Nigel Foster (kayaker)

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Nigel Foster
Nigel Foster, English kayaker.png
English kayaker
Born (1952-10-17) 17 October 1952 (age 67)
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England

Nigel Foster (born 17 October 1952) is an English sea kayaker, kayak designer, instructor and author. He is the first and youngest paddler to circle Iceland by kayak.[1]

Foster started paddling in Brighton, England when he was 15 in a skin-on-frame kayak. At Burwash Place Outdoor Activity Centre, Burwash, Sussex, England, Foster learned to handle whitewater, sea kayaking and surf kayaking. From 1971 to 1972 he was employed there as a "trainee instructor". He enjoyed the mix of Outdoor Activity instruction and Environmental Studies education and decided to pursue this as a career. He attended a three-year teachers training course at Redland College, Bristol, and gained classroom experience with two years teaching at a school in Buckinghamshire.

In 1977, after his Iceland circumnavigation, Foster was employed by East Sussex County Council to teach as "instructor/teacher" at Burwash Place. Later in 1977 he was promoted to deputy warden.

At the same time he continued his explorations with trips that included the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland and a voyage from the English Channel through France down to the Mediterranean. In 1981 when the center was closed as part of regional cutbacks to education spending, he was redeployed as a schoolteacher, but resigned in summer 1981 to attempt a major kayak expedition – a solo trip from Iqaluit 63°44′55″N 68°31′11″W / 63.748611°N 68.519722°W / 63.748611; -68.519722 (Iqaluit) at the SE end of Baffin Island along Frobisher Bay to Resolution Island 61°30′N 65°00′W / 61.5°N 65°W / 61.5; -65 (Resolution Island). He had to cross the 40 miles (64 km) of open water in the Hudson Strait to reach Lacy Island 60°40′32″N 64°35′54″W / 60.675556°N 64.598333°W / 60.675556; -64.598333 (Lacy Island), northernmost of the Button Islands and part of the Northern Coast of Labrador.[2]

The tidal range in this area may exceed 40 feet (12 m) while tidal streams may run at more than seven knots. After fighting the tidal streams in the dark near the Button Islands, suffering frostbitten fingers and loss of gear, Foster eventually gave up on this expedition. He was able to catch a ride on an oil tanker that happened to have taken shelter behind Killiniq Island 60°22′00″N 64°37′00″W / 60.366667°N 64.616667°W / 60.366667; -64.616667 (Killiniq Island). The trip was described by the editor of the BCU Canoeing Handbook in 1989 as "arguably the most impressive of any sea kayak adventure in the world."[3]

After his return to England – from 1982 to 1985 – he worked as an instructor at the Plas Menai, National Water Sports Centre, North Wales, primarily instructing kayaking, canoeing, boardsailing, mountaineering, with a little water-skiing, and sailing, gaining the following British Canoe Union (BCU) national qualifications in these fields.[4]

  • BCU Level 5 Coach Sea Kayak
  • BCU Level 5 Coach Surf Kayak
  • BCU Level 3 Coach Inland Kayak (also 5 Star Award Inland Kayak)
  • BCU Level 3 Coach Open Canoe (also 5 Star Award Open Canoe)

He also served for many years on the BCU Sea Touring Committee, and the BCU Expeditions Sub-Committee.

Nigel Foster, Hudson Straits Expeditions
Nigel Foster, Hudson Straits Expeditions
Red = 1981, Green = 2004

In 1985 he left for Iceland for six weeks, helping an expedition group from Cambridge with logistics and leading the kayaking component. He returned to start his own kayaking business.[5][6] He taught local groups in Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Canada and the United States.

The design label "Foster Rowe" emerged for a while as a collaboration with two other top kayak coaches, (Andy Middleton & Ray Rowe) [7] with products such as paddling jackets, personal flotation devices (PFDs) and tow-systems designed for leading edge performance.[8]

Subsequently working alone, the "Nigel Foster" signature paddle blade was released by Nimbus in Canada,[9] and Foster worked in a design/consultant capacity with companies including Liquidlogic, Bending Branches and Extrasport in USA. (e.g. ExtraSport Tow-system).

In the late summer of 2004, accompanied by Kristin Nelson, he finally completed Baffin Island to Labrador expedition by paddling from Kuujjuaq 58°06′24″N 68°23′55″W / 58.106667°N 68.398611°W / 58.106667; -68.398611 (Kuujjuaq) in Ungava Bay to Nain 56°32′32″N 61°41′34″W / 56.542222°N 61.692778°W / 56.542222; -61.692778 (Nain) – a distance of over 675 miles (1,086 km) of uninhabited coastline – in which there were numerous encounters with polar bears.[10]

In 2008, at the 6th Annual Induction Ceremony, Foster was inducted into the International Halls of Fame: Bicycling, Rowing, Canoeing, Kayaking as a Kayaker.[11]

Since 2007 Foster has been the head of research and development at Point65. In addition to designing products forPoint65, He also acts as a spokesperson and assists the company with PR, marketing and special events.[12] Foster presently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Kristin Nelson.


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX
  1. ^ Storry, T., Baillie, M. and Foster, N. (1989). Raging Rivers, Stormy Seas. Dobbs Ferry: Sheridan House Inc
  2. ^ Foster, N. (2009) Stepping Stones: of Ungava and Labrador. Parker CO: Outskirts Press.
  3. ^ BCU Canoeing Handbook, 2nd ed, p249
  4. ^ Foster, N. (2009) Stepping Stones: of Ungava and Labrador. Parker CO: Outskirts Press.
  5. ^ BCU Canoeing Handbook, 2nd ed, p249
  6. ^ Storry, T., Baillie, M. and Foster, N. (1989). Raging Rivers, Stormy Seas. Dobbs Ferry: Sheridan House Inc, inside rear dust jacket
  7. ^ Canoe Focus magazine, April 1991, Trade News, p 8
  8. ^ Canoe Focus magazine, October 1991, p 37
  9. ^ Sea Kayaker magazine, News from the Trade, August 2003
  10. ^ Foster, N. (2009) Stepping Stones: of Ungava and Labrador. Parker CO: Outskirts Press.
  11. ^ "International Halls of Fame: Bicycling, Rowing, Canoeing, Kayaking".
  12. ^

Published works[edit]

Nigel Foster, English kayaker. Off the island Öja, Sweden 2009


Nigel Foster Sea Kayaking Series six instructional sea kayaking DVDs produced by Starling Productions, Inc.. Play by play log.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Essential Strokes
  3. Directional Control
  4. Rescues
  5. Forward Paddling
  6. Rolling and Bracing

Kayak Designs[edit]

  • Vyneck – Foster first design in 1977 – an expedition kayak produced in association with Keith Robinson
  • Rumour – Touring kayak built by Current Designs

The "Legend Series" produced by Seaward Kayaks are three expedition-capable sea kayaks designed for easy and fast cruising.

The "Whisky Series" produced by Point65

  • Whisky18 a longer version of the Whisky16 – no longer in production
  • Whisky16 a rough-water playboat

Also built by Point 65


External links[edit]