World Class Kayak Academy
The focus of the Missoula based World Class Kayak Academy is hard core white water kayaking. This school has produced some of the biggest names in the sport today, and it’s still going strong as a powerhouse program and fully accredited high school.That’s right- this is no summer program (although they are offered) or semester abroad (although you’re welcome to stay for just one semester.) WCKA is a four year high school that just happens to base its classes on the river banks of Chile, Costa Rica, Canada and beyond. In the morning, students learn your basic high school curriculum with a dreamy student teacher ratio- maybe you’re the only one in the class, maybe there’s two or three more.”Electives” include whitewater rescue, travel photography and video production. In the afternoon, on weekends- basically every second not spent in class- the school drops serious waterfalls and runs serious rivers, including class five rapids. This school has sent countless graduates to colleges, churned out medal-and-sponsor-heavy pro boaters, dominates the casts of whitewater porn, and, yes, has suffered one drowning.
Patagonia Gap Year Abroad
WCKA’s one time rival, New River Academy, recently transitioned into a gap year program based in Pucon, Chile. Students at Patagonia Gap Year Abroad enjoy riverside lodging and cultural immersion in the waterfall capitol of the world. Schooling includes creative writing, spanish immersion and video production. If you’ve ever wondered how these young huckers create such professionally produced promo videos, it’s because they learned it here. The emphasis at PGYA is safety on the water: the class begins with a Wilderness First Responder class and continues with whitewater and technical rope rescue, a good thing for a crew of nineteen year old, go-pro studded kids hucking the notorious upper Palguin instead of playing intramural soccer.
The Kroka Semester School, a New England based survival school, may be the most unbelievable program available to high schoolers- or anybody– today. The semester begins in January for a month of expedition preparation: navigation, astrology, food preservation and wilderness medicine are just a few of what’s offered every day. In February and March, students ski three hundred miles over the spine of Vermont’s wickedly cold green mountains, sleeping each night on beds of pine boughs in homemade canvas tent. April is spent at a semi permanent camp, where activities include studying local culture, building cedar canoes and hand forging paddles. The students then head South, and return home on the spring surge of snow fed rivers. Geology, hydropower, fire by friction, tool forging and hand made moccasins are all thrown in the mix, just to keep it interesting.
The Traveling School
The traveling School is just what it sounds like- a school that lives by the rules of an international adventure road trip. But what makes this program really special is that it’s only for girls. High school gals can now ditch the insecurities of the teen years for the greener pastures of Africa, South America or Central America. Outdoor sports include technical mountaineering (on Andean peaks) yoga (in the sand of the Sahara Desert) whitewater rafting (on Ecuadorian rapids) and climbing (on South American limestone.) The school is fully accredited, but, unfortunately for all participants, it’s only offered for one semester.