04 April 2013

Nigel Foster's finesse

Nigel Foster's presentation of his Arctic trip by sea kayak was awe inspiring.
I gained new respect for the man that took on almost uncharted waters (by kayak standards) in very inhospitable conditions; cold and windy and patrolled by polar bears.
My first knowledge of this exceptional kayaker was years ago watching his instructional DVDs.
I was mesmerized by the incredible finesse he was using to make that kayak spin around like it was on a bearing.
I was however a bit incredulous on how easily his kayak could dance with so little effort. No paddle sweeps, no excessive edging, just confident paddle placement that to my ignorant eye seemed fit only for calm conditions.
I was now watching him from my kayak, on the water.

There was a breeze stiff enough to deter some paddlers from launching and wind driven waves were lashing the sandy shore.
I was back-paddling constantly just to keep position to watch him.
And with just as much finesse as in his DVD he was spinning that kayak around in circles like the water was flat and nary a whiff of wind.
No huffing and no puffing, with paddle strokes slowly paced and precisely placed his kayak was dancing on the water regardless of the adverse conditions.
The man is a Master like I have not seen before.

Despite his status of true authority on the water, a paddler with no equal, Nigel is extremely approachable and willing to share his knowledge without the air of superiority that I have encountered elsewhere. Softly spoken, thoughtful and considered, my conversation with Nigel was easy and inspiring.
As the 3 day sea kayak event (Rock and Roll) was drawing to an end Nigel had the morning free to go for fun paddle, not scheduled to any instructions.
I was lucky to join him with Andre Janecki of Hybrid Australia.


The seas were calmer than the previous day but the swell outside the bay was still a considerable 10 feet with a healthy rebound from the big waves crashing into the cliffs.
I paddled beside Nigel and if I didn’t see him launch his kayak I would have sworn that there was a little motor under his hull. He was paddling with a cadence that seemed like lily dipping while I was giving it my best shot to keep up. I watched him closely and his timing was crucial to his paddle stokes. I later asking how he could move with such grace and so little apparent effort; he replied that he was using the little waves to propel his kayak.
His stroke appeared to be lower than the current local trend of a high angle and aggressive body rotation. I saw gentle twist of his upper torso and his hand rather low, gently inserting his paddle to then exit a bit further than “Olympic form” would suggest.
I regard Nigel Foster without a doubt a "Legend" and a "Master of boat control without equal".

All images under license from Andre Janecki/Hybrid Australia


  1. Hi Gnarly, I'm glad you enjoyed Nigel's teachings. As you are probably aware, I organised bringing Nigel and his wife Kristin to Australia. We had the pleasure of their company at our house for 16 days and were truly sad to see them leave. They have become good friends.
    Geoff Murray

  2. Yes, Master Nigel knowledge and workshops are simply priceless.
    Look at his signature shaft grip, with the 3 finger and a thumb technique (in the 1st photo), all easy and with style!
    Hope we all have a chance to support him wherever you are. He is not only a Legend, but also the kindest paddler you'll ever meet.

  3. My friends and I recently had the pleasure of an afternoon's instruction from Nigel Foster, while he was in Sydney. His gentle nature and insightful guidance earns him the description of "paddle whisperer".

  4. The images in this article appear to have caused ire with the supplier of the kayak that Nigel Foster was paddling on the day.
    For legal reason the logos on the kayak had to be digitally removed so it would NOT appear that Nigel is endorsing that brand of kayaks.
    Legal action can be launched against people that use celebrities in images that associate them with recognizable brands.
    Photographers that "innocently" include well known personalities (without their permission) in images that clearly display brands have been prosecuted for passing off.
    The watermark on the images in the article define the copyright holder, and the © symbol clearly states so. No association should be interpreted between the copyright holder of the images and a kayak brand.

  5. Have you had a chance to use his paddles? How did you find them. They look powerful.
    It is great to hear he is such a nice bloke.

    1. Nigel's paddle had smooth face (no dihedral) that is ideal for manoeuvring strokes and as you said they look powerful. I did not have the opportunity to try them as I am a Greenland paddler these days and swapping back to big blades feels awkward.


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