I joined Regents Canoe Club over 15 years ago, not aware that such a club could even exist in the middle of a large city. Having taken a variety of mainly City and Guild courses in Islington over the years, RCC is the only one I have stuck with and that comes down to several compelling factors.
Firstly, the club cultivates a strong sense of community. The Introduction to White Water courses draws in a wide range of individuals from all walks of life to try something new. This is in addition to the New Member Evenings, in which individuals can get a taste for kayaking on one evening boating on the canal to see if they like it. As a teaching club, intermediate and advanced members are encouraged to give back in the form of coaching and volunteering, and as such the cycle continues. The nature of the sport also fosters trust among its members as on the river everyone needs to work as a team. For me this has been one of its most appealing aspects.
Secondly, the monthly trips organised by the club has enabled me to see so much more of the UK than I ever would have as an Islington resident. For many in London without cars, most of these places would have been out of reach, but the club trips have given me the opportunity to escape N1 briefly and explore as far afield as Scotland, Wales, Devon, France and Slovenia. I cannot tell you what a boon it has been to travel so much, particularly of the UK when most of these places would be too difficult or too expensive to reach.
Thirdly, the affordability of the club has been a blessing – particularly in difficult financial times. When the economic crisis hit, or when finances were tricky, the club was always somewhere I could go and paddle twice a week (plus pool sessions) without having to shell out. This enabled me to get out of the house when there were few other options to socialise and entertain myself. Having an affordable club in N1 has enabled many to enjoy Islington’s waterways, close to home, without unnecessary expenditure or long-distance travel. I can also add that the mental health benefits of having somewhere local to go cannot be underestimated.
I would like to add that I would never have met my fiancé – nor several other amazing individuals – had not joined RCC. In the last 15 years I have crossed paths with the most extraordinarily generous and exceptional people, many of whom I would regard as friends for life. This has been one of the best things about Regents Canoe Club and the main reason I have supported the club for as long as I have.