Because of the resurrection of roller derby, the number of roller skaters in the world has exploded. Roller derby people are an adventurous bunch, and another adventure on roller skates is the next logical step. Enter the new crop of aggressive roller skaters! Roller skating in skate parks is not a new phenomenon, but the growth in numbers of skaters has been unprecedented in the last few years. (Don’t believe me? There are now 223 chapters of Chicks In Bowls!) If you are interested in getting your adrenaline pumping in a new way on skates, you’ve come to the right place. We are so stoked to have 10-plus-year veteran of aggressive skating, Lisa Suggit aka Rollergirl, of the eponymous RollerGirl.ca, here with a guest post about how to get started skating in the park or on the half-pipe.
Aggressive Skating 101
by Lisa Suggit aka RollerGirl
Part 1 – The Basics
Before you do anything new on skates, be sure to put on all of your protective gear (At least a helmet, knee and elbow pads and wristguards; a mouth guard and padded shorts also come in handy. While some skateboarders don’t, even though they should, roller skaters don’t have a choice, it’s a necessity. Skateboarders can jump off their boards if something goes wrong. You can’t. Your knees, wrists and elbows are going to hit the ground often, so you need to protect them. I feel compelled to add that if It wasn’t for the fact that I always wear a helmet when I skate, I would not be alive today to write this. Please wear your lid!
It isn’t necessary to buy expensive skates to start skating aggressively. You simply need a pair of good quality skates that you feel comfortable in (which you already have if you play roller derby). Ramp skating is extremely rough on your skates, so avoid using cheaply made products with low quality materials; they simply will not last. Short boots are more appropriate than high boot skates, and hockey boots are a common choice for those who prefer stiffer ankle support. Any good-quality plates and trucks will work for beginners, and as your skills progress, you can look into very durable plates and wide trucks that are compatible with slide bars. Sure-Grip plates are a good choice because most of them are compatible with Supreme Roller ramp trucks and Rollergirl.ca slide bars (coming soon!) which you’ll need if you want to start doing grinds or stalls on the coping (more on that later). For wheels, beginners often prefer soft, grippy wheels for more stability and control (93A durometer or softer – Rollergirl.ca Buzz wheels are perfect!), and advanced skaters typically prefer harder wheels for more agility and a little slide.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS, SKATE WITHIN THEM
Aggressive skating is not easy. In fact, it is difficult and downright dangerous at times. If you skate within your comfort zone, the risk of serious injury is greatly reduced. Do not attempt to skate at a skate park until you are a very confident and competent flat-ground skater with excellent balance and control. Take small steps, pushing your limits a little at a a time. Don’t throw yourself into situations that are way above your head. No back flips, at least not yet.
- Identify the lines of the park. The first time you visit an unfamiliar park, sit back and watch for a few minutes before you start skating: What are the common paths that skaters are taking through the park? Where do they drop in? Where do they land? Where do people feel comfortable skating more than one person at a time? Where is it imperative that only one skater skates at a time?
- Be aware of the other skaters: Who is not looking? Who is too timid to take their turn? Who is inexperienced? Who is reckless? Keep your eye on these people, especially beginners and kids. They can be very unpredictable and their boards/scooters/dogs can show up in the bowl at any time.
- Learn how to take your turn. If everyone else has had a turn, you can generally take the opportunity to go. As the current skater leaves the bowl, step up toe the comping. Stop, look around and make eye contact with the other skaters who are standing near the coping. This says “It’s my turn, I’m going in.” If someone else moves before you, you’ll have to step back. Skate for a little while, then climb out; don’t linger, but don’t feel pressured to get out either. If you can’t skate out, find the shallowest part of the bowl, roll towards it with some speed, throw yourself at the coping, grab on and pull yourself out. It doesn’t look very graceful, but it works.
- Don’t be in the way. Don’t stand near the coping unless you’re getting ready to drop in. Someone might want to grind, air out or roll in at that spot. Be aware of, and avoid standing in, the popular spots.
- “BOOAAARRRRD!” That’s what you’ll hear if a stray board falls into the ramp/bowl while someone else is riding. It means, “There is an immediate hazard. Be aware right now!” Similarly, if you see a board or any foreign object enter the ramp/bowl/street line while someone else is riding it, feel free to shout “BOARD!” to get the skater to pay attention.
YOUR FIRST TIME
Go to the skatepark very early in the day if you can. Most parks tend to be less busy in the mornings, so you will get more time to practice. The first time you go out, simply climb to the bottom of the bowl/ramp and skate around. Get used to the feeling of skating on a slightly curved surface. It feels very different from flat-ground and even hill skating. Take some time to just play around and have fun.
A good aggressive skating posture looks like this: leaned forward, bent at the hips and knees, muscles relaxed, lead (strong) foot slightly forward and other foot back. You should look like you are sitting in and invisible chair, but tilted forward. By maintaining a forward stance, you will reduce the risk of falling backwards.
Get ready to fall, because skating aggressively involves a lot of falling. Some say it’s half the fun. If you don’t fall, it means you’ aren’t trying very hard! Before you even consider trying to skate the ramps, you should know how to skate and how to fall. One-knee and two-knee slides will come in handy, so make sure you’re good at them.
Part 2 – Moves and Tricks
Transitions, stalls, dropping in…sound fun? Want to learn more? Download RollerGirl’s full Aggressive Roller Skating 101 Guide .pdf below. In it, you’ll find detailed instructions on how to start your first moves and tricks, and other info about safety, terminology and overcoming fear.
Got specific questions or roller skating needs? She’ll help you out with great personal service anytime.
See you at the skatepark!
All photos courtesy of Nicolas Charest for Rollergirl.ca