By Rawson Jahan
It’s not unusual to see a guy seemingly floating midair behind the trees at Stony Brook University. It is typically Kevin Paray, riding his unicycle to class.
Paray, 23, was one of the first unicycle riders at the university in 2010. Now, the activity has expanded over with multiple riders around campus—many of whom are in the Circus Club.
The Circus Club first started in spring of 2010, Paray said. It brought together people with a variety of talents—those who could fire juggle, plate spin, and perform other unique activities. But the club tapered off in its first two semesters. A new club emerged last year and is now waiting to be officially recognized by Campus Residences.
The new Circus Club was cofounded by Miles Todara. Todara, 19, is the Vice President of the organization and like Paray, is also a unicyclist. It was when Paray was on his unicycle that Todara approached him and their conversation began. “Miles came up to me and said, ‘Hey I have one of those too!’ and it began from there,” Paray said.
Paray, who is set to graduate this year, is often referred to on campus as the original “Unicycle Guy.” “It all started out as a big joke really,” he said. “It was my freshman year, and I had a friend who was interested in trying out for a dance team; he wanted to talk to a girl.”
Paray, being the good friend that he is, tried out for the show to make his friend look better. But it was Paray, who had no previous dance experience, who made the team. The show was circus themed, and it was suggested that someone try unicycling across the stage. That’s when Paray volunteered and his unicycling adventure began.
After the show, Paray, who describes himself as a “daredevil” from the start, brought his first unicycle and began practicing in his dorm building’s hallways, holding onto the walls until he mastered the skill. “My parents thought I was crazy,” he said.
“When I first bought my unicycle I had a joint account with my parents,” he said, adding, “They said, ‘I thought you were done buying textbooks. What did you spend $60 on?’ and I said, ‘Oh I bought a unicycle.’”
While Paray’s parents still think he is crazy, Paray’s unicycle has brought him everlasting friendships and interesting opportunities despite the “four or five concussions” he’s had from it.
Paray sits on the benches of Melville Library with his “giraffe” unicycle beside him. The giraffe unicycle, also dubbed the “tall unicycle,” is five to six feet tall, putting the unicyclist three feet off the ground.
He recalls with a smile the time he went to California with his unicycle, as he does with all his travels. There, he became friends with a group of hippies in their California van who had taken interest in his unusual hobby. “It’s a great conversation starter and one of the things I enjoy doing is making people smile, and this is one of them,” he said.
Like Paray, Todaro has experienced the same effect with his unicycle. In addition to unicycling, Todaro also yo-yos, juggles and contact juggles, and is now learning how to slackline. But out of all his talents, yo-yoing is the one that will be a lifelong passion, Todaro said.
Todaro was twisting and turning his yo-yo around in complex movements on the second floor of the Union when recanted the first time he started his talent. “It started in eight grade, when my friend got a yo-yo for Christmas,” he said, adding with a smile, “I had to get one too.” Then Todaro discovered juggling in the 10th grade, when his English teacher “completely showed him up.”
Now Todaro sometimes juggles juggling knives, something his mom has had some issues with. But he assures, “They aren’t sharp, but the audience isn’t supposed to know that.”
The skill has taken him months to learn, but Todaro said he’s taught people to juggle before and sometimes it only takes them a few minutes to grasp it.
Todaro explains his multiple talents as starting off with one thing he liked doing, and then it became about continuously learning new things.
The Circus Club often practices near the Staller Steps whenever the weather calls for it. When these outdoor meetings do happen, crowds of people are usually attracted to the group of slackliners balancing on a string attached to two trees, and jugglers effortlessly throwing and catching objects in a perfect rhythm.
The club usually meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few hours, practicing and having fun with their talents. Last year, the organization performed at the Hula-Hoop Club’s end of the year event. The Circus Club is open to anyone who is interested, and Paray and Todaro have both said that the club is more than willing to teach others how to do things.
To Paray and Todaro, some of their talents are both passions and hobbies. Paray describes unicycling as something he can see himself doing even after graduation, as he plans on taking his unicycle wherever he travels. “I guess it might also be a little bit of a passion, because I’m constantly wanting to buy more,” he said,
Todaro describes his love for yo-yoing as nostalgia. “I’ve been doing it for half my life now at this point,” he said.
While Paray is no longer active in the circus club because he is graduating soon, he still wishes Miles and another cofounder, Zane Blackwell Sterling, the best. “Miles is definitely an awesome guy and I have faith the circus club will make great strides with him and Zane around,” he said.