Independent Retailer Spotlight: Whitewater the Canoe Centre, England

5-minute read

Whitewater the Canoe Centre (WWTCC) is a paddlesports specialty shop near London, England, located on the banks of the River Thames. It’s been serving canoeists and kayakers in their region since 1954.

Richar Marrill and Pete Scutt in canoes

 Richard Marrill (Store Manager) and Pete Scutt (Owner) of WWTCC

This independent shop offers a wide range of canoes, kayaks (whitewater, touring and recreational), paddle boards, paddles and paddling accessories for every level—novice to expert. Kayak fishing is a rapidly growing sport in the UK as well, which they’ve started leaning into.

Besides their retail sales business, WWTCC has a rental side to their company. Their location in Shepperton Marina makes it so easy to access the river from their doorstep. Single and tandem kayaks or canoes are available for 2-hour, 4-hour and full-day adventures on the Thames. While these are unguided tours, the team offers suggested routes along with area pubs along the way.

Current owner Pete Scutt said of his history there: “I started working at the shop as a Saturday boy back in March 2003. I steadily grew to love the shop and the whole paddle sports industry. Fast forward to one morning in 2011 and then-owner George turned to me and told me what he wanted for the business and said he wanted to sell up. As a standard penniless paddler living in a caravan in the shop yard, I wrote my business plan and headed to the bank to see if they would help. Luckily, they did!”

paddling gear inside Whitewater the Canoe Centre

 Some of the paddling gear in WWTCC

Pete grew up paddling with his dad and brother from an early age and he still paddles with his brother every week. He said, “I'd brought the business and realised I couldn't do everything on my own! Luckily Richard [a good friend and paddling buddy] was finished traveling and heading home, so I sent him a message on Facebook to see if he wanted a job. He hasn't managed to escape since!”

We wanted to dig into more about the canoe culture there in WWTCC’s part of the UK and Pete was gracious to oblige us. Here’s our interview with Pete Scutt:

BENDING BRANCHES: Tell us about the canoes you carry over there in England.

PETE: Most of the canoes we sell are designed for flatwater tripping. Boats like the Hou 14 and Venture Prospector 155 work really well around our location.

We're based on the River Thames just outside London so most of the paddling people do is either a day trip on the Thames or one of its tributaries, or multi days along the length of the Thames—which actually is a pretty cool and underrated 130-odd-mile trip!

Currently, all the canoes we sell are UK-manufactured and roto-moulded. They have a great mix of practicality and affordability.

BRANCHES: How popular is canoeing in your area vs. kayaking and paddle boarding?

PETE: Over the Covid years paddle boarding saw an explosion in popularity—locally and globally. And that's still what you see most often on the river. How long that will continue, I don't know. 

kayaker's view of a small whitewater run

 Kayaking one of the local whitewater rivers

Canoes versus kayaks is pretty much on par, and both are still super popular. Kayaks tend to be owned by individuals looking to enjoy some outdoor exercise. Canoes tend to be more popular with families and people living on the river who use them to potter around on the river or are looking to enjoy a more relaxed recreational experience.

BRANCHES: Do you have mostly flatwater, mostly moving water or a good mix of the two near you?

PETE: Around us, the Thames is mostly flatwater. However, there are some great rivers in the UK that are popular for either one-day or multiple-day trips. 

The River Wye is a fantastic river for some fun multi-day trips. It has a nice mix of fast-flowing water and beautiful open sections with great scenery. If you’re looking at travelling further afield from our shop, there are some great expedition-style rivers in the UK such as the Usk and the Spey.

I think it's fair to say the UK doesn't have quite the same open-boat whitewater scene as you have in the US. There is a small and super passionate community in the UK though.

Pete Scutt portages a canoe from their dock on the River Thames

 Pete on WWTCC’s dock on the River Thames

BRANCHES: What are the most popular canoe destinations in your area?

PETE: The Thames has some amazing places to explore—some great little tributaries and islands. There are open areas but also regular towns and villages which provide the perfect stop for refreshments. Believe it or not, the Thames is very rich in wildlife. The bird life is incredible. Last week we even had a seal upstream from us.

For those looking to explore a little more, the River Mole provides a perfect little adventurous day trip.

BRANCHES: What do you like most about Bending Branches paddles?

PETE: Let's start right at the beginning—just look at them! Some of them are so pretty that you may not even want to use them on the water. Just hang them on your wall and enjoy them (trust us, customers have even sent us pictures of them just hanging on their wall!).

Bending Branches canoe paddles in WWTCC

 Branches canoe paddles at WWTCC

However, to own one and not paddle with it would be a travesty. The feel and nice even flex of the wood in the water is an unbeatable feeling. They’re so smooth. Then of course there’s the range of designs and blade shapes. There’s a Bending Branches paddle to suit everyone no matter age, ability or style.

And as a company, Branches really has the most friendly and helpful bunch we could ever wish to do business with.

Thanks to Pete Scutt for his time with us! All photos courtesy of Pete and WWTCC.

Learn more about Whitewater the Canoe Centre on their website. Interested in renting a canoe or kayak for a trip down the Thames? Check out their rental website.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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