Crow students roll through semester on skateboards they made themselves

7 06 2017


Crow students spent months building their own skateboards. They tested them out at Washington Jefferson Park in Eugene Tuesday, May 6, 2017 with help from the City of Eugene River House Outdoor Center skateboard instructors.

Crow Middle/High School is incorporating skateboards into classes.

Students are celebrating the end of a semester-long project with a ride at Washington Jefferson Park.

Teachers said the project used techniques from math to art to teach kids how to create their own skateboard.

“It’s pretty cool that we get to, like, make them in school and stuff ‘cause most schools don’t have the opportunity since they’re so big they can’t do the classes like these,” said Olivia Clark, a ninth grade student at Crow Middle/High School.

They said since the project began, more than 20 students have been staying longer in class and skipping lunch to put together their project.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Oregon Country Fair.

“Doing math and science and they don’t even know it. It becomes part of the thing; that’s the way real life is and you can’t fake it with these kids,” said Tina Dwoarakowski, a teacher at Crow Middle/High School. “You know they know when you’re giving them busy work. They know that it’s got to be the real deal; it’s got to be authentic.”

Teachers said they plan to continue this project for years in the future.

From: KVAL 13 news broadcast

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ACA Swiftwater Rescue Experience

2 06 2017

live bait

If I had to identify with just one sport, it would be cycling. I’m an instructor for Bike Safety Education and Mountain Bike Adventure summer camps through the River House Outdoor Center. I raced extensively for seven years, two at the national level, and worked at bike shops for several years.  I have taught numerous bike skills clinics. When it comes to biking, I know my stuff.

That is not the case with river sports. While I have enjoyed some time rafting, canoeing, SUP’ing, or just hanging out and playing in the water, I’m a total beginner at all river and paddle sports. The truth is, the river scares me a little. I have never been very sure of what’s going on under that blue shimmer and white splashes, so I have remained hesitant to get completely obsessed with any river sport. I tried learning to kayak years ago, and just couldn’t get the roll down, so I gave up.

This will be my first summer working for the River House, and I plan to utilize all the opportunities available to me to expand my knowledge and add to my skills. Oregon offers so many awesome rivers, full fun activity and adventure, so I set for myself the goal to learn more skills and become proficient in a variety of river activities. A big first step was taking a Swiftwater Rescue certification class through American Canoe Association (ACA). I had to miss a few great mountain bike rides, but dedicating my weekend to personal growth and education was absolutely worth it!

Our instructor, Marciel Bieg, also a River House employee, started by laying the groundwork and philosophy—our priorities when doing a rescue. Number one, don’t become another victim! Just a few hours in the classroom covered all the basics. Then we learned to use throw ropes on dry land. By afternoon we were practicing rescue techniques in a rapid near the Autzen Footbridge.

On day two we learned a variety of anchor systems and mechanical advantage systems. My knowledge of rock climbing anchors really helped here, but even those with little experience learned to create safe anchors from a variety of materials. Then we piled on a bus and took to Row River to practice our skills.

We floated down a small rapid, practiced throw ropes and live bait rescue techniques. One of my favorite parts was trying to wade across the swift-moving river. It was a huge challenge, and I found myself floating downstream, never making it to the other side. We crossed with partners, and even rescued a “victim” as a group.

This experience helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence in the river. I am now able to advance my skills and knowledge of rafting and SUP’ing, knowing that I can handle whatever situation arises and help keep myself and the people around me safe.

This course is not just for professional guides. Literally ANYONE spending time in and around the river—it’s Eugene, so that’s pretty much everyone—would benefit from taking a Swiftwater Rescue course, or some kind of river safety education material our course.

I’m looking forward to an awesome summer full of mountain biking and river adventures!

-Misha Fuller

(The River House Instructor Development Fund makes money available for staff to use to better their skills through classes and training. In return the River House receives highly skilled staff and blog posts describing their experiences.)


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Swift Water Rescue Training

28 02 2017

swiftWith all the luck of the sky and the mountains, the storms have returned gifting us all with an abundance of sleet, snow pack, and rain drops.  The essence of life.  Thanks to an intricate and unexplainable series of fortunate events, I find myself granted the opportunity to travel into the heart of the forest and mountains; to travel into the river itself.  What’s more is the unexplainable magic of the opportunity to take part in the re-creation of the experience and adventure within the lives of others, from all walks of life, by means of a sea worthy whitewater raft.  Though simple in concept, these adventures and undertakings of which hold the power to shape shift lives and worlds, are also undeniably counterbalanced by the weight of risk.

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Is Nature the Key to Rehabilitating Prisoners?

5 12 2016


Once released, the formerly incarcerated face a daunting set of challenges­—a job, a place to live, and, most urgently, breaking the cycle of bad friends and bad habits that can lead to more prison time. Now scientists and activists are asking whether nature may be essential to helping them build new lives.

The linked article from Outside Magazine features our long time instructor Jen Jackson who also runs the mentorship program at Sponsors, an organization in Eugene that helps the formerly incarcerated relearn life beyond prison.

As a lover of the outdoors and the happiness it can bring to one’s life; I can only guess it could do wonders for others that are lost in the negatives that have gotten them in the correctional system.  The article highlights some successes and challenges in creating such a program; currently the only one in the nation.

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House on the River

23 05 2016

 Eugene’s River House celebrates 50 years

Eugene's River House

Eugene’s River House

Ah, Eugene, “a great city for the arts and outdoors,” especially if you have the right gear, training and financial means to actually get down and dirty in the area’s natural wonders.

One factor for enjoying the outdoors is having access in the first place. The Eugene Rec Outdoor Program provides just that for Eugeneans, and the organization’s 50th anniversary is right around the corner.

Originally established by clean-water advocate Mel Jackson and the city of Eugene in the late 1960s, the outdoor program later was expanded by the Eugene Parks and Rec department. The group eventually acquired the nickname River House, seeing as the building is smack dab on the river. Canoeing, rock-climbing, white-water rafting and other activities have been added to the program’s activity list over time, and accessibility for the courses is a consistent factor for the River House team.

“We have a goal of making our program inclusive and accessible to anyone wanting to participate,” says program supervisor Roger Bailey, who’s been with River House for nearly 30 years. Bailey says he’s seen the positive community influence that accessible outdoor programs offer. “That is our mission,” Bailey says, “to help people grow and to help make this community a better place to live.”

For Bailey, this means approaching courses with “cultural respect, accountability, honesty and integrity.” He says more energy is going towards focusing on financial accessibility, and a youth sailing course provided by the outdoor program was recently able to share scholarships for low-income children.

“Every walk of life comes here to take our programs,” Bailey explains. River House programs provide people with, as he puts it, skills that need to be learned outside of school or work. Whether you’re feeling like honing your outdoorsy side in town or want to put some spur-of-the-moment REI purchase to the test out in the forest, the program has activities for all levels, and few exceed a $40 price tag — not to mention the handful of courses that are free to the public.

The River House’s 50th-anniversary celebration will be 4 to 7 pm Saturday, July 23, at 301 N. Adams Street, with food, circus arts, cake, kayaks and paddle boards provided at the event; more info at

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Being prepared: Taking a Wilderness First Responder Course

12 04 2013
Photo Credit: Lena Conlan/WMI of NOLS

Photo Credit: Lena Conlan/WMI of NOLS

Spring break for most is a time to celebrate and enjoy free time, but for a small group spring break meant waking up at seven a.m. and being in class by eight. Why? Because we wanted to become WFR’s. For those not familiar with the term WFR, it stands for Wilderness First Responder and is a first aid certification like no other. Most first aid classes focus on the basics, setting students up to be prepared for minor injuries in an urban setting. The WFR class is an eighty hour course that prepares its students to deal with injuries and illnesses in the backcountry. Taught by NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), the WFR certification has become an industry standard and has improved the safety of trips lead by outdoor educators.

Photo Credit: David Anderson/NOLS

Photo Credit: David Anderson/NOLS

Taking the WFR is an undertaking of its own, it means committing to the eighty hour course, and for some City of Eugene River House staff it meant giving up spring break. The first day we met at 7:45 a.m., and next thing we knew it was day two and we were doing scenarios.  Scenarios were used to teach us how to assess patients, plan for their care and record important details about the patient. We had the opportunity to have our scenarios near the Life Flight landing area which provided an exciting element when the Life Flight helicopter was taking off or landing.

The first scenarios were fun, and all of our practice patients were conveniently found lying on their backs, in the perfect patient position, which gave us the ability to easily assess them. By day four things changed, we went outside to find our patients and at first we could not. They were not lying on the grass or sidewalk, we looked around at each other wondering where the instructors had put our patients. Sensing our confusion the instructors pointed to the bushes lining the area we were standing in, as we approached the bushes we could see our patients, not conveniently placed on the grass and certainly not in the perfect patient position. Luckily for our patients we had spent the morning practicing rolls and carries that would protect their spines. We clambered into the bushes and proceed to carefully remove our patients, while the extraction and assessment went well, all of us had splinters from the mulch for the next few days. A reminder that patients don’t always lie down in the grass and get into the perfect patient position before having a medical emergency.

Throughout the class we were challenged to think critically and to use the information we had been taught to deal with unique situations. Overall the course provided an excellent understanding of the challenges we would face should medical issues arise in the back-country as well as how to handle issues and provide high quality care. While we may have given up our spring break, the information we learned is highly valuable and as summer approaches we feel ready to play outside knowing that if someone should have a medical emergency we are prepared to offer them a high level of care.

Written by Althea Sullivan

To learn more about the WFR visit their website:

To learn more about NOLS visit their website:

To learn about the history of NOLS and founder Paul Petzoldt (please watch this video):

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Paddle board yoga makes waves Yoga-on-the-water classes calming and challenging

1 03 2013

Written By: Kathleen Kenna Special to the Star, Published on Fri Aug 24 2012

What do you call two Toronto women who standup paddle board on Lake Ontario in winter?


Fitness studio owner Gudrun Hardes, 48, and marathoner Diana Turnbull, 47, met on the lake and decided to start a stand up paddleboard (SUP) business.

It just made sense: “We’re out there in our wetsuits in December and January — the only two idiots on the water — and we figured we’re enjoying this so much, let’s do it the rest of our lives,” Hardes recalls.

By May they had opened WSUP, and Hardes, who has been doing yoga for 15 years, was experimenting with doing asanas (yoga postures) on a paddle board as well. They soon launched yoga-on-the-water classes at The Beach.

“People just love it,” says Hardes. “It’s really picking up everywhere.”

Gudrun Hardes (second from left) and students do yoga on stand-up paddle boards on Lake Ontario.

Gudrun Hardes (second from left) and students do yoga on stand-up paddle boards on Lake Ontario.

WSUP has had students aged 8 to 72 since it began offering paddle board yoga at two locations (Woodbine and Balmy Beach) this summer.

“People wanted a little more, as soon as they started ‘getting their legs,’” Hardes says. “With paddle boarding, you get really tight in the legs, so it’s a nice stretch after being out on the board.

“It really helps with your balance; it makes you focus more, and helps improve your posture.”

Yoga paddle boarding involves vinyasa postures, from the sun salutation to lunges. “I do it just for the feel-good aspect,” Hardes says. “Being on the water is so calming; people just gravitate to water naturally.”

Hardes, who can do some of the most difficult yoga poses on a board — including headstands — says she has started introducing subtle yoga moves in her regular paddleboard classes too. “When the water is nice and calm, it helps stretch you out — but it’s not a yoga class,” she stresses.

Paddle boarding is like surfing but more gentle, she adds. Add yoga and “it becomes a real social event. We’re getting a lot more groups who want to try paddleboard yoga.”

As proof, she cites a recent booking: Toronto’s Meet Market Adventures singles’ group.

“Men usually want a private lesson first, because they don’t want to fall in the water in front of a woman.”

Paddleboard yoga removes that concern, because poses are done slowly and with core-building strength and balance.

Kyhiera Machado, a yoga instructor in Santa Cruz, Calif., shows the ease of balancing on a paddle board.

Kyhiera Machado, a yoga instructor in Santa Cruz, Calif., shows the ease of balancing on a paddle board.

There’s some dispute about the origins of paddle board yoga, with both Florida and California claiming that title. Canadian travellers taking classes at resorts from the South Pacific to South America began demanding paddle board yoga at home. Hardes tried it in Spain in May, before starting on Lake Ontario.

“Paddle boarding is the fastest-growing water sport in the world,” says longtime instructor Neil Pearlberg, owner of Santa Cruz Stand Up Paddle Board in California.

He says his son, Quinn, pioneered yoga on the water in 2009 when he was 17 after getting bored teaching an all-women paddle boarding classes at an upscale club in San Jose.

Pearlberg says he expected few takers when he started the classes — but had to call in Quinn as a backup teacher when 60 women showed up.

“After an hour, Quinn says, ‘Dad, I’m bored.’ He doesn’t want to be on the flat water with a bunch of women — he’s a surfer!”

But Pearlberg insisted, so Quinn made his job more interesting by leading students in poses he had learned at yoga classes with his mother.

“We’re in the middle of this lake and he’s doing downward dog, and all my students are saying they want to try that, too.”

Demand soared when Pearlberg began offering classes at outdoor pools later that year.

“Women don’t want to get cold, they don’t want to be in a 50-degree harbour, and they don’t want to know what’s on the bottom of the ocean,” he said. “They want to be in warm water.”

“You don’t have to be good at yoga,” Pearlberg says. “You can be injured (disabled); you can be overweight. If you can sit on a board, you can do it.”

When Pearlberg began classes in 2009, yoga instructors told him “You’re out of your mind,” because they were doubtful that paddle boarders would take to it, he says. “Now, we have classes all over the Bay area.”

Artist Kyhiera Miller, a certified yoga teacher, is among his instructors. Asked about the appeal of yoga on water, the 43-year-old has a one-word reply: “Bliss.”

WSUP classes are $25 for one session; $100 for five; $180 for 10. For more information, contact or call Gudrun Hardes at 416-834-5801 or Diana Turnbull at 416-725-7735.

Original article:

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