CHEAT RIVER, W. VA. — ON THE CHEAT RIVER, W. Va. -- It's final exam time and the students are in over their heads.
One by one, they drop into the rapids, get shot through a white-water flume and disappear from sight.
Instructor Mike Logsdon smiles. Not to worry, his eyes say.
Seconds later, 17 brightly colored helmets pop to the surface downriver and classmates carry out a "rescue" as part of their course, "Rafting and River Guiding."
FOR THE RECORD - A photo caption on the front of yesterday's Maryland section about adventure sports incorrectly identified Dave Fuller as Jeff Kupstas.
The Sun regrets the errors.
When your major is Adventuresports at Garrett Community College, chances are you'll experience the rinse cycle of white water, or teeter on a ledge or eat someone else's dust.
Or, if you're as lucky as these students, you'll be whitewater rafting down a West Virginia river about 40 miles southwest of the campus on a gorgeous morning in May.
"This is not a Disney ride and it's not a place where your safety is guaranteed," says Logsdon after the grueling three-day rafting test. "But we know when enough is enough."
On Thursday, a dozen students will graduate from the Adventuresports program with an associate's degree in applied science.
Adventuresports began five years ago, an academic pioneer in a field that caters to America's growing love of the outdoors -- especially activities that present physical and mental challenges posed by nature.
A survey by the National Sporting Goods Association released last week shows that snowboarding and backpacking were the two fastest-growing sports in the country last year. Garrett's program was the first to combine an emphasis on adventure sports with training in business management.
For Logsdon, a professional whitewater guide and physics professor, combining book learning and the outdoors was natural.
"I was on the Cheat River -- it must have been 1984 -- when I came to High Falls," he remembers. "All of a sudden it seemed crazy that Garrett didn't have an academic program to take advantage of the surrounding natural resources."
Adventuresports taps into world-class white water for kayaking and rafting, Deep Creek Lake for sailing, dramatic Seneca Rocks in West Virginia for rock climbing, 200,000 acres of state and federal parkland for mountain biking and survival skills, and the Wisp Ski Area.
By 1985, Logsdon had curriculum sketched out for a two-year degree program to turn out graduates at home in the wilds and the business world.
He then invited 11 outdoors professionals to critique the plan.
Outdoors courses make up about 25 percent of the program. The rest are traditional academic offerings, some with an outdoors twist.
Steve Storck teaches students how to set up their own business, get financing, choose a staff and market the product.
"You get kids who sign up for Adventuresports for the outdoors and you kind of suck them in to the academics. At the very least, you end up with someone with marketable skills who can earn a larger paycheck," explains Storck.
Adventuresports received state certification in 1992. To attract students, Logsdon talked about the program to guide services, outfitters and other educators. He put brochures in about 100 sporting goods stores.
With 90 students, Adventuresports is the largest program at Garrett.
"These are very intelligent people who weren't going to go to college because nothing interested them. The program creates internal motivation," says Logsdon.
For some students, like Daniel "Bull" Kurdziel of Howard County, the choice was easy. "I can't stand being inside," he says. "Everything they do here is what I do anyway."
But for others, like David Fuller of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., it was a gradual shift from what he thought he was supposed to do after high school to what he wants to do.
When he was a fine arts student at another college, Fuller says he "lost his touch" and began spending more time and money hiking than studying.
"When I realized there was a school where I could learn what I wanted, I didn't even need to convince my parents," he says.
Adventuresports graduates often work as guides and instructors and in entry-level management positions with clothing and equipment manufacturers.
Frostburg State University, which has a bachelor's degree in recreation, is looking into a partnership with the community college to offer a four-year Adventuresports degree at Garrett's campus in McHenry.
"One day," Logsdon says, "a person will be able to come to Western Maryland and get anything from a certificate to a doctoral-level degree -- soup to nuts -- in Adventuresports."
Pub Date: 5/11/99