Catawba County Employee Spotlight

Paul Foster

Paul Foster

Department:  County Manager

Tell us about kayaking.  What do you like about it?
The kind of kayaking I do is called “Sea Kayaking” or “Flat Water” in long, narrow boats as opposed to white water kayaking in the short stubby boats rushing down raging rivers. There’s a lot of things I like about paddling. I’m naturally a loner, so being by myself in a boat on the water resonates big time. I just love being on the water - the sounds…the peacefulness…the scenery. I also like that I can get to places that aren’t possible to get to by foot or powered boat. I really dig the feeling that me and the boat are working together instead of just turning a key and steering it. And I’m not very mechanical, so I do much better with self-powered things. Less things to break means less things to fix.

I also carved my own Greenland Style paddle (like the original kayakers used) out of a piece of Western Red Cedar. I love using something I made to paddle. That’s a pretty cool feeling and I don’t have enough talent with other things to experience that in any other area of life. I’d love to build my own skin-on-frame kayak someday which is also like what the ancient paddlers made and used.

When did you get started?  What inspired you to start?
I got into kayaking around 2005 when we were living on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. We were literally surrounded by ocean and there were quite a few people there that were paddlers. I’d see them out and there was just something about it that drew me. I was also intrigued by the water and paddling culture of the Native American tribes that we lived amongst. I knew a family that owned several boats and asked them if I could borrow one. They told me I could grab a boat and paddle anytime I wanted, so I did. After doing that for a while, I decided to invest in my own boat. Besides baseball, kayaking is the only thing I’ve tried and remained passionate about over the course of my life.

Do you have a favorite place you like to kayak?
I’d have to say that paddling in Alaska has been my favorite. However, I’m thankful to live near so much water here in Catawba County. I have several places all around this Upper Catawba River Trail where I like to put in and explore our 3 lakes. I think our bodies of water are one of our greatest assets in the County, and probably the most under appreciated.

Any fun or interesting stories you’d like to share?
One Spring day in Alaska, I was paddling several hundred yards off the coast. During that time of year the humpback whales are in chasing the herring. They like to breach (launch in the air) and swim along raising their tails up out of the water. There were whales everywhere doing this and I was paddling in the vicinity. There was one in particular that was swimming and surfacing for a while about 50 yards to my right. I was just sitting there watching it circle around and then it stopped appearing. I kept looking around seeing nothing, but then something caught my eye under the water next to me. I looked down to my side and saw the whale swimming underneath me. It was so big and it seemed like minutes for its body to fully pass. Once it got past me, it surfaced again to my left. I don’t remember feeling any fear, but it was probably THE best adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced.