Rollerskating. It’s back in a big way. And I don’t mean like a couple of people rediscovered Whip It (2009) and decided to become roller derby athletes, I mean people out skating along the footpath, by the beach, in car parks.
It’s absolutely overrun my Instagram feeds, and it’s made me want to get back on the quad skates again.
If you think about it, it’s not surprising that rollerskating has had a renaissance in the midst of a pandemic. It lends itself perfectly to the situation we’re in and keeps us active while staying within the social distancing laws.
You keep your distance from others, you get a good workout, and you can go skating with another person safely. The bonus is you get to zoom around on skates.
For disclosure, I used to rollerskate. I played roller derby for a couple of years back in the early 2010s, and so seeing roller skates and roller blades getting popular again makes me extremely excited. And also a bit pissy that I donated my skates and pads before I moved to Melbourne because I didn’t think I’d want to get them out again. How wrong I was, clearly.
But this also means I can impart my knowledge and wisdom onto you, my friend, if you’re looking into picking up some skates and learning how to not fall on your ass a billion times.
1. You Don’t Need To Spend A Motza
First thing’s first, you don’t need to absolutely demolish your wallet, especially if you’re not 100% sure if you want to stick with skating.
Sure, there are very fancy skates out there that’ll set you back $500 for a pair, but honestly, you don’t need those as your first skates. I’m not stopping you from getting them if you really want them, but know there are options out there.
When I was playing derby, I had a pair of Riedell skates that came in a pack with knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards – which you should definitely be wearing while you’re learning to skate. From memory, all up it was about $350, and that’s for a pretty much full kit.
If you’re looking for something affordable and adorable to see if it’s for you, Impala Skates are probably going to be your best bet. $150 and perfect on the aesthetic? Sold.
Then, if you’re keen on sticking with roller skating, you can look at moving up in the skate department and investing in something a bit more expensive, or getting a pair of skate shoes built into skates. There’s truly no point in dropping $500 on a pair of quads if you’re only going to use them a couple of times and then get over it.
2. Replace Your Toe Stops
I would shout this from the rooftops if I was allowed to do that legally (thank you, Melbourne) and could also get onto rooftops easily (thank you, shithouse upper body strength). CHECK YOUR TOE STOPS. And if they look kinda low-quality, REPLACE THEM IMMEDIATELY. I cannot stress this enough.
You’ve got to remember that toe stops are the things that stop you from rolling off at top speed, and you put all of your weight on them when you’re stopping yourself, walking, or pushing off with them.
If your skates come with shitty-looking ones – and especially if they come with toe stops that are triangular-shaped – replace them with something that’s actually going to work and not make you roll your ankle and fall flat on your face, or do something much worse. Believe me, it happens.
I used to live by Gumball toe stops, and make sure they’re screwed on tight so they don’t fly off while you’re roller skating.
3. Tools Are Vital
Buying the skates is one thing, but like everything else, they have upkeep. Some people might like skating on the setup straight out of the box, but after getting a feel for your skates, you might want to loosen up the trucks and wheels for a bit more movement and flexibility when roller skating. If Tony Hawk Pro Skater got you really into skateboarding as a kid, you’ll know what I mean.
A skate tool is pretty essential – they’re just a little T-shaped wrench that has different sizes so you can loosen your trucks, replace the wheels, and change out the bearings when they’re ready to be replaced.
4. Check Your Wheels
Yep – your wheels are a big part of roller skating as well. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the new era of quad skates come with hybrid wheels, which means they’re soft enough to be used outside and hard enough to skate on indoor rinks or sports court.
If you’re skating outdoors on hybrid wheels, I wouldn’t go on anything rougher than a footpath or polished concrete. If you’re wanting to skate on the road or a bitumen (like old school netball courts) grabbing a set of softer wheels is your best bet.
The hardness of the wheel is determined by a number, the higher the number, the harder the wheel. So a hybrid wheel would sit in the 70s range (good for indoor and outdoor), an indoor-only wheel would be in the 80s and 90s, and a fully outdoor wheel would come in around the 50s and 60s mark.
If you’re looking at skating on the road, the Atom Road Hogs are a great, soft outdoor wheel that absorb a lot of the shock.
5. Be Prepared To Fall
I mean, this one’s a given. You’re gonna fall. A lot. It’s just going to happen with roller skating, so you may as well lean it.
And it’ll never look graceful, it’ll all be like this.
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Learning how to fall safely is one of the first things to master, and it’ll save your ass – literally. It’ll save your ass from being more bruised than a boxer’s bonce.
Falling forwards is the key, because it reduces the risk of you smacking the back of your head on the ground and copping a concussion. Instead, try and make a habit of shifting your body weight and centre of gravity forwards, so you fall on your knees.
Our first instinct is to try and correct our balance when we fall, but once you learn to just lean in and let it happen, and focus on falling as safely as possible. Because it’s going to happen, whether you’ve been skating for five minutes or five years.