The West Lakes Canoe Club was formed in 1978 by Roger French, Heinrich Sueppel (a kayak paddler from Germany) and Ken Venables. Starting with 3 donated boats and no clubhouse until 1985 when Federal funding allowed the building of the current facility at Bower Road, Semaphore Park.
Initially, Roger French introduced canoe racing (one knee paddling) and organised some 11 metre long C7’s and C4’s for the club and at the first Australian Canoe Sprint Racing Championships held at West Lakes in 1979, West Lakes won the C7 King Boats Cup.
Club members lobbied MP’s and local councils for a canoe clubhouse and in 1985 the Federal Government granted over $300,000 to the Woodville Council to establish facilities at Bower Road as part of the Community Employment Scheme.
The club has mainly competed in sprint racing and marathon paddling and many members have made State, National and Olympic Teams. Honour boards, trophies and photographs adorn the clubrooms as a testament to successes over the years.
A toxic weed problem in West Lakes in 2003 had the club membership drop to a low of 35 members. In the 2015/16 year, membership numbered 185 members.
The club is administered by a president and a committee, elected by members at the Annual General Meeting.
Founding member, Roger French has written an interesting personal account of the Club History.
A brief history of the West Lakes Canoe Club Inc
The Making of West Lakes
In the 1880s Fredrick Estcourt Bucknall proposed the creation of an inland harbour on the upper reaches of the Port River, connected to the sea by a canal through the sand hills. The upper Port Reach area was commonly known as a part of the Reedbeds, the swampy, marshy stretch between the Port River proper and the Torrens.
In the 1940s and 50s attention again turned to how this ‘swampy wasteland’ could be reclaimed and developed – this time by the South Australian Harbours Board. They proposed dredging the Port Reach basin and creating a man-made lake.
In 1959, the land was purchased and plans included a lake for small pleasure craft and other aquatic sports.
Please contact us if you have any more photos of the club and members to post here.
Club History – Photos from the past