As Lockdown 3.0 gradually begins to ease, people all over the country are emerging with a plethora of new skills and accomplishments. Many have dabbled in baking, hiked up mountains, swam the seas, flexed their DIY skills and generally have just picked up many new hobbies.
One particular hobby that has experienced a massive resurgence all over the world is…
Roller-skating, yes, Roller-skating – the boots with four wheels. And it’s got so popular over the last year that manufacturers and suppliers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Wow!
Although, there are many people that would argue that Roller-skating never really went away…
So why are we talking about skating? Well, it’s my rekindled relationship, my new hobby – It’s something I loved when I was younger and I wanted to get back into it. But I had concerns – would people think I’m I too old? Are people going to think I’m weird? Should I be doing something better with my time? But I bit the bullet nevertheless and decided Lockdown was the perfect opportunity to get back into it. Not forgetting to mention, that I was heavily influenced by seeing so many amazing skaters on Instagram and TikTok, which, alongside Lockdown has attributed to this huge resurgence.
As the weeks have continued to roll by, I trawled through YouTube for tutorials to help perfect my skating skills and this is when I discovered there is actually different types of skating – Artistic, Rhythm, Jam and Park skating to name a few… which lead me into the history of skating, the styles and where they came from…
The first pair of roller skates were invented in 1743, and were debuted in a London stage performance, and looked very different to the roller skates you and I are familiar with today, but the history that sparked my interest the most, was the impact the Black community, particularly African Americans, have made within the skating community.
In the 1960s, Black skaters protested segregation at rinks with ‘skate-ins’. According to Author Dr Victoria Walcott, who wrote the book Race Riots and Rollercoasters, she states the three hardest public spaces to desegregate during the Civil Rights era were public pools, amusement parks and roller-skating rinks. When African Americans were allowed to integrate into these public spaces, many white customers stopped attending and these places eventually closed down. Many owners of roller-rinks realised if they embraced integration, the same thing could potentially happen to their business. So, in order for these owners to keep skate nights segregated, many roller-rinks had “dedicated” nights for clientele disguised using different language such as “Family Night” or “Top 40’s Night” for white people, and “Soul Night”, “Martin Luther King JR Night” and “Adult Night” for the Black community, which is language that is still used for roller rinks in America today.
These “dedicated” nights allowed the skate culture in the Black community to thrive. Skaters could develop their own rules, their own styles and listen to the music they wanted to. Many of the skate styles and moves we see demonstrated today, comes from the styles born from these skate nights.
Roller-skating has deep roots within hip-hop and rap music. In the 70’s, there is a shift in the music being played at roller-rinks, with the introduction of DJs and vinyl records. Many up-and-coming Black artists such as N.W.A, Queen Latifah and Salt ‘N’ Pepa performed their music in the mid 80’s at these specific nights in roller-rinks across America, as these types of artists couldn’t get airtime on commercial radio stations or get booked for shows.
In my research I came across a documentary called “United Skates” on BBC iPlayer which talks about the history and importance of skating in the Black community – it’s definitely worth a watch! The makers of the film documented that many of the Black people they spoke with said they didn’t have to listen to white music, abide by white rules and were free to be themselves at their dedicated nights. So, although we see segregation as a bad thing, the landscape of roller-skating would be very different today if integrated nights had been introduced.
So, I can’t talk about Roller-skating and not give mention to some of the amazing skaters out there who I have been following on Instagram. They inspire me daily and make me want to be a better skater!
Oumi Janta (@Oumi_Janta) is a famous skater from Berlin, you may have seen her going viral last year.
Diamond Walker (@thediamondwalker) is such an amazing dancer on skates, he makes it look so easy and flawless.
RubyReelin (@RubyReelin) This girl only started skating in October, she is already amazing, and her tutorials help me greatly!
Aliceinrollerland (@aliceinrollerland) It’s good to see someone from the UK enjoying skating outdoors, and she only began in august and is already so good!
I picked up my new skates at the beginning of February, I bought a basic entry level pair of skates to get me moving. When I started, I was a bit wobbly, but after a day or two I started to remember my balance and things began to feel familiar again. Although, I would like to be further along technically, I’m continuing to try and get as much practice in as possible! I practice in my kitchen, living room (much to the dismay of my skirting boards) and anywhere I can get a smooth surface! I’m currently working on perfecting, Dribbles, Crazy legs, The Moon-Walk, Downtown and Spins. There is so much more to learn but I’m enjoying the process and embracing the fact I’m going to fall, it’s all part of the learning, and I’ve had a few good ones! I’ve found that recording video’s is a great way to track progress, see what I’m doing wrong and see where I can improve.
The feeling you have when something just clicks is amazing and feels really rewarding.
YOU SEE ME ROLLING
Belfast isn’t blessed with the smoothest of pavements, so I definitely have to scope out places that are good for skating. Polished concreate surfaces are ideal, especially the likes of a shopping centre carpark, not too many sneaky pebbles that could take me out! Lockdown has meant lots of empty carparks, so they’ve been great practice spots! A few other city centre spots, such as Custom House Square, St Anne’s Square and Titanic have been great places to skate and it seems I’m not the only one who believes that. To my surprise I have come across a small, but growing group of roller-skaters! Seems we’ve all had the same idea – head for somewhere smooth!
There is also Bridges Skate Park in the city, which would be more suited to Park Skaters, such as dropping into the bowl, doing tricks, ramp jumps etc – I’m nowhere near that level but I’m hopeful that in another few months I’ll be smoother on my wheels, gliding around Belfast in the sunshine with an iced Frappuccino in hand, channelling California vibes. Queue Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere.
As I think about this last year and reflect on what we’ve missed out on as a society, what I’ve missed out on as an individual, I also reflect on what I’ve achieved – all thanks to Lockdown. Lockdown has given us the gift of time in many ways. As I’ve been out skating, taking in the views, I look to the many people out Cycling, Rollerblading, Skateboarding, Sea swimming – there is so many more people embracing life in new ways, enjoying a different pace of life, because Lockdown has afforded them the time. Maybe it’s came out of boredom, but we’ve pushed ourselves into spaces that many of us would have found perhaps socially uncomfortable before lockdown – and that can only be good. I feel we’ve all become very more adventurous, accepting and open minded to all things new! I’m so glad I took the plunge and shook off the misconception that 30 something year olds can’t roller-skate!
I hope if you have a niggle about taking up something new, or are in two minds about trying something out, that I’ve inspired you to do it too, or at the very least I’ve given you a bit of giggle at some of my skating fails below!