written by Health and Exercise Studies Lecturer Scott Schneider
“Is that a tire?” asked Wen.
“I’m not sure, but lets check it out,” I replied.
We continued paddling towards the black impediment sticking out about one foot above the water line. Three of my North Carolina State University Basic Canoeing students and I were enjoying an exploratory paddle on Centennial campus’s Lake Raleigh. This beautiful 75-acre lake was our training location all semester long. Every Wednesday morning my class of twelve students would meet for two hours and practice strokes such as: the draw, pry, forward, goon, J, duffek, cross duffek, sweeps and other skills in anticipation of our end of the semester field trip. The previous week we ran a section of a local river (Neuse River) and put our skills to the test. Upon the completion of the trip and the course, three of my students ask if we could continue paddling every week on Lake Raleigh until it was too cold to paddle. How could one refuse such a request? All semester the students noticed and commented that there was lots of trash on the edges of the lake. The students picked up bottles and cans throughout the semester, but they wanted to take on a bigger challenge.
“It’s a tire alright, a huge tire!” exclaimed Ryan.
“How did that get all the way back here?” asked Taylor.
“That is a great question,” I replied.
“Is it ok if we try and get it out of here?” they all asked.
“Let’s do it!” we collectively smiled.
We didn’t know how much we had taken on until an hour later when all four of us had finally pulled, pushed, lifted the 200 plus pound 4’ construction tire onto one of the canoe’s gunwales. Soaked and muddy up to our chests, we now had to get the tire completely out of the lake. The wind picked up as we paddled creating small waves. The heavy tire limited the canoe’s freeboard and the minimal stability only made it more adventurous. Cautiously and powerfully we employed forward strokes and J strokes. Laughing helped our anxiety as we progressed. We quietly hoped after all the hard work we could actually make it back to the boat ramp without capsizing and leaving the tire behind in deeper water. Relieved, as our skid plates dragged onto the ramp we all cheered and embraced with high fives, hugs and laughter revisiting our previous struggles.
Driving away from the lake I asked why they wanted to get the tire out.
“It was the right thing to do. This is such a great spot we have on campus and we need to take care of it,” Taylor said.
It wasn’t until further reflection that I realized how powerful this simple act of service was for the students and myself. It wasn’t something the students had to do because of a grade requirement. They chose to give back to the lake with this seemingly simple act of service because they had gotten to know and love this lake. These four students inspired me to add this service component to my future canoeing and backpacking courses that I teach. I hope the students and I can continue to be inspired by the beautiful places we travel in and continue to be inspired by the people we get to share these experiences and landscapes with.
Photo above, (Left to Right): Taylor Gregory (Majoring in Biology with a minor in Outdoor Leadership), Wen Lin (PhD student in Forestry and Environmental Resources), and Ryan Farlow (Majoring in Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering)