WCKA Newsletter - March 2005

Well, our 10 weeks in Ecuador have finally come to an end and through some miracle of time and motion, and who-knows-what else, we feel simultaneously as though we have been here forever, while having just arrived. Now it is time for a little R&R with our families and friends before we join together again for the second leg of the semester; the West Coast Tour.


Despite the lackadaisical atmosphere that is synonymous with a beach trip, our few weeks in Canoa turned out to hold some of the most impressive play boating we have seen in Ecuador. Every day, the surf churning a mere 300 feet from our beds provided both students and faculty with an endless array of near-perfect waves, while spectators were generally given an awesome show of the newest aerial freestyle moves. The relatively small size of Canoa’s waves also allowed almost every student and teacher the chance to try out the other beach activities, from body surfing to boogie boarding and good old fashioned board surfing. Surfing was not the only physical activity we indulged in while at the beach however as we continued our running and callisthenic workouts when the morning surf wasn’t at its best. While leaving the warm air and sunny skies of the beach was hard, it was a fairly easy transition to the mountain life of Borja where Small World Adventures is located. Our riverfront lodging provided us with easy shuttles, as we generally found ourselves either putting in or taking out ‘at home.’ While in Borja, the steep mountains and daily rainfall of the Quijos river valley provided us with some of the best down-river kayaking we had seen in Ecuador. With so many awesome runs so close, it often came down to the flip of a coin to decide which run we would do on a given day. With most of the runs coming one after another, it was not uncommon for us to connect 2 or 3 sections on the same river in a single afternoon. Morning workouts also bumped up in intensity, as they generally began with a 10-minute uphill run before playing Ultimate Frisbee or Soccer. All in all, it seemed like Borja was just the place to end this trip with a bang.


We have been especially fortunate this March when it comes to educational opportunities. First of all, both the beach and our riverfront accommodations at Small World gave us ample room for classes; even with multiple classes occurring simultaneously, it was possible for each class to find a quiet space apart, making for a very conducive learning atmosphere. Also, with little traveling this month it was possible to continue each week of class without interruption. Despite the impending break, classes continued as usual and with undiminished intensity, right to the end. English classes have finished their readings for this quarter and are currently working on creative and analytical writing projects. Government continues to study Congress and the Presidency, with ample discussions on current affairs. Physics class is continuing study of the world around us by learning about electrostatics, while Biology class continues to digest new information on human nutrition and the intestinal system. Chemistry has just finished learning how to balance chemical equations; Algebra class is studying logarithms; and both Geometry and Pre-calc are studying trigonometric functions. Calculus has just begun studying separable differential equations and, finally, Spanish classes have been making the best of this unique immersion opportunity. While we will all miss the educational opportunities available in a country as diverse as Ecuador, we also look forward to what lies ahead during our travels in the U.S.


This March has turned out to be one of WCKA’s most eventful to date when it comes to cultural interaction. While still at the beach, we were presented the opportunity to visit the world-famous Isla Corazón, a mangrove forest on a heart-shaped island just south of Canoa. The island, which is located in the middle of a bay, is home to the largest Frigate bird population in the Pacific and can only be explored by canoe. Our local guides showed us the intricacies of a mangrove forest, the diversity of wildlife there, and taught us how to hunt for crabs, which involves sticking one’s arm shoulder-deep into the mud. It was most definitely an experience that we will not forget any time soon. This was not, however, to be our last amazing experience in Ecuador. To start off our final week, the small town of Bom Bón (a 30 minute drive from Borja) allowed World Class to host a tree-planting, kayak-teaching extravaganza in their picturesque mountain surroundings. The day began with a three-hour kayak clinic, where the bravest of Bom Bón’s citizens were offered the chance to jump into a kayak and paddle around. Some of the participants even ventured as far as learning how to roll, with two of the clinic’s students mastering the skill before lunch. The whole clinic: participants, spectators, teachers, and all, then climbed the hill to Bom Bón, where World Class was served a spectacular lunch courtesy of the town’s best chefs. The day continued with the planting of 250 trees, followed by an intense game of soccer on the town’s playing field. Though we fancy ourselves full-time athletes, we were soundly trounced by the locals’ amazing soccer skills and ball control. We were happy to come out of the match with two goals to their six. As we drove away, a tacit agreement seemed to have been made for a rematch when we return.

We hope everyone has a great break, see you in April!
-Philly Williams

WCKA Newsletter - February 2005

February was an action-packed month at World Class. Traversing much of Ecuador we have left Tena, enjoyed Santo Domingo, and begun our discoveries of Canoa. Considering the amount of fun Ecuador has provided in the last month and a half, we look forward to the adventures March will bring.


After leaving the rusty gym, rock-strewn playing field, and wide variety of paddling in Tena, we arrived in Santo Domingo. Here we were able to continue a morning workout schedule similar to Tena’s, but unrivaled in intensity. Workouts consisted of Ultimate Frisbee on a playing field near our hotel or a continuation of our weight-training at a nearby gym. The gym was for more than pumping iron however as step aerobics classes, Tae-Bo, and salsa dancing also took place; allowing both students and teachers alike the opportunity to try alternative ways to workout. Although fun, the morning workouts were not the highlight of our athletic experience in Santo Domingo, the paddling was. Fortunately, for us river rats, the skies opened up during our stay giving us the opportunity to try several different local runs. These included the big water play waves of the Toachi and Blanco, the fast, dynamic wave on the Baba (which had an excellent class III-IV run just upstream), and some low-volume class IV on the Damas. Santo Domingo’s plethora of excellent whitewater allowed for very few repeated runs and an endless stream of adventures. For now, we are enjoying two paddling workouts a day, along with the occasional ocean swim. Our time in Canoa has only just begun and we look forward to the many athletic excitements provided at the beach.


While still in Tena we witnessed Carnival first hand. Carnival is a celebration taking place at the beginning of Lent. The school went through a week of getting pummeled by water balloons, hosed down by odd scented shaving cream, and squirted by water guns. At the end of the week, one group ventured into Tena to see what the Saturday night of Carnival was like. The night was highlighted by dancing on an empty basketball court in front of 500 Ecuadorian people, with no music as a guide and, of course, in the pouring rain. On the Final day of Carnival, some of our strongest paddlers participated in a kayak race that was included in a large festival on the banks of the Mishualli. Katie Scott won the Women’s division and Scott Ligare placed second in the Men’s behind the one and only Rescue Dan. After this excitement, everyone packed up their gear and we went from the small town atmosphere of Tena to the hustle and bustle of Santo Domingo. Since our time in Santo Domingo was short, we were only able to organize one outing which turned out to be a driving tour of the city and surrounding area, followed by lunch at a local eatery. For now, we are enjoying the relaxing atmosphere that can only be found on the beach and can only be properly accompanied by a hammock and fresh coconut milk.


Even though February was a short month, we were able to cram in our required work and then some. The classroom setting in Tena differed from the relaxing poolside atmosphere in Santo Domingo, but both worked equally well for school, allowing each class peace and quiet for their studies. The school setting has changed quite dramatically in the past few days however as classes are currently reporting in under thatched roofs, with the Pacific Ocean a stone’s throw away. While English classes are reading and writing in hammocks, physics class is researching the way light works. Geometry class is getting geared up for building sand castles on Canoa’s soft, sandy beaches and with the wind finally picking up, their specially engineered kites are ready to fly. Biology is diving into aquatic ecosystems and looking forward to dissecting crabs found along the beach. Finally, government class has been utilizing trips to Internet cafés in order to research recent demonstrations right here in Ecuador, as well as to keep up to date on the Bush White House. With so many academic opportunities available here in Canoa, it is no wonder why both students and faculty alike are firmly embedded in their studies.

Peace and love from all of us out in the races.

The Publications class: Adriene, Andrea, Katie, Mindy, Nick, Philly, and Wes

WCKA Newsletter - January 2005

After leaving the bitter winter wonderland of Denver and navigating our way through the chaos of international travel (complete with a boat-and-paddle embargo), we have settled into our cozy home at the hostel Villa Belen. Now that we have all reunited under the warm Ecuadorian sun, it seems clear that this will be one of our best semesters to date.


Even though it is still early in the semester, the students are quickly adapting to the daily routine. Since we are living in a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish class takes place 24 hours a day. Despite the hustle and bustle of Latin America, the World Literature students have been able to immerse themselves in the story of Savages, a book about the effects on indigenous culture by oil drilling in the Amazonian rainforest. The Physics and Science classes have been utilizing the diverse landscape conveniently located in our back yard by studying the motion and energy of waves. Biology labs have involved the study of pigeon-sized cockroaches and travels to the local island preserve; whereas Geometry class is still waiting for the wind to pick up so they can put their mathematically engineered kite designs to use. Finally, Calculus class is taking advantage of its 1:1 student to teacher ratio to study Riemann sums and Simpson’s Rule.


We began the new athletic year by attending the Napo River Festival and entering the downriver race. The Napo River Festival celebrates Ecuador’s Napo region and the accompanying watersheds. Organized by the Ecuadorian River Institute (, the event brings the entire river community together from the indigenous community to tourists like us. Sporting sunburns and sore muscles the next day, we took our second river trip down the Jatunyacu, a class 2-3 river with a highly entertaining hole. Our next adventure included the Mishualli which offered a wide range of difficulty from low volume boulder gardens to big water play. Immersing ourselves in the local culture, soccer has been rotated into our morning workout schedule. Access to a gym across the street also allows us to complement our cardio workouts by pumping old-school iron. January came to a close with an informal rodeo at Hatless Hole on the Jatunyacu. After official judging, Andrea and AJ were deemed the winners and awarded awesome (and very valuable) aviator sunglasses.


Tena’s small size and friendly atmosphere has allowed for full immersion into Ecuadorian culture. Activities have included the usual internet and phone runs, trips to local discothèques, as well as the beginning of a new school-wide fascination for a treat called BonIce. But we have not limited ourselves simply to Tena’s wonders. Recently, we commandeered a local bus in order to visit the famous water slides outside of nearby Archidona. The slides provided for great times (with Chris achieving the most-air award), as well as a brief spelunking expedition through the water park’s natural cave system. Additionally, we have been able to exploit our close proximity to Ecuador’s vast jungle by spending a self-guided overnighter deep in the Amazon rain forest. This allowed us to get a close up and inside look at one of the most diverse rain forests in the world. An experience that none of us will forget.

Thank you’s this month go out wholeheartedly to Matt Terry of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute and Jeff Brummel from the Crossroads Hostel for their assistance with getting our kayaks to Ecuador, along with everything else. Norma, Jekel, and the gang at the Villa Belen, you have been incredible. Dan Dixon, thanks for looking out for us, and of course Louis, Marco, and Louis Jr., we appreciate your informal Spanish lessons and excellent driving skills.

Written by Andrea, Adriene, Katie, Philly, Wes, and Mindy

WCKA Newsletter - March 2003

Attention college recruiters and caring parents: WCKA students have had no shortage of study-time during our stay at Small World Adventures in Borja, Ecuador. With classes held nearly a mile away from the daily distractions of any town, students enjoyed plenty of free time for homework. Never missing the opportunity to capitalize on project assignments, Howell recently accepted final papers discussing Mister Johnson and Catcher in the Rye for British and American Literature classes respectively. Greg’s Biology class was often spotted exploring dark doorways with flashlights during the quiet nights, in search of unusual insect species to add to a class catalogue. Whitney’s Environmental Science class enjoyed a guest lecture by local Peace Corps volunteers discussing firsthand observations of problems created by deforestation due to dairy farms, agricultural chemicals, contamination of waterways and mangrove depletion caused by shrimp farming on the South American coastline. The group also discussed the success of sustainable alternative income projects such as mushroom farming. The entire school had the opportunity to visit the communities of Bombon and El Chaco in a cultural exchange, which allowed students and teachers alike the unique experience of conversing and teaching kayaking in Spanish. Spanish classes continue breaking new ground in linguistic horizons with the introduction of reflexive verbs in Spanish II, while Spanish III/IV tackle the final frontier with the subjunctive case. Global relations have no doubt been a topic on everyone’s mind lately in this unfortunate time of war. While the WCKA group has been relatively out of touch with current events, Howell’s American Government Class had the opportunity to examine the United Nations’ role in global policy. Wendy’s World History Class spent March discussing worldwide struggles for independence during the 17th and 18th centuries, culminating in an in-class play depicting issues leading up to the American Revolution and a paper on one of Ecuador’s main revolutionary figures: Simon Bolivar. In Mathematics, students have been enjoying practical applications. Whether figuring the position of the sun in Greg’s Pre-Calculus class, estimating waterfall record heights in Scott’s Geometry class, or discovering the intricacies of the bicycle in Greg’s Physics class, it is clear that the true classroom is the world around us.
Heavy rains pumped up the volume on the fast-flowing, raging Quijos River, providing an endless playground that lent itself to daring feats of the imagination and of mischief. Upon arrival to Small World, students Aaron Rettig and Tyler Bradt anxiously eyed a new toy to explore the river’s churning chocolate hydraulics: The Shredder. A Shredder is an undersized catamaran raft, but has also been referred to as an “oversized inner tube.” The boys eagerly jumped at the opportunity to try out the toy on an exploratory mission down a section of the Upper Quijos. The journey ended in a vertical expedition (a hike out) through dense jungle slopes, an abandonment of watercraft, loss of paddle and plenty of rowdy stories ‘round the dinner table for many evenings after. Owing to the good karma of everyone involved, the boys suffered only from sore legs and bruised egos and the lost raft was shortly recovered. River running was the name of the game this month, with more than 42 miles of Class IV whitewater on the Quijos River and the classic Cosanga and Oyacachi rivers nearby, playboating was had mostly on the fly. However, head-to-head competition was at its height this month when students and staff battled one-on-one during the double elimination Borja Rapid Race. Greg’s sleek watercraft proved victorious, but Peter Rehage gave him a run for his money paddling the Space Cadet. An increase in competitive juices has spilled over to the Ultimate Frisbee fields where some students play eagerly for the chance to put the smack down on smack-talking teacher Howell Cox. The team has decided to endure a cardiovascular workout every other day combined with stretching during morning workouts, while vigorously building muscle on the alternating days with stomach and upper body strengthening circuits. The team looks forward to rest over spring break and expects to arrive rejuvenated and ready to go during the West Coast rodeo circuit in April and May.
If the ‘F’ in February stood for Fiesta, the ‘M’ in March stood for Music in world cultures. To kick off the month, some students witnessed a massive live performance complete with fireworks by international pop star Shakira in Quito. To cap the trip, WCKA witnessed the beauty and simplicity of an in-house performance by a local indigenous folk group called the ‘Huaorani’ during our last night at Small World Adventures. Although nobody can boast an autographed picture of Shakira, everyone at WCKA can claim musicians in the El Chaco-based group ‘Huaorani’ to be good friends. This month, much of our time was spent getting to know the local people and their hopes and dreams. Early on in our stay, a group of locals interested in developing river-based tourism as a source of alternative, sustainable income approached Whitney about participating in a cultural exchange to help teach local people about kayaking. Introductions to the group and the sport were made when more than 20 interested local people enthusiastically attended the Borja Rapid Race. Later that same week WCKA students and teachers got down and dirty in the rainforest to help locals in the nearby community of Bombon plant 100 trees in their village as a symbol to protect natural resources. The message to KEEP TRASH OUT OF THE RIVER rang loud and clear in the voices of a group of more than 40 local attendees to the event. Along with tree planting, students shared fast plays on the American football field, learned the pain involved in a game of traditional ‘Ecua’ volleyball, and gave daring volunteers a taste of kayaking excitement with one short ‘roll’ workshop and one full-length, how-to-paddle class. As WCKA makes its way safely across the equator to return to the United States, it is clear the positive wake left during our time in Ecuador will not go unnoticed. May peace prevail!

Special Note: It must not go unmentioned that WCKA celebrated a birthday during the month of March. Head Coach Scott Ligare turned 26 on March 10! Happy Birthday Scott!


WCKA Newsletter - February 2003

Hands-on learning has been the name of the academics game this month. At the top of the list was a full-day visit to the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. Students had an up-close look at the immense biological diversity of the region and the unique experience of walking through old-growth rainforest. The next day, Greg’s Biology class took all of the students even further into the animal planet with an exploration of a butterfly farm in Puerto Misahualli. Students were able to witness the life of a butterfly from egg to pupae, caterpillar to butterfly all in a matter of a few hours. Meanwhile, Howell’s Fine Arts class is keeping busy documenting each event for their senior capstone project: a yearbook. In addition to adventures outside the classroom, Howell’s literature classes are experiencing adventures inside the classroom as well. British Literature just finished reading Heart of Darkness, while American Literature read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While in Tena everyone had endless opportunities to test our Spanish survival skills and broaden our linguistic horizons. It was not uncommon to see Whitney leading a Spanish class to the bus station, a festival parade or even the discoteca for Spanish homework assignments. Whitney also took advantage of our location in Ecuador’s Oriente region to discuss one of the country’s hottest political issues   oil exploration and development in pristine rainforests – with students in Environmental Science. Wendy’s World History class has been able to take advantage of the local colonial and indigenous histories with numerous field trips to check out statues, churches built by Spanish missionaries and petroglyphs etched in stone nearly 4000 years ago. Greg and Scott’s math classes have been enjoying daily homework assignments, while the Physics class recently benefited in their study of buoyancy from a guest lecture and demonstration by Liquid Logic’s head boat designer Shane Benedict.
Locals say that February is a rainy month in the Oriente and this year seemed to be no exception. WCKA athletes took advantage of the swollen Jatunyacu, Napo and Upper Misahualli rivers for stomping afternoon runs. Sticky holes turned into smooth, fast waves and once dry boulders transformed into powerful pourovers. High water brought out a hidden feature on the Rio Napo where the athletes spent several afternoons polishing their airborne acrobatics, finally culminating in a highly energized Big Trick Contest. Rush Sturges soared to new heights taking first place while Lane Jacobs took second and Ivan’s huge entry loop secured a third place finish. Consistent water levels also allowed the group to venture to the classic Rio Jondachi two weekends in a row. Recently, training has a new base on the western side of the Andes in Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Santo Domingo has proven to be a Mecca for quality whitewater exploration. In the past 7 days the group has paddled 6 different rivers and the list is nowhere near exhausted. In addition to endless river running opportunities, WCKA athletes have found a new hydraulic for rodeo training on the clean and warm Rio Baba. The team seems psyched to have such incredible boating so close to our new headquarters, where there is even a swimming pool to practice flatwater tricks after river runs. In addition to river workouts, the group continues to wake with the roosters every morning for either stretching, strength or cardiovascular endurance training.

Happy early Carnaval everyone! Carnaval, officially beginning on March 1st, is traditionally the biggest one-week celebration of the year in Catholic countries. It is often characterized by dressing in costume, parades, fiestas and large-scale water fights! WCKA students have begun preparation early by making time each afternoon to arm ourselves with the proper ammunition for shuttles to the river: WATER BALLOONS! It seemed the “F” in February stood for Fiesta. Whether we were witnessing one of the many beauty pageants, concerts, talent shows, parades, the ceremony of a traditional Spanish bullfight or the mystique in a traditional cockfight, WCKA had the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with local cultures during the annual Festival of the Napo held in Tena. WCKA also celebrated two birthdays, thanks to Lane Jacobs and Rush Sturges, this month with pizza parties, cake and ice cream. As February comes to a close, students prepare themselves for a concert featuring one of Ecuador’s most beloved pop stars: Shakira on Feb. 28, before the group relocates to Small World Adventures in Borja. Stay tuned for the exciting details next month!

WCKA Newsletter - January 2003

Spring semester began on the 13th with a flight to Ecuador. The program will remain in Ecuador for the next two and a half months taking full advantage of the educational opportunities the country has to offer, the first being plenty of exposure to Spanish. Whitney is in Spanish teacher heaven, happy to help anyone in their pursuit of the language. Lately, she finds her classes containing both WCKA teachers and students. Always encouraging us to take a chance speaking with the local Ecuadorians, Whitney is pleased the group lives so closely with the family who owns the Hostel Villa Belen where we are currently staying. Several students are taking their study of the language so seriously they have sought extra help from some of the local girls with their conversational skills. Spanish isn’t the only subject thriving in the Ecuadorian environment however. Both Biology and Environmental Science students are making connections to their coursework by living and paddling at the headwaters of the Amazon which provides the diversity of the tropical rainforest and its communities. In addition to Ecuador, spring semester has brought changes to the WCKA team. We are proud to have Shawn Byron, from the San Francisco area, join the rest of our seniors as the first class to graduate from World Class Academy in May. WCKA also has two new staff members this semester. Wendy Lautner, originally from Michigan, will be using her background in geography and journalism to teach world history. Wendy comes to us after having recently completed an internship at PADDLER magazine and her upbeat attitude is a welcome addition. Scott Ligare, from Park City, UT, will be putting his environmental engineering degree to use teaching geometry. Wendy, Scott L., and Shawn have all matched perfectly with the hard working team to make WCKA the valuable learning experience it is.
The coaching staff for this semester will be Scott Ligare and Whitney Lonsdale. Scott Ligare is taking over for Scott Doherty because of Doherty’s need to return to Montana to manage the office while Erika studies for the bar exam. As a nationally ranked AWF pro and Dagger Team D member, Scott Ligare will be an excellent addition. Ligare has been paddling for ten years with his past five summers spent on the Trinity River in California working as a river ranger. Along with Scott’s experience in kayaking he brings to the World Class coaching program over ten years of competitive ski racing experience in Park City. Workouts in Ecuador have started with daily training on the Jatunyacu river, as well as morning workouts on the soccer field and in the weight room across the street from Villa Belen. A favorite spot on the Jatunyacu is Hatless Hole, where the Napo River Festival is held every year. The first team trials rodeo of the semester was held there on the 24th with Lane, Ivan, and Petey securing spots on the A-team. During the first weekend of the semester the group took advantage of a day without classes to paddle the Lower Mishualli, a river run through the jungle with blue morpho butterflies (see at along the way and monkeys at the take out.
Getting to know the local culture has been the primary activity of this month. Upon our arrival we witnessed Quito, Ecuador’s largest city. Quito is located in the Andean mountain range and was traditionally a stronghold of the Incan empire. The people of this region have notably different customs and features than those of the Amazon rainforest where Tena is located. In Tena the tropical climate slows things down and one sees influences from indigenous cultures such as the Huaorani Indians who have gained recognition through their struggle to maintain tradition against the influence of oil interests (see Savages by Joe Kane). For evening entertainment and further cultural immersion, the group has taken the time to check out several of Tena’s discotechas and karaoke establishments featuring salsa dancing and Latino pop. Further activities being planned are a trip to the Parque de Amazonica, an island refuge in Tena, housing many of the native plant and animal species, as well as a jungle trip. The jungle trip will take students and staff into the rainforest for an overnight excursion displaying methods of subsistence living in native cultures.

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