Early on the 20th of August, we left proud parents, proud Scott, and the Missoula Campus Inn with two monster vans, two monster trailers, upwards of twenty kayaks, eight students, four teachers, and loads of gear and books for everyone. I-90 East! The cross-country voyage began.
Before we knew it, Bozeman exits sprung up along the highway. We stopped in order to pick up Shannon, our history and government teacher, and Mrs. Garcia waited for us with some of Evan’s things. Evan, a returning senior, took off for the Ottawa early in order to train for the U.S. Team Trials at the Garb Wave. With another driver on board, we prepared to settle in for the long haul.
The scenic Montana and Wyoming countryside kept everyone entertained (or maybe it was the iPods?), and after several hours of uneventful driving, we rolled in to an empty truck stop somewhere in South Dakota around 2:00 a.m. Everyone set up a personal nest for a restful night’s sleep outside the vans. We woke a bit damp due to a heavy dew and haze. Whitney had breakfast sandwiches waiting for us, and we were on the road again bright and early.
A clear goal motivated us for the second day – pick up a student, Elsa Schroeter, near Portage, Wisconsin. We prepared a quick lunch on the east side of the great Mississippi and then made a timely stop around 4:00 p.m. to meet Elsa and her family. Elsa added her playboat, creekboat, paddle, gear, and clothes to the great caravan. We said our goodbyes and merged back onto the infinite highway.
Whitney and Karl found an excellent camping area at a state park in Michigan, just northeast of Chicago, Illinois, and we all emptied out of the van for another night of road-trip sleeping. The morning sun shone sooner than most would have liked, but the promise of a quick game of Ultimate Frisbee kept spirits high. Ultimate and showers, the combo of exercise and bathing, refreshed us all for our final day on the road to the Ottawa.
“Oh, Canada!” Yes, we arrived at the border north of Detroit, Michigan. This marked the climax of our road trip. Every student and teacher had been eagerly awaiting this moment, our moment of exodus to the promised land of big water and epic surfing waves, eh? One of the vans was randomly selected for search, but the delay did not severely hinder our progress. The customs agents were intrigued by our massive load of kayaks and equipment, and Mikael Ekstrom was able to pick up another stamp on his Swedish passport. We pulled in to the Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort in Beachburg, Ontario, just after the stroke of midnight.
After 6 states, 52 hours, and nearly an entire Canadian Province of playlists, Swedish lessons, crochet projects, and summer stories, the wheels stopped rolling and the vans parked. U S TEAM TRIALS
by Evan Garcia
The US Team Trials give every American freestyle kayaker the opportunity to compete for a spot on the US National Team, to represent the USA in the World Championships at the gigantic Buseater Wave in the Spring of ‘07. What a great way to kick off the start of a new year at WCKA. With the school arriving the night before the event, there was not much time for practice. The next morning Karl and two other students, Fred Norquist and Davis Gove, woke up at 6 a.m. to get in some warm-up rides before testing their skills against the rest of the field. To their dismay and surprise, the water had come up the day before and left the US competitors with a green, flushy Garborator. The competition was heated in the Junior category, with a paddle spin to shutter rudder combo move by Evan Garcia taking him to second place and a spot on the prestigious US Team. Everyone else threw down their best rides, and the field was cut down to five. In the end they took the top three to represent the US Junior Team. Karl competed in the Men’s category, placing eighth by throwing huge air moves, and barely missing the cut for the Men’s team. WCKA STATS
Thirty percent of the US Kayak Team consists of WCKA alumni, students, or faculty. Andrew Holcombe (Head Coach, Spring ’04) and Rush Sturges (Class of ’03) made the Men’s team, and Hanna Farrar (Fall ’03) made the Women’s team. For international representation, Katie Kowalski claimed “first boat” on the Canadian Junior Women’s team, with her brother, Joel Kowalski, a post-graduate this semester, showing an impressive post-injury performance to take the alternate spot on the Canadian Men’s team. ORIENTATION
After Team Trials, students settled into their cozy cabins at Wilderness Tours and enjoyed a few days of pre-school free surfing with none other than the man, the myth, the legend, kayaking super-star Andrew Holcombe, while teachers met to finalize their course plans and review school policies before the official start of the fall semester. Reid Whitney, Sam Freihofer, and local brother-and-sister combo Joel and Katie Kowalski joined the others who had made the cross-country journey from Missoula.
The students gathered in the lakefront WT “beach house” on a rainy Sunday morning for the WCKA Fall Semester Orientation. Morning activities included fun games like Kangaroo Boxing, a no-hands, one-foot, hop-and-check boxing match between two people. This game fortunately proved to be a silly icebreaker and not a scary bone- breaker. Later, everyone shared their most embarrassing stories in the WCKA classic M&M Game. Each color of an M&M represents a different category of self-revelation. In addition to tales of humiliation, students and teachers talked about their heroes, goals, and dreams, and they discussed the qualities they most admire in a person. We made an afternoon trip to the thriving rural metropolis of Pembroke, Ontario, where we caught a matinee presentation of Talladega Nights and stocked up on school supplies. After returning to Wilderness Tours for a hearty dinner, we concluded the evening with an intense game of charades. Despite all the students’ impressive presence on the river, it was decided that each of us might need some practice with our acting skills. FINAL THOUGHTS
In case you were wondering, the students are adjusting well. (I think the night session workout under the lights at the Garborator Wave may have helped.) The first week of class flew by smoothly, and despite a few sore backs and shoulders, the whole crew remains healthy and in good spirits. Ben, Alex, Glenn, Matt, Mikael, Sam, Evan, Elsa, Davis, Joel, Katie, Max, Fred, and Reid each add something unique to this team that creates an experience at this school that is no less than incredible — day in and day out. We learn from and teach each other about ourselves, about the river, and about the world in such a way that our community gets tighter and tighter with every class, workout, and dinnertime conversation.
- LJ Groth, Literature Teacher & Assistant Coach