Sunday, December 13, 2009

Apurimac Multi-Day, A WCKA First!

Ben, Griff and Erik Johnson on the Confluence section, Urubamba River

The Group at our home, Cola de Mono


Confluence section put-in, just downstream from camp

I believe the last blog left off midway at our stay at Colo de Mono in Santa Teresa. Basically we all enjoyed our three weeks of bugs and sick paddling on the Urubamba. We spent one rainy day on a lower-volume creek called the Upper Sacsara. We all had fun in our shiny new creek-boats.


Our last night in Santa Teresa, the group helped Gian Marco, our beloved host, build a relaxing sweat-lodge made out of sticks and plastic tarp. That night he heated boulders, to pour water on for steam, and most of the students spent several sessions sweating out our body’s toxins in an enjoyable and new experience, preparing ourselves for the long and awaited over-nighter expeditions.


Take-out at Santa Teresa...otherwise known as town recess


After a scenic canyon drive back to Cusco, we spoiled ourselves with pizza, burgers, cake, multiple cappuccinos a day, cheap hour massages and finally a nice hostile with beds and Internet. Over the next few days we prepared ourselves for the Apurimac by buying personal snacks such as chocolate bars, nuts and sausage sticks with our 45 soles (Peruvian currency) allowance and distributing the backpacker’s pantry mountain meals. We each received four dinners including any of the following; Wild West Chili, Pad Thai, Spicy Thai with Peanut Sauce, Chana Masala, Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese, Mexican Rice with Beef, Rosotta with Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken. Boats packed, we were ready to start our first journey.

Cody, excited to eat his meal in a bag...mmm, tasty!


Day one on the Apurimac after a three hour drive from our beloved Cusco we hiked our boats through stone arches and over piles of rubble, through a small town and onto the river. This first rapid was a little tricky and about half of the group ran it, the other half walking, not wanting to risk messing up our lines in our unfamiliar, heavily loaded creek-boats. The rest of the day consisted of some fun rapids with some technical moves accompanied by a few scouts. That night we camped at a rocky beach with a little bit of sand that we took advantage of. Students tested out their bivies and Griff and Johnson even found a rock cave to sleep under for rain protection. Kleve and I, along with Capo and Ben, fortunately didn’t have to worry about any unnecessary moisture due to our light tents that we packed along.

Filtering water on the Apurimac River


The next morning Parker woke up to a bivy full of water and realized he would have some creative work to do if the rain came again. Day two was a short and mellow day of flat-water and beautiful scenery. We made camp early at lunch and several students spent hours building “shanty’s”, what they called their rain shelters, out of bamboo and grasses in hopes of a dry night. The rest of us spent our free time setting up camp and swimming across the river to some small cliffs to jump. That night people stayed dry but we all woke up in the middle of the night to a savage and loud rockslide on top of us, caused by the rain.

A Shanty, Hopefully it Worked!


Day three was once again mellow. We spent an hour or so trying to surf a fun wave with eddy service with our loaded creek-boats. Camping on a big sandy beach, shanties were built and when darkness came around 6 p.m., so did the rain. Our pattern seemed to be going to bed around 6-6:30 and getting a good 12 hours of sleep.


Well rested, day four was our long and fun day of rapids. The canyon walls were beautiful and the sun was shining. The day consisted of pretty continuous big volume read-and-run rapids due to increase in water with the nightly rain. The dark chocolate milk colored water made it challenging to read but we were all stoked on the day and our experience as a whole!

Griff soaking in the South American sun rays!


Day five we woke up, ate our daily morning breakfast of Avena (brand of oatmeal) mixed with gorp, and paddled a few hours of flat-water to the takeout, after a stout portage, where our cargo truck driver met us. From here we made the short drive to Cusco to get ready for the Cotahuasi and prepare for our next episode full of adventures…


Words: Olin Wimberg

Photos: Susan Hollingsworth and Kristi Murrin

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Physics Demo: #2

Check out our Physics Class' Demonstration #2: Momentum, Collisions and Impulse



Emily Allen
Griff Griffith
Olin Wimberg

Friday, November 13, 2009

Santa Teresa, Peru!


After a much needed and greatly appreciated ten-day fall break, we all arrived in Cusco early last Thursday. After several long flights from Denver to L.A., L.A. to Lima, and Lima to Cusco, we finally arrived. We drowsily disembarked the plane and were happily greeted by Kristi and a tour bus to take us to our Cusco hostel. Despite the lack of sleep, we were all excited to finally be in the greatly anticipated destination: Peru.


We spent two nights in the city of Cusco and had plenty of opportunities to practice our Spanish with the locals and buy loads of souvenirs. Our Spanish classes consisted of a citywide scavenger hunt, forcing us all to use our somewhat limited Spanish vocabulary to interact with Peruvians.


Workout: Climb up the mountain (base=11,000 ft), sit-ups next to Incan Ruins


After our time in the city we packed up to head to our next destination. We had another seven hours of traveling over mountain passes and driving along deep canyons to our new home in Santa Teresa. Currently we are camping at Cola de Mono and will stay here for the next three weeks. The site is a few minutes outside of Santa Teresa and we have room for each of our tents and a large canopy to eat and have class under. The location is close to several creeks and river runs, not to mention three meals are cooked daily for us. The only setbacks are the amount of mosquitoes, most of us were covered in itchy bites by the first morning workout, and the absence of one major thing: kayaks.



Swiftwater Rescue Review Day

Our home base in Santa Teresa


Shortly after we had arrived in Santa Teresa we were greeted with the bad news. All 14 of our new Jackson boats are stuck in Lima customs, and have not yet been released into the country. Obviously a major part of our daily school routine is missing. World Class Kayak Academy has become more like World Class Camping Academy. Despite this, we have still been able to find plenty of activities to fill time that is usually spent paddling.


Community service day, putting those muscles to work


We have assisted with some community service, which consists of moving wheelbarrow loads of dirt down the road to build a driveway over a marshy patch of land, enjoying a night-time hot spring soak, and also making an impromptu trip to Machu Picchu. We rode a train into the town at the base of Machu Picchu and spent the night. Early the next morning we headed to the top of the mountain, and spent the entire day exploring the ruins and absorbing Peru’s history. In the afternoon, when we were left to explore the landmark on our own, half the group hiked to the top of Wayna Picchu and enjoyed the perfect view of Machu Picchu below. After a full day, we walked along the railroad track back to Santa Teresa.






Machu Picchu visit (students have a million more photos!)


Since then, our days have been filled with double amounts of classes and a review of swift river rescue. The group has kept up a positive output and morale has been high, despite such a long hiatus from paddling. Soon, however, we will rent boats to use until the others arrive and we will be able to train and prepare for the upcoming multi-day/self-support trips. Our long stint as World Class Camping Academy will soon be over, and we can be World Class Kayak Academy once again.


Article: Emily Allen

Photos: Susan Hollingsworth

Field Trip to the Coal Fields of West Virginia

On our final day at the Gauley River we packed up camp and drove two hours to the home of Larry. Larry’s home sits on a small mountain in Marsh Fork, West Virginia, the heart and soul of American coal mining. The 50-acre property is filled with this "black gold" and is valued at around 60 million dollars. Larry told us all about his life and the coal companies that he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. After the presentation, the students were able see to dozens of mountain top removal sights from the safety of a nearby peak. I think I speak for every one when I say it was a bitter sight; we could see thousands of acres of destroyed mountains. Thick vegetation used to cover the vast hillsides; it has now been reduced to dirt and rock. It was hard to comprehend the damage to the surrounding environment. This unique experience opened our eyes to harmful ways of the American coal industries.

After the tour of Larry’s property we drove to Marsh Fork Elementary. The elementary school is less than a hundred yards from an enormous coal silo. Ivan Steifel, a former WCKA teacher and anti coal activist, gave us a brief presentation about the poor air and water quality in the surrounding area. The school also sits just below the dam of a 2.8 billion gallon coal slurry. A coal slurry is a large body of water that serves as a dumping ground for coal waste. Coal slurries create highly toxic waste that can leak into surrounding wells and ground water supplies. I had never known how coal companies can affect the health of local communities.

During the last leg of our journey we visited the Coal River Mountain Watch base camp. The CRMW is a group of people fighting against coal mining. The students piled in to House #3, in which we were able to interact with members of CRMW and discuss the issues with coal mining. Every one at the Coal River base camp had interesting perspectives and stories to share.

By the end of the day we all came out with a plentiful set of knowledge on coal mining. Being able to see coal mining and its effects on the environment was one of the coolest field trips I have ever been apart of. I feel that I learned more about coal mining at WCKA than I ever could have in a formal classroom.


Eric Parker

Monday, October 5, 2009

Youghiogheny River Update brought to you by WCKA Video Class

Video Update from the Youghiogheny and ASCI Whitewater Course

Physics Lab Demonstration: Newton's Laws

Physics Assignment: Demonstrate Newton's 3 Laws for future WCKA classes

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Washington DC Field Trip

Walking through the Mall

During the long drive from Montreal to Maryland WCKA decided to stop, take a short detour, and a few days off of paddling to have class and go explore our country’s capitol. The lively city was enormous and left endless opportunities for wandering and new discoveries. Many of the students and teachers had never been to DC and those who have, had never been there during a time like this. The two days there were spent during the thirteenth and fourteenth of September, the following days of 9/11. This brought huge numbers of people that were on marches and parades for those lost.


We found ourselves surrounded by some of the most political extreme people you could imagine. When crossing busy intersections the students would look up at the corners to see people holding up signs with comments like, “Obama is a Nazi”. While packed onto the metro students listened keenly to these people’s views, despite often sounding ridiculous.

Washington Memorial


View of Lincoln Memorial and Reflection pool


When the students and teachers were off the metro and on their own exploring they were able to forget about the current politics and enjoy some of the long standing national monuments. Some of the monuments visited were The Washington Monument, The Abraham Memorial, The Whitehouse, and many more. Students stood and looked out at the city while standing in the exact same place as Dr. King when he made his ‘ I Have A Dream’ speech.

Photos of the Whitehouse with teachers Capo and Ben


Natural History Museum


They also went to some of the city’s best museums. They visited the International Spy Museum, The Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and The Air and Space Museum. Surprisingly, both students and teachers found the Natural History museum to be the most interesting of the three. Hours were spent in the museum looking at things from soil in the states to gigantic hippos seen on the rivers throughout Africa. The Spy museum was also very interesting. The artifacts were some of the craziest things you would imagine. Weapons ranged from the traditional umbrella gun to bombs that would go off if a girl tried to open her lipstick.

Hudson Moe, Kleve Peaslee and Capo Rettig anticipating a tarantuala feeding demonstration


Evolution of Man exhibit


While the students and teachers all had an amazing time exploring the city, they are also all ready to go explore the rivers on the east coast. The next few river destinations will be the Youghiogheny, the Gauley, the Tygert, and The Green. Theses rivers will make up the creeking and river running portion of the quarter. The playboating that was done so far was epic and some of the biggest waves students had surfed. Both students and teachers showed rapid improvement and the majority of them are now able to throw blunts and backstabs (vertical front/back 180). The group is getting along well and are all looking forward to the rapidly approaching trip to Peru (less than a month).

Emily Allen, Susan Hollingsworth and Ohiopyle friends getting ready for a trip down the Youghiogheny


Words: Griff Griffith

Photos: Susan Hollingsworth

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ottawa River Update, Fall 2009

Eric Parker, Isaac Holden and Olin Wimberg in a group surf on Left Side Wave and Babyface

Bon Jour! Welcome to Ontario, home of large cows, poutine, and Maple forests. We arrived here in Canada on the afternoon of August 28, just in time to catch our first surfs on the at McCoy Chute where Corner Wave, Phil’s Hole and Baby face are all located. For many kids and teachers the Ottawa has been a new river on the list. It holds some of the world’s best high volume playboating and river running in the spring, but has top notch kayaking year round. One of the greatest things about the Ottawa is its fantastic temperature. It feels more like a bathtub than a river most days and provides for some good non-dry top boating.

Cody Wasuta and Hudson Moe, Chemistry Lab


To get to McCoy’s was about a 15-minute drive from our resort at Wilderness Tours. We parked below the rapid and paddled across a football sized area of flatwater to get to the waves. Half way down the main rapid, McCoy’s, is a large surging, crashing, hydraulic named Phil’s Hole. Many daring souls paddled hard to punch through. A few tried to surf it only to get a ride comparing to one that a bull rider gets in a rodeo. Lower down is Corner wave which is a medium sized wave with a large eddy that can be tricky to catch the longer and more tired you get. Corner Wave provides a great area for many kids to start learning tricks or sharpen up existing skills.

Olin Wimberg setting up on Cornerwave

Erik Johnson on Cornerwave, Ottawa River

At the run out of the McCoy’s Babyface, the last wave, forms. It is the mellowest of the waves and is great for learning how to surf and fundamentals of playboating. The team has been paddling especially well together so far with excessive screaming and yelling to cheer on each other (the locals may think we are crazy). Everyone took full advantage of our weeklong stay here and what the Ottawa has to offer. Off the water at WT we partook in many extracurricular activities such as pool, evening hot tubs, boxing and the first ever World Class Olympics. We had several events including basketball, soccer, and the boating leg is still to be held. Everyone won at least one event so far and has brought a new competitive edge to the group.

Emily and Head Coach Ben Kinsella

Staying at Wilderness tours is more of a resort than anything. We had the luxury of beds for everyone and five star meals three times a day. Breakfast includes pancakes, French toast and assorted cereals while lunch was usually burgers and brats. Finally dinner was between the favorites of juicy steaks and potato’s or spinach stuffed chicken. Reality soon will be upon us, getting into routine of cooking all our own meals for once. We are off to the huge city of MontrĂ©al where we will be surfing Lachine on the Saint Lawrence River. Stay tuned for another article.

Words: Erik Johnson
Photos: Susan Hollingsworth

Sunday, June 14, 2009

US Freestyle Team Trials at Glenwood Springs, CO

Hannah and Althea excited to hit the wave


We left Missoula, MT on the afternoon of May 25th eager to get to Glenwood for the highly anticipated wave and Team Trials event. After spending a night in Salt Lake City at Hannah Kertesz’s house, we finally arrived at the wave with the full team of: Scott Doherty (MT), Ben Kinsella (MT), Quinton Barnett (MT), Brian Jamieson (WA), Hannah (UT), Althea Sullivan (OR), and Quinn Connell (OR). Following our first practice session on the terrific breaking wave we then headed to the Palmer’s house. The Palmer family graciously put us up with excellent accommodations at their warm home, along with numerous other members of the paddling community. On behalf of everyone you housed and fed, Thanks!



First class accommodations at the Palmer's home


The next three days were spent visiting the wave twice a day, resting in between sessions to review video, work on homework, or to socialize with the other paddlers in town for the event. As the days progressed we all became more confident with the wave and each of our individual approaches to having our best performances over the weekend. One afternoon was also spent at the Glenwood Community Center assisting with the local boat swap, which turned out to be a fun activity and a great opportunity for our group to get to know many of the other junior paddlers.



Hannah Kertesz looking smooth and solid in the wave's chaos



Big tricks on big waves


When the weekend arrived we were all excited to compete and to watch the other competitors performances. During the event, we also had a tent set up for a nice place to hang out in the shade while we weren’t competing or assisting the event organizers with time keeping. All in all, World Class had a proud showing with four of our present and past students making the U.S. Freestyle Team selected to represent the U.S. at the world championships in Thun, Switzerland later this summer. Of notable mention were also Hannah Kertesz and Quinn Connell, the first ones out for the junior women’s and junior men’s teams, respectively.


Quinn, mid-McNasty


World Class Kayak Academy representation on the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Team

Michael Palmer (10’) – Jr. Men’s – 3rd

Johnny Meyers (04’) – Men’s – 3rd

Rush Sturges (03’) – Men’s – 5th

Adriene Levknecht (05’) – Women’s – 2nd



Quinn getting his moves perfected



A great, fun and well-organized event!


Nice work, everyone, on your efforts at the event. You worked hard to get there and competed with grace and determination – we are proud of you. Thanks, as well to the entire community of Glenwood Springs, you have an amazing playspot and a supportive atmosphere for kayakers. We look forward to coming back soon!


Scott Doherty

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WCKA Athletes at Teva Mountain Games

School might be out of session, but World Class continues to bring young kayakers to the best rivers and competitions the summer offers. For the month of June, Colorado happens to be one of these hotspots with a different competition every weekend all throughout the state. Our students originally from this part of the country will rave to you about the variety in paddling this state offers. From the big waves in Glenwood Springs to the creeks in Crested Butte, no matter where a kayaker travels here, there is whitewater to paddle.

A classic event for the Colorado tour is the Teva Mountain Games held in Vail June 4th-7th. This event has it all and draws in some of the world’s most talented athletes in multiple extreme sports. The kayaking events always end up being the most attended and most exciting of the games.


Kicking off the weekend, the Homestake Extreme Creek Race sets the bar high for anyone who thinks they can maneuver through class IV/V whitewater the fastest. World Class' Sebastian Scholl competed in the race alongside the fastest and smooth athletes in the world, powering down the creek with a powerful finesse.  Head Coach Jesse Shimrock made it to the finals in this event, also representing WCKA with style.  

Sebastian daftly maneuvering Homestake's technical and steep rapids 


WCKA alum, Adrienne Levknecht, flying off one of Homestake's many drops


Back in the town of Vail Freestyle competitions continued throughout the weekend with current and former students throwing down hard. This wave is one of the best venues for a large competition. Two bridges, up and downstream of the wave, allow for 360 degrees of viewing pleasure for the massive crowds draw to this event.


Current student Michael Palmer competed in his new Guiguiprodd carbon fiber boat. This lightweight boat, along with some serious freestyle moves, allowed him to hold his own among the world’s most talented kayakers with a 12th place in the qualifiers.


Michael hitting a massive loop for the crowd's pleasure


Michael in his lightweight boat, smiling at his high scoring run on the wave


Griff Griffith, another student signed on for this fall’s Peru semester, also threw down with the best in the competition giving the pro’s a run for their money. In addition to competing in the freestyle competition, Griff placed an incredible 11th place in the downriver sprint, just seconds behind pro athletes Tommy Hilleke and Geoff Calhoun.


Griff getting reading to head out on Vail's wave


Griff hitting all the right moves


Many other junior athletes competed over the weekend showing the world that the next generation will be pushing the limits! I'm really looking forward to traveling around the world this these guys and all the other incredible young athletes already signed up for the fall semester.


Check back in for updates on Team Trials, the upcoming FiBark festival in Salida and WCKA's summer sessions!

by Susan Hollingsworth

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oregon to Washington - by Ben Stanistreet

After leaving our yurts in Florence, we spent a few days in Eugene. We would like to thank the River House, Eugene’s recreation center, for accommodating us. While in Eugene we surfed a small wave right in town called “Cotton Candy,” and also paddled the Miracle Mile on the NF MF of the Willamette River. The Miracle Mile is a fun class III-IV run with continuous boulder-garden style rapids. We held class daily in the Eugene public library. Libraries have been a very useful resource during our west coast tour.


The "Unbroken Chain" on Miracle Mile - photo by Ben Stanistreet

We left Eugene on the 18th and drove to our next destination, the Columbia River Gorge and the rivers of southern Washington. We would like to give a big thanks to All Adventures Rafting for letting us camp in their back yard, which is conveniently located at the take out for the Green Truss section of the White Salmon. Our first day here, we woke up early and drove to Tao Berman’s house for morning workout. Tao is a local of these parts and a famous kayaker. He has a nice home gym and was “nice” enough to let us use it. The next day our arms felt like they were going to fall off from the hundreds of pull-ups we did at Tao’s, but it was a cool opportunity to work out “like the pros.” Tao also paddled with us on the Green Truss section later that day. Scott Doherty met us here for a few days of paddling and hanging out with the school as well.

Ben Hurd fires off Big Brother on the Green Truss - photo by Jason Cohen

We spend most paddling workouts either on the Farmlands or the Green Truss on the White Salmon, but the Little White Salmon and Upper Wind have also been fun, after-school river runs. We took advantage of a weekend day to hike-in and run Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek. At about 30 feet, it is the biggest drop most students have ever hucked.

Jesse Shimrock boofin' Punch Bowl Falls - photo by Jason Cohen

It’s amazing how fast the time goes by when we stay in one place for more than a week. On class days we drive across the Columbia River into the town of Hood River, Oregon, and take advantage of the public library. Dog River Coffee Co., right down the hill from the library, has been a favorite spot to have class and relax. I am sitting here in the coffee shop as I write this, enjoying the laid back atmosphere and the smell of fresh ground coffee. The coffee here is very good, and so is the food. “The chicken pesto pizza is da bomb,” says Eric Parker.

Sun set in the Columbia Gorge - photo by Ben Stanistreet
We just began our last week of classes. In Ivan’s literature classes we are reading different books and presenting in class. Ivan allotted each of us a half hour of class to teach what we have read and whatever else we want to include. This allowed for several interesting and fun learning experiences like watching movies and having class discussions. During one class, we all left the library to walk around town by ourselves and see if we could have conversations with strangers on the street. We then regrouped in the library to discuss our experiences.

I think most of us would agree that the Gorge has been one of the coolest places we’ve stayed, and the area offers some of the best paddling we’ve seen during our west coast tour. With the end of school approaching fast, everyone is ready to be done with classes but also sad that the year at WCKA is almost over.