Pittsburgh Magazine: by Mark Houser

We take you into the air, through the waves and across rugged ground for feats you’ll never forget.

Brave the Waterfall

Once a year at the Over the Falls Festival, kayakers race to determine who can be the fastest to descend Ohiopyle Falls. Brynn Benson, who finished in second place in the women’s division last year, is a sophomore at West Virginia University and a longtime whitewater enthusiast. While she’s generally afraid of heights, she says going over the 20-foot cataract doesn’t spook her: “If I have to jump off with my feet, that’s what gets me,” she says. “But in kayaking, the water is helping you.” Outfitter Jeff Prycl, 69, won the senior category; he and Benson both insist this activity is strictly for experienced kayakers — those who can right themselves with a “combat roll” in strong whitewater. State park rules permit sufficiently skilled kayakers to shoot the falls throughout the season, provided the water’s not too high, if they register for a free permit first and are accompanied by at least two others kayakers to spot them from the water below. Prycl trains kayakers for the challenge at Valley Falls near Fairmont, W.Va., but he requires prospective students to demonstrate proficiency before he’ll teach them to shoot the falls.

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