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Farewell to "Mr. Beach", Nigel Rockett

As we bid a fond farewell to Nigel Rockett I’m trying to remember when I first met him…and that’s tough as it just seems like Nigel or “Goose” as he was known in the early days has been around the club for a very long time. He followed his older brother Dylan to paddling and was joined by little sister Grace very shortly after.

Nigel comes from a long-time Beach family and is one of a long line of paddlers; The Rockett’s and their cousins the Cooper’s and the Phillips’ have all paddled for the Balmy Beach Canoe Club. You could say that paddling and the BBCC are in his blood. It is small wonder that Nigel has become part of the fabric of the BBCC.

Over the years he has played a significant role at our club from paddler, to volunteer, to athletes’ representative, to coach and mentor. It has been wonderful to watch Nigel grow into the fine young man that he is today. He has so many great ideas and we have implemented many of his suggestions over the years. He has a great capacity to help others and many of our paddlers of all ages and abilities have Nigel to thank for their love of paddling. Over the years Nigel has won every award including the coveted Russ Dunn and Jimmy Mossman trophies for dedicated service to the Club.

Nigel’s good spirit, positive outlook on life and ability to deal calmly with stress under pressure will take him far in life. So, as our Goose leave the nest, we wish him well and pray that life will bring him back to us before too long. Good Luck Nigel and Alissa…we love you and will miss you, and we wish you all the best in this new adventure.

- Eleanor McIntyre, BBCC Commodore

It is impossible to overstate Nigel’s impact on the Balmy Beach Canoe Club. He has been an integral part of the development of the youth programs starting with the summer camp and growing that into a very successful U12/U14 winter program. In addition to his work with the youth at our club, Nigel has also been our fearless Masters’ coordinator. This group has seen exceptional growth under Nigel’s guidance, as well as the founding of our Learn to Paddle Program and because of this we have one of the strongest masters programs in the country. Personally, I can say that I will miss working with Nigel everyday. His enthusiasm and genuine love for the club is something that does not come around often. Although this is a loss for beach, I would ask you all to join me in wishing Nigel the best as he moves to Montreal. This goes without saying but there will always be a place at Balmy Beach for Nigel Rockett.

- Chris Mehak, BBCC Assistant Head Coach

Earlier this week I was informed that Nigel Rockett is moving to Montreal and thus his time at Balmy Beach would be coming to an end. I would first like to say that I am both proud of and excited for Nigel, but I am also sad to know that Beach will be losing an incredible member who has left a lasting mark on the club. In his time at Balmy Beach, Nigel has been a High-Performance athlete, competing at the Pan Am Championships, Canada Games, and as a multi-time national champion. Lucky for us, he transitioned from the High Performance program to working at the club as a coach. Nigel was my righthand man for years before taking over the summer bantam camp and helping to revive the U14 program at Beach. Nigel also served on various committees and was a driving force in club recruitment.

We could list Nigel’s accomplishments all day, but I will share my two favourite memories of him instead. I’ll start with the first time I met Nigel, which was also his first day at the club. It was the first day of our summer camp and Nigel’s mom, Linda, was dropping his older brother Dylan and his cousin Matt off for the day. Nigel was too young for the camp, but Linda had brought him down to see his brother and cousin off. When it was time to go and Nigel realized he would have to leave while the other two got to stay with the new kids, Nigel stared crying. When I say crying, I mean bawling. He was inconsolable - he could not understand why the other two got to stay but he had to leave. Finally, the coaching staff (I was one of them) decided we would bend the rules and let him stay. He never left. He was at the club all day every day for the next 20 or so years. I can only hope he doesn’t cry quite as much when he has to leave this time.

The second thing I will always remember about Nigel is not tied to a specific day or event at the club. Rather it was the drive for excellence that defined his entire time at the club. No matter the role Nigel held, he would always strive for excellence within that role. As an athlete he worked tirelessly at his craft, and in doing so, he and his training partners changed the culture of the club. Excellence and the push to achieve it became the norm at the club. This tradition continues on today, and the club’s continued success owes a great deal to Nigel’s pursuit of excellence as an athlete, coach and volunteer over his 20 years at Balmy Beach.

Nigel, your time at Beach is over for now but I know you will excel in whatever comes next.

- Kevin McIntyre, BBCC Alumni Coach and Athlete

Nigel started paddling when he was pretty young, he was in the Atom Program with Christine Bain. During one of his very first summers at Ashbridges’ Bay, he broke his arm just as the regatta season was getting underway. We (the coaches) thought that would be the end of Nigel coming down to the club, but boy were we wrong!

Nigel continued to come to the club each day, and found other ways to participate. He played the on-land games and activities, then came out in the motorboat with the coaches.

In order to encourage him to keep coming, the coaches decided to make him an assistant coach. I gave him my first every coaches shirt (because it was pretty small) and he would help us both at the club and also at regattas. Even at his young age, he could always be counted on to run to the whipper in (it was a thing back then), find a missing deck number or help carry a boat with his good hand.

Nigel, your contributions to Balmy Beach and our larger paddling community are amazing and inspiring. Thank you for your dedication to your athletes, fellow coaches, and our sport. I wish you all the best, and hope to see you back at a race course in the future.

- Leigh Salter, BBCC Alumni Coach and Athlete

My first recollection with Nigel was about 12 years ago. I was the new coach in the club and he could be a bantam paddler. We were loading the trailer for the Mississauga Regatta and he was struggling at one end of the C-4. I told him:

You are not strong enough for that boat. And he said we will win this race for you. For me? I said, you will win for yourself. No, no, no – he said – we will win for you. Okay thanks a lot and I helped them of course to carry the boat. However I do not remember could they win or not.

My second remembrance with him, I never will forget, when we were in a training camp in Welland. We were at the Owens house and we paddled on the Welland canal. Once we paddled some long distance and he got so tired he hardly could move his boat. I started to tease him that the drifting twigs were moving faster than him on the water. Of course, he got upset, but still he could not go faster.

However, he was one of the pillars of the three times Canadian champion U18/U19 Beach K-4 and he was one of the most efficient and reliable crew boat paddlers in the club. Not just in kayak, but in canoe and in the war canoe as well.

The last couple years he contributed in the club program as a coach and he was our engine. He was young, full with ideas and energy and he spent almost his whole day in the Ashbridges Bay. He was a huge helper filling up sand bags and pumping and bailing out the water during the flood disaster too.

We will miss him a lot and I hope we will not lose him permanently and he eventually will return to us. He is the future Mr. Beach! Good luck for him for the next stage of his life.

- Peter Martinek, BBCC Head Coach

The quintessential ideal "club person", filling the shoes of the greats like Russ Dunn through being a builder and giving back. Nigey (in a high pitched voice) - you have created a legacy at the club. You have shown generations both young and "old-ish" that you can be inclusive and encouraging without needing to sacrifice being competitive and achieving your person goals. That is no easy feat in a world that likes to be on opposing ends of that spectrum.

Thank you for teaching me how to be a better version of myself and keeping me sane over the years. I will always be thankful for the time you stroked way to high with no power to let me win the piece. All to impress my kids on the beach as we paddled by them and they cheered, while others looked on unimpressed.

- Sammy (in a high pitched voice), Sam Roworth, BBCC Alumni Athlete and Coach

Nigel has been a wonderful member of our paddling group and coaching staff , and a great help to me over the years in helping to maintain our fleet of boats.

Ever since I first met him as a young paddler I was always impressed by his friendliness initiative and willingness to help and learn new skills . So much so that whenever I went down to the bay to check on any needed boat repairs, I usually found that Nige had beaten me to it and the resin was already dry...

 Nige, I wish you the best of luck in your new adventure, please keep in touch, we will miss you..

- Norm Reader, BBCC Site Manager

Nigel is such an important part of our canoe club that it’s hard to imagine it without him. He is a constant presence that is always there when you need help with something. He has made so many improvements to make our club a better place, from creative adjustments to our site, to his coaching and work with the summer camp. I’m so lucky to have gotten to work with him and have learned so many helpful tips and tricks about coaching from him. It definitely won’t be the same around the club without him, but I know his passion and spirit for the club will continue to inspire others here, and wherever life takes him. The Balmy Beach Canoe Club was very lucky to have such a dedicated member. We will miss you Nigel!

- Natalie Smith, BBCC Athlete and Coach

I have had the pleasure of training, working and being a friend of Nigel Rockett since I joined the canoe club in 2000. We've shared too many memories from becoming national champions together to horsing around by the club. He will be greatly missed but I am excited to see what is in store for him next! Big tanned guahhh!

- Eric Ellery, BBCC Athlete

Since Nigel had 5 generations of family living in the Beach, many of whom paddled for the club, it was no surprise that at 6 he followed his older brother to Bantam Camp, his younger sister followed soon after. As a parent, I enjoyed watching Nigel take great joy in the excitement of training with friends and racing at regattas. With all the awards and many national medals and some time on the National Team, traveled to all points in Canada and much of the US, I think there are other things I appreciate about my son.  He learned the benefits of hard work and time management. As a high performance paddler, he still had time for swim teams, skiing, jazz band in High School and University of Toronto, as well as finishing his Undergrad and Masters at UofT. Nigel also spent time planning programs especially Paddle All in working with the executive committee. As a High Performance Athlete and Coach, his passion seemed to spark in mentoring younger athletes as well as creating bonds with some of the most Senior members of the club. Nigel also knows somebody at every club in Canada and many others at international clubs, so I think I feel Nigel has built many strong bonds with a whole host of people in many places and has learned some very valuable life skills. So…..Go Beach Go, good luck Nigel with future endeavours, we couldn’t be more proud of you. Love, from your family.

- Linda Rockett, Nigel's Mom

I've had the pleasure of racing with Nigel for over 10 years. Nigel's love for the sport is what first inspired many of us to make kayaking a priority when we were first starting the sport. On the water he was a tough competitor and a better team mate. Off the water he was always willing to go the extra mile to help with whatever was necessary to keep the club going. His presence will be missed for sure!

- Conrad Hopp, BBCC Alumni Athlete

One of my favourite memories of Nigel at camp is . . .  everything. He is so fun and he makes me laugh. I’m a pest most of the time but he was still nice to me.  I am really proud of my award this year.

- Joseph Zwolinski, BBCC Bantam Paddler

One of my favourite memories of Nigel at paddling this past summer was the balance challenges we did in our kayaks.  I was really proud that I could stand up and turn all the way around. Our after school practices in the fall were always so much fun.  Thank you for giving me the Award.

- Madelein Zwolinski, BBCC Bantam Paddler

I met Nigel my first day when I came to try kayaking at Balmy Beach June 2011. He helped me to get in boat and I remember thinking what a wonderful young man he is. He had patience and love for helping and teaching not just me but every one who came to the club. I notice that Nigel had a really great understanding with people with disability and kids with autism. He was my coach for all these years in club and I was always looking forward seeing Nigel. With Nigel leaving the club will loose an amazing Coach, young man that can relate to anyone which is rare.

Thank you Nigel for all the coaching and extra help all these years. You will be greatly missed, the club will not be the same after you are gone.

Wish you all the best in your future. You deserve the best.

- Draga Culjak, BBCC Para Athlete

Nigel, We have a lot of good memories training and racing with each other. Two memories that stand out to me are racing at Marathon Worlds in Oklahoma and winning Canada Games k2 5000m twice! Your family took me in for a couple of days when I first moved to the club which I truly appreciated and will never forget. I hope to get in a boat with you again someday soon for a couple more races. I would race in a boat named The Rockett, one of the best last names in racing. The Beaches will miss you. All the best,

- Keir Johnston, BBCC Alumni Athlete

Nigel is a tall guy and he is really good at bun ball because he has arms like Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  He has the patience of a saint for putting up with Sam and Ewan playing octopus and trying to get Sam to do animal walks.  It was always really fun when Nigel took us out to the lake in war canoe and dragon boat and let us go swimming.  We will really miss him.

- Jack, Sam and Ewan Meikle, BBCC Bantam Paddlers

It's always sad when the news comes that someone, so integral to an organization, is moving on to greener pastures. I've noticed over my lifetime that good people always seem to move on. I think it is because they have such an enthusiasm and curiosity for life that they are always reaching out and looking beyond their own horizons, somehow finding courage to take risks, follow dreams, (or even a loved ones dream), or just simply eager to explore everything that life has to offer. Nigel, it is so sad to see you go, you are leaving behind a community that has benefited immensely by your presence. But I know that wherever you land, they will be thanking their lucky stars that you happened upon their life! Good luck!!! It will be so interesting to see where your path leads!

- Colleen Didur, BBCC Past Paddle All Coordinator

It is not often that we have the opportunity to know someone unique. I feel this way about you Nigel. I am fortunate to know your whole family too and realize the strength of character comes from the values with which you have grown up. 

What stands out for me is your constant readiness to help, not just by duty but a real desire to be of service. You do it in a soft and friendly way, making any job seem easy which we all know is not necessarily the case. And you take on extra duties too. 

I have worked with you as a volunteer, then coach, in the PaddleALL program over 11 years now. You first jumped into a dragon boat, as I recall, with our Pegasus crew and were soon coxing and coaching that boat over the 6-week session. I have seen you being inventive with boat adaptations for our athletes . I know Liev and Daniel enjoyed working with you over and above the "old ladies". Your coaching plans have been excellent. 

As for Masters, well we all know that is a challenge! Some athletes want feedback - others don't so much so planning a program to suit all is interesting for sure. Your first round taught you much and thus made your second stint even better and we are all grateful and better paddlers because of it. 

You are starting out on a new adventure - good for you. My best wishes go with you and I feel certain that you will always consider Beach your home. God bless you. Sue

- Sue Stuart, BBCC Master and Past Paddle All Coordinator

Growing up at the club, I have always looked up to those members who have gone above and beyond for BBCC. Stories of legends like Russ Dunn, Jim Mossman, and Donnie May get passed down through generations of paddlers and create a contagious feeling of pride and community. At just 25, Nigel among these greats and is an irreplaceable club hero in my mind. I've known Nigel since I started paddling at summer camp over a decade ago, and followed his footsteps through the levels of competition and club involvement. During this time, I saw first hand just how many people and programs he devoted his time to. I think a lot of paddlers look forward to coming to the club because of the joy and passion Nigel embodies.

Thank you for all the fun memories from coaching, team tours, hosting events like paddle dash, and bouncing ideas off each other for what to do next. I will end by saying I have two hopes; I hope that I can be even half of the dedicated club member that Nigel has been, and I hope that it won't be too long before we have Nigel back at the club and in a boat :)

Thanks for all the great memories Nige

- Hayley Plante, BBCC Athlete

Nigel, I wish you the best of luck and success in your new job! I know you will do great! I will miss you and all the jokes we had over the years. I want to thank you for always making me feel welcome and part of your family. I will never forget all of the crazy stuff we would do, but I won't miss being pushed off the dock! You better come and visit. BBCC won't be the same without you. Love Olivia! 

- Olivia Petroff, BBCC Athlete and Coach

I have known Nigel Rocket since he joined Balmy Beach. He is loyal, a team player, a builder......just a really nice person. Nigel paddled, coached, was an executive member and took on coaching the “Masters” as one of his major challenges.

Recently sorting through old Regatta programs I came upon this article which I would like to share.


“Remember don’t look to see where you are just go as hard as you can”, said Nigel Rocket right before our K2 race began. The Starter said the race would begin in 10 seconds. We were off. I decided to pick up my stroke rate. It was a big mistake. I heard a crack. We were ok until I paddled on the right and nearly tipped. One of my paddle blades had snapped off. The Starter lady told us to go to the dock.

Finally at the end of two hours Nigel and I got into our K2 again. At the starting line one of the Missy paddlers said “we are going to beat you guys so bad,” he then whispered to his team mates, “we have to beat them”. The race began in 10 seconds. Nigel yelled an order and we were off. We were tied with the Missy boat and tired but Nigel and I picked up the pace. “0 my gosh they are going faster.” the Missy boat yelled. I was wondering what they thought harder meant. We had taken the lead, only 10 more meters to go I thought. We crossed the finish line a few milliseconds before them. We WON!!!!

“What was that about beating us? I ask sarcastically....I couldn’t stop myself from saying that."

The end.

- Barb Dunn, Past Commodore and Life-time Member of BBCC

Hey Nigel! I am so excited for you to start a new chapter but BBCC is losing a valuable leader and I will be missing an amazing friend. I really appreciate the help you've provided me on personal level. This fall you put a resistor on your boat and paddled with me. This meant so much to me! It made my fall training a lot safer, much more fun and motivating. This is just one example of the many things you do! Your hardworking doesn't go unnoticed.

- Erica Scarff, BBCC Paralympian

Nigel was one of the very first people I met when I joined Balmy Beach and he has become one of the people I associate the most with the club. I have watched him take on numerous roles within the club and to his credit, he has approached each one with enthusiasm and dedication. It takes a special person to run the Masters Program and Nigel has done so with aplomb!

- Ellen Fergusson, BBCC Master

From all of us at the club, we cannot thank you enough for the work you have done and spirit you have spread. We are all sad to see you go but we will cheer you on in your new endeavours. See you down at the bay soon Nige

- Your family, BBCC

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