So you have realized that it is safer to paddle with other people than to paddle alone. How do you find other paddlers? There are two types of paddling groups: clubs and meet-up groups. Clubs can be either a kayaking club or a general outdoor club like the ADK (Adirondack Mtn. Club) or AMC (Appalachian Mtn. Club). Kayak and outdoor clubs share some similarities. Both will have a schedule of upcoming paddles with difficulty ratings and both will have some kind of vetting process for trip leaders. General outdoor clubs also have the advantage that they offer hiking, and other trips as well as paddles. The key points with either type of club are that you usually have to join and pay a membership fee, and they have rules that apply to the outings. When you go out with a club you will have a trip leader who knows the area and you will have to follow the rules of the club.
A meet-up group is a much less formal arrangement. Meet-up groups are just what the name implies. Someone posts a “meet-up” on a website and anyone who wants to go shows up for the paddle. Usually the person posting the paddle will also list some details about skill level and conditions you may encounter. These trips do not have to conform to the rules of a formal club, but remember, you are on your own as far as safety is concerned.
To summarize, clubs have rules, and trip leaders. Meet-up groups have no formal leaders, but no restrictions or cost. Most paddlers I know will go out with both clubs and groups depending on where the trip is going. Clubs tend to be more popular with beginners who like having a designated trip leader, while meet-ups are more popular with experienced paddlers who do not need the guidance a trip leader provides.