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SEP. 17, 2014

Reflections from Paddle-Climb

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The students from Semester 39 have embarked on their first of three-whitewater paddling and rock climbing weekends.  This was a chance for students to experience their first taste of stepping outside their comfort zone, paddling the local French Broad River and rock climbing at famous Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest.

The reason why we paddle and climb at the Outdoor Academy goes much deeper than simply being something fun to do.  Open boat whitewater paddling provides students a chance to communicate and work with their partner in the bow or stern, relying on them to catch eddy lines, and not tip their canoe.  Historically, Cherokee used tulip poplar trees to make dugout canoes they utilized on the French Broad River as a source for trading and travel, so we are also connecting students to a deeper understanding of the rivers and land around them. Rock climbing creates a space to develop teamwork, communication, and trust. Students, who are belaying each other literally have their peer’s lives in their hand, and they must trust one another to catch them if they “fall.”  Students can relate this to their social and academic world at OA whenever they have to catch their peers, keep them climbing higher, and hold them accountable for their actions.

Living in a community takes a lot of work and intention, as Semester 39 is coming to realize!  How students turn the stress they feel on top of a rock face or paddling a large rapid into comfort will be critical not only to their success here at OA, but life in general. Wilderness instructors at OA help students process and harness this power. The stresses of this adventurous weekend included overcoming a fear of heights and a lightning storm that quickly came upon the paddlers, requiring them to get off the river and into lightning position for over an hour!  As students are able to overcome these few instances, there is no telling what they will be able to accomplish while at OA.

We will continue to push our students outside of their comfort zone and work with them to connect to the land in which we recreate.  Stay in touch for updates on more weekend long trips, where the rock faces will be much taller and the rapids will be much bigger, similar to how we build up the semester for the students.

Lucas Newton
Outdoor Programs Manager