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About Nigel Foster...

nigel foster when he was small

Nigel started life young. Here's a photo of him when he was little...

nigel and his brother in their first kayaks


Nigel followed his "big" brother Michael (picture right), kayaking and then buying his own kayak.

 (Photo Peter Foster 1968)

nigel foster's first kayak, the PBK-11


Kayaking, canoeing,  rock climbing and caving as a teenager, he liked kayaking best. His first kayak, shown here, was a skin-on-frame PBK-11. (more images)

A local outdoor activity center offered the opportunity to try white-water, sea kayaking and surf kayaking. He then followed a group of friends to compete in white-water racing, surf competition, slalom and long-distance racing, "...because it took me to interesting places to paddle!" Nigel admits. He claims to have never been a true competitor. But that multi-discipline approach rewarded him with spin-offs. Each type of competition focused his attention to a different set of skills, helping him become a better paddler.

Nigel Foster surfs his Funa kayak, Brighton BeachBrighton (Palace pier in the background) was Nigel's home paddling area. Steep pebble beaches of flint cobbles offer dumping waves at high tide, or ridable surf waves at low tide when the tide drops to a flat sand bottom.

End-over-end in a kayak at Brighton beach



Standing a kayak  on end in the shallows was a popular activity...

fiberglass repairs






...although it often caused damage requiring fiberglass repairs.




Nigel Foster also began playing guitar as a teenager... another life passion! Here with his sister Debbie, who also plays guitar, and kayaks... (see Skye 07)

(Photo Peter Foster)

Rock climbing on sandstone outcrops in southeast England led to multi-pitch climbing elsewhere...

rock climbing, nigel foster on suicide wall, Bosigran Cliffs, Cornwall












... here scaling Suicide Wall, Bosigran Cliffs, North Cornwall, not far as it happens from the Vyneck Rocks.

Below left... Anvil Chorus...
and below right, Suicide Wall...
Rock climbing Anvil Churus, Bosigran cliffs

1974 English channel crossingJuly 1974, after nigel's first English to France crossing.
From left, Tim Franklin, Keith Robinson, Nigel Foster, a French passer-by, Ian Matheson, and missing (taking photo) Jan McKecknie.

In 1975 Nigel made his first multi-day solo sea kayaking trip on the North coast of Cornwall, rounding Land's End, Cornwall's southwestern peninsula. It was near the Vyneck Rocks, in memorable sea conditions, that Nigel wished he was more at one with his kayak. That led to a prototype kayak by late 1976. In 1977 Nigel and Geoff Hunter set off to circumnavigate Iceland in a more refined form of that kayak, the "Vyneck". 

Geoff Hunter in Vyneck Kayak Iceland


Geoff Hunter (in his Vyneck) with fisherman-farmer Axel on the North coast of Iceland

(photo Nigel Foster 1977)

cut kayaks in half..."It was a tough call to cut the Vyneck in half... the one that circled Iceland in 1977.  However, we could fly the kayaks to Newfoundland on a regular scheduled passenger flight in shorter pieces." (photo 1978) Pictured left is Nigel's dad, Peter, and center, his younger brother David.

Vynecks on Norma and Gladys sailing schooner

The same two Vynecks seen in the previous shot, hitching a ride on the schooner Norma and Gladys, Newfoundland, 1978. With the kayaks, but not pictured here, were Tim Franklin and Nigel.

You can read more about that trip on Norma and Gladys in the book Encounters from a kayak.

Expedition paddling was Nigel's past-time of choice, while teaching outdoor education (that is adventure activities such as rock climbing, canoing and kayaking and also environmental studies) was his work. Of course it's hard to classify weeks-long surf seminars as work, or those exploratory trips to Norway, or the Faeroe Islands where Nigel took groups of schoolteachers during summer breaks. But somebody has to do that sort of thing, right?

Rock-hopping on the welsh coastAfter a few personal trips thrown in for fun, like the winter trip from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea via the rivers and canals of France, and a six-week coastal journey in Newfoundland, Nigel spent a break between jobs to kayak solo from Baffin Island to Northern Labrador, a trip that almost cost him his life. How he hitched a ride south on an oil tanker from uninhabited northern Labrador is another story, as is his more recent return in 2004 to the same area, when he paddled with Kristin Nelson around Ungava Bay and northern Labrador for five weeks dodging polar bears. (photo, rock-hopping in South Wales with his friend Andy Middleton of Twr-y-Felyn Outdoor Centre)

First descent of part of the Ogwen River?




Photo by Ray Rowe; on river Ogwen in North Wales


The few years Nigel spent teaching at the National Watersports Center settled him in North Wales, where he then started his own kayaking business. He led trips to Iceland, arctic Norway, and Scotland, as well as teaching kayaking skills around the rocks and tide-races of North Wales. By then he was well known as a kayaking coach and in demand internationally. Gradually his business shifted toward traveling to teach local groups in different countries; Denmark and Sweden, Finland and Canada, United States and the Netherlands. He designed more kayaks, wrote some books, discovered he was living in the USA and produced an instructional video series. Then things began to get busy!

surf kayaking nigel foster on Washington coast


Nigel playing in the surf at Westport WA.
(photo Kristin Nelson)

Nigel's surf kayaking book came out in 1998.

took the same kayak down the Grand Canyon

Here Nigel works a slow shoulder in the zebra-striped Necky Groovy (designed by Spike for Necky Kayaks and, incidentally, paddled by Nigel when he and Kristin kayaked the Grand Canyon.)









kritin nelson of vitceramics.com



Kristin has helped Nigel a lot. She took most of the photos for his surf kayaking book. Otherwise she is well known for her whimsical "Kri-Kri" ceramics. The couple typically carry Kri Kri cups and bowls on their kayak trips.
Nigel and Kristin instruct sea-kayaking together as a tight coaching team all over the world.

Legend kayak from nigelfosterdesigns.comIn 1999 Globe Pequot Press released his guide book to Sea Kayaking in Southern Florida. It was with Kristin's help he bought, licensed and insured a car and passed an American driving test all in one day. The car, casually known as the "motel Coup-de-Ville" served as office, motel room and transport until the summer grew too hot and humid, and the Florida research was completed...

Baffin Island Iqaluit high tideShown here, Iqaluit, Baffin Island...  from 1981 when Nigel set off along Frobisher Bay on his epic trip during which he crossed Hudson Strait solo. You'll find photos and account also of his Labrador trip with Kristin Nelson in 2004. These trips are recounted in the book "Stepping Stones of Ungava and Labrador" by Nigel Foster, Outskirts Press, published November 2009.

nigel also when he was little... or the chair was big







What he's going to do when he grows up, nobody knows... maybe look for a proper job?


gnomads




But he's not wasting time! As they say; "Time and Tide wait for gnome man!"
(perhaps for gnome women too... :)

nigel as a giant





Yet... rumours suggest Nigel could eventually grow up! This is what he might look like in the future if he gets bigger....

www.krikristudio.com