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Whitewater Kayaking in W. Va. with 2L Bryon Collier

Name: Bryon Collier
Age: 24
Hometown: Huntington, WV
Undergraduate: Marshall University, BA in Finance & Economics
Currently: 2L at WVU Law

1. What did you do to stay active before starting law school?
I played soccer in high school and then began running in undergrad. I ran one full marathon and two half marathons.

2. When did you start kayaking?
My first year of law school. My roommate got me into it. I bought my kayak off of Craigslist in January 2011, so I’ve had it for about 13 months.

3. How often do you kayak?
About every other week or twice a month. I went a lot more during the fall, but I don’t go as much now that it’s so cold. Plus, you can’t kayak if there hasn’t been enough rain, and it doesn’t rain enough during the winter. Plus, the fall is better because the water is warm.


4. Tell us about the first time you went kayaking.
I went to the Yough the week after I bought my kayak. It was 19 degrees outside, and there was a foot of snow.

5. 19 Degrees is freezing! Did you wear a wetsuit?
I have a dry top, which is different from a wetsuit. It has rubber gaskets on the arm and neck to keep the water from getting in. If I roll, the only place I’ll feel water is on my head. But then it’s really cold!

6. Who do you go kayaking with?
My roommate. He’s a medical student. Sometimes we go with people from the West Virginia White Water Club, which is a club for people who kayak all the time. They meet once a week in the Mountainlair. There are different groups within the club that are based on skill level. The beginners also go to roll sessions at the Rec Center between January and March to work on rolls and technique in the warm water.


7. What’s the hardest part about getting into kayaking?
Start-up costs. The gear is expensive. But once you have all your gear, it’s free. You just have to pay the gas to drive to the river.

8. What are the best parts of kayaking?
When you’re getting ready to get into the water, your heart is still beating fast. Once you’re on the river, you can hear the rapid before you get to it, and you just know there are trouble spots coming. You have to pick your lines to get through the river; you have to find the spots to avoid. It’s an accomplishment when you get through and look back and think, “Wow, I just made it through that!”

9. What’s the worst weather you’ve kayaked in?
Once it had been raining for three days, and we went to the Yough. The Yough was at flood stage. Typically, you do the Yough at 2 feet, but it was at 8.5 feet when we did it. The sun went down and we had to hike out. It was probably 40 degrees that day.


10. What’s your favorite kayaking story?
The first time I went, I didn’t know how to roll. The water had drifting ice because it was so cold. I had just made it through a class 2 rapid, which is pretty easy. But I flipped going into an eddy. I pulled my skir and had to swim to shore and hike up the rail trail back to my truck. There was a foot of snow on the ground. When I took my helmet off, my hair was frozen. And then my roommate and I lost my roommate’s paddle.

11. How can a person get started with kayaking?
It’s all about who teaches you because that’s how you get into kayaking: someone teaches you techniques. Winter is a good time to learn because you can just go to the Rec Center. There are some really good people there, and the Rec Center provides the equipment.

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