Paddleboard composition class standing with paddles and boards for photo.

Paddleboarding Composition—An English Class Like Nothing Else

It’s a beautiful day. As you walk along a wooded path, the sun shines down through the trees and big white fluffy clouds float delicately across the blue sky above. The path moves away from the woods and your bare feet suddenly come to a halt in the sand beside a clear, flowing river. Tucked underneath your arm, a long, carbon board rests, but you drop it gently down beside you. With hands on hips, you assess the water’s movements and tighten the life vest that comfortably hugs you.

Others start to join you by the water’s edge as you all get ready to push off. With a paddle in your left hand, you lift the back of the board with your right and walk until your knees are surrounded by flowing water. Before long has passed, you crawl up to a kneel on the board and begin slicing the water with the paddle. The closer you are to the middle of the river, the more comfortable you start to feel; you plant your feet flat in the middle of the carbon and stand tall above the water. Things are shaky at first, but a balance is found and eventually time is all but lost as you propel the board against the current. Eventually you hear the voice of your professor calling you back to the shore to end the day. All around, fellow students paddle back with you away from the center of the river; laughs and smiles abundant with every stroke.

Yes, you read that right. This little description is just one aspect of a new English course at Plymouth State University focused on Stand Up Paddleboarding. If you are tired of sitting in a lecture-style English class where you are taught the same things year after year, then you ought to try signing up for this. Since you’re coming to Plymouth State there is definitely at least a little nature-hippie in you, and this class allows that side to grow exponentially! Even if you just generally appreciate nature, this is an incredible way to experience the water in an intimate way. You have the freedom of exploration and observation in a very peaceful, beautiful area of New Hampshire. The best part is whether or not you already know how to paddleboard is out of the question. There is an excellent professor and assistant teachers to show you all the ways of the board.

Though it can’t all be on the water, even the in-class experience is far different. Since I was part of the pilot class, some things may change by the time that others have the chance to participate, but nonetheless it is a variant from the academic norm. Here you won’t be writing essays all the time or doing repetitive grammatical work. Instead you get to design the class and create new research projects that actually apply to the world, like the book we are publishing this year! Your writing will improve by documenting your experiences in journals, writing drafts of your SUP research, creating scripts to reveal at a conference all about paddleboarding, and so much more.

Hope to see you out there on the water bettering your writing skills and having an incredible time!

Editor’s Note: Spring 2019 Cluster Composition courses feature 20 great topics, including skiing, mountaineering, and video games.

Jacob Brien is a first-year student at Plymouth State University who is studying social studies education. He hopes for his degree to lead him to a position teaching history, psychology, and government to New England high school students. Being an avid nature lover, he spends the majority of his time hiking, skiing, surfing, boarding, and exploring. In addition, he loves travelling around the world to experience new cultures and studying the complexity of the human mind.