Can I just tell you how excited I am that the generation that grew up on mobile devices is now embracing hobbies that have been here all along? Serving up the snark for a second because y’all, I just read a Herald Tribune article where the author said that she wasn’t old enough to remember the ‘90s. Deep breath in. Count to ten. Breathe out s-l-o-w-l-y. Watch a few cat videos to chill….and here we go.
This Generation X writer is here to say officially, ROLLER SKATING IS BACK IN A BIG WAY!
Let’s start with a little roller skating history:
We’ve been out here roller skating since the 1700s. Introduced at a London party, shoes with wheels attached sent the first, shall I say victim, crashing into a mirror. It wasn’t until 1863 when James Plimpton created a four-wheeled roller skate that let the user change directions and pivot did it become a success. The first public roller rink opened in 1866 and we’ve been moving and grooving ever since.
In the ‘30s couples would compete in roller dancing marathons, non-stop for up to six days. Roller derby emerged in the ‘40s and became a popular form of entertainment while the men were off abroad. In the ‘50s roller rinks emerged as a place to have birthday parties and share weekend fun. Drive-in waitresses and servers would roller skate food orders out to car windows. The ‘70s saw a resurgence of roller derby popularity with movies like Xanadu, Unholy Rollers, and Roller Derby and roller disco became a past-time to mix disco dance moves and skates. Millions of Americans bought up roller skates at $75 a pair in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
I grew up in Altamonte Springs, Florida and my hangout was All American Roller Rink. A giant lime-green quonset hut just up the street from my house. The smell of popcorn hanging in the air. The thrill of Ms. Pac Man. The rink seemed endless at 180- by 85-feet of smooth maple wood surrounded by red carpet. It had a mirror-ball, eight stereo speakers and a full-time DJ. The year was 1982. I collected Star Wars figurines, played with Barbies, rode a sky blue Schwinn bicycle with a white banana seat, and for my birthday I got a pair of thick, translucent blue, plastic skates with super fast rubber street wheels that would strap on the bottom of my tennis shoes and tighten up with a key. My friend Angel and I would skate around our neighborhood for hours and beg my Mom to take us up to the roller rink on the weekends. I even had a skate leotard. It was a stretchy red Danskin bodysuit with a fluttery red skirt. I was a skater. I could do the crossover (finally) and was on my way to becoming a rollerskating champion (in my mind), when something terrible happened. My mom fell during adult skate. She was coming off the rink and she tripped and hit her head on the step up and had to get stitches by paramedics. Right there in front of everyone.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I realized that skating could be dangerous or my mom’s embarrassment of having everyone watch her get stitches, but we only went back a couple times after that. We moved on to riding bikes with CB radios on our handlebars and playing foursquare in the middle of the street. I regret not skating more. It really was so much fun. Like being a bird. Going fast. The chance to get back into it never went away really, I just wasn’t paying attention. I was doing things like college and jobs and marriage and paying bills. All of which are way less fun than roller skating. (Yeah, I know what I said there.)
Don’t these pics from the 80s look like they could have been taken last week? Also where my healthy girls at? Let’s GO, ladies. We’ve got sass and balance. Who’s with me?
Oh wait a minute, you know I’m going to start with the legal stuff. Florida law says this:
“No person upon roller skates, or riding in or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle, or similar device, may go upon any roadway except while crossing a street on a crosswalk; and, when so crossing, such person shall be granted all rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to pedestrians.” That means ride on the sidewalks not in the streets and cross at crosswalks.
Under 16? Wear a helmet. Actually all y’all need a helmet. #SafetyFirst
Where to go roller skating:
The sidewalk. Get started on this smooth surface with natural dips and grooves to navigate. Take a friend and start getting comfortable in your own neighborhood. Need a neighborhood with a sidewalk or with lower traffic turns or crosswalks? Choose one of the older neighborhoods in your city or town. That’s it. The first one that pops into your head. Take a friend and give it a go. Also some cities have designated “play streets.” Find out where yours are if you have any.
Paved pedestrian trails and parks. Roller skates are allowed on pedestrian walkways because they aren’t considered a riding vehicle. You can move with and around pedestrians to keep to the walking paths.
Roller Skating Rinks. AstroSkate has locations in Orlando (866 S. Goldenrod Rd. Orlando, FL 32822), Tampa, and Bradenton (3611 3rd St. W. Bradenton, FL 34205). Check the map online for more locations. They have lessons. They have Adult Skate Night. They have Hip-Hop Skate Night. They have all-night skating events that start at 8:30PM and end at 7:00AM. Imagine skating all. night. long. (Instagram)
Semoran Skateway is in Casselberry (2670 Cassel Creek Blvd Casselberry, FL 32707) and has a roller skating academy and supports greyhound adoption. What? Y’all, this is right down the street from the dog track, so if you’re looking to adopt, click on the dogs on their site.
SkateWorld is in Lakeland. (911 North Lake Parker Avenue Lakeland, FL 33801) They also feature lock-ins and skating lessons.
Roller skating Meet-ups. Find friends and learn to travel in a pack by attending a roller skating meetup. A few out there are: Skate-4-Fun in St. Pete, and Inline Skating Colors in Orlando. New social roller skating meetup groups are starting each month so hop on and join in. Roll Dawgz Florida is a traveling quad skating group with meet-ups all over Central Florida.
Where to buy skates and safety gear:
It can be exciting to get started, so think about protecting your melon first of all. Orlando roller skater Dorsa Vaziri says, “I would definitely recommend knee pads and hand/elbow pads. Skateparks will generally require a helmet, but if you’re skating a trail or around a neighborhood, I’d definitely do knee pads and wrist or hand guards. And skating with a buddy is key! Especially new spots or skateparks with little or no supervision nearby.”
Checklist for safety:
Skater’s Choice Skate Shop (5121 N Armenia Tampa, FL 33603). This shop has been around for over 70 years and run by four generations of skaters. They know their stuff. If you’re lucky you might actually meet shop owner Linda Dorso Boileau (aka Coach Shirley N. Sane). She sells it all here and can help you with any questions you might have about rollerskates, gear, helmets, or techniques. ALSO here’s why you need to wear a helmet. #SafetyFirst
Moxi Roller Skates are made in the USA. This is the new roller skate company taking the sport by storm. For professional skaters to novice learners, this place has how to information for every type of roller skater.
Planet Roller Skate is a great resource for learning how to skate and getting gear too. Indy Jamma Jones has a YouTube channel with videos on every topic from roller skating safety to gear to best tips for beginners to advanced skaters.
Moxi Roller Skates even has a Skate Camp if you need more instruction or want to really learn how to fly. Dorsa Vaziri (@wowrolling) just got back from Moxi’s Labor Day weekend Skate Camp where she learned ramp and bowl skating, dance skating, acrobatics, outdoor and hill bombing, vert, mini and launch ramp training.
Hankering to watch skaters go really really fast, get jazzed about skating, or just want to yell your face off? Get to a roller derby match. Flat track and banked track roller derby are supreme fun to watch. Feeling like you want to take it further? Join a team or become a referee.
Where to watch Roller Derby in Central Florida:
Bradentucky Bombers - the home team of flat track roller derby for Bradenton, Sarasota, and Venice, Florida.
Orlando Roller Derby - the home of two travel teams: Ozone Slayers and Sun Blockers and and three home teams: Heat Wave Hellcats, Manatee Mayhem, and Snowbird Bombers.
Swan City Roller Derby - the home team of Lakeland, Florida (the original Swan City) and one of the newest roller derby teams. These ladies are scrappy and territorial…kind of like swans.
Deadly Rival Roller Derby - Welcome to the Slayground, St. Pete’s own banked track roller derby. If you’ve watched Whip It, this is that kind of track. You can also train to be a referee here.
Roller skating in the news:
NY Mag - 9 Best Roller Skates 2019
Toronto Star - Heyday of roller skating in Toronto
Roller skating really is making a comeback and it’s an amazing way to see your city, get some fresh air and exercise, make new friends, and have a ton of fun. Consider it when you’re looking to go outside again. I’m betting on October. October in Florida is pretty nice for a ride around the block in the evenings. Meet you on the corner?
Still scrolling? Here’s a super disturbing video I found of repeating sequences of roller skating competitions. It’s mesmerizing and maddening. All I wanted to do was make it stop but I couldn’t. Good luck!