much more dense foam into which the LiftSUP handle was mounted using the template supplied. The area was glassed and epoxy’d and a section of black, diamond textured deck grip was fitted to cover the modification. The area from the new deck pad to the rear of the board was covered with a sheet of grip cloth and then epoxy’d. All in a very professional job that I am more than happy with.

The handle is much, much better than the original, the board is balanced well when carrying and the extra control that the handle gives make it somewhat easier to move in windy conditions. It also provides a convent place to attach the leash when moving it too. 
The board now looks a lot more serious than it did and the more aggressive grip is somewhat better under winter wetsuit boots or wet shoes. The grip behind the deck pad is more than enough for pivot turns and I think it looks fantastic. 

Deck pad glue removed

Doing it right

Ready for finishing

At home in Sweden

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Redwood Paddle Funbox Pro Review

Funbox Pro 12' 6" x 29"

I’ve had a chance to have a play on a box fresh Redwood Paddle Funbox Pro 12’6” x 29” inflatable, here’s what I thought of it;

Redwood Paddle Funbox Pro 12'6" x 29"

About Redwood Paddle

Redwood Paddle are a French SUP company created in 2007 initially with a range of paddles, this then expanded to include boards and now they have a huge range available, from entry level iSUPs to custom made hardboards and accessories. Whatever you’re after, they probably have it.

‘Funbox’ is the name Redwood Paddle give to all of their inflatable boards, the ‘Pro’ moniker is used for the 4 boards at the top end of the inflatable range, two 12’6” race boards, a 12’6” explorer board and the 14’ x 27” race board. 

What’s in the box?

Along with the board was a decent wheeled bag, the ubiquitous HP2 double action pump, an inexpensive dolphin style fin with thumbscrew and an iSUP first aid kit in the usual orange canister. 

About the board

The 2018 board is a good looking bit of kit in red and white with some simple but bold logo details to remind you about the brand. From the front there is a RWP skull and cross paddle / board logo proudly on the nose then two reminders of the length of the board and an asymmetrically logo’d white deck pad with RWP running down the right hand side. There are three good quality handles set into the deck pad, the two at the sides are offset towards the front of the board and are ideally placed for BOP style races where a bit of running with the board is called for. The deck also has a 4 point bungee for carrying kit and a good quality stainless steel D ring at the rear for your leash, not supplied. On the rails you’ll find the board dimensions and a little more branding. 

Flip the board over and you’ll find one skull logo up front and a single US fin box where you’d expect it to be. At the stern you’ll also find a hard edge tail strip in black. This is something usually found on more expensive boards and is nice to see on a board costing just under 700 euros.

The finish was excellent with no excess glue showing, even taping and no bubbles or bumps. On the scales she came in slightly above the 11.5kg quoted on the Redwood Paddle website, my scales showing 11.8kg for the board (with bungee cord) and fin. 

On the water 

The Funbox Pro paddles great. With the recommended 16 PSI in I expected it to flex a bit with me on it but it was absolutely fine, I’d probably stick a bit more air in there if it was mine but it belongs to a much lighter paddler so there’s no need to push that recommended limit. Tracking is good and it’s very easy to keep the board going in a straight line even with the jack of all trades fin in place.  The benefit of a US fin box is that the fin can be tuned to paddler preference and there’s a bit of room to experiment with fin position too, good stuff. Stability is also good as you’d expect for a 29” wide board, this is relatively wide for a race board especially if you consider that pros are now charging around on 21” wide thoroughbreds, but that’s not what this board is about and the difference in speed between this and a 32” wide iSUP really is noticeable. I was quite happy maintaining just over 7 km/h and sprinting at just over 9 km/h. For reference I’m between 1 and 1.5 km/h faster on a well known solid race board with similar dimensions on the same stretch of water.

The nose has just the right amount of rocker to push through a little chop but I didn’t get the chance to paddle in any more challenging conditions. 

The hard edge at the stern certainly makes a visual difference to the wake, the water has far less disturbance than the tail of a standard iSUP. If this makes any noticeable difference it’s hard to tell. I could feel no drawback from it and I think it looks good. The ability to get back and turn this board is flattering, so much so that I stayed dry despite my best attempts to get wet. 

Is it Fun?

Absolutely, this is a fun iSUP. Much more efficient than than an all-round shape and nearly as stable this board is putting a smile on the face of the owner, her first board. As a somewhat more experienced paddler I too found this board a lot of fun and would gladly take this out for longer paddles, however I suspect that getting it out of the hands of it’s new owner might be tricky. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

McConks Carbon Sport Review

McConks Carbon Sport

McConks Carbon Sport at rest in Devon

Back in December I blogged about a small project from McConks SUP in the UK, the development and production of the prototype Carbon Sport (you can read that here). Then the board was on her way to the UK and I got my hands on her at the end of January 2018. She (of course) is 14 feet long, just under 28 inches wide at the widest point with a maximum depth of just under 9 inches. With those dimensions she's a fast touring board for most but a race board for the taller / heavier paddler which is exactly what I was looking for. 

About the board

The hull has a high gloss lacquer finish over bare carbon with painted sections with a deck pad glued in place. 

Carbon, paint, logo.

There is a lot of volume in the nose with a pronounced ridge running from the bow that fades to give a flatter section with 6 bungee points (lightweight bungee cord supplied) before the deck pad. The handle is recessed into the deck, it is well placed with a good balance front to back when carrying the board, there are two vent plugs and a single leash point mounted centrally at the tail of the board. The finish of the carbon and the lacquer around deck fittings is flawless.

Turning the board over the hull had a surprise, or three for me. I had expected a subtle concave running the length of the hull, not the far more complex single to triple concave that has been implemented beautifully. It is really subtle though and hard to see in photos with the triple starting just before the middle of the board and continuing to the tail.  There is a single, full size US fin box mounted towards the tail. The finish of the hull was perfect.

The deck pad is lightly textured and showed some signs of excess glue on the pad, a shame as that shows up white against the McConks blue.

Lost in Translation

Some parts of the spec Andy had supplied didn't make it into the finished prototype; the FCS /GoPro mount is missing and the carry handle was supposed to have a more defined lip to curl your fingers into when carrying the board. Two small things that do not detract from performance and have been noted for any future versions. However the extra work in the hull more than compensates for having to stick a GoPro mount on later. Also the graphics at the bow didn’t work as Andy had planned but I like them and it’s my board so that’s OK. 

The bow, sharp up top but blunt below.

On dry land the design of the bow also seems to have suffered from a language or interpretation problem. From above you’d expect a vertical bow with quite a pronounced edge, this is how it starts out but as you move down towards the waterline it flares and is actually quite blunt. It doesn’t look that efficient or fast and being brutally honest it appears clumsy and out of place, again something to address in any future developments. 

All in I think she looks great from most angles, that bow not withstanding. For a ‘budget’ carbon SUP board the only part that looks budget is the deck pad and that’s largely down to that smear of glue where it shouldn’t be.

Of course the way a board performs in the water is far more important than how it looks on dry land. Sadly soon after she arrived we left the UK and she’s been sat in a storage locker in Sweden since the end of February while I find a place to live with storage for a 14’ carbon board. Before we left I did get some some quality time on the water including a photo shoot and one race.

The proof of the pudding is in the paddling

So how does she paddle…. really well. Which you may have been expecting me to say as she’s my board that I’ve paid for but let me elaborate;

The first impression was stability. She is the most stable ‘race’ or touring board I’ve paddled that’s under 28 inches wide. Even more stable than my other wide race board a 201612’6” x 28 Allstar. That stability doesn’t mean she’s slow though and the second impression is that stepping up from a 12’6” board she feels fast. A test run in neutral conditions on a timed 1km course resulted in a 33 second personal best with an average speed of 10.4 km/h, exactly 1 km/h higher than my previous best. I’ve paddled the same timed run over 50 times on various 12’6” boards, not bad for a budget board with a funny shape bow! 

Trimming the board is the key to making that bow work well in flatwater, too far forward and it’s shoving water out of the way. A fraction further back and it works far better reducing the water lifted at the bow. There is a lot of volume at the bow and quite a lot of height, this means side winds can push the front around a bit. When conditions require it moving a little further forward and getting the bow engaged means that the board tracks straight. 

When discussing the design with Andy I wanted to retain width at the tail but without excess volume and he achieved exactly that. The tail is slightly thinner than other boards I’ve paddled, but also wider. That means that stepping back for a buoy turn is easy to do, the tail will sink but that extra width keeps everything stable, to a point. The hull design also helps here, holding the board well in the water while you make the turn. 

Fin box placement is also good, the extra length of the box meaning that moving the fin forward or backward actually makes a difference to paddling. But the box itself appears to be slightly too wide for some fins that I have, they rattle a little which is easily solved with a foam insert, the type supplied by FCS with their FCS II fins. In fairness I have found other boards, hard and inflatable with fin boxes that aren’t quite perfect, either too tight or too lose.

She has less rocker than I had expected which is great for flatwater performance but I wasn’t after a pure flatwater board. Luckily that hull work and the overall stability of the board means that she handled her one outing (so far) in what could be called a funky swell well (funky was supposed to be chunky but funky swell sounds good). With strong gusts of  wind, natural wind swell and the wake from a squadron of Royal Marines (landing craft and ribs) she handled waves of up to waist height not with aplomb but adequately. The only swim caused by over-confidence by the paddler trying to turn after catching a few runners and sinking the tail too far for the conditions, a gust of wind took the bow and in I went. To be fair to the board the average wind speed for that paddle was over 20 mph, gusts were well over that! 

Finally that lacquer finish, it’s not flawless anymore. That one race was in the dark in Kingsbridge and I think I must have hit something in the water,  there was a scar when we’d finished.  It has proved to be fairly easy to fix though, sanding it back revealed that the carbon underneath was fine, some carefully applied Solarex has fixed the problem. One advantage with a clear top coat is there’s no paint to try to match.

Go Paddle 

A brace of McConks Carbon Sports and an McConks Go Anywhere

You can guess that I like my new board and I am happier with the prototype McConks than I thought I would be. Buying a board without seeing it based on diagrams alone is a bit of a risk but it’s been worth it. I’ve got a board that I really like and I because I was involved in the development process she feels a little more special than my other boards. I’ve got a board that suits the paddling I enjoy most and cannot wait to get her out of storage and onto the water here in Sweden. The conditions I’ve paddled in here so far suit the McConks perfectly and who knows, we may try to get involved in the race scene here too.

In the foreseeable future McConks will not be offering the Carbon Sport as part of their range but will be doing small batches to order, contact Andy @ McConks if you’re interested, but make sure he sorts that bow out first! 

All images (except the first one) from Mike Lister @ Mike Lister Photography

Sunday, 31 December 2017

McConks Carbon SUP Board

McConks Carbon SUP
McConks Carbon ready for shipping
Random conversations and cheeky questions sometimes lead to good things. In September 2017 I was chatting to Andrew at McConks SUP and asked if he had any plans for a 14’ race board. McConks have a history with quality, no nonsense, good value inflatables and I was hoping that he had a plan to bring a longer, narrower and faster board to market. I was more than surprised when the reply was 

“Inflatable or hard?”

Three little words that mean so much. Turns out that Lucy at Whitstable SUP had asked the same question and Andy was working on a 14’ carbon board, the first McConks hardboard. The plan was to make three prototypes and when I asked one had yet to find a home, a problem soon solved by my enthusiastic reply! 

One of the early spec sheets

The dimensions for the McConks prototype happened to be what I was looking for; a relatively wide, large volume board with a nose that would work well in chop and flatwater.

I’ve been lucky enough to own or paddle several race boards over the last few years, from classic K15s to brand new 14’ and 12’6” inflatable race boards and many in between. I currently have a 12’6” x 28” all water board and I had a very good idea of what I wanted from my first 14’ board so when Andy asked for any suggestions on the details I hit my keyboard with a wish list that Andy was kind enough not to throw away! 

A later CAD design

Several months later the three McConks Carbon boards are in a shipping container on their way to the UK. The time between that initial chat and the blanks being cut highlighted how easy it is to write a list and send it to someone to sort out but the extended conversations with Andy showed just how hard it is to design a SUP board, I was very glad that I wasn’t doing the hard work! CAD designs were tweaked, colours, graphics and logos added, repositioned and removed. Who’d have thought that a deck pad could be tricky but deck pad texture, graphics and positioning were tried ,discarded and done again. Ever had to think where a leash plug should go? Me neither but that’s a really important thing to sort out along with the vent plug, deck mounts and more. 

Blanks cut and ready

The challenges in specifying the things that you don’t have to think about when buying off the shelf went on and on but Andy just dealt with them, occasionally asking a question or sending an image when he was happy. As an active spectator the process has been fascinating and it’s with some excitement that I’m now waiting for my McConks Carbon to arrive.

So what are the McConks Carbon dimensions and features;

14’ x 28” x 9” (max) /  339 litres / aprox 14 kg 

McConks Carbon SUP
Nude carbon


28”. That is enormous when you look at the current trend to go as narrow as possible, 21.5” for some stock race boards and narrower still for some custom boards. But something that narrow would be little more than a swimming aid for me and for many other paddlers and as a paddler that’s unlikely to be at the sharp end of a race a wide, more stable board makes sense leading to more time standing and paddling than swimming.

McConks Carbon SUP
Freshly painted

The Hull

Single concave down the centre. The aim is to channel water down the middle leading to increased stability and, if I can paddle well enough to keep the board on a plane, a bit more speed in a straight line. 

The Tail

Slimmed down for buoy turns but keeping some width for stability when stepping back and turning.


The McConks deck is recessed but with no raised edge to trap water. My current 12’6” x 28” has a recessed deck which looks nice but collects water and has no drainage. That leaves me standing in a puddle all the time, not so bad in summer but less good in winter especially when the water freezes! 

McConks Carbon SUP
Ready to get wet

Deck Pad

Not too chunky with a kick pad at the tail for those who can get back that far and because kick pads look good on fast boards. 

Fin Box

Full size US box. A relatively wide board is likely to be paddled by a larger paddler so it makes sense to have a fin box that will accommodate a big fin. That also has the advantage of allowing a fin with a smaller base to be positioned according to the course or for paddler preferences. Any extra drag from the gap in front of or behind a fin won’t be noticed by most paddlers.


Typically ‘race’ boards don't have any consideration for carrying stuff, after all in a race who's going to willingly add weight to their board. But for most paddlers a race board has to do more than race and adding the capability to carry stuff when training or touring has to be a good thing with no downside in an event.

McConks Carbon SUP
Paddler not supplied

The only thing missing was from the photos from the factory is the big smiley face for the bow of mine and the board name but maybe Andy decided that printing “SUPpy McSUP Face” on one was a  step too far. We’ll find out on 20.01.2018 when the three boards get wet for the first time, watch this space for details…

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Garmin VivoActive HR Long Term Review

Vivo on holiday in Sweden

In July 2016 I bought a Garmin VivoActive HR (VAHR) for general activity tracking and more specifically to track my activities on a Stand Up Paddleboard, replacing my ageing Garmin Forerunner 310XT. Soon after purchase I put my thoughts on the unit on my blog here, since then my Vivo has been on my left wrist almost every day, this is an update of how Vivo and I have  got on.

The most important thing to note is that the VAHR I’m wearing as I type is not the unit I bought. My original Vivo failed in April 2016, 9 months after purchase. Luckily for me I’d bought it from a great retailer (Cotswold Outdoor in the UK) and they simply replaced the unit under warrantee. I’m still unsure what happened to my original, in the middle of a Stand Up Paddle session I noticed that the screen was filled with horizontal lines, I left it untouched until I got back to land, washed it off with freshwater and dried it. Still no change, the screen was unresponsive as were the two buttons. After going through all the advice I could find on-line I contacted Garmin and the shop, the shop replied first and I had a replacement the next day. Garmin got back to me a few days later. 

In those 9 months the original unit recorded over 5 million steps, tracked 135 separate activities with a total activity time of over 9 thousand minutes. Those were mostly on a SUP (recorded as ‘Other’ in CSV downloads from Garmin Connect) with a fair numbers of walks, pool swims and some time on the bike.  Through all of these the unit performed well, there was one incident where the unit became unresponsive early on but that was easily resolved with a reset and it didn’t happen again. Pairing with more than one external HR strap was easy and the unit would pick up either without issue. Through all of that the optical HR worked fine recording whenever the watch wasn’t paired with an external device. The accuracy during activities actually improved over time, maybe that was as a result of software updates or maybe my technique with a paddle improved, however it still isn’t as reliable as an external HR strap.

Using Garmin connect has been so easy that it’s hard to find fault with it, not always the case as I used to have a love / hate relationship with it when using older Garmin devices that were not bluetooth enabled. But synching the VAHR through my phone (currently an iPhone 6S) has proved to be pain free, even when left un-synched for several days. Start the Garmin app on the phone, it finds the watch and synchs data, this appears to happen more quickly than friends using different makes of activity tracker on different phones, but there’s no way to easily test that. Once synched both watch and phone let me know they’ve finished. 

Strava Vivo Track

I use Strava, a lot. Not the premium version but the free version. I have set Garmin Connect to automatically synch with Strava, again this happens seamlessly and often the Strava notification is displayed on the VAHR before the Garmin Connect one. Fast, clean and easy. 

Getting a box-fresh replacement meant I had to set it up from scratch which meant I had to think again about what I wanted displayed on screen. For SUP, my primary use for the VAHR. I have found that less is more. Originally I’d set up all available screens and set them to cycle through during the activity. I’ve now changed that to show far less information during the activity as most of the stats are more useful when looking at them on a laptop with a coffee. Now I have three screens set up as follows;
  1. Time of day
  2. Distance and Timer
  3. Heart Rate and Average Speed
Vivo on Dartmoor
These auto scroll at the medium setting, this is for two reasons; when paddling at any speed I don’t want to have to stop paddling to swipe the screen to see a different set of data and more often than not the screen gets wet on the water, then the touch screen isn’t as responsive as it might be. Autoscroll takes care of that. I also have Auto Lap set to 1km with Lap Key set to ‘on’ and an alert set to tell me when my HR goes into zone 5. A simple set up that works well for me. 

Garmin Connect

Great for stats for most people. A recent change means that the desktop application now has a similar look and feel to the mobile app, probably a good thing but in the short term that had me scratching my head initially as I tried to find things that were committed to my mouse and trackpad memory. The mobile app has also had a facelift and Garmin have done a good job improving an app that already worked well. 

Numbers for all activities are clearly displayed and you can drill down into them where appropriate. Graphs are easy to read and datasets can be combined, for example stroke rate and heart rate can be overlaid. There is a degree of intelligence with some of the datasets, when pool swimming Garmin algorithms make a good attempt at working out which stroke was done on each length, it’s only been caught out when I’ve had a rest at the end of a length or when doing leg-only drills. 

There are clear graphs to show Pace, Heart Rate and for SUP Stroke Rate and Distance Per Stroke. These are probably not as accurate as a more specialised (and more expensive) tracking tool would produce but for any paddler looking for some data to monitor their performance the VAHR does the job.


The VAHR is on my wrist as I type this. It’s an understated but of kit worn everyday as my only watch, it prompts me to move when I've been sat still for too long and it reliably tracks activities when told to. It’s hard to fault something that works exactly as it should. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

SUP Travel Paddle

Travel to paddle

As a taller paddler I have a bit of an issue with many adjustable paddles and particularly with travel paddles. Many state that they will extend to 220cm, about the right height for me, but to get to that height they sacrifice a lot of stiffness and in use they can feel like they are made of out of noodles. This is largely down to the reduced overlap between the shaft and the extension, the more overlap between the two sections the stiffer the paddle. Its not quite that simple of course, the length of the shaft is important, the longer that is the better, the quality of manufacture and materials used all play a part in giving the adjustable paddler the best experience possible on the water.

I stumbled into a Facebook conversation about adjustable paddles, someone was asking for a recommendation for a good adjustable paddle.  Several people had made good suggestions based on their own experience but no one had asked about the paddler who would be using it. I chipped in asking about their height and ultimately that lead to a conversation with Andrew McConky, head honcho at McConks paddle boards, about how to address the noodle issue for taller paddlers. A couple of months later I was a little surprised and very pleased to find myself with a prototype McConks 3 part paddle specifically for a trip to Sweden. Top marks to a small company willing to try something a little different!

McConks bag and three part carbon paddle

So, some stats;

Construction Carbon Fibre blade, shaft and extension
Length (max) 220 cm (would go longer but even I cannot test something that long!)
Length Shaft 154 cm
Length Extension 82 cm
Weight (total) 765 g
Weight Shaft 602 g
Weight Extension 163 g
Blade Size 39 x 19 cm (medium) 
Paddler Height 1.93m
Paddler Weight 98 kg
Paddler Experience Enthusiastic Intermediate
Paddler Construction Slightly overbuilt 

This compares well with the standard production model (details here) that has a stated weight of under 750 g and a maximum extension of 220 cm. As this is a prototype there was no ‘max’ length set on the extension and I was using the paddle with the overall length set to 220cm, the same as the standard paddle which I’ve not used. For reference a 2013 Red Paddle fixed length carbon paddle (220cm long) weighs in at 751g.

The three sections of the paddle have a high gloss finish, each section was well made with no sharp edges or burrs and when assembled everything was snug, each part butting up neatly with it’s neighbour. 

The blade section locks in place with a button fixing and the clasp at the top of the shaft has a nice smooth cam-lock, secured with two bolts. The cam feels very positive in use and is far more positive than the simple lever used on some other paddles. 

With every paddle the proof is in the paddling and, always keen to use shiny new kit I snuck a quick session in that evening, McConks meeting my 12’6” Allstar at my local, flatwater, try-kit-for-the-first-time spot.

First paddles with new kit are are always short, a chance to see what something is like before venturing out for a longer paddle, a couple of km out and back. On the water the McConks felt fine, just like a paddle with no hint of any noodle-ness at all. Which given my experience of things adjustable was a surprise. It felt so fine that my short paddle extended to 4.5km only stopped by sunset.

Strava leaderboard for a favourite 1km segment, McCconks at the top.

I was surprised when I got home and uploaded my GPS trace for the evening… I use a Garmin Vivosmart HR on the water and I like an app called Strava, if you don’t know it then it’s a great free tool for GPS tracking and you can read a bit more about it here. One of Strava’s best features is the ability to set up segments on any trace and compare data for each time you use the paddle the same bit of that course. That evening I’d set a personal best for a 1km segment that I’ve paddled over 40 times before, on this paddle maintaining an average speed of 9.4km/h. To put that in context every other time in the top 20 has been set with a light(ish) carbon fixed length paddle on the same board with the same fin in variety of conditions, the only change being the paddle.

The blade on this paddle is fractionally bigger than ones I’ve been using for a while now, it’s also shorter and wider. This shape seems to suit my medium cadence paddling of 40 - 42 strokes per minute and progress was swift without putting any extra strain on me. 

The next morning I hit the water on another local favourite spot, less sheltered than the night before and with more ‘interesting’ water conditions across the front of Plymouth Hoe. Again the paddle felt just like a paddle, the release at the end of the stroke feels slightly different to my Kialoa and Starboard (High Aspect) paddles but that’s to be expected as they are all different shapes. The catch and pull feel solid with no flutter in the water. Yet again I was surprised to set a PB on another Strava segment in conditions that I felt were not quite ideal, this time averaging 8.5 km/h over 2km. 

McConks and my old Red on Lake Vanern, Sweden
Travel paddles are to be travelled with so that’s what I did next. With the paddle in it’s bag rolled inside an inflatable SUP I headed to Sweden for some exploring. In the course of a week I paddled several times along the coast, in fjords and on some of the thousands of lakes on offer. Throughout the paddle was faultless, resisting clumsy handling and rocky outcrops without a scratch and stiffly handling paddling into headwinds with aplomb. Worth noting that on my inflatable I had to set the paddle slightly longer than on my race board and it was still great to use. 

McConking on a Swedish Island

When back in the UK I put the paddle to my ultimate test, a 9.5km out and back, usually with a headwind for half to it. This is a route I try to do on ‘good’ days and if I’m honest this didn’t feel that good, the wind was a bit stiffer than I’d anticipated and I was feeling a bit grumpy which never bodes well. Sure enough the headwind at the fist bend blew my enthusiasm away but as I was about to send the paddle back to McConks I figured I should plug away with it and see what data I could get back. Until remembering a very obvious and simple face, adjustable paddles should be adjusted to suit the conditions. With that stroke of genius I set it a little shorter and knuckled down, forget the view (always stunning) and get to the bridge. Not fun but satisfying. At the turn I set the paddle back to the length I prefer to paddle with and made the most of the tail wind on the way back, although it never feels as helpful as the headwind was a hinderance! 

This isn’t a route I split into segments, there’s no point as I’d never hit the way marks on it but I do take a note of the time. Including a 4 minute (and 7 seconds…) photo stop at the turn back  I was fractionally outside my best time recording 1 hour 18 minutes and 54 seconds topping out at 9.4km/h as usual on my 12’6” Allstar.

All in, this prototype paddle has a longer usable length than any other 3 part travel paddle that I have used, the extra length is primarily in the extension when compared with my daughters 3 parter from a well known brand. This leads to a greater overlap between the top and the shaft and that leads to a better feel when used at it’s longest setting. That is a a great thing for a taller paddler. There is a little weight penalty for this stiffness but that’s a price worth paying in order to have a paddle that you can travel with and that performs nearly as well as a fixed length paddle. I was impressed with Andrew’s confidence in his bag, he dispatched the paddle with no extra packaging, just the bag. That’s a step ahead of the trend to reduce waste as it’s hard to improve on no packaging.  

I’ve only had the McConks for five weeks so cannot comment on longevity, the upper clamp is a simple one and replaceable so I’d have no worries on that while the fixings for the  blade section have changed for 2018 with Andrew using a second clamp and offering an extension section for us tall folk to use. If you need to travel with a paddle or simply need to be able to get your paddle into a small space to transport it then it’s well worth visiting the McConks site and checking out their 2018 range of paddles. 

Most kit reviews end with the reviewer saying that the product is a great, giving it a rating out of 5 or 10 and then sending it back and never using it again. This blog review is a little different as instead of declaring that the McConks is the best travel paddle I’ve ever used before heading to the post office I contacted McConks and paid for it. Guess that’s 5 stars out of 5 then …