by Kevin Maggs
The Guelph Kayak Club started in 1991 by 13 paddlers (Heather Allan, Gary Barton, Marylin Dykstra, Mike Elrick, Malcolm Harwood, Dawn Kelk, Carmen Rodowa, Wilson Quigley, Kurt Schlee, Cheryl Sikkes, Art Vandermyden, Mel Van Harten and Werner Zimmerman) who were mainly located in Guelph. Since that time our ranks have passed the 100 mark with paddlers all over Southern Ontario. It seems that everyone wants to be part of the best paddling club in Ontario. During its humble beginnings, the club paddled the Speed River, slalom raced and provided volunteer for the Minden cup Slalom race. They also ran beginner trips from Fergus to Elora on the harrowing class II section of the Grand River (don’t laugh, boats were longer back then and harder to control) The club ran weekly trips down the Elora Gorge and in the winter we enjoyed dry land training at the Woolwich arms in Guelph. Bending our Elbow at “The Wooly” kept at least one of our paddling arms limber. The club also ran winter roll clinics at the University of Guelph pool. All of this was organized with a quarterly newsletter, word of mouth and by phone.
Through the efforts of those original paddlers, the club continued to grow and new blood pushed the club into more challenging rivers. We never charged for teaching newcomers and always expected people to be self reliant and make responsible decisions regarding their ability. Saving new boaters was considered part of the challenge of running whitewater with a diverse group. We now enjoy regular BBQ’s, organize a river clean up and were one of the original two clubs that formed the idea of the King of Clubs. The King of clubs started as an informal competition between us and the Kawartha Whitewater paddlers. So far, it has evolved into an event with 6 Ontario clubs competing in fun and challenging land and water events. The Guelph Kayak Club has been the victorious club in 3 of the last 3 King of Clubs events. We also organize a Thanksgiving weekend on the Ottawa and our infamous Christmas Party. The club has always been an informal group, more of a gathering of friends than an institution. As such, we don’t have a Board of Directors but have instead opted for a Steering Committee who organized all of the events and try to move the club forward. Paddle trips are no longer announced in newsletters but on the forum of our website that has been created and administered by our webmaster. This website is where members can read about the club, and we keep in touch over on our Facebook page.
We have always been a Whitewater Ontario Member Club but more of a way of helping out WO than for the benefit of the club or membership. Recent changes to W/O board has helped to increase its focus to include recreational paddlers. Our own Wayne Donison is on the WO Board and he is working diligently with other recreational club representatives to improve WO. These changes have allowed our club to increase the benefit to our members and will eventually provide insurance and increase leadership roles for paddling trips and instruction.