Paddle Clubs to Emulate?

We’re organizing an informal, general-interest paddling club around the Johnson-Linn-Jones County area of Iowa, and seeking recommendations from more experienced folks re exemplary clubs, organization structure, bylaws, mission/goals, approach to liability concerns, etc. I did find some very useful info and links in last October’s thread re “Why or why not belong to a paddle club?”, but I’m not trying to reopen that debate.

And yes, I know what some of you are thinking: “If they were in Florida, they would be paddling instead of thinking about organizing a club!”

Email List
I belong to a Kayak Club and I belong to several email lists. To be honest the email lists are much more fun. People with similar interests that get together to paddle together. No club presidents, by-laws, insurance issues, or power freaks that want to control how things are done.

To belong to the list you have to be invited, which means you know someone who will vouch for your ability to participate.
We went really low key. We basically set up a nice website with message board and some info. No officers, no dues, no structured trips. All show n go. To get into the posted trips thread you have to agree to a disclaimer. It helps that our co founder runs a web business.

Check out (Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Club). It’s a great club, we’ve belonged for 5 years and have nothing but good things to say about it.


– Last Updated: Feb-22-08 2:13 PM EST –

Well, than agin' as de old sayin' goes.... any club dat gots me as a member ah' probably woodn't join.

Fat Elmo

A few
I don’t know what your criteria are, but I look at level of activity, focus on paddling, simplicity, fun and results. We’ve gone with a “bulletin board” instead of a club format to minimize liability, cost and complications. I don’t claim it’s worthy of emulation, but it works for us. Our site and a video of our events:

Others I know of and are worth checking out include Keelhaulers Canoe Club (Cleveland), Bradstreet Kayakers (Cleveland), Three Rivers (Pittsburgh), Cave Run (KY), Southeast Ohio Paddlers (SEOP), the Ft. Wayne (IN) Yahoo group, OAC (Dayton), COPS (Columbus, OH), Viking (Louisville), Bluegrass/Bardstown (KY), Hoosier (Indianapolis) and Elkhorn (KY). There’s other good ones, but these are the ones that happen to spring to mind.
the best part of the club are the ‘Show ‘n’ Go’ trips - which aren’t really part of the club at all.

The Show N Go’s are posted on a message board and a member will usually email the details out as well. Anyone can go on these trips, there are no fees or dues, and you are responsible for yourself.
Florida Sea Kayaking Association


Check out
Check out Log in as a guest to check it out. We’re very informal. I’ve found that the more formal the club, the more talking and the less paddling they do. No one in our mid-Atlantic region does more trips than Penn Kayaking, we average 150+ trips per year.


I agree with those who said

– Last Updated: Feb-23-08 1:54 AM EST –

the formal approach is too much of a headache. I'd rather spend my time paddling than electing officers and doing paperwork.

We just formed a new flatwater paddling group last fall in the Cincinnati area (Ohio Lakers). It's a Yahoo group (bulletin board), plus we have a website at:

Since we want an ACTIVE membership, we made a rule in our group that you have to attend one event a year to remain in the group. It could be a picnic, movie night (a winter thing), or whatever, but one event is mandatory. And "bouncing" members are removed from the e-mail list. They can always re-join when they get their e-mail situation straightened out if they still have an interest.

Some people would rather go for the high membership numbers (which is fine) but I think percentage of active paddlers is a better indicator of how good a group really is.

I also belong to a great club. Check it
out at We do actually spend more time paddling than talking, take the time to encourage and train new paddlers, and generally promote kayaking as an activity in our area.

The club structure also gives us a certain legitimacy in our community when making our voice heard regarding issues of how community resources (like our Bay) are used and cared for. Since this is the water we paddle and swim in, having a say over these issues is important to us, and it’s something an exclusionist bulletin board just doesn’t provide.
CT Sea Kayakers.

No bi-laws, we have officers, we have group leader-less trips all year. Leader-less to avoid liability issues best we can - never had a problem. No sign-up sheets. We label trips as beginner, intermediate or advanced. No insurance or ACA membership. Non members are welcome to paddle with us. I think common sense is the best you can do with clubs. Our goai is primarily the networking of paddlers - trips - paddles - having fun. Our club is very diversified with skills. We currently have 250 members.

Harveysburg Paddling Club…

…no dues, no meetings, all you have to do is promise to drink the beer belonging to one of our members.

another link to the HPC

Someday, when we achieve our goal of planetary dominance… er… I mean 100 members, we are going to get a real domain and web hosting. IF Rroberts shells out the bucks for it. hehe :slight_smile:


…I have two people in mind to replace Louie as

President of Vice.

Mind if I start the resume process?

Have at it! NM

Legitimacy / Community Involvement
Members of the three lists I have been involved with have participated in stopping the Toll Road through Trestles at San Onofre State Beach …and other less known issues. The lists and contacts within the groups have been used to get disabled veterans from Iraq involved in kayak training so they can participate in whitewater and surfkayaking. Don’t need a club with officers and rules to have an impact.

Cedar Rapids?
This old Iowa boy belongs to Southern Ohio Floaters Association…

…but it might be about the food.

HRCKC Ministry of Propaganda
Well, actually the Club kind of joined Fat Elmo.

Many of the issues that have been brought up here have been faced by HRCKC. Chief among them is the liability issue. For a long time the Club was able to operate with the stipulation that if anyone was injured on a trip we would kill them, eat them and divvy up their gear. As we entered the 21st Century and membership climbed to more than a couple of hundred people we were forced to face the issue in a more socially acceptable and conventional manner.

Seadart and Donna4955 cite spending time in the boring and aggravating process of electing officers and presidents who may be power freaks rather than spending it paddling as another drawback of clubs. Too much talking and less paddling. I’m not sure about that, since at our meetings most of the talking is being done by the members, and it’s about paddling, boats and equipment. It took about 13 seconds to elect the entire board of Club Officers. However, I am the President, and I am a power freak.

Fees and dues are another negative, but I think HRCKC gives good value for the $15 yearly dues. ($25 for family memberships) We occasionally have speakers at the meetings and frequently have informal seminars and “show and tell” presentations where ideas, techniques, gear and other issues are discussed.

Marciat mentions the issue of being a voice in community affairs. I agree. A Club can more easily monitor an issue and organize a response with a greater impact than individuals.

The Hackensack River Canoe and Kayak Club tries to do all this in a low key and fun loving attitude, and we don’t neglect “on the water” activity.

Besides all that, we have cool T shirts and decals for our boats. Oh, and then there are the parties.

Captain Jeff (you may call me Sir or Fearless Leader)