Words and pics: Richard Heathcote
As with Stephane Lefevre SUPM’s test team Richard Heathcote has been an integral part of getting the mag’s equipment write ups sorted this last year. We caught up with Steph a few days ago to find out how it’s been for him, now here’s Rich’s view on the last 12 months of reviewing stand up paddle board gear. (You can read Steph’s Q&A here if you missed it)
Remind readers of your backgrounds as far as watersports go.
I’m a surfer first and foremost, riding my local spots on and off since ’89. This has been punctuated with spells living in Cornwall, Wales and multiple trips abroad. My mate Al introduced me to windsurfing in’95, then stand up paddle boarding around 2008. I’ve been playing at racing for about three years after I built a 14 footer. I’ve shaped seven boards now, which is becoming a bit of an addiction. Hopefully I’ll get the glassing right at some point! Mexican blanket here I come!
How’s it been for you – testing stand up paddle boarding kit that is?
It’s been great fun testing all the kit, feeling in the loop and seeing the development in the sport has been very cool. Took a while to sort the GoPro settings out and then realise water droplets are a pain in the arse, though not such a pain as the thousands of pics with your arm obscuring the board you’re supposed to be testing/showing off.
Anything strike you with regard to equipment in general?
My main surprise has been the quality and fun factor of inflatables. I’d never been on one before and was very sceptical to say the least. But honestly they’re great fun to use, comfortable underfoot and let’s face it, a right laugh in waves as none of us are exactly pros. Some are surprisingly fast as well!
Crystal ball gazing, make a prediction (anything you like) re SUP gear in the future.
It’s an exciting time in SUP and I am particularly looking forward to the development of better surf inflatables; hard rails are coming in slowly and I think this technology will only get better.
What do you think test write ups provide for the reader/consumer?
I hope our gear reviews really help people see the vast array of kit on offer and help them to make some decisions from a completely unbiased point of view about what they could buy. I like the combination of board and other gear in SUPM’s tests. There’s such a wide scope within SUP. There’s a ton of stuff that could be of interest to readers. Some may dismiss a write up of a camping stove, say, but to others who are into touring and multi-day excursions this could be the very thing they want to read. I don’t think the surface has been scratched yet in terms of what’s applicable coverage – you could have dedicated sections for this kind of stuff but I appreciate the team of testers (and those who put the mag together) needs to significantly increase.
Do you think SUPM is doing things right – what would you change?
I love this mag and it would great to see it reach an even wider readership. It’s very much UK based and I think this is really important in its success and promoting the fact we have our scene, our own SUP personalities and industry. There’s so much stand up stuff happening in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and we should be proud and shout about it.
Any other ideas of how to make SUPM’s gear reviews better?
This is an exciting time in SUP. It’s grown from its infancy, stretched its legs, has gone through childhood and now where are we? Governing body debates, Olympic pathway potential, a ton of ongoing controversial politics; but at the end of day it’s the recreational paddlers who will help grow SUP further. These are the people buying the kit, keeping the brands afloat. Some may possibly do a few races, play around in the surf or tour any stretch of vaguely attractive bit of water, but ultimately it’s all about smiles on faces from simply being afloat.
Final comments shout and praise?
Big shout out to Tez (aawww thanks! – ed), Stephane and also Nick Kingston who recommended me for the testing role. I’ve been surfing with Nick since ’89 and he’s such a cool guy. Finally big thanks to my partner Domi and kids Gabriella and Raph, whose patience and willingness to drop everything when there’s a wave is fantastic. Fortunately they all love to surf and paddle themselves!