I just (September 2009) attended a full day course with Nigel Foster and his wife Kristin Nelson.
The course was held in Malmö, Sweden, and organised by the kayak club KF Öresund. It was a fantastic course, held in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere, yet very proffessional and individually adjusted. The atmosphere was kept very playful and relaxed due to both Nigel and Kristine's personalities and way of acting during the course.
Nigel is quite clear on the concept that you should do what works for you, and that it might differ not only between persons, but also for yourself between years and situations, so what you should do is try out to see what works for you.
The day the course was held, it was blowing gale, so the course was held in the sheltered surroundings of Malmö kanal instead of out in the open waters of Öresund.
In the beginning of the course, Nigel Foster asked the course attendees to present themselves. It turned out that most people attending the course had about 4 year of kayak paddling experience. But there where exceptions upwards as well as downwards. As can be seen in the picture, there was also a lot of different models of kayaks around.
The main objective of the course was about control of your kayak, without the use of skeg or rudder. As this is presented, if you can control your kayak with use of minimum force without the need for a skeg or a rudder, you will be a much better paddler. Then you will also be better at deciding when and how to add the help of the skeg or rudder. This is obtained by understanding how the kayak behaves and is affected by winds and edging, with the addition of different kinds of paddle strokes. The strokes themselves are tought and shown by Nigel, who clearly demonstrates how much that can be achieved almost without any usage of power.
The course is absolutley fantastic. Even though part of the time was spent in rain, it was so interesting that it did not even become a nuicanse. I believe most attendees came out of the course with a number of "Eureka" experiences and with a number of changes to their understanding and skill that taught them how to paddle the kayak better in the future.
Yet I doubt there was any manouver or paddle stroke of any kind that was tought that I did not already know about and had tried before. Most if not all of them are already taught in the Nigel Foster videos, and I have viewed all the videos. They are also taught by others in both books and videos, so I have caught something about it there as well.
There is nothing new, it is actually basic movements, nothing unknown coming to the surface as "the secret". But in the same way as your very first linked stroke probably was an "Eureka" experience, the addition to your skill comes from the way the course teaches you to put the movements together and flow through them.
For me there was two things that stuck out amongst the others:
- After and edge and a sweep, making your low brace on the opposite side from the side where your edge is the lowest. A good example of an already known thing that suddenly springs onto you as a much better thing (actually even becomes meaningful) when it becomes an integrated part of a linked series of movements. It is taught in the Nigel Foster videos. I do not remember seeing it somewhere else. I have tried it before, but not really understood or felt it as anything very useful. But tied together in a flow as now, it works on its own to enhance both your turning and your edging while turning. But more importantly,.it also makes it so much easier to accept and understand the low force idea with performing the bow rudder in a much similar way, and with much less angle on the paddle.
- After turning up in the wind with a bow rudder, instead of completing the turn forward, allowing the kayak to fall back and use that movement backwards to be used as a backward moving bow rudder (using the paddle behind you as a stern rudder, but since you are moving backwards, it now acts as a bow rudder).
Witht he two things above, I have already mentioned most of them:
- Paddling while edging
- Turning the kayak through edging
- Turning the kayak with a sweep and edging
- Turning the kayak with a sweep and edging and subtle low brace between sweeps
- Turning the kayak with a bow rudder
- Turning the kayak with a midcockpit bow rudder
- Paddling backwards
- Paddling backwards and turning by edging
- Paddling backwards and turning by edging and sweeping
- Paddling backwards and turning by edging and "backwards bow rudder"
- Doing side movements
- Acting together with the wind
As can be seen above, only basics. But basics linked together. Basics taught and demonstrated in a way by Nigel that leaves very little doubt about how very much can be achieved through them with very little power. Basics taught by focusing on doing them right. Your own movements studied and adjusted by Nigel and Kristin with those small tips you hardly would notice about yourself on your own. Back to the basics really makes a difference if you focus on the details of them and make the flow together.
There was more on the course than the above, a lot more. Many playful things done especially when it comes to different paddle movements. Movements actually both hard to do, and where faults in the movements immediately makes your kayak quite unstable. But doing this teaches you the paddle blade, finding it and perfecting the angle of it. At the same time the paddle movements improves your ability to counter instability.
Also Nigel does both the movements as well as other things in such a flowing flexible and playful way, that you get really impressed. More importantly, it also shows how very much can be achieved.
There was also some additional manouevors demonstrated but not taught on the course.