Paddleboard Yoga Comes to Cheat Lake

Paddleboard Yoga Comes to Cheat Lake

Canyon Gorge

Canyon Gorge

Canyon Gorge is a rutted, one-lane road that winds down a hillside to the bank of Cheat Lake. It’s short, but it feels like West Virginia.  Just to the left, overlooking the water, you’ll find the beautiful home of Joelle Cameron.


On Saturdays and Sundays, Joelle teaches stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga out on the water. The positions and movements are largely the same, but as the name implies, they are performed on a 10’ floating platform.


She started practicing three years ago here in Morgantown at Suncrest Yoga. Eventually, she took an instructor class, and everything took shape from there. 

On this particular morning, Joelle has two students, Kaitlynn and Jamie. Kaitlynn drove all the way from Pittsburgh.

“It wasn’t too bad, only an hour. This is way prettier than Pittsburgh,” she laughs.


Everyone seems to agree that the surroundings are a big part of what makes the class experience so unique. “It’s so peaceful on a Sunday to come out here and be on the water,” Jamie tells me.

Joelle agrees wholeheartedly. “We’ve got the best spot on the lake. We go right over to Quarry Run and there’s a waterfall in there. It’s nice and quiet. You don’t have to paddle too far to get there. It’s just beautiful.”

Joelle shows Jamie and Kaitlynn how to size their paddles

Joelle shows Jamie and Kaitlynn how to size their paddles

What sets SUP yoga apart, aside from the scenery, is the fact that the support itself moves beneath you. The idea can be intimidating for people new to the practice, but Joelle says the board serves as a feedback mechanism for learning how to get better at yoga.


“On a stable platform like the floor, you could be uneven the whole class and not know it. But on a paddleboard, it’s going to tell you. Your weight will shift one way or the other.”

As the body counters and balances those shifts in weight, it uses fine muscle control that is rarely employed anywhere else. Which means that it’s a great way to strengthen untapped muscle groups.

“I’ve heard people say that they use muscles that they’ve never used before, and they’re either semi-sore or very sore after class,” Joelle says. “I think it’s a whole body workout.”


After some basic instruction, the girls paddle a short distance across the lake. They anchor in a shaded cove and begin the class. The small waterfall Joelle mentioned emanates a gentle white noise, occasionally cut by the sound of a boat in the distance.

Before the day is over both students will have tumbled into the water once. Each time they laugh it off and continue.


It would be disingenuous to say that paddleboard yoga looks easy. But perhaps there’s something to be said for a particular discipline when failure means swimming in the lake on a summer morning. Some of us were going to do that anyway.



This is Valerie.  She's a West Virginia veteran, model, and genuinely good person.  It's nice to hang out with someone who can talk about guns, video games and fantasy worlds with equal enthusiasm.  After a longer-than-expected hike out along Cheat Lake in Morgantown, we shot four looks in the same area. 

Gun lovers:  Don't forget to check out the AR build at the end.  And Valerie wants to make sure people know that the mag is not resting on the ground in that prone shot.  :)

During this first shoot, a butterfly approached Valerie and began to flit around her, hovering just in front of her face.  After a few moments, it landed on her nose.  She giggled like a kid (without realizing it I think), then laid back on the rock with her new friend.  The butterfly stayed right there on her nose for more than 5 minutes.  It was pretty magical.


Central West Virginia

Central West Virginia

While on a recent trip through the state on assignment, I pulled over to take these photos of the rolling hills of central West Virginia.  Beautiful.

WVU's Tuition Hikes Are Not (Just) About Budget Cuts

WVU's Tuition Hikes Are Not (Just) About Budget Cuts

A Buck Passed

Yesterday, the WVU Board of Governors voted to raise tuition costs another 5%. In addition, housing and dining plans are being raised 3.5%. This is just another chapter in a nationwide, 15-year trend of drastically increasing prices for students of higher education.

Administrators here and around the country throw up their hands and say, “What can we do? If the state continues budget cuts for universities, the students have to make up the difference!” At yesterday’s Board of Governor’s meeting, President Gordon Gee exemplified the notion in his speech:

“When people talk about the fact that they’re not raising taxes. I think they are raising taxes and they’re raising it many times on the most vulnerable people, our students who are trying to get ahead in the world and so I find that disturbing,” Gee told the assembly.  The direct implication here is that taxes weren't raised for West Virginians, but because of the budget cuts that made that possible, students and their families are picking up the tab.

This is only half of the story.

Tuition hikes are almost always several times higher than the budget cuts they claim to be addressing, and this year is no different.

Common $ense Math

WVU’s tuition revenue for 2017 was about $400 million. (Tuition accounts for less than half of the University’s total revenue, but that is another matter altogether.) A tuition increase of 5% means a revenue increase of about $20 million. The state budget cuts were only 8.7 million.

To reiterate: This year’s tuition increase was 150% larger than the state’s budget cuts.

This is a repeating occurrence for WVU, and the gap between the two totals is usually even larger. In 2002 and 2004, the increases were twice as high – about 10%. In 2006, the state did not cut WVU’s budget at all, yet tuition increased 7.5%. And so on through 2017.

Contrary to popular belief, WVU had planned a 5% tuition increase for this year long before the state budget was ever being discussed. (The refusal of the University to release this year’s tuition costs until the state budget was finalized was merely to determine whether they were going to increase tuition more than 5%.)

At yesterday’s Board of Governor’s meeting, WVU’s assistant vice president of finance, Anjali Halabe, tried to placate the crowd. “Our institutional financial support to the students will also increase by an equal amount, which is 5 percent.” But this is slightly disingenuous. When I spoke with Halabe earlier today, she made clear that financial support to the students will not increase by an equal amount, but only by an equal percentage. Which comes out to about 6 million dollars.

In other words, less than a third of the $20 million tuition hike will be matched, and only for students who can academically (or demographically) compete for scholarships.

Investing in Dystopia

When students (and sometimes faculty) gripe about the ever-increasing tuition costs, the usual response is that WVU is on par with other universities in this respect. “Everyone else is doing it, too.” And that much is true.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, state funding to colleges and universities has decreased 22% between 2002 and 2015. But in the same period, tuition rates skyrocketed 62% - a massive difference that outstripped inflation by 150%.

Granted, much of the additional income provided by tuition is needed for maintenance. As the new $88 million Agriculture Sciences Building prepared for dedication last year, all 94 locks in the Life Sciences building were being replaced at a cost of $162,500 (about $1,700 per lock). Students living in 52-year-old Summit Hall will have new closets and doors this semester at a cost of $1.1 million (about $2,000 per resident, or 13% of the entire state budget cuts for the year).

Maintenance of a university is expensive. Budgets are very complicated issues, and I do not wish to oversimplify them. But the cost of higher education for students may approaching unsustainable levels. If the debt burden on new students continues to grow disproportionately to budget cuts, the state (and the country) could be in for a much more dangerous scenario than the austerity of any one legislature.

Perhaps worse, people in states like WV – where 25% of students are the first generation in their family to attend college – may decide that higher education is just not worth it.

Mared & Karen

Mared & Karen

The inactivity of the Kromatic Blog during the month of June was due to my latest large-scale project: the Mared & Karen podcast.  It seems silly to even post about it now, since I have dedicated the entire Kromatic landing page to the project for the next year, but it seems just as silly to post nothing on the blog at all.

Mared & Karen is a true crime podcast that covers the gritty details of West Virginia's most notorious murders.  Its twists and turns are compelling and spellbinding in the way that horrible things can sometimes be.  Myself and the two other hosts delve into the narrative with lots of interviews and years worth of research.

There was about 9 months of planning leading up to the release of this podcast.  When it finally saw the light of day, the response from West Virginians was overwhelming.  The first website to post about it, WV Explorer, experienced a server crash from the increased web traffic.  The crew was contacted to panel a convention in Charleston in September.  WV Public Broadcasting got in touch about covering the story.  The reviews were unanimous: Mared & Karen currently maintains a perfect 5-star rating on iTunes and Facebook.

As this post is being written, Episodes 1-4 are available on every major podcasting service.  At least two more episodes will follow.

It makes me very happy that people are finding value in the project, and I hope that the remaining episodes live up to the quality people are expecting.  Thanks, West Virginia!

Podcast Interview: George Castelle

Today we had a podcast interview with a public defender in Charleston named George Castelle.  He was responsible for writing a draft for the state Supreme Court appeal of the man convicted of murdering the girls.