Nigel Foster Talks Paddling in Taiwan

At almost every step in planning our journey, Nigel Foster has provided incredible support. He helped us plan our itinerary, introduced us to Point 65 (our boat sponsor) and the Formosa Kayaking School (the school we're collaborating with for classes and logistics during our entire trip). Simply put: this expedition wouldn't be a reality without his guidance. On top of all that he's already done for us, he even answered some of our questions about paddling in Taiwan. We wanted to share his answers for inspiration. 

About Nigel Foster

Nigel Foster is a masterful sea kayaker, kayak instructor, boat designer, and author. He was the first paddler to circumnavigate Iceland and has taken on many amazing adventures, collected top certifications, and introduced thousands of people to the world of sea kayaking. He's now based in Seattle and has visited Taiwan to teach and explore several times. 

Q: What initially brought you to Taiwan? 

I met Jahfong in Sweden on a Point65 international dealers’ event where everyone paddled and camped together for a couple of days in the archipelago. As the owner of a kayak business he came with the Taiwan Point65 importer primarily to translate. That was in 2008. Jahfong liked my paddling and teaching style and approached me a couple of years later to invite me to instruct in Taiwan.

Q: What was your impression of paddling in Asia and Taiwan before going? 

The only paddling I had done in Asia up until then had been around Shanghai and Ningbo in China, and of course you can’t get any perspective on a continent from paddling just one or two locations. I really had no idea what to expect of Taiwan and went with an open mind.  

Q: What most surprised you when you first went and paddled there?

I suppose I imagined Taiwan to be more industrial and built up than it is. True there are areas like that, but the south, east and north coast are certainly not. The warm Kuroshio Current that flows along the east colors the sea a startling clear blue while the mountains climb steeply and green up from the coast. Add the fishing villages and offshore islands and you have a magical area to explore.

Q: What do you enjoy most about paddling in Taiwan (that makes it unlike other paddling destinations)?

When the light shines through the water in a cave on the Washington coast, it glows green. In Taiwan it is a wonderful blue. Look down into the water around the rocks and you can see the flashes of neon blue and orange from the tropical fish and you can see the coral heads through the clear warm water. On land, the tropical and subtropical vegetation, the fruits, the colorful temples and the fishing harbors with restaurants serving the best fresh fish…

Q: How would you explain sea kayaking's growth in Taiwan? 

Until recently access to the sea for recreation was restricted, so kayaking was limited to lakes and rivers. With a more open attitude now the authorities are trying to promote safe use of the sea to a population that has largely grown up unfamiliar with it. Sea kayaking is growing as a result, and the safety in learning is something that Jahfong with his training is very attuned to and he has done a lot to promote it, working closely with the authorities.

Q: How are you excited to see the local kayaking community evolve and grow?

I really enjoy watching kayaking communities develop, seeing skill levels rise, and paddlers awareness increasing. It’s wonderful when people are hungry to learn, and eager to put time into it. Seeing some of the same people year after year and watching their skills and abilities grow is exciting to me.

Q: What are your favorite spots to paddle there?

I really enjoy islands, and some of the islands off Taiwan are very intriguing. I love Green Island for its people, Orchid Island for its rock formations, native culture and tropical conditions and Pengue for its corals. 

The vibrant blue waters surrounding Turtle Island -- one of Nigel's favorite spots

The vibrant blue waters surrounding Turtle Island -- one of Nigel's favorite spots

Q: Can you describe your favorite day ever paddling in Taiwan?

No, I can’t. Picking favorites was never my strong point, and I have had many very special paddling days there, and all favorites for different reasons.

Q: What keeps you coming back to the island?

More than anything, the wonderful people I have met. I love the kayaking but I would want to revisit even if I couldn’t paddle. Of course there are plenty of places too I’d love to paddle again, and more that I have yet to see. There is a lot to explore on land and sea.