The oldest canoe and kayak shop in the UK?
There are plenty of paddle sport companies out there that claim to be the biggest and the best but that's never really been our style, our humble company can track it's origins back to April 1954. Back then the company was based in Woking, close to the train station, and was owned and run by Shirley and George Reardon, and was the first company in the UK to import the revolutionary German Klepper folding canoes into the UK.
By this time folding canoes were still going strong, but a new material was in town and it was set to revolutionise the sport of canoeing and kayaking. Shirley and George who were still in full control of the business started to pioneer the production of canoes and kayaks in GRP (fibreglass). They also meet two talented kayakers and taught them how to build kayaks in composite materials. These two paddlers Graham and Bob Goldsmith, pioneered the use Kevlar in kayak construction and would go on to setup Gaybo in 1968 and start their own legend!
Would see another brand emerge from a garage Pyranha kayaks! This was nothing to do with us but I though I would put it in for interest.
The company changes hand for the first time, properly. Dave Green & Mike Fennesby of Kirton Kayaks purchase The Canoe Centre Twickenham from Shirley and George Reardon. Shirley stays on to keep the books for the brothers and she keep her hand in the business. At this time the company had also relocated close to another railway station! 18 Beauchamp Rd, Twickenham.
Kirton kayaks decided to sell the retail side of the business. Mark Gees, a marathon kayak racer and paddle maker buys the retail business in Twickenham and runs it along side his paddle making business. The company and the sport really start to grow as the competition side of canoeing and kayaking takes off. The company stops boat production but Mark's paddles become world famous Gee's wooden paddles with models such as Ace, Triton,Champion and Leda for slalom and the Regal, Ardor and Impact in kayak racing. Mark also produces wooden seats and fittings for racing kayaks, and now concentrates on these items.
Avid C1 racer George Woods (Woodsy) buys Canoe Centre, Twickenham from Mark. Mark continues to build his wooden paddles. Woodsy starts to build the company into its current retail format. The company is still based out of the Beauchamp Rd address.
It all changes! George buys Whitewater Sports, a windsurfing / Surfing / kayaking store in Shepperton Marina. British rail want the land back at Twickenham so Woodsy sells Mark the old shop building, which he dismantles and puts back up again in his back garden. It's still there to this day and very cool it is to.
1st October 1991 - Twickenham & Whitewater Canoe Centre Shepperton is born, George is helped to move in by another couple of fresh faced friendly paddlers Andy Knight & Bob Sleigh, what ever happened to them!
Amongst all the changes and moves one thing has stayed the same, Shirley Reardon is still working for the company, still keeping the books and checking everything is done properly.
As the sport continues to grow and computers the internet and facebook haven't really got going, George realises that the public need a way of seeing and trying canoes and kayaks before they buy, and so pioneers the concept of 'come and try it' open day
Shirley sadly passes away and Mark Gees returns to the business to help keep the books
Paddling fanatics Mike and Pete Scutt and Jon Best join the team. WWTCC continues to grow, Jon goes off and wins the freestyle Euro championships
George celebrates 20 years of ownership of Whitewater The Canoe Centre.
2011 to present day
Pete takes over the shop from George, George moves back to his homeland of Scotland WWTCC still continues to grow and still keeps in good contact with George, Mr Mark Gee's continues to work for us although he thinks he'd like to retire some time soon.