Last week, all of our Grade 9 students headed out to various corners of the province to participate in outdoor trips that pushed them out of their comfort zones, all in the name of education. From kayaking and surfing to rock climbing and hiking, we’re very proud of all of our students for trying something new and taking full advantage of our outdoor education program.
Below, two students, Terra Rolfe and Thomas Dansereau, reflect on their time spent learning outdoors.
by Terra Rolfe
On Wednesday, May 4, I boarded a school bus to Tofino, equally nervous and excited. The atmosphere on board was exuberant, to say the least. We were going surfing, a sport I had never tried before. We were all excited – this was our Grade 9 outdoor trip, a chance to de-stress, hone our outdoor skills, strengthen relationships and experience new things.
After driving to Tofino, we set up our campsite and got to know each other better through card games, beach soccer, dinner prep and chatting around the campfire. The evening flew by, and then the next morning was upon us: it was finally time to surf. I was incredibly excited – this was a chance for me to do something new, something totally different from anything I’d ever done before. However, I was also incredibly nervous. What if I was terrible? What if I hated it? What if I got injured? By the time we reached Chesterman Beach, however, my fears had mostly subsided; the promise of adrenaline was too great to stay scared. The next hour was spent on land, learning the basics of surfing from our guides Benia and Arran. They also taught us safety information about rip currents and longshore drift – a necessity for any surfer in the area.
“I love how it presents opportunities for everyone to individually push themselves to step outside of their comfort levels, no matter their prior outdoor experience or fitness level.”
All of a sudden, the formal instruction was done and it was time to actually get into the ocean. We spent the rest of the day perfecting our pop-ups, figuring out how to properly catch a wave and how to stay on our boards (it’s harder than it looks!). It was nothing short of exhilarating, from the waves crashing around me, to the first time I actually caught a wave, to the first time I wiped out on my board. We spent the majority of the next two days in a similar manner, along with watching a surf competition and exploring the town of Tofino.
However, that is not to say that surfing was always fun. In fact, it was frustrating at times. I couldn’t catch a wave at first, let alone attempt to stand up; a rather discouraging experience. By the end of the day, however, I had managed to stand up not once, but four times. It was an immensely satisfying feeling, the quiet kind of gratification that comes from mastering something new.
My experiences on this trip have truly cemented my love for the outdoor program at SMUS. I love how it presents opportunities for everyone to individually push themselves to step outside of their comfort levels, no matter their prior outdoor experience or fitness level. These comfort levels aren’t just being pushed by being in the ocean or on a trail – it’s also smaller things like sleeping in tents, hand-washing dishes and helping prepare meals. While for some people these are mundane tasks, for others it presents something entirely new.
The outdoor trips also provide a break from the rigour of academics and athletics, allowing for students to relax and de-stress. This laid-back atmosphere also provides the perfect environment for getting to better know and befriend fellow students outside of class. I made and strengthened friendships so much over the five days in Tofino, and my entire group – a very diverse mix of people – is now friendly and close in a way we weren’t before.
The trip was definitely challenging, from the strong currents to the sand in literally every crevice of my tent. But the challenges are truly what made the trip worth it.
by Thomas Dansereau
For my Grade 9 outtrip I chose to hike the Juan de Fuca trail. This outtrip option is one of the most physically demanding trips available, as we had to hike carrying all our gear and food for five days.
Our group trekked over 30 kilometers, hiking from China Beach to Sombrio Beach. The terrain was very rough, with steep inclines, suspension bridges, knee-deep mud and narrow pathways. It was especially challenging to carry over 40 pounds on our backs at the same time. We slept on the beach in tents every night, all going well except for the last night with a very early wake up at 2:30 a.m. due to some high tides.
“I thought this outtrip was amazing, because it pushed me just the right amount physically and mentally.”
I thought this outtrip was amazing, because it pushed me just the right amount physically and mentally, and because I made great friends throughout these five days. We were led by two incredible guides (Jake and Toni), who have done this trail many times.
The main thing I learned from this hike was the importance of being very well prepared for a wilderness adventure such as this. I also learned that when hiking, I can really push my physical abilities by having a positive mindset. Thank you SMUS for a great experience!
(photos by Terra Rolfe, Jake McCloskey and Craig Farish)