skate the world… and the word

As a self-proclaimed human megaphone for inline skating, I get a lot of questions coming my way.   One I really love is this:  how can become a better skater?   My answer is always:  it depends.

“Better” is an umbrella word for a lot of skating  terms that just happen to start with “S” and each “S” word has a special place in the betterment of skating.   Here are mine and I’d love to know yours.

Safety:  Part “what you wear” and part “where you skate”, safety is about protecting your precious assets with a helmet, wrist guards and, if you’re hell bent on avoiding scars and scrapes, knee and elbow pads.   It’s about giving yourself room to navigate and room to escape whatever unforeseen obstacle crosses your path.   A safer skater is a better skater because you’ll live longer and spend your money on upwheeling your skates, not medical bills.

Skill:  Stopping, controlling your speed, turning, taking the hills, jumping curbs, gliding,  slalom,  navigating traffic – these are all simple but essential skills you can learn and practice.   Get an instructor, watch a video and practice.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, move up to the next level (try the double push) and you will find you improve your …

Speed:  If you’re into improving your speed, it’s essential to have a good way to track how fast you’re skating.  Here are some great apps that give you a pretty accurate read on your speed.   While you’re at it, you can get into a groove and improve your…

Style: Aha! Arguably one of the most elusive and maybe unnecessary, this is completely up to you and your willingness to work at it – or accept what you got.  Practice and plenty of it will improve your…

Stamina:  Whether you’re a distance skater, an aspiring derby dame or dude, or just want to keep up with the speedsters on the hills, you get what you work for in the stamina department.   General fitness is the best foundation.   Hike, dance, cycle, run, play tennis or soccer – it will pay off in your skating.  Add some muscle building workouts and you’ll improve your…

Strength:  It’s not just your legs that need strength for a great skate, though they are the most obvious muscle group.   Check out your glutes after your first marathon and never forget that abs and a strong back are essential to effortless movement.   Get strong and skilled, you’re ready for any…

Surfaces:  There are some real advantages to mastering surfaces: staying stable on cobblestones, getting up and down stairs, moving through puddles, hopping a railroad track or  “tar snake” .  Find out what works for you and practice, practice, practice and you’ll be a lifelong …

Student:  One trait I love about the hundreds of people I meet skating is their curiosity and desire to learn more – about the sport, the equipment, places to go, events, you name it.   Find your inner student and skate for life.

And don”t forget this one:  Serendipity!  While you’re getting better at skating, take time to enjoy the unexpected.

On that topic, I’ll next tell the story of how I met 40 world class skaters in one of the smallest towns in America.


“own your roll”


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got skates? got skate stuff? make a skate center!

This is the unofficial but serious inside scoop on organizing, storing and making it easy to use your skates and their stuff.

One day I realized I had more skates than shoes and began the hunt for the perfect skate storage system.   Try googling that.   You’ll get lots of cool ideas that help you store one pair of skates.   I have over 30 pair.   Thanks for nothing, Google.     If you can’t buy it, build it, right?   Where to start…

Each pair takes up over 2000 cubic inches, so do that math and you can see this isn’t a one hour project.   The finished product will displace some other sport, a medium sized child or a pet or two.

Plus there’s skate stuff.   Stuff for feet, like insoles and “no-stink” solutions.  There’s stuff for knees, elbows and wrists, for cleaning your bearings, for hydration when you’re skating, for being seen when you’re skating at night.  Extras of stuff you can loan to your friends when they’re visiting.  Stuff for your skate students.   Skates you used to love but don’t use anymore but can’t part with.  Museum skates – the ones that give you bragging rights for being there first.   It all needs a home.   A mansion, really.

Skates are taller than you think.   After a few misfires on the shelving front, I measured my “tallest” skates.   Along the way, I discovered another important truth: a regular bookcase is a terrible idea.   Here’s why.   Pull one skate out, all the others roll forward and bounce off various bony parts of you on their way to the ground.   Scratch that.  And you have to keep them off the things mice crawl on so you don’t get stinky surprises in the spring.   So the big clue comes early:  they must be hung.   Suspended.   I researched S-hooks and bungee cords.

I’ll save the suspense and jump to the end – a happy one.

the personal skate center

The racking system (thanks, Home Depot) is lightweight, relatively affordable, simple to assemble and great for ventilation – another consideration. A smaller and well-ventilated organizer unit keeps all the protection sorted.

organize your protection

My ideal shelving unit has slots for hanging.   I used S-hooks and large garbage bag ties to attach the skates to the underside of each shelf.

hanging your skates keeps the critters out

If you’re not OCD about hanging them, use bungee cords to save space and time.

a bungee cord allows you to hang several skates in a cramped space

use bungees if you’re short on time and space

There’s room on the top shelf for skate parts, bearings, extra wheels, first aid stuff, blinkies, and cleaning supplies.

keep all your extras well labeled

sort your things by what they do for you

Reuse old boxes in good condition to house stuff for repairs, cleaning and parts.   Label them clearly.

essentials where you can see them

A smaller rack nearby keeps my derby stuff and helmets in clear view.   Quad skates are heavier and don’t have a loop for hanging so they needed a different solution.   This little rack had room for my “museum” skates (first pair of key skates, Skorpions, hiking boots on wheels from Skates on Haight, hockey skates, and more).

the side car for helmets and quad skates

Great tip:  If you store your skates outside or in a place where critters play, stick a scented dryer sheet in each skate.   Mice hate them and your skates will smell better when you’re ready to throw them in a bag.

a dryer sheet keeps rodents and odors away

The last wheel: making your own Skate Center is a great fall or winter project and another way to have a love fest for skating in the off-season.   It’s fun reliving each pair and taking inventory on all your treasures.  While you’re at it, grab your smartphone and create a photo archive.   It’s handy for insurance, for replacements and a great way to brag about your collection!  Don’t forget to post it somewhere and start a conversation.

Resources for stuff:  thrift stores, Home Depot or Lowe’s, auto parts stores, online fixture sellers, old school hardware stores, your own garage or basement, craig’s list, yard sales, you name it.  

Please leave your own pics and comments!


“own your roll”

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inline skating – a growing sport!?!

There simply aren’t enough exclamation points to convey my excitement about this post.   If you’re looking for statistics, come back in a year.    I’m writing about a tipping point.   I noticed it first in Miami.   Fritz’s was busy selling the newest Rollerblades and K2s (next to a growing wall of derby skates).   I asked the main guy if he was seeing more skaters this year.   “Oh yeah, definitely.”   At the Skate DC event in May we saw a bunch of 12+ year olds tagging along with us for miles.   Road skaters who occasionally hit a park for tricks.   A catch-up chat with Trish Alexander later in the month confirmed it – her classes are filling up.   In fact, some are doubling up.   A stop in a Utah sporting goods shop to get some wrist guards for my brother who’s still using his 80’s Lightnings – they are doubling their orders of Rollerblades.   Can’t keep them in.   Why?  A beautiful new rail trail – the Legacy – that stretches from Ogden to Salt Lake City and more on the way.    A brand new group for Boston generates 25 members in a few short weeks.   Our first free lessons on Sunday drew a crowd of about 30 people who learned how to slow, stop and skate.

We skaters face some obstacles.   It’s harder to find skate shops.   But we have so many choices online and sites like, inline warehouse, and others are making it easier for us to get the right fit with free shipping offers.    It’s a bit tough to get your friends to start skating if they missed the mad rush of the 80’s.   Find new friends to skate with.    Hook them up with one of the dozens of active skate instructors that still teach.   Get involved with your local trail planning community and make sure your voice is heard.  Get out your skates, find other skaters, start a meetup group.   There’s a reason we love to skate.   Share the love and be part of the skate renaissance.


“own your roll”

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traveling with inline skates

The attendant on the flight to Anchorage raises his eyebrows and I can see him doing the mental math…. or trying.   “Ok, the plane is full, she has a backpack and a small personal item – check.   But what is THAT?”   By the time I pass him, I see his expression change from suspicion – am I sneaking on a third piece of carry-on? –  to curiosity – how am I going to get that thing in the overhead bin?   The skate portage contraption (padded grippy luggage strap, small bungy cord and hair tie) is my solution to the traveling-with-skates dilemma.  And I never travel without them.  If I check them, I may not have them for skating tonight when I land.   If I put them in a carryon bag, it’s a battle with the bin door.
My new Rollerblade Tempests won’t fit in a trad skate bag.
Half the fun of traveling with this hobbled contraption is watching the looks I get.   You can almost read the thought bubbles.
“Those wheels are HUGE!”   This look is followed by  the full body once-over, the search for visible wounds…
“People still Rollerblade?”   I HATE that one.   Tells me we skaters have some promoting to do!
“She’s in good shape… no wonder…”  Then I might see a regretful look down at an oversized belly ….
“I used to do that and it was so much fun!”  That’s when I know I have met my new mark.
I started traveling with my skates exposed out of necessity, but have learned a far more valuable side benefit.  I get to talk to imperfect strangers about skating.   And skates.   And why they should get out their old (fill in the blank … Solomons, K2s, Zetrablades, Bravoblades, etc.).  We talk about how they got into skating.   Who bought them their first pair of skates.  I watch for that faraway look in their eyes and wait for the “I probably couldn’t do it anymore” … and I know it’s time to close the deal.   My iPad2 is my ally in the war to win back skaters wherever I go.   In under 60 seconds I have Mr. (or Ms.) Usedtobeaskater looking for paths in his local area and pointing him to the growing network of resources for skaters.   Yes, growing.   The sport is growing again.   More on that tomorrow.   Today, I have some skating to do.  Alaska is my 24th state and I won’t miss a moment.   My Zephyr friends are waiting.
“own your roll”
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5 great inline skating (rollerblading) articles to read and share

Inline skaters are a passionate breed.   We have our favorite skates, favorite skate routes, a few great stories and some funky scars here and there.   We occupy that perfect space between runners (who, after 10 miles, all look like they wish they were doing anything but running) and cyclists (who can’t carry their wheels into Whole Foods or Starbucks).    And we always attract those looks.   You know what I mean, the thought bubbles over the heads of people who watch us whiz by… “wow, that looks like fun”… or “I used to do that”.   We’re enviably fit, young at heart and free spirited.    As a group, what we lack in sheer numbers, we more than make up for in soul.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing more people starting to skate than I can remember in the recent past.   More friends are considering joining our clubs and weekly skates.   Young kids (I mean 5 and 6 year olds) get excited and ask their parents if they can skate with us.   It’s got me thinking we could assemble the “best-of” articles available for this inline skating resource center to use as “friend-sends”.   This week, I humbly submit my top 5 recommendations.  I’m open to challenges.   What’s your most valuable inline skating resource?   What’s to go-to inline skating shop or site you can’t live without?  Something a little off the beaten path?   I’ll do the David Letterman thing and count mine down as a start:

5.  inline skating tips and tricks: this is a little known treasure of funky tips, tricks, drawings and connections – from our friends in the UK.

4.   10 reasons to inline skate: perfect for forwarding to your friends who are on the fence

3.  inline skating disciplines: brush up on your vocabulary and get motivated to branch out a bit

2.  how to buy inline skates: a good place to start answering that question we get most often

1.  where to skate: one of the biggest challenges we face as a skate community is finding the right places to skate in every state and country, and you’ll find a good start right here at

Please add your own favorites and send your comments.


“own your roll”

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Inline skating… faster than an Amish buggy and way more fun!

This blogger is digging out from under 5 feet of fresh New England snow, packing her bags for The Great EsSkate and studying for Trish Alexander’s awesome certification course.     If you’re headed to Miami this weekend, like the other 350 or so of us, don’t miss one of the best skate shops on the east coast.   Stop in at Fritz’s and take a look at the 2011 skate lineup, get your skates tuned in their full service skate shop and pick up some blinkies for the Friday Night Skate!   See you back in the tundra next week.  Meanwhile, have a laugh or two on us… a friend sent this hilarious blast from the past and I have to share it. Read about how the inline skating trend started in Intercourse, PA, then send us your favorite blast from the skating past and we’ll post the best of the best next week.


“0wn your roll”

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put those skates on ice for the winter

That last skate of the fall is always bittersweet.   Stealing sunlight, ignoring the blue skin on your hands, telling yourself there might be one more weekend left…  sound familiar?   The ice and snow come and you reluctantly clean out your trunk … the helmet goes back on the hook and a scraper takes its place.   The skate bag gets pulled to make room for the gallon of wiper fluid.   Maybe a ski rack goes on top of the skatemobile… or,  just maybe, this is the year you crossover to ice.   It was for me.   Apparently I’m not alone.    Marathon Skating International (MSI) recently invited inline racer Sergio Almeralla to write about his transition from inline to ice.   If you want to see how similar inline and ice speedskating are, read the article by Sergio, who has learned how to excel in both disciplines.   Can’t say I’m there yet, but I’m loving the new second hand ice skates I got at Play it Again Sports and the looking for a river to skate away on til spring.


“own your roll”

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start 2011 with a resolution to roll – an inline skating story with a happy beginning

It was August, somewhere in rural Idaho, and we were skating on one of the most impressive rail trail systems – the Centennial, the Couer d’Alene and the Hiawatha – in the US.   Three adventurous ladies putting in maximum skating miles each day, getting fit, and  dreaming big dreams about the future of inline skating.   It was an impassioned conversation.   Why don’t more of our friends skate?   How can we bring the sport to the states many consider “unskateable”?    What’s the best way to get new skaters to feel included and build confidence needed to try an inline marathon or city event?   We’d been brought together by Zephyr Adventures to explore the wild Idaho habitat with 24 other like-minded fitness fiends.    This day, we were enjoying lunch at a lakeside beach.   At the end of our chatty siesta, I had committed to founding a skate club, earning my NSP shirt and becoming a certified skate instructor.   Laura was noodling the challenge of bringing skating to North Dakota with a huge event.  Cheryl, the social genius among us, was planning our trek (or glide) across Alaska in 2011.    Before the ball drops on 2010, I’m proud to tell you that our dreams have become reality.   Funny how fast you can move with wheels on your feet!   With the help of my ICB kin, I have become New Hampshire’s first ever National Skate Patroller and my skate club, Granite Skate, is growing slowly with determination.   Cheryl has twisted our arms and we’re signed up for the new Zephyr skating adventure in Alaska.  Laura has brought Rolling on the River, a brand new inline skate marathon, to life and has revised the lyrics to a classic holiday song for her stunningly hysterical holiday card.
It may not seem like a big deal to you, cherished reader, but to we three, it’s the essence of life.   Imagination, a wish, an open mind and the willingness to be first is all it takes.   Perfect sentiment for New Year’s Eve, don’t you think?   What will you start, or grow, or include in your life this year?   You’re here, so you skate.   Make it a bigger part of your life in 2011.   Who knows, we may see you whizzing past a glacier come June.
“own your roll”
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give inline skates as gifts and give a lifetime of healthy fun

As I perform the daily ritual of emptying my bulging mailbox and pitching the whole pile into the recycling bin, I feel the weight of these “buy me” holidays once again.   I mutter “at least Halloween is creative… you don’t have to cook, buy presents… heck you don’t even have to stay home!   You get to dress like a superhero or a fairy, dance with a zombie or Jesus, and get your PBR served by a giant banana.”   *sigh* … that holiday has come and gone…  I digress…

Around the 2nd of December I start the annual hopefest… maybe this year someone will realize that all I want is skate stuff.   Find me some cool new wristguards or a helmet that matches my Speedmachines or footbeds that eradicate blisters or a new pair of Landrollers.   Maybe some funky blinking wings for the Friday Night Skate at the Great Eskate in Miami or a gift certificate to Zephyr.   Maybe if I blog about it…

Instead I just buy skate presents for my friends and send them links to all the events I want to attend next year (dc, philly, boston, nyc, minneapolis) … does that make me a bad friend / sister / mom?   Nooooo… I just want them to love life, be healthy and spend some time with me.   What could be more generous?    Skaters,  I have a challenge for you.   Find someone who complains about their weight, their knees, their back, their lack of a social life and get them some skates.    Skate with them.   Get them a how-to book or link.   Teach them or find someone to teach them the basics of inline skating… standing, stopping, slowing, falling… and take a camera.     Capture the smiles.   Buy them some mulled cider and feel like a hero.   You’ll get a cape someday, I promise.   And you can wear it all year long.


“own your roll”

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inline skater needs pronation life-line

Long time skater Steve from Seattle  asks this question of the team:  I‘m 66 years old and have been skating about 17 years.  Skated on Salomons until they quit importing them.  I just got my second pair of Rollerblades, Rollerblade Speedmachine 110 RX Skates.  The problem I’m having, I also had with the 100 MM skates that I just wore out.  I pronate a lot.  I moved my frames as far to the arch side of my foot as I could, and that helps, but I am still on the inside of my wheels most of the time.  I’ve considered taking a file to the frames so I could move them even further to the arch side.  I also wonder if there might be something I could put inside the skate to relieve the problem.  An ideas, or if you can’t help me, any idea who could?

Steve, we found some help at inline planet that will get you started diagnosing your pronation issues, and a fairly technical article about pronation and supination right here at inline skating resource.   Though I’m not an expert, I do work with certified pedorthists who tell me to start with one correction at a time.   First, get footbeds from an expert to stabilize your heel.   Second, do plenty of balance drills on one foot to eliminate operator error.   I know there’s a life-line out there for you.   Skaters with expertise and experience, please weigh in!

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