Gone Boarding: Catching Waves, Shredding Snow, and Getting Gnarly


Abby Scutch, Editor in Chief

Longboarding. Wakeboarding. Surfing. Paddle boarding. Snowboarding. Skiing. These are all activities that senior students have the opportunity to be a part of in FHC’s two-hour block class Gone Boarding instructed by woodworking teacher Robert Miedema.

Gone Boarding has several components to its curriculum, including the making of several boards, each for a different activity, as well as going off campus to actually use them.


After taking woodworking classes with Miedema in the past prior to Gone Boarding, senior Mark Scannell made the decision to join this unique class.

This class is a ton of fun,” Mark said.  “I enjoy each of the activities that we do, including the work days, but it makes it more fun when you are in a class with people that share the same interests as you do.”

This semester, Mark’s favorite moment was going to Grand Haven to surf in Lake Michigan for the first time. According to him, the waves were “massive,” making him both anxious and excited to attempt to catch a wave with his classmates.

A common trait in Miedema’s students is being hardworking because the students put energy, dedication, and a lot of work into their projects.


“Some days are daunting and difficult, but when they pass project milestones or when their board is complete, they will always remember the hard work they put in and the pride in their project that they got out of it.” Miedema said. “Getting pitted in the waves while surfing in Lake Michigan, carrying paddle boards a few hundred yards to the river, and trying to get up on a wakeboard at the cable park takes a lot of hard work and determination from my students.”  


Besides surfing in Grand Haven, the Gone Boarding students have paddle boarded in the Thornapple and Grand Rivers, longboarded at Roselle and Millennium Park, and wakeboarded at Action Wave Park in Hudsonville. In the near future, the class plans to both ski and snowboard at Cannonsburg.

“The collision and intertwining of building cool things and doing cool things and then passing that passion on to my students and watching their passions grow is what I love about this class,” Miedema said. “I gain a new appreciation for this generation of students, and especially for seniors. It might be how their eyes light up when they think that their board is almost done or hearing them say that surfing during school is one of the most fun things they have ever done.”

Miedema said he is also inspired by how well some of the students’ board have turned out because it inspires him to become better himself.

Senior Mark Scannell catches a wave in Grand Haven.
Senior Mark Scannell catches a wave in Grand Haven.

Morally, Miedema is teaching students to have a solid work ethic. He believes that is a common thread for several of classes, not just Gone Boarding.

“I grew up in a blue collar home and qualities like a strong work ethic and a job well done have been woven pretty deep into the fabric of who I am,” Miedema said. “We teach that, but we also lead by example. Problem solving is a big life lesson for students to learn.”

When Gone Boarding students build their boards, they are constantly needing to solve problems to figure out how to correct an error or figure out the next step. Miedema and PE teacher Ian Hearn, who co-teaches Gone Boarding at FHC, FHE, and FHN, are leading the students through that process.

“Getting them to step up and take responsibility in keeping their group on task or getting to third hour on time are life skills they are learning and using everyday,” Miedema said. “Throughout their life, they are going to run into problems and have difficult things to work through. We are preparing them for that. I am sure every student will look at a surfboard or a snowboard in a completely different way after building their own.”


As said, students build, create, and design their boards. Mark’s inspiration for his woodworks comes from his love of sports. This year, he is especially excited to make skis. He believes that this project will be very difficult, but because of his die-hard passion for skiing, his effort will be worth it in the end.

“Mr. Miedema is a great teacher and influence,” Mark said. “He is really good with helping us out in the shop while we are building our boards, but he also gets out there and does all the activities with us. He’s a really cool guy who shares a passion for action sports and building things.”

During Miedema’s childhood, he was an avid skier since he was about ten-years old. He built his own skis a few years back and is really appreciative as to how they ride. Miedema has taken several ski trips out West and has ridden a handful of powder days, or the day after a fresh, heavy snowfall in the mountains. Also, Miedema is remodeling his old 1903 farmhouse and building for furniture for it, too. Lastly, he began surfing with last year’s Gone Boarding class.

Gone Boarding students from FHC, FHE, and FHN go to Burton Snowboards Headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.

“The thrill of catching a good wave with the ultra cold water spraying your face is such a rush,” Miedema said.

According to Miedema, this class comes with a deeper level because it’s especially different with the community built among students. The students have chosen to work in an environment where they are “green” at riding a surfboard as they are building one.

“[Students] all work together in the shop with little to no prior knowledge and will complete the semester with a board under their arm and a ton of rich experiences and meaningful problem solving skills that they have acquired without very much ‘seat time’ in a classroom,” Miedema said. “The class is all hands on, and in my opinion and in my experience, there is not a better way to learn.”

FHC Gone Boarding students go paddle boarding in the Thornapple and Grand Rivers.

In all, Miedema believes in the power of grit, problem solving, dedication to completing a task, lifelong fitness, confidence to try new things, a sense of community, and teamwork with other classmates.

“It’s such a cool feeling to paddle for a wave, stand on the board and paddle that wave, and get gnarly,” Mark said. “This class makes my senior year very enjoyable, and I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have from being in Gone Boarding.”

fullsizerender-4With opportunities to build several unique boards, travel to several places in West Michigan to use those boards, and #dreamitbuilditshredit, Gone Boarding is unlike any other class offered at FHC.

“It’s an amazing class to be a part of a teach,” Miedema said. “It’s also an incredible opportunity for students to take a block class and learn in a completely different environment. Learning by doing yields much greater results and this class is no exception.”