Friday, 9 December 2016

Should I Join the SCA?

A fairly common discussion recently with recreational kayakers has been ‘Should I join the SCA?’. There seems to be a fair amount of people that sign up year after year but on the other hand there are many vocal paddlers telling us that giving your money to the SCA is just a waste.  So is it worth it? What are people paying for?

Before I try and analyse this I should definitely make it clear of my current involvement with the SCA. I am a member, coach (albeit an inactive one) and a volunteer. I pay my money and help to organise the annual Wet West Paddlefest and SCA Freestyle events/community.
I signed myself up to help with WWPF after I left my university club and I was missing the experiences that being on a committee brings.
I did not volunteer to be a part of SCA Freestyle. I was signed up by someone else and quickly found myself as the final remaining member of the committee, unable to quit. Thankfully some great people have recently stepped in.
I’ve also dabbled in helping out with other events as a part of the main SCA Inland ‘umbrella group’.
My experiences in these committees have been fantastic! As you might have guessed; it’s kind of my thing anyway. A lot of people gave their own time to get me to where I am with my kayaking. I feel like it is only fair that I also pledge some of my own time towards the greater good of the sport.

I’m going to do an objective look at membership costs for someone a like me. Someone that wants to get out boating with friends and go to events. Not someone who is fussed about professional qualifications. Someone that doesn’t really see much value in joining their local club.

Why the SCA Say We Should Join

The SCA already have a why should I join page. You can find it here -
They have a few good points here, I’ll cover these later. They also have some awful reasons which I will have no issue to list here.
  1. ‘Our Vision’ – Blah blah. Very good. It doesn’t really give an individual any reason to give up their own money.
  2. Public/Products Liability Insurance – I’m not really sure where this would really apply to your average paddler going for a day out on the water. Maybe someone can enlighten me with a few scenarios?
  3. SCA discounts – You can get 10% off at some paddling shops. Any idiot could walk in and get a deal at a shop really. I saw you could get a discount at Tesco but if I wanted to save money on groceries then I’d probably go to Lidl or Aldi. Either way, you could probably find these discounts in other places.
  4. Scottish Paddler magazine – I’m sorry SCA but this gets flicked through once and thrown in the recycling bin. It’s dull and your old news was already published online. If I could opt out of this or get sent a pdf version then I would.
  5. Canoe Focus newsletter from the BCU – as above.


Let’s assume I’m looking for a full membership and I want to pay on a non direct debit basis. This will be £39. You can get cheaper membership levels.
So for the very pessimistic thinkers, that’s £39 down the drain. Can you make your money back? Well maybe.

All paddling events that are run on a legitimate basis require event insurance to make them legal. Non SCA events like the Moriston River Race have this insurance cost added into the entry fee.
For SCA events like WWPF, the Tay Descent etc you can get a cheaper entry fee as your insurance is already taken care of.
Insurance is £5 a day for SCA events. So if you do 8 days of SCA events, you’ve made a profit.

Do you play Canoe Polo? I used to before I saw the light. It’s £5 extra per day for non members.
My own SCA Freestyle sessions at Pinkston run at £10 for non members. The SCA has allowed us to allow members to pay the discounted rate of £5.

The question here is how many days/sessions of SCA events will you attend in one year? its £5 extra a day for non members.
Personally I will attend;
  • 12 SCA Freestyle sessions
  • 2 days at WWPF
  • 1 day at the Uni creek race
If I was a non-member then I would be paying an extra £75 on attending these events. So I’ve saved £36. 

Supporting the Paddling Community

Scottish river levels are hosted on the SCA site -

SCA Inland main man Neil Farmer negotiates releases on dammed rivers -

Events like WWPF and SCA Freestyle are bankrolled by the SCA. Sure they might cover their costs now but I guarantee you that was not always the case. If these events had been funded by an individual making a loss then they would probably not still exist.

Have a read of the Scottish Guidebook. It’s clear that the SCA has been a part of keeping plenty of Scottish rivers from having a big ugly dam on them.
Recent developments include a path that runs along the lower half of the Middle Orchy. Brilliant for getting laps in on the rapids or walking up to the playhole from the get out.
I’m under no illusion that more could be done towards access in Scotland (more can always be done on anything). At the end of the day there is currently only one volunteer to take care of these issues and no one can argue that he is effective in his role.

Optional Equipment Insurance

When you renew your SCA membership you can pay an extra fee to have your boat and paddles insured.
Broken your blades? Had a swim and lost your boat? You can get money back for new gear.
Say your name is Mark and you snap a set of AT Eddy paddles. You could claim back enough money to cover your SCA membership and extra insurance costs for years to come. This crafty guy Mark has probably made a profit from being a SCA member.


Yes the SCA has volunteers in place to run events and assist with access issues but they rely on the good hearted people coming forward to do this. There are no paid staff members to assist with these efforts.


Personally, I save loads of money being a SCA member. I would join for the events alone. If I didn’t go to events then I’d join just for the extra gear insurance. To me it seems like a no brainer.

I realise not everyone will be as active with attending events as I am and won’t be as tough on their paddling equipment. I can understand why it’s not an organisation for everyone.

To all the critics of the SCA, I would like to ask them to compare the SCA to the BCU and WCA. Perhaps it will quickly become apparent that Scotland’s paddle sports governing body  is leagues ahead of any other of the UK governing bodies.