Stony Brook University isn’t exactly the most exciting campus in the country. In New York State alone, it’s ranked the 85th best party school in one rating system, falling behind SUNY rivals Binghamton and Albany. The Princeton Review named it one of the saddest colleges in America a few years ago. So what can make a Seawolf smile?
A lot of the time, it’s Kevin Paray, aka “Unicycle Guy.”
Paray, a sixth year engineering student, has been bringing random joy to University students since his freshmen year here. He began riding the unicycle for a carnival-themed dance his friend had gotten him into. He bought his first unicycle for $60, and the rest is history.
“How hard could it be?” Paray said his initial approach was to the unusual hobby.
Kevin now has four unicycles, all very different from each other, but they still only have one wheel a piece. After wrecking two bikes consecutively in his sophomore year, he decided to start riding his unicycle around campus. People noticed, and Paray has since accepted his role as one of the University’s more unique personas.
Now, Paray admitted that it’s changed his life. The unicycle is a conversation starter when he goes through the Transportation Security Administration. It’s gotten him into classes he thought he’d been locked out of. Professors recognize him just by the wheel he carries. At job fairs, employers know who he is beforehand. He has declined to answer whether or not his sex life has changed since he adopted the moniker. He’s done everything from unicycling into a pool off a diving board to riding it down Hollywood Boulevard.
“My unicycle has gotten me stopped by the TSA more than being brown ever has,” Paray jokingly said about his trip to Hawaii, where he rode the unicycle to the top of an inactive volcano. A TSA agent pulled Paray aside in the airport and allowed him to ride through the airport almost all the way to his gate, post-security check.
“It has opened a lot of doors for me, it’s shaped a good portion of my life. I’ve walked into department heads’ offices, and they’ve recognized me as the guy with the unicycle,” Paray said when asked about any special treatment he might receive as Stony Brook’s resident unicycle guy.
Paray lists his ability to ride as a “specialization in unconventional advertising methods,” riding around on one of his cycles while advertising something specific.
At a job fair hosted by the University, an alum quickly recognized Paray and focused much of his interview on his other identity. “It’s definitely given me notoriety, and it is very convenient.”
Paray owns four different unicycles, and each are given names as unique as the person who rides them. There is Papa, his first cycle, and Vegas, a 1970s Schwinn model unicycle he purchased in Sin City. In addition, there is The Intimidator, which is a massive big wheel unicycle with close to 4,000 miles on it. Lastly, Paray recently purchased Lightning Rod, a 6-foot-tall unicycle that he needs to scale a wall in order to get onto it.
It isn’t always fun and games on that one wheel of steel. On his way to study for a final he had later in the day last December, Paray was exhausted and carrying a heavy book bag when things took a horrendous turn.
“I hit a rut and I was leaning so far forward already that the unicycle came right out from under me and I had nothing to brace my fall but my wrists and head,” he recalled.
Witnesses to the event were horrified to see their unicycle riding, unofficial campus mascot sprawled out on the pavement. One yik-yak user wrote that the fall of unicycle guy was “the worse thing since Challenger.” Paray was severely concussed but still attended the final, which was optional to begin with.
For Kevin, it’s more than just riding a unicycle around to get to and from classes.
“A lot of what I do is just for fun,” he said after the concussion incident in December. “If I’m in a shitty mood, I’ll just go cycle around and try to brighten someone’s day. I know that people like seeing me ride around, and that makes me happy, too.”