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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Gone Boarding exposes students to unique experiences they cannot get from any other class

Bill Curtis
(From left to right) Seniors Maya Sneider, Madi Evans, and Eisley Sandefur while surfing in Grand Haven.

During one of the weekly excursions with the Forest Hills Northern Gone Boarding class, senior Sam Wordhouse and FHN senior Jaden Polizzi strayed away from the group while wakeboarding and discovered something that would change the course of their day.

“Jaden had the idea of going halfway around the wake park [to where] there’s this big inflatable structure on the other half,” Sam explained. “So, we let go of the rope when we got to that side [and] rode to this inflatable, and we were just playing on it. And then, like 10 minutes later, half the class is playing on this thing [with us].”

Gone Boarding is a course geared strictly toward teaching students how to build their own boards—longboards, surfboards, paddleboards, etc.—alongside being taught how to do board-related activities. The class has gone to Grand Haven on multiple occasions to learn how to surf, they go out and longboard regularly, and soon, when it gets snowier, they will also go snowboarding.

The course was created 12 years ago by Gone Boarding teacher Bill Curtis. He currently teaches the class with Scott Kemperman. At that point, the class did not exist at all anywhere in the country. With the strenuous help of his students over the course of two years, he got the class up and rolling.

[Gone Boarding is] the coolest class I’ve ever taken. You get an aspect of being in the class and building something, but also doing things that you’ve never done before and a bunch of fun activities.

— Eisley Sandefur

“I’d been teaching for probably eight years at the time,” Curtis said, “and [I felt as if] school felt a little bit like prison to kids in terms of like, it wasn’t really what they wanted to do. So, it was almost like they were punching a time clock to come in and punching a time clock to go out and then literally run out of the building to go do what they wanted to do. So, I started asking kids, ‘What would make school more fun?’ And that [was] the start of Gone Boarding.”

Since then, there are now schools all across the country that offer Gone Boarding to their students. Not only did Curtis help to improve the experience of high schoolers in the building in which he worked, but his efforts spread nationwide. 

Knowing that he has positively impacted the lives of so many students is a surreal feeling, and Curtis will forever hold onto that.

“I mean, it’s cool because I see the impact that we’re able to have on kids here just with the program,” Curtis said. “So to know that we’re able to make that impact with not only other kids but other teachers around the country is [so] cool.”

Speaking in more local terms, Gone Boarding is offered to all three Forest Hills high schools, but it is taught strictly at FHN. For a while, FHC also offered it, but starting last year, it switched to just being at FHN. 

Of course, for FHC students, the commute can definitely be a con at times, especially on one-hour delay days. However, for senior Eisely Sandefur, the pros will forever outweigh the cons. She views the drive over to the other school as a mini field trip every day; plus, it is a change of scenery with plenty of new friends and experiences.

“[Gone Boarding is] the coolest class I’ve ever taken,” Eisley said. “You get an aspect of being in the class and building something, but also doing things that you’ve never done before and a bunch of fun activities.”

This semester, both Sam and Eisley are working on their longboards and surfboards. While Sam is not signed up for the class second semester, Eisley is already planning on making another surfboard, but out of wood, rather than styrofoam like the one she is making right now.

Senior Eisley Sandefur and Gone Boarding teacher Scott Kemperman working on her surfboard.

Unlike typical classes, the projects in Gone Boarding cannot be quickly completed. Everything needs to be done with precision, and Sam has gained a great amount of patience while working on his boards.

“Patience is a big thing that I’ve learned in this class,” Sam said. “A lot of [the] projects you’re obviously not going to finish in a weekend, so it’s just knowing what’s the next step and how to [get] there correctly.”

Spending six hours every day in the same classrooms carrying out the same regimes can tend to become a monotonous routine. With the Gone Boarding class, the students are exposed to new experiences almost daily. It is the perfect break in their typical school day that is much needed.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, and I’m a very hands-on learner,” Eisley said, “so I thought it’d be a fun way to learn something new and do an experience I’ve always wanted to do” 

Along with doing local activities around Michigan, the class also has the option to take a yearly trip to California. There, they are exposed to plenty of new environments and experiences, such as seeing the Vans headquarters and surfing in the Pacific Ocean.

Curtis takes the students across the country so that they can explore some possible career options that they may want to pursue in the future. He believes that exposing them to real-life examples of what their future could entail—rather than simply reading about it in a textbook—will aid students in finding the right path for them, especially for the students who are still unsure of where they want to end up.

“For the most part, the people and the brands that we work with [in California] would be considered part of corporate America,” Curtis explained, “but it’s a much different vibe; it’s a much different feel. It’s kind of a work-hard, play-hard atmosphere, and I feel like we try to kind of emulate that in Gone Boarding, too. We work hard, those kids do, but then we play hard, too. That’s part of what we do. So there are actually career opportunities out there where that mentality really works well.”

There are two different classes that take Gone Boarding. There is the class that takes place during first through third hours, and the second class takes place during fifth and sixth hour. Sam is planning on going on the trip to California later on in the year, but he is the only one in his class who will be going, as the rest of the students signed up are in the first class.

Though Sam may not know any of the other students that he will be traveling with, he is not going to let that aspect hinder his experience.

“I’m excited, but it’s also kind of nerve-wracking because I don’t really know anybody [else going],” Sam said. “And I also don’t really know what we’re doing. I do know that we’re going to [do] a lot of cool stuff on that trip, so I don’t really care that my friends aren’t going.”

There is no other class like Gone Boarding. It contains contents from all across the academic spectrum, from math, to engineering, to art, to physical activity. Within the walls of the woodworking classroom, all Forest Hills students alike are gaining new experiences every day and creating memories and friendships that will never be forgotten.

“I think that there is something in Gone Boarding for every type of student,” Curtis said. “I think we have kids that have all different interests here. I think every kid should have an opportunity like [this class] in their academic career. [It is a way] to fail in a safe environment [and] to do something hands-on. And then for me personally, the opportunity to get outside and interact with nature, I think is awesome.”

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About the Contributor
Sofia Hargis-Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief
Sofia is a senior entering her fourth and final year writing for The Central Trend. She has grown up a writer and cannot picture herself as anything but. Along with writing, she keeps herself busy by dancing. She has been leaping across the stage since the ripe age of two, and she is currently on the FHCVDT. For Sofia, endings are bittersweet. And as she approaches her final moments walking the halls of FHC, she will try her hardest to leave her legacy within the words she writes—the words that contain her heart. Her favorite book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Her go-to dessert: a piping hot brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream Her favorite season: Fall, without a doubt fall Has she gotten over her fear of birds after three years? Nope!

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