"Some of the most beautiful places are the most dangerous," says senior and fifer (a Randolph student since 1st grade) Joshua Huber '18. I catch up with him in the Upper School Tech Office, where he likes to hang out, to ask him about whitewater kayaking, a sport he has pursued intensely over the last two years, and which was the subject of an essay he wrote for his college applications.
Joshua had kayaked as a child, but quit at age 12, after the death of Jeff, his instructor and friend, who made a fatal mistake on a solo trip. "Busy with classes and school, and shocked by his death, I solidified my resolve. I wouldn't touch a kayak seriously until I was 16," Joshua wrote.
He returned to the sport at the end of his sophomore year. Through kayaking, he engages with the outdoors, pushes himself, and reaps the rewards and by spending so much time in his car and on the river he also has learned to, as former English teacher Lewis Cobbs would say, "prosper in solitude."
"Socially awkward, depressed, marginally overweight: these are all ways I would describe myself at the end of my sophomore year," writes Joshua. "The day I picked up paddling again was the day I decided to change myself for the better. In the course of a few weeks, kayaking transitioned from being something I did, to a lifestyle I actively participated in. I trained every day in the pool and took every opportunity I could to paddle with people from local kayaking clubs. About a month into my training, I was offered an internship at the same ACE Kayaking School that Jeff founded. For a season, I worked weekend after weekend, driving three hours to the river and back. I trained not only to better myself, but also to teach anyone willing and able to learn. Through paddling, I gained confidence in myself socially, lost weight, and connected with the natural world."
While training for the Green Race in North Carolina, Joshua drove himself to Asheville over four or five weekends the fall of his senior year. He says the race was the hardest thing he's ever done, but he adds, "There's always a harder, more committing run."
"Kayaking has brought me to some of the most beautiful places in the southeast and California," says Joshua. "It has taken me places impossible to get to without a kayak, and demanded serious commitment and skill. Places where being off mark means neck and spinal injuries, paralysis, and in some extreme cases, death, where missing the take-out means falling 50 feet onto rocks or into a terminal hydraulic or sieve.
"Enveloped in natural beauty and humbled by the power of the river," he contunes, "I have gained a better understanding of the sometimes meaningless context within which we live our lives. It is moments like these I find it best to reflect on Jeff’s life and death. I realize now its seemingly unnecessary end was probably filled with reflection and personal growth in solitude. I feel blessed to have experienced and to continue to experience some of this enlightenment as well. Life is fragile, and through his death I have been taught the very respect he lacked. For this, I am thankful."
On dry land, Joshua does lighting and sound tech work for Theatre Randolph and enjoys Academic World Quest. Asked what he has enjoyed most about his time at Randolph, Joshua says the connection with teachers. "Randolph does a great job of hiring people who can connect with kids."