The Saskatoon Canoe Club is under the radar in this city, and I can't quite understand why. I'm choosing my words carefully here, because it would be wrong to call it "one of the best kept secrets in Saskatoon", because no one is really trying to keep it a secret. The club's headquarters and storage facility are fully in view along the riverbank, and a quick Google search for it brings it up before you can finish typing. And according to the club's President, Dwayne (I never got his last name at the orientation), their membership base is approximately 700 people and they are expecting it to grow...slowly.
This is all astounding because even for a local to Riversdale, like me, who has lived and worked here for a number of years, This is my first crack at engaging with the club. Talk about missed opportunities! I recently completed the mandatory 30 minute orientation with a group of about 20 other intrepid Saskatonians. Let me express that there is plenty to be excited about.
What if I told you that you could have unlimited access to the river and all the necessary equipment for only $50 a season? Reread that again if you have to. That's canoes, paddles, PFDs and so on, available for you to use 7 days a week, any time of day. Once you become a member they provide you the door code and your experience becomes largely self directed.
So, the staff made the direct amenities quite clear, but what is also apparent to me is the potential for connection to a great community and micro-culture in the city. There are Group Paddles on Thursday at 7pm, the intent being to generate a mix of members and skill levels. The club ensures a handful of senior members are participating for these evenings, and this is done to facilitate connections to new members and allow them to glean seasoned technique from vets while on the water.
Members can also organize weekend camping trips, so let me paint you a picture of what can happen: Join the club with a friend and go to a few group paddles. Make some new friends. Plan a camping trip and paddle up the river. Break camp, light a fire and live the adventure. Awesome.
Again, it's $50 a season to access the equipment, the river, and the potential for some local adventure. The icing on the cake is that the membership comes with discounts at some of Saskatoon's best outdoor outfitters and shops.
My take? The member fee is not a cost, it is a high-value investment. What's more, I paced out the walk from Element Urban Village to the Canoe Club. By my estimates, an owner can rise with the sun, walk out his or her front door and be on the river in under 10 minutes.
That is incredible. It is time to embrace the river!