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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 Beach
Brighton was Nigel's home paddling area. Steep flint pebble beaches offer dumping waves at high tide, or more ridable waves at low tide.

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, (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 in half the Vyneck that circled Iceland in 1977.  However, with shorter pieces we could fly the kayaks to Newfoundland on a regular passenger plane." (photo 1978) Center, younger brother David and to left, their dad Peter.

Vynecks on Norma and Gladys sailing schoonerThe 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' Foster's Surf Kayaking book published in 1998.

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

kritin nelson of vitceramics.com
Kristin helps Nigel a lot. For example 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. 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 tideIqaluit, Baffin Island1981. Nigel left here along Frobisher Bay on his epic solo trip in which he crossed Hudson Strait. His return trip to Labrador with Kristin Nelson in 2004 is recounted in the book Stepping Stones of Ungava and Labrador  and in the later (Falcon Guides) On Polar Tides

Encounters from a kayak by nigel foster.

With a bunch of fun kayaking stories to tell, Nigel wrote Encounters from a Kayak (Falcon Guides) in 2012. This book gathers 39 illustrated encounters from around the world into four sections, about people, places, creatures and flotsam and jetsam.

Working with the Swedish kayak company Point65, Nigel designed more products... kayaks, paddles and PFDs.

He crossed France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic with his wife Kristin in a DoubleShot, one of his designs with Point65, and joined a group from Gettysburg College to cross the Baltic from Stockholm to Helsinki paddling the Whisky18, another of his designs with Point65.

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

The kid remains!


Books, on polar tides and Paddling Southern Florida explore the extreme tips of the east coast of continental North Americaic October 2016 Nigel published two new books with Falcon Guides, On Polar Tides and Paddling Southern Florida. On Polar Tides relates the story of his earlier Stepping Stones journey, about Labrador and Ungava, describing two arctic kayaking trips. Paddling Southern Florida in contrast completely updates Sea Kayaking Southern Florida, with new color maps and photographs, and a dozen or more new trips.

The Art of Kayaking, The kayakers bible
The Art of Kayaking (2017) is Nigel's most recent book (published by FalconGuides). This definitive manual is the culmination of a lifetime (so far) of kayaking experience, revealing much of what Nigel has learned and developed through his years teaching, expedition paddling, surf kayaking and designing. Easy steps lead from basic essentials for the beginner to subtle refinements for the instructor. 

nigel as a giant

What next? Growing up?