Hope for Club Rides on One Wheel

Emma Dejong

Whether they go from Young Hall to The Union or from Germany to Spain, some bikes never become two-tired.The unicycle has charmed SDSU students for years. Eight years ago a unicycling and juggling club existed on campus but has since died out. Now, the cycle is back.

A group of about seven students are in the process of creating SDSUni, a campus unicycling club. They are still working to make the group official but hope it will be approved in a few weeks.

They say the unicycle has brought them together. It’s how sophomore Regan Duvall became friends with freshman Nelson Lahrs. “Everyone would tell me, ‘Regan I saw a guy unicycling. You need to go meet him; he’s your soul mate,’” Duvall said.

And others in the group have similar stories. After all, unicyclists don’t exactly blend in on a college campus. Their first performance as a group was in last fall’s Hobo Day Parade. “[The] parade is always so fun,” said Jennifer McLaughlin, a freshman undeclared major. “You have people screaming and telling you how wonderful you are.”

A love for performing and entertaining was born. Since then the group has met semi-regularly to practice cycling and to discuss the future of SDSU.Unicycling at SDSU is not a new phenomenon. Tammy Kula, formerly Tammy Marsh, created the SDSU Juggling and Unicycling Club as a freshman in 1999. Her sister Tanya, who is three years younger, joined the club while still in high school.

The Marsh sisters — daughters of Bill Marsh, who currently works in the SDSU Bookstore — learned to ride at ages 18 and 15 by their uncle, Ralph Thomas. He too attended SDSU. “The story was he learned to ride in the narrow dorm hallways,” said Tanya Svec, now 28.

Their passion for the sport quickly spread on campus.

“We were very evangelical about it,” Svec said. “If you wanted to be friends with us you had to ride a unicycle.”

Riding to class was just a small portion of what they did. They participated in several festivals, both local and national.

Their first long distance tour was across Minnesota, from the southern part of the state to the northern. In 2001 they did a 12,000-mile tour from Cologne, Germany to Barcelona, Spain. This included cycling across the Pyrenees mountain range.

Now, both sisters are married with families. Kula is teaching English in Kyrgyzstan, and Svec just returned from teaching in New York for four years and is now teaching Spanish in Brookings. They still unicycle some, but not like they used to.

Svec said there is hope for any beginner learning to ride. “I remember thinking when I first started, ‘Like wouldn’t it be cool to just jump on and ride?’” she said. “And now it is really that easy.”

She is excited a group is starting again. SDSUni could follow in the former group’s footsteps, and may possiby participate in MONDO, “the largest annual gathering of jugglers, unicyclers and yo-yo enthusiasts in the Midwest,” according the website. The festival is held in St. Paul, Minn., every spring.

While they wait to be officially established, they spend time practicing everything from peddling 10 yards to jumping down stairs. They hope becoming official will allow them gym space, which will help them avoid having to unicycle in the snow.

There is a possibility that SDSUni will be more than unicycling. Lahrs said a few students who juggle have contacted him, and they may combine their talents into one club. At this point, though, nothing has been decided.

McLaughlin, who will likely be the group’s president, said anyone can join, regardless of experience level. Everyone in the group took multiple weeks to learn, but they said it’s possible for anyone.

Lots of practice is the way to learn, said Clark Kocourek, a sophomore human development and family studies major.

“You get to like 100 yards, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I just learned how to ride a unicycle,’” he said.