An inspiring brand, an Angel in disguise – But what charity?…

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As most of you know my summer was focused around the SUP. In a nutshell I contacted a British based company McConks SUP to see if they would sponsor me for our trip The Maltese SUP Project.

I couldn’t have contacted a kinder person. Andrew McConkey had been nothing short of an angel. He sent me a training board and paddle while he developed my expedition board the 12’8 Go Explorer. Once my board was designed and made he sent it my way, I had 2 boards and paddles for my honeymoon even.
I sent both boards back and recently he asked if I would like to buy the Go Explore at a discounted rate. My response was….“ I have no money after the marriage and buying a croft that I have been developing”

The latest twist…………!

2 days ago I received a message “I will send you the sup back if you would like to make a donation to a charity of your choice, at what price you think the SUP is worth”

Since I have been munro bagging and reflecting and I am overwhelmed with the generosity of McConks! Even in my financial state I am compelled to find the money and I am more inclined to do so!

I couldn’t believe the state of the sea, what are we doing! I am wondering if some people stigmatize this subject area!

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The next question is who do I donate to? If you have any suggestions I am all ears, I have been doing some research into plastic in the sea and how I can help educate people who are trapped in a system (city – artificial lifestyle).

This is the initial phase, before long I will select a charity to donate to, so far the links below have grabbed my attention…

http://www.plasticoceans.org/

http://www.mcsuk.org/information/About+MCS

http://www.bluemarinefoundation.com/about/

So what do you think??

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McConks Vario pro carbon fibre – 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle Review.

If One of my issues with reading reviews about equipment is receiving an overly glowing review by the sponsored athlete. Sometimes I am astonished with the lack of critical reviewing and honesty. I am trying to keep this review factual and explain how the McConks Vario paddle benefited our expedition and myself but its actually quite hard when you enjoyed the product.

As part of my sponsorship arrangement with McConks they offered me the Vario pro carbon fibre – this is a 3 piece carbon bamboo paddle. This paddle weighs in at 700g and when it arrived I was struck immediately with its weight and size of which it packed down to.

 

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On our expedition The Maltese Sup Project a few things were highlighted.

Packing
The paddle came in a tidy padded bag which can fit x2 3 piece split paddles in if you wanted a spare or in our case are trying to combine luggage. The next important thing to note is it fitted inside the SUP bag meaning you have only one bag to check in.

On the water
– The paddle is comfortable to use on long distance. The T grip has a shape which sits in your palm in a snug smooth way with no plastic rough finish like I have previously experienced with other paddles.

– As well as being 3 piece it’s also  adjustable, it can go from as tall as 220 for adults to as short as 170 for kids.

– I discovered the adjustable feature is also beneficial from transferring from feet to knees in the wind and chop. It means you can shorten the paddle with the flick of a switch and still be able to use the T grip.

– Being a 3 piece paddle it didn’t seam to effect the strength. Even in the toughest of winds and swell the paddle was unaffected by any flex. Dare I say I didn’t notice any but this may because I was so use to using this by this stage or the environment was so brutal.

Other points of note
The 3 piece has a clip lock system, which uses little screws. On long Journeys and particularly on expedition I took a spare clasp. After a few days out I checked the tightness of the screws, they were always tight, so perhaps I was over prepared or paranoid in this area.

So there you have it, in conclusion I tried my hardest not to say how much I enjoyed paddling with the Vario but I truly did enjoy the paddle and I would highly recommend it particularly for overseas travel.

If you want one you can find it  here 

 

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Flying with a SUP and hand baggage only!

My summer was spent training for the Maltese Sup Project…alongside planning a wedding, buying a house,and then living in the a caravan outside while renovating the place! I also worked as much I could to feed myself, to buy paint and materials, and, of course, fund the adventures…

We did the minimum of planning for our trip to Malta. All I had to consider was the destination – which the lovely Sonja had chosen — the climate — which we knew was fickle in November — flights which we knew would be cheep (£150 return) – and, finally, which British SUP company I would contact for sponsorship?

Even though planning was minimal my thoughts about the project and my training were constant. As soon as Andy – from McConks – was on board, he kindly sent me a training board for me to use whilst my expedition board went though the design process. This was a 10.8 Go Enywhere inflatable ISUP

Below is Jackson on the Mcconks 10.8 Go Anywhere ISUP.

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Training sessions started gently. I had fun in the sun and enjoyed sunset SUPs on evenings after work with my friends and Jackson. My steady progression soon led me to solo journeys on the sea. I now know that I should have trained with the board fully-loaded in a 5ft swell and force 4 winds with minimal landing opportunity! More detail on the trip’s conditions will follow in a future blog.

One of my logistical aims for the trip was to see how inexpensive I could make the trip! The McConks boards come with a McConks 3 piece carbon paddle  this was great because it packed in neatly with the SUP. The Go Explore weighs in at an amazing 11kg, and the 3 piece paddle is 600g.

I  booked only one Sup bag (hold luggage) onto the flight I could fit quite a lot of extras into the SUP bag too. The rest of my stuff I popped into my hand luggage. I could only hope that the airport wouldn’t empty my underwear all over the security check-in desk eek! I was lucky in this respect but, on the way out, I found that Manchester airport have scales where you weigh your own bag! Well, my bag weighed-in at 23kg (3kg over the maximum), the machine asked me to pay £30, I swiftly moved to another set of scales! I managed to rearrange things and offset the difference with the aid of my foot under my bag. I now weighed in at 19kg. My return journey was blessed by a wonderful woman behind the desk who let me through the net with a whopping 25kg (£14 per kg) bag. Somehow, she skirted the charge, taking my hand luggage and putting it though the system as combined luggage!

So then, how to live off a Sup for 10 days!
My McConks Go explore 12’8 is designed in a way to carry expedition kit and I was lucky to have more storage space than the others on the trip. However, I still needed to think carefully about my packing. This started at home because I had to think of plane luggage restrictions.

when traveling with a group its not necessary to all book an extra bag each but it helps to have a group bag.

McConks Go Explore 12’8

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This is what I took with me…

Clothing which I was wearing (wetsuit, trainers and Palm Glide)

Sleeping bag

Roll matt (one night I slept on the board with no roll mat as a test and i was warm enough)

Bivvy bag

Spare clothes

Petrol stove

Trombone

SUP pump

Repair kit (glue, patches, x2 spare canisters for Palm Glide life jacket)

Food

Water

Split kayak paddles

Phone and Camera.

Roof rack straps to secure bags to board.

Below is what it looked like after 3 days on the sea. 

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The black bag at the back of the board had the pump, repair kit and  trombone in it.

The red bag a the front had my sleeping kit in it “triple dry bagged” (roll mat, sleeping bag, bivvy bag.

The two bags behind the red one (red and blue) Red one was spare clothing and food. The blue one was a day sack (lunch, camera, phone)

So there you have it my first blog about Malta. with the facts of travel and logistics. A full trip report will follow.

 

Thanks for reading x x x x

Courage

I have a vague memory of sitting in the passage way on a ship – of one of BP’s fleet. These were grand boats, huge industrial things. My memory is so vague now that I am unsure whether it was told to me in later years or whether I remember it first hand…

Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, I sat opposite my sisters as we waited for each noble, rolling wave, which would, in turn, tip the ship and reunite us with our marbles of choice as they rolled down the passage! The classic, big ‘Ally’ – this marble was common but, non the less, it was one of my favourite (I would have been able to trade, maybe, four other marbles for an ‘Ally’ at school!). We would sit there for hours on end, using nature to aid us in our game. I loved the rough sea.

My dad worked at sea and, many times. we joined him on his missions. He kept a little leather book – only the size of his palm – in which he would note every port they docked in…over the course of his his 35 year career! I keep meaning to find some computer ‘whizz’ who could insert all the docks and create an animation of his journey round the globe!

The Ship was an amazing place for me. I loved exploring and my dad would take us into the engine room to have a look and to meet his colleagues. Once, me and my sisters walked into the staff bar. What a curious place it seamed, so full on grown ups with their big handle bar moustaches! These years are precious to me and the older I get the more I try hard to remember these little pearls of my memory, my childhood adventures which shaped the person I came to be.

My dad would pack as a mountaineering instructor would: always last minute, but sparsely, with only what he needed for his 4 months at sea. I remember that he took so little once that he had space to fit three 2-foot raccoon teddies in his suitcase on his return from, well, wherever they have racoons. Three lovely gifts for my two sisters and me.

The other day I SUP-ed my first solo trip. My trip started in Burghead on the Moray coast in Scotland. As I was blowing up my SUP I got chatting to an old retired couple who couldn’t believe I had the courage to go off on my own. I assured them that I would be fine.

I completed 15km which took me just under 3 hours. I was in no rush as I was happy being at one one with myself and the sea! My trip gave me time to think and to reflect; I explored what courage was — this was what the old lady had said I had.

My dad had courage. He had courage to leave a cozy home, a wife and mother of three behind for 3 or 4 months at a time. He would trust that his hand-written letters sent from around the globe would reach my mum in good time.

You see, courage to me comes in many forms. I have had to drum up the courage for work, for various assessments, for kayaking waterfalls, and for delivering lectures — not to mention visiting the dentist!

But is it courage I needed for my trip, or simply confidence?

Lately, I have had to think about my wedding day on the 8th October 2016 (jeeez!). This is something which, I believe, I need courage for. I will need courage to marry since my dad was taken from our family by cancer of the bowel a few years back. I will need to be strong in front of my family and friends. To me, courage is an emotional not a physical challenge. I am scared of deep water and sharks but as long as my team are around me and we focus on each day as it comes then we don’t need courage, we need only each other.

Dress for SUPcess!

Hmmmm…what to wear, what to wear?…Oh, I’m such a lady!

What to wear might not be the first thing you ask yourself when you go off on a SUP. But what is the correct safety clothing and equipment for SUPing?

Already at this stage in my SUPing life I have my own answer to this question — I don’t know whether or not it’s correct, but I feel it is something I should share. This blog has not come out of the blue, it has stemmed from some argumentative remarks posted on my Facebook page, remarks which quite upset me.

So, as I come from a WW kayak background it seems an odd concept to me not to wear a PFD while SUPing, just as I would imagine it being alien to a surfer or to a wild swimmer to wear a PDF. I always have the argument with myself every time I go out – should I wear a PFD or not? The justification for wearing one comes from the following factors for me.

The general conditions and weather

The venue

The distance to be covered

The outside temperature

The water temperature

The wind strength and direction

Whether or not i am using a leash and what type

The company I am in and their ability

Personal clothing

If I noticed any of these variables going from ‘green’ to ‘amber’ or even to ‘red’, my dynamic assessment would kick in and I would decide whether or not to use a PFD.

From the research I’ve done, the following information was highlighted:

In surf and chop conditions it’s not always a good idea to wear a PFD as it keeps bringing you to the surface (face up or down!) and there is a potential of being hit on the head with the board.

A coiled leash is good for returning the board to the paddler, though this is not desirable in the surf, when a non-coiled one should be used.

PALM do a inflatable BA as a bum bag which looks ace! It’s called the glide waist belt. I’m looking into getting one of these.

I am a strong swimmer and as I am attached to an very big float by a leash when on a SUP, I have all I need! It has, however, crossed my mind that if there were to be a slow release puncture in the board (from a graze of sharp rocks out at sea), I would no longer have my very big float…! This is why being with a team is important. If I were on a solo mission then, yes, I would wear a PFD. And on the river, yes, I would wear a PFD.

It’s important to note, though, that on the river a leash will present more of a hazard; there has been a recent fatality in Austria following an incident involving the use of a leash in moving water.

I am an outdoor professional and I pride myself in being safe in what I do. The reason I think people are struggling with this question about whether not to wear a PFD is similar to the questions I’ve asked myself when preparing and packing for an alpine route: how do I downsize my rack? Should I take a waterproof jacket? Ooost, the questions!! The reality – it’s adjustment, experience and cross discipline knowledge.

The fact is, the prevailing weather is always changing in the UK and a good day can quickly become a blowy mess!

So let’s keep it simple, do what you feel is right and beginners and weak swimmers, use appropriate safety equipment and do your research!

but that’s just my opinion end of!..

Stay Safe 🙂

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What the BROWN is the Maltese SUP Project???

Well……

Let me tell you from one quarter’s perspective.

As I sit here high up in the Scottish hills in the far north-west highlands, if it’s not a rain cloud it’s a cloud of midges. I write my first stand up paddle board blog from Camban Bothy, respect to Mountain Bothy Association for a much welcome shelter and a wonderfully maintained one at that.
As I gaze out of the window I can’t help notice the thousands of dead midges on the ledge before I can enjoy the view. But I wouldn’t change my home hills for anything: I love brutal weather — as strange as it sounds. And, hey, every cloud has a silver lining.

About 3 months ago a good friend of mine, Sonja Jones, asked, “would you like to sup the great Glen with me?” I am always up for an adventure so I responded “yes” quite quickly, followed by “…if I have the time”!

I met Sonja in the Chamonix valley in February 2016 and we clicked immediately. Since then, we have laughed with one another continually; I can’t think of many more fun people to go on an adventure with.

Around 2 or 3 days later Sonja messaged me again and said “actually, let’s go somewhere warm…MALTA! Let’s circumnavigate Malta on a SUP”. I laughed and responded “yes, let’s make time”.

I was keen to find out Sonja’s drive: she wants to build muscle to prevent Malcolm (Malcom is her MS getting bored). So we decided to make a trip of it and ask some others if they wanted to come. Chris Brain, Sonja’s long-term paddling coach (also a good friend of mine) and Matt Haydock. a good friend too, said yes.
We all have our flights booked 31st October -10th November. The aim to circumnavigate Malta plus the 2 islands to the north…….

I measured roughly on google maps and it’s approx 135km. This task is achievable with around 15km days. So £160 for a flight, a few drybags and luggage to carry on my board for 10 days = Sorted. It all seems a bit too easy. Until…
I researched that there are around 47 different breeds of sharks in the Mediterranean, Malta being one of their breeding grounds!! Oh, and October November is the storm season!! (Gulp)
I do like a challenge though.

Since Sonja asked me to go on this exped, I approached McConks SUPs and asked if they would like to sponsor me. They have been unreal. Sent me a package… a 10’6 board t train on and they are making me an expedition board too! All rather exciting. I was keen to represent a British business and show people how accessible this sport really is.

Initially I was sceptical about supping… I come from a WW Kayak background and a canoeing one… many moons ago (big up Ken Hughes my legendary coach from my youth who spent many hours coaching me canoe and WW freestyle at these barrage — and straightening out a ferrell youth and focussing the mind on an active future). I have done a canoe expedition in America down the Delaware (Pensylvannia) and WW kayaked in Corsica, French alps, Austria, Italy and Norway. I also circumnavigated all the lakes in the lakes in sea Kayak and circumnavigated Corsica last October. So, needless to say, I do like a good circular route!

Initially, I thought “why stand when you can sit down(!)” but, it turns out, supping is amazing! My dog, Jacko, loves it! It’s great fun, a work out and, best of all, it’s super accessible with minimum faff.

I suppose all 4 of us will approach the expedition from a different angle and it will be the first time all 4 of us will be brought together.
One of my downfalls on an expedition is that I tend to become quite task-focused, mainly because I just want to know I have done my best to achieve the set aim. I am mindful of external factors: weather, team dynamics, injury, ability, time etc. so I suppose my personal aim will be to be less focused on the task and more focused on each day’s objective. This won’t be hard as I will be supported by a great team of people whom I admire.

Although this is my first BLOG, training has commenced! You will be kept updated with my progress.
I hope to bring you beautiful pictures too!

Righty-ho, back to the midge-fest for me!

Oh and…
BIG UP McCONKS!