Students prepare for river challenge
River guide Pat Fried shouted orders as she sat on the stern of a large inflatable raft, using her paddle as a rudder to steer. She commanded the four students riding in the raft to paddle forward and paddle they did, vigorously, moving the boat through the water.
But it was not the water of a river, rather the chlorinated water of the Carson Valley Swim Center where 18 special education students from Carson Valley and Pau Wa Lu middle schools and Douglas High School were learning about water safety Tuesday morning in preparation of an upcoming river trip.
“Last year was a trial, but they had such a good time we had to do it again and add more,” said Jeff Hendricks, adaptive physical education teacher for Douglas County School District.
Last year, Hendricks teamed up with Fried, who owns and operates Great Basin Sports, a white water rafting, kayaking and snowshoe outfitter and guide service that organizes trips down the Carson River, among other things. Fried’s daughter Molly is a special education student and senior at Douglas High School.
“We do kayaking in spring and summer if the river is high enough,” said Pat Fried. “A real easy class-one section in Carson City. In the winter we take them snowshoeing.”
Hendricks said that last year they went snowshoeing in Hope Valley even though one of the students was in a wheelchair.
“We pulled him along in a sled,” Hendricks said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to participate regardless of their disability.”
Fried said that at the pool the students were practicing their boating skills and learning about safety equipment: Properly fitting life jackets, helmets, and techniques to get back in a boat if gone overboard.
“Stay real low,” said Great Basin outfitter Chuck Campbell, as he instructed Molly how to get back onto an inflatable Kayak she had purposely flipped over for the exercise.
She and the other students were in the rear pool of the swim center near the water slide, taking turns in the four-person raft to practice paddling with Fired, and experimenting with their own Kayaks in preparation of their future river run.
“The students will also be going to Sand Harbor this summer and using hobies, which are small pedal-powered sailboats,” said Fried.
Towards the end of the training, life guards turned on the water slides, creating small rapids near the edge of the pool. Students got on their kayaks and were pushed into the rapids by Fried and Campbell. The students hollered and laughed as the rapids tipped over their boats. If the rapids didn’t cause a turnover, then Fried and Campbell manually flipped the boats over, forcing the students to learn the safety techniques they had practiced.
Molly drifted into the rapid and was flipped over. She surfaced giggling, and got back on the Kayak, but only after leaping out of the water to give her instructors high- fives.