Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How the World Rafting Championship makes students cooler

Ezequiel Becerra / AFP - Getty Images
The 2011 World Rafting Championships were held in Costa Rica this year on the famous Pacuare River. Teams from 32 countries paddled the same rapids many of our students learn to guide rafts themselves. I could end this post right here and its title would already make sense, but let me explain just to make it clear.

The fact that our students get to experience the exciting world of whitewater rafting on a river deemed worthy of hosting the World Rafting Championships is equivalent to learning how to play soccer at Soccer City Stadium in South Africa (that's where the FIFA World Cup took place, just as a reminder). So maybe the sport isn't quite as popular, but needless to say, it does make our students way cooler.

The event consists of four different competition styles: the Head to Head, the Downriver, the Sprint, and most technical of all, the Slalom. All are injected with whitewater adrenaline, but by the time I made it to the river the only one remaining was the Slalom. Never have I seen such a higher density of athletes speaking foreign languages, inflatable rafts, and bulging forearm muscles in one place. The atmosphere was great, especially considering that I was watching directly from the river bank accompanied by the secondary team from Croatia - they explained the history of a sport sliding more and more into the mainstream, its significance to them as raft guides, and how judges score the complex maze of slalom gates. Below, the American team paddles through the middle section of the course (I learned that the man proudly waving the flag is the father of one of the members).

As I watched the representative teams from so many different countries impressively navigate their ways through the course, I couldn't help but be reminded of the time spent on the river with previous Leadership Semester students on the same stunning river. We would joke about how we were waiting for dinosaurs to storm their way to the water's edge because clearly this was Jurassic Park we were paddling through (naturally, anyone who didn't play along would be the first victim).

The Leadership Semester students scout a rapid on the Pacuare River

The Leadership students were on the Pacuare not to learn how to avoid Hollywood reptile encounters, however; they were on the Pacuare to learn to how to apply their Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) training and guide the boat through some less-than-taciturn rapids. Upon wishing my countrymen good luck in the upcoming heat, they admitted their jealousy -- the American team admitted that they were jealous of the Costa Rica Outward Bound students for getting to develop their guiding skills on such an amazing river.

If you're interested in following the current Leadership students' adventure here in Costa Rica, including their training on the river, be sure to check out the regularly posted course updates. Also keep in mind that our brand new Tropical Challenge Semester course offers the same guide training on the same river.  

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