Obviously I agree with your approach, but in my case, I cannot advise anyone to join the local club. I have to admit that I don't know that much about it, but my limited knowledge and contact with them would steer me away from a recommendation. I have talked with a member, or two; one of them was their unofficial organizer. I asked if they ever have organized paddles in some of the locations that I consider to be prime spots. The anwer was that they tried it once and would never do it again, because of sometimes rough conditions.
I'm not too sure where these folks go, but they are missing the very best paddling if they only go where the water is always flat. I wouldn't feel right about referring a new paddler to such a stodgy group, which might influence a newbie into missing what I consider to be paddling at its finest--for this area.
On the other hand, I'm aware that there are some very experienced (adrenaline freaks) local paddlers who are way outside my comfort zone and I purposely resist linking up with them.