FIU Student Breaks Record at Walk on Water Race

Architecture students race across lakes on handmade boats during Walk on Water 2021. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

By: Rochelle O’Donnell // Contributing Writer

Architecture students splashed into the Green Library (GL) lake yesterday and waddled their way to victory, or moreso, a passing grade.

The annual Walk on Water race kicked off on Thursday, Nov. 5, after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.

At the start of the semester, students of the Methods and Materials course were tasked with conceptualizing their own mechanisms to stay afloat in anticipation for the event.

Students paddle across the GL lake in handmade boats during the 2021 Walk on Water race. Julian Davis / PantherNOW

Though there were no required materials for their builds, students were given a block of styrofoam in class to begin with and all tended to stay consistent within a certain archetypal model of PVC pipe-controlled parallelograms below rain boots.

“It’s easier to cut through the water if you just basically have a thin rectangle with a pointed center,” said Tania Powers, competitor of Team 2, Entry 7. “Maybe having a cutout in the back helps you scoop out the water [like] flaps or ridges.”

Joining the challenge this year was the previous record holder Palm Beach State College, the only outer-school competitors, to defend their 2019 achievement of 57.2 seconds.

On top of bragging rights, the 29 teams competed head-to-head, or boat-to-boat, for a first place prize of $1,000, and another $1,000 if the record was broken, in scholarship funds awarded by the FIU Department of Architecture.

FIU architecture faculty award first place winner Jack Pearce with $2,000. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

Sophomore Jack Pearce broke the all-time record as he helmed his vessel, titled “Down Under Kangaroo,” across nearly 175 feet in 51.9 seconds.

“The kangaroos definitely helped,” said Pearce, in reference to the yellow kangaroos stenciled on the side of his project. “I was not expecting to go that fast at all. That was amazing.”

Jack Pearce, sophomore and architecture student, crosses the finish line in record-breaking seconds. Julian Davis / PantherNOW

On the other side of the lake, other architecture students were capturing every shuffle, and the occasional swim, to the finish line while live figure drawing the landscape.

Students on the sidelines got a taste of what awaits them after finishing their Design 1 prerequisite course.

Architecture students and FIU D1 athletes sketch the landscape overseeing the GL lake, moments before boaters plunged into the water. From left to right: Cole Christiansen, sophomore; Alexa Roberts, freshman; Yasmine Arango, sophomore; Alexa Roberts, freshman; Aijah Harper, sophomore. Photo by Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

The pressure was on as sophomore Juan Garcia stepped onto his boat, with hundreds of audience members observing from across the lake.

“I’m a bit scared, I mean this is all new for us,” said Garcia. “I’ve been tuning it out, but the people and everyone just gets to you man, the pressure.”

Juan Garcia, sophomore and architecture student dressed in boat captain attire oversees the GL lake, minutes before taking his starting position at the 2021 Walk on Water race. Jesse Fraga / PantherNOW

While he didn’t win the race, he accomplished his goal of earning a passing grade.

“I’m going to go with these shoes, but if I can’t make it, I’m just going to wait and cross,” said Garcia. “I just want an A.”

Sponsors included Miami hotspots Sip305, who sold iced coffee and cookies on site, and the Salty Donut.

Jaime Canaves, architecture professor who started the event 32 years ago, also mentioned possible concessions in next year’s iteration, including a returning sponsor M.I.A. Beer Co.’s with their ‘Walk on Water’ brew.

Additional reporting by Jesse Fraga / News Director.