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Blugold creates paddleboarding workshop, learns great lessons along the way

| Erin Finneman

Photo credit: Steve Kinderman, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

Jake Brunnquell has had anything but a traditional college experience. Choosing to attend UW-Eau Claire has led the human performance major to take on opportunities he never thought possible. This where where high-impact practice meets a paddle board.

Coming into college, Jake would have never expected he would become the student manager at a campus center, a true outdoorsman, climber and the creator and instructor of a successful community paddleboarding class. He credits much of his educational success to an office that is not yet very well known on campus, the Environmental Adventure Center.

“I grew up on a farm, but my family was never really big into other outdoor activities besides farm work,” Jake, a native of Fredonia, said. “My passion for the outdoors was something that the EAC helped me discover.”

As a freshman, Jake came in with his major declared as human performance and knew that many of his interests were tied to the field of exercise. Jake was a frequent visitor to the gym, and during his sophomore year the trips to work out started to pay off in new ways.

“One day while I was at the gym, I ran into Al (Wiberg) who runs the EAC,” Jake said. “Over time I got to know him better and one day his student manager left suddenly. He needed help and I needed a job and ever since then I have worked for the EAC and loved every second of it.”

After joining the EAC team, Jake has taken on the role of student manager and has had the opportunity to develop his outdoor and professional skills. Jake has developed his own hiring process; created a peer evaluation for on-campus jobs that is now used by all members of the recreation staff; served on a panel for the selection of a new facilities manager for the McPhee Physical Education Center; learned how to rock climb; and interacted with many people from throughout the community.

One of the true highlights of Jake’s career with the EAC has been developing and instructing a community paddleboarding class. The class launched last summer and proved to be very successful. Jake came up with the idea when the EAC bought a bunch of new paddleboards while he was on the hunt for an internship opportunity.

“Last summer I had to stay in Eau Claire to run the EAC, but I also needed to complete an internship as part of my major,” Jake said. “The awesome thing about UW-Eau Claire is that if you ask for something you can usually get it. So I came up with the idea of instructing paddleboard classes as my own hybrid internship.”

Once his idea for the class started to take shape, Jake did in-depth research on the sport of stand-up paddleboarding and developed the curriculum for the course. Everything was approved and the classes launched at Half Moon Lake in the summer of 2015. Visit Eau Claire and local media helped Jake and the EAC get the word out, and the community showed up to learn something new and take advantage of all that Eau Claire has to offer.

 “These classes have helped me give back to the community while also getting the EAC’s name out there. The university has so much to offer and, with such a vibrant community around us, it feels wrong not to share that,” Jake said.

This summer, Jake’s classes will be running once again and he is hoping for an even larger turnout. The class is designed to expose people to the sport of stand-up paddleboarding and help them develop the skills needed to enjoy the sport in a calm, flat-water setting. Participants will engage in two hours of instructed paddling and one hour of free paddling under Jake’s supervision.

Classes are open to community members age 10 and over and all university members. The cost is $45 dollars per person for community members and $35 dollars per person for university members, with classes running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the summer. For more information or to reserve a spot in one of the classes, visit www.uwec.edu/recreation/enironmental-adventure-center, stop by the EAC office in Room 105 of Hilltop Center on UW-Eau Claire's upper campus, or call 715-836-3377.

Jake encourages students and community members to take advantage of the numerous activities the EAC offers, including the ropes course, the climbing wall, canoe and kayak rentals, and much more.

“The EAC is a unique office at UW-Eau Claire and not many people can say that they go to a school or live in a community that offers so many outdoor activities at such a low cost,” Jake said. “Take advantage of what the EAC has to offer and get out there, because Eau Claire is such a cool place. I mean who gets the opportunity to say that they live in a community with a beautiful river, a lake, miles of trails and so much more?”

Photo cutline: Jake Brunnquell (second from right) leads a stand-up paddleboarding class on Half Moon Lake in Eau Claire. After developing and launching the classes in 2016, Brunnquell is offering them again this summer, with sessions running through mid-August. (Photo credit: Steve Kinderman, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram)