Every year more and more people sample the delights of going canoeing & kayaking through come-and-try-it days, taster courses and adventure holidays, but once you’ve been bitten by the bug, where do you go from there? The answer’s a simple one, find the nearest canoe club to your area, go along, join up and you’ll never look back…
It’s fair to say that canoe clubs are at the very heart of all areas and disciplines of canoeing and kayaking. Ask any top paddler, no matter what discipline, how they got started and we’ll bet you a pound to a penny that a canoe club featured in there somewhere. Clubs throughout the UK offer a safe, friendly, fun way to get involved, learn the skills and make a whole bunch of boating mates into the bargain.
What’s it all About?
Much like paddlers themselves, Canoe clubs come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types. Most clubs, however, will offer you a whole heap of invaluable opportunities to help you in your paddling, qualified British Canoe Union (BCU) Coaches, boat storage, pool sessions, club equipment organised river trips are just a few of the things that most canoe clubs can provide. Not to mention the social side of things. Just imagine a whole club load of like-minded people all as obsessed with all things canoeing and kayaking as you are?
How Do Canoe Clubs Work?
The majority of clubs are affiliated to the BCU and will ask you for an annual membership fee to cover subs and the matainence of clubhouses etc. There will usually be a set club night when you can all get together and get on the water, or maybe even just meet up to talk paddling over a pint. Pool sessions are also common and are usually run in a local swimming bath. These can be invaluable as a novice, as they provide a safe, and warm, environment to work on more advanced moves, such as support strokes and Eskimo rolling.
Clubs will usually have a committee, which will be voted on by the membership of the club at an annual general meeting. The committee will then deal with the day-to-day running of the club, such as membership fees, organising pool sessions/river trips, training and coaching courses, working with the BCU etc. If the club is a large one the committee may well have members that deal with specific areas such as youth programmes or coaching etc. As well as somewhere to meet and fellow paddlers to go paddling with, many canoe clubs will also have club equipment that can be borrowed or hired. This is fantastic if you’re just starting out as it means that you can continue to learn and progress while you slowly build up your own personal gear, without having to go out and bust the bank in one go at your local canoe shop.
Be a Canoeing & Kayaking Star
As we’ve already mentioned most clubs will have members who have attained BCU Qualifications and are more than willing to pass on their knowledge to new members. Most clubs will also run training programmes on the BCU star awards. Clubs will often organise specific courses and assessments, so members can learn and progress through the star awards right up to coaching qualifications and many will subsidise these course for members.
Club trips are a brilliant way to get out and experience the rivers, lakes and coastline. Practically every paddler in the UK will of enjoyed their first taste of ‘real’ paddling on a club trip. Be it float on a Sit-ob-Top on your local lake, a run down the River Dart, a surf trip to South Wale, a sea kayaking adventure in Scotland or maybe an open canoe trip in the Lake District, club trips are a whole bunch of fun and you’ll really appreciate the help, advice and knowledge of your fellow club members as you enjoy your time on the water.
Some clubs specialise in a specific discipline. These tend to be based around competitive paddling pursuits such as marathon, sprint, slalom or canoe polo, but specialist sea kayaking, open boating and canoe sailing clubs also exist. These can provide excellent specialised coaching and a real focus on the discipline of choice. If you’re completely new to the sport you may find this sort of club a little restrictive, so why not join a general club first and try your hand at all types of paddling? Then if you find that you’re drawn to a specific type of paddling you can see if there’s a specialist club in your area.
As we’ve already hinted there’s so much more to being a member of a canoe club than just going paddling. By and large, paddlers are a sociable bunch and they’ll be plenty of activity on the water. Christmas dinners, summer BBQs, video nights, some clubs even organise lectures and slideshows by well-known kayakers or coaches. You’ll also find that on top of official club trips many club members will get together and organise their own paddling trips, or courses, so you could find yourself off on a paddling adventure every weekend!
Because of their social side, and because most clubs will cater for all abilities, they are ideal for getting the whole family involved. Pool sessions can be particularly good for some great fun with the kids, or for introducing a loved one who may be a little hesitant at jumping straight onto the sea or river. Most clubs offer a specific family membership for this very reason.
Finding Your Local Canoe Club
The BCU is a good first point of call and they should be able to point you in the direction of your nearest club. Check out their website (www.bcu.org.uk) where you can download a list of clubs or call them on 0115 9821100. They also carry a list of every BCU affiliated club in their annual yearbook, which is free to members.
Many canoe clubs now have their own dedicated websites and a quick search could well reveal your local clubs site. Alternatively try a search on Google, or similar. Just type in ‘canoe clubs UK’ and you’ll get loads, and loads results.
So that’s it, what are you waiting for? Get searching, get yourself along, get paddling and get in the club!