I recently started listening to podcasts on my long commute to work. One of the best discoveries so far has been the How to be Unpopular podcast. This podcast dives deep into the rollerblading culture. Despite having skated for most of my life, this is something I really knew nothing about. I started thinking more about my own experience of skating, and thought this might be of interest to some people (a very minuscule number of people, but still…).
This is supposed to be a small history of the sport of “aggressive inline skating”, as experienced by me. For lack of a universal name for this sport, I will mostly be calling it skating.
My first pair of skates were actually roller skates. Pink roller skates. The only ones left in my size but I didn't care! Allegedly it didn't take too long before I was playing on little homemade ramps on these. Age? Around 4 or 5. One memory is being told by a neighbourhood kid that I was using them incorrectly. Apparently you are supposed to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground and shuffle them forward and back.
Fast forward through the next years where we emigrated to New Zealand and back twice. Throughout this time I pretty much always had a pair of skates I think. After moving back to NL around age 12 for some reason I got really into skating again. I used to be a real bookworm, and at some point I found a book on inline skating. This my have been my inspiration for going onto the “aggressive” path. There was a whole chapter outlining all these different grinds you could do.
I vaguely remember at some point seeing another kid bring his skates to school which had the middle wheels taken out. At some point I did the same and on a little homemade grind rail learnt FS and BS. Over time I got a bunch of other kids skating and we'd go all over the place, especially to playgrounds and skate down the slide. I also learnt soul grinds around this time. Still on rec skates - they were some kind of shoe looking soft boot skate, and had a pretty flat sole. I was taking my skates to school, and started skating to the skatepark pretty much every day after school. Eat dinner with my skates on and do some more skating later.
A bit later I got my first pair of aggressive skates, pre-UFS Roces Majestic 12, many sizes too big (but the right width!). The sport goods store was holding a massive skate clearance so everything was going cheap!
At the local skatepark there were pretty much just skateboarders. There was another older kid who turned up a handful of times, would wax every coping and do a buch of backsides. I also had one street session when I ran into a bunch of “really old” skaters who were grinding a little brick wall in front of the mall I used to skate through.
In 2005 when we moved back to NZ again I thought I was possibly the only inline skater in NZ for a long time. I still went to the skatepark pretty regularly, but really didn't improve my trick vocabulary much. It's not very motivating always being by yourself. Here's a little edit I made in 2010:
Over time my wheels wore down to the core and I bought some new wheels online, also marking my switch to antirocker. At some point I also modified my skates by screwing a little piece of plastic from the bottom of a walking frame onto the heel area of the soul, which before that was just the stock boot.
A few years later I entered the modern skate era with a new pair of skates bought online, Razors Genesys! I also started looking for skate videos from NZ, and eventually discovered the NZ Rolling Facebook page. Turns out even in NZ skating used to be a thing.
In How to Be Unpopular #138 there is a conversation about how people past the initial boom got into skating. A number of “sick edits” were mentioned which would have drawn in the new generation. Well, for me it was just a library book! It makes me wonder how many others like me learnt to skate completely outside “the culture”.