If you ask the average high school student what they’d like to be doing with their summer, you’re not likely to hear “summer school” as the response. However, Bellcaters are anything but your average high school students! So when three of them signed up for the brand new Stand-Up Paddle boarding class, expectations were high that not only were they going to get a novel experience but also brush up against some of their own therapeutic goals as well. 

Stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP for short, is just like it sounds: standing up on a flat board closely resembling a surfboard, and using a long paddle to travel over a body of water. Sounds easy? It’s not! During the first week of classes, students discovered that balancing on the board and finding that “sweet spot” could be a little tricky. Fortunately, the only consequence of losing one’s balance while paddle boarding is an unanticipated swim. And the water at Indian Brook has been perfect. 

One student, JK, climbed back on board his SUP after falling into the water and was grinning ear-to-ear. “Dude, this is SO much fun! I can’t believe this is school!”

The class itself is designed to teach the basic fundamentals of paddle boarding: proper paddle strokes, tightly controlled turns, re-boarding after a fall, as well as loading and unloading the gear from a vehicle. It also includes water safety (like the importance of wearing a life jacket) and some more advanced topics like compensating for a head wind by reducing one’s profile and surfing small waves. The cool part is that there is plenty of opportunity for spontaneous teachable moments all throughout the class. Student ED was fascinated to get a bird’s-eye view of some catfish holes beneath the water’s surface.

Paddle boarding is an excellent vehicle for navigating students’ therapeutic goals, too. While one student is working on managing his energy by being still and quiet so as not to disrupt the peace of others using the pond, another is pushing the edge of their comfort zone by facing some fears of the water. Another important goal that this class helps address is dialing in transitions from something fun to something less preferable. Students are practicing this by preparing to get from being on the water to the boat launch and getting all the gear loaded onto the vehicle for transport back to Bellcate in a timely manner. 

So far, we’ve been lucky enough to have blue-bird days on the water with low wind. Hot sun, cool water, and a fun way to explore the waterways of northern Vermont: what more could one ask for? As student JLB put it, “THIS is what summer should be.”