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The club has been very successful in attracting grants from a variety of sources, currently owning 13 kayaks, 2 open canoes and all associated kit so that new members can be supplied with everything required to start them off in the sport. At least 50% of members join the club with little or no previous canoeing experience. Sessions vary to suit a range of needs: weekly pool sessions through the winter, a fortnightly evening meet in summer and river trips around once a month. Flatwater sessions in summer help to build skills for both youngsters and adults, there are winter ‘frostbite’ and ‘ icicle’ trips’ for the hardy, and a summer picnic with games (‘It’s a Washout’) for all the family. All in all – a great family club!
Founded in 2005, Aboyne Canoe Club is a family canoe club based on the River Dee thirty miles west of Aberdeen. The club was the inspiration of local coach, (and River Adviser) Jonathan Kitching who felt that Aboyne had all the requirements for a successful canoe club: friendly community swimming pool, river pool in the village with flat and moving water for training, and of course the 80 varied miles of the River Dee’s whitewater paddling on its doorstep.
In 2011 the club was granted a £750 grant by Cash4 Clubs “to support and encourage more youth and women into paddle sport”. Cash 4 Clubs offers all sports clubs in the UK the chance to win grants ranging from £250 to £1000. It is a simple scheme aimed at giving community clubs a helping hand and provides the opportunity to raise the money they need to invest in their club. Committee member, Chris Redmond found out about Cash4 Clubs from the Volunteer Centre Aberdeenshire (http://www.vcaberdeenshire.org.uk) who provide numerous funding ideas and suggestions to organisations such as Aboyne Canoe Club who advertise volunteering options on www.volunteerscotland.org.uk. The application process was straightforward - One simple online form to fill in with basic contact information, club information and six detailed application questions. The decision was relatively quick, communication was conducted via email and then the cheque arrived for the club!
The money will be used to hold more junior training sessions in a pool - a safe and warm environment to learn key techniques before venturing to open waters. During the winter months, when it is often too cold for younger members of the club to take to local waterways, the club runs pool sessions which provide a balance of skills progression and confidence building for all members. This strategy has been particularly successful in encouraging the youngest club members (age 3-10 years) to develop their confidence in kayaks. Since club rules insist that children are accompanied by a parent this has also encouraged non-paddling parents, especially Mums, to take to the water. Why sit on the side and watch when you can join in the fun?
With an annual membership charge of only £25 per family, and no extra charge for outdoor sessions, the club has become very popular with young families, word spreading predominantly by word-of-mouth within a small community. The club profile is unusual – in 2011 around 23 men, 25 women and 60 under 16s took regular part in club sessions. Another element which encourages more women and young paddlers into the club is the use of open canoes on many of the club trips. This allows younger and less confident paddlers to develop their skills with a more competent helm, and also allows families with small children to participate in club trips.