I was working with a young slalom paddler the other day and I mentioned the name Bill Endicott. “Bill who?” he replied. I was momentarily shocked, but then it dawned on me that there must be a whole generation of paddlers who aren’t familiar with Bill’s massive contribution to the sport. Just as Isaac Newton is claimed to have said “If I see further it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants”, so do today’s paddlers and coaches go faster because they build on the work of their predecessors. So I thought I’d write something to acknowledge Bill Endicott and perhaps bring his work back into currency.





Bill Endicott is the US former coach of 27 World, World Cup and Olympic Champions. Outside of paddling he was an assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives and the White House. Bill worked with outstanding athletes from the mid 70’s onwards; paddlers like John Lugbill, Davey Hearn and Cathy Hearn who redefined the sport and set new standards, especially in C1 and C2. I first met Bill in 1980/81 when he came to Australia as a guest coach to run training camps at Nymboida in NSW. It was the first time I’d been exposed to a skilled, systematic coach and he was inspirational. Bill returned to Australia in 1984, and on this trip he spent time in Tasmania. He worked closely with our training group in New Norfolk, and we all learned a lot from him.

Later that year I was in a car driving back from the Tatra slalom in Liptovsky Mikulas. This was in the old days of the socialist Czechoslovakia, and we chose a bad place to run out of petrol. I drew the short straw and started walking towards the nearest town with an aluminium cooking pot to try to get some fuel. Eventually I made it to a service station, only to struggle with convincing the proprietor to sell me some fuel. Then Bill turned up, with a carload of American paddlers returning from the same race. He spoke in fluent Slovak to the service station guy (everyone’s jaws dropped at this!) and before I knew it I had the fuel, and a lift back to my stranded mates. Amazing.

Bill did more than coach – he wrote extensively about the sport. In a series of books starting with ‘To Win the Worlds” he wrote a comprehensive history of the sport, presented brilliantly analytical case studies of top paddlers, and described technique and training methods. His writings weren’t restricted to slalom, he explored sprint and downriver too.

“The Ultimate Run” was particularly influential. One day in the mid 80’s my good friend and training partner Rob McGuiness opened the door of our paddling house to a door-to-door evangelist. The poor man hardly got a word out offering to tell Rob about the Bible, before Rob said “hang on a minute, we’ve already got a Bible here”. He grabbed our dog-eared copy of The Ultimate Run and proceeded to describe in great detail how this provided us with all the practical guidance we needed in our lives. Needless to say we didn’t get many more visits from the evangelists after that.

Bill stays active today as a consultant working on coach education around the world.  I’ve been able to catch up with him a couple of times in recent years when he’s visited Britain to do this sort of work for UK Sport. He was also exceptionally generous in giving me feedback on my book In the Flow.

I’m sure there is much much more to be said about Bill’s contribution to the sport by people who know him far better than me.  But I encourage you to check out his comprehensive body of written work about canoeing, most of which is available online at Davey Hearn’s website here.