Starting a paddling club? Help!

I live in an area that is ripe for a paddling club. We are 4 hours easy drive to some of the best whitewater in the east and 3 hours from the gulf, 4 from the atlantic. We are on a “fall line” and the city will be decommissioning 2 dams to create a downtown whitewater park of amazing capabilities (1-2 years off).

We have no paddling clubs! I am on the board of our RiverWatch group and an avid canoe and sea kayaker. (Trying to learn whitewater skills). I am interested in starting a paddling club but don;t know the best places to look for help.

Any suggestions?



build it, and they will come
make t-shirts, get a website, draw up a charter, name yourself president, VP, secretary and treasurer, charge dues, line up a pool for rolling sessions, meet once a week at a local library, coffee shop, or REI, then sit back and watch them come running!

Small newspapers are always looking
for stories and usually have a meeting page where meetings are listed. Some large dailies have “local” news sections about goings on in particular neighborhoods. They often have a meetings and happenings page too. If there is a community website, that’s another place to post notices about your meeting.

Yahoo Group

– Last Updated: Apr-18-07 11:25 AM EST –

is a good way to start a prescence and to begin to coalesce local folks. Talk it up here, elsewhere and on the water.

Yahoo group is what got the NESurfkayakers group going. We have over 160 members on the list but the reality is that only about half the list are really active and actually know each other and meet to surf.

This is big difference, however, from when the group first started... when I thought it was just me and another 2 folks who are hard core paddle surfers in New England.


Coordinate with a local retailer or two.
They provide names, referrals, goodies and meeting space, you provide paddle enthusiasm, elbow grease and on water experience.

Stay informal if you can.
When we started ConnYak (CT Sea Kayakers) a few people got together and it grew. We now have over 400. I believe the largest club in the U.S.

We meet once a month only in the winter. Padding season we paddle. Although I’m a club officier, I don’t think that is really necessary as long as people volunteer to get things done. We run paddles rather informally. No group leader. We debated about insurance, who’s responsible and all that stuff until the cows come home. So we try to stay informal about leadership. You sign your life away to the club when you join - the usual can’t sue anybody stuff that’s actually meaningless. But really, anyone can paddle with us and we encourage people to join us all the time.

We charge $15 a year which pays for the web site, pool sessions and demo/lecturers. Just do it and it will all fall into place. Get the word out with paddlers, and stores and have your first meeting.

You’re the president, congradulations.

Our site is:

You can steal anything you want.

Middle Georgia?

Gotta have donuts at de meetin’s. Ah’ co-founded de Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club back in 1985 (real reason wuz ta meet womenfolk). Had some rough times maintainin’ membership until we had donuts at de meetin’s - now we got’s over 400 members.

Had ta be de donuts…

Fat Elmo

Yahoo Group’s a good idea
…or msn or whatever. The important thing is to build and promote it. I made up biz cards with the club website on it and handed them out to everyone I met on the water. I also stuffed them under windshield wipers at malls if I saw a rig with cradles. Once we got rolling, we put on membership drives at the local library and made use of their advertising contacts. Also e-mailed PSA’s to local newspapers, radio and cable stations advising of meetings. I wrote articles for the local paper and invited reporters to photograph our Wednesday Evening family paddles on the local river. Be sure and touch base with local municipal and Provincial (State) recreation departments, all it takes is a phone call or an e-mail. Volunteer for local beach clean-up days and make sure your photo gets in the news.

We also made up photo cd’s of our paddling adventures and hand them out to anyone who might be teetering on the edge of giving in to the paddle bug.

Talk to local paddle shops about offering a discount to club members who present their membership card.

There’s more, I’m sure but that’s a start. Our club is strong and vibrant after 7 years together and continues to grow.

Good luck!


yahoo group…
hope it stays small…don’t be surprised if it goes in directions you never imagined.

once you get more than 3 people together…it’s a ouija board

Paddling Group
Hi Vidalia,

It sounds like your in Columbus, GA. I’d heard that some folks down there were thinking of starting a club.

There’s pro’s and con’s to starting a yahoo group and starting a formalized club. I helped start a non-profit club before and I have been on the board of three different non-profit organizations (one a women’s oudoor club and one other a paddling club). I also am the organizer and moderator of a women’s cycling yahoo group. The yahoo group has about 150 folks on it.

The pros to starting a yahoo group is that it’s easy to organize, there is no start up money and it is informal. The cons are that the organizer/moderator seems to get stuck doing most of the work. I also found that most people relied on me to organize the bike rides and that gets old after awhile. I also got tired of trying to get new members. There was alot of support/energy when I first started the yahoo gourp, but now it seems like the group has stagnated (of course, that could be because I’m paddling more).

The pros to starting a new group is that you have others to help you (market the club and lead trips). You are more legitimate and credible. The cons are that you have to find money to get the club started. You have to go through paperwork to incorporate (which isn’t too hard in GA). The biggest headache is doing the papwerwork to seek IRS tax exemption. You also have to worry more about liability, and of course, you are always worrying about funding the club and keeping membership up to support the club.

One option you might want to consider is hooking up with the Georgia Canoeing Assn ( or hooking up with another established club. This way you can fall underneath that established club’s non-profit corporation and IRS tax status. You wouldn’t have to put any money up front and you wouldn’t have to mess with all the burecratic papwework. The only thing you would have to worry about is leading local trips and getting paddlers together locally.

Anyway, those are just my suggestions. Good luck in your endeavor. I’ve been to Columbus on a few occassions and I’ve always enjoyed the folks and the atmosphere in Columbus. Once those dams are removed, Columbus will really be a whitewater mecca.


P.S. Feel free to email me offline.


– Last Updated: Apr-19-07 10:12 AM EST –

is a major step towards formality... Think clearly why you would want that before proceeding...


(as something who has worked in non-profits for almost 30 years and have served on a number of non profit boards that are "mission driven". Won't let my past-time be mission driven though...)

Thanks for all the suggestions!
Great response to my plea for help. Thanks to everyone. Yes, Columbus, GA is my home and the river is a wonderful place to paddle and will only get better.

Love the donut idea and will bring a box full to our first organizational meeting Friday.

With all of your help and ideas I feel motivated to get this thing going. Some of the growth mentioned in your responses was amazing! I hope we can pull this off and lok forward to coming back with questions as we develop and grow. Any ideas or comments you have are appreciated and welcomed.



Might want to contact these folks …


The later runs a whitewater park in Rochester, NY


Hello Columbus
I wish you well.

You’ve been given some good advice. Of course the informal one is my favorite but either will take alot of work on your part and the formal one will probably last longer but some won’t like the discipline.

I’m planning another Atlanta to the Gulf trip in Sept/Oct so huury upand get those two little dams out of the way and join me on the river.

I love Columbus and the Riverwalk. You have some sincere and dedicated people in Columbus and when you are ready for your official paddle call me and I’ll be there.

Best wishes

I am not nor have I been in the military. I am a native of Columbus. Benning has grown quite a bit recently and with all the BRAC changes coming we’re expecting a positive impact from about 30K aditional troops and support personnel.