What Goes Comes Back: The Retro Appeal of Roller Skating

On a nondescript basketball court in Waltham, Massachusetts, the leaves take on an autumnal glow and the air is crisp. But there are no pickup basketball players. It is now a place for people who roller skate.

“I had my eye on the skates for a while – I saw they were making a comeback,” said Tammy Donroe Inman, 48, of Waltham, Massachusetts, who recently purchased a pair of sparkling Impalas . She comes here every few days, puts on some music and skates.

“As an older skater, I thought I was going to be embarrassed, but I’m not,” she said, wearing a helmet and knee pads. “I fall all the time but it’s pure happiness.”

With its retro style, roller skating is experiencing a revival in the 2020s and shows no signs of backing down.

This may in part be due to the pandemic, which has attracted more people to an accessible, social and physical activity that can be practiced outdoors. It is also part of a larger fashion and the music returns to the disco era of the 70s and 80s, the last time roller skating was so hot. In the 1990s, inline skates, a type of roller skate, were all the rage, but their buzz had died down.

Now there are roller skate pop-up rinks in parks and on the roads, and lots and lots of skates on social media. Skateboarding get-togethers in big cities are common — outside the Louvre in Paris, for example, or in Venice Beach, California, where skateboarders have been congregating for decades.

New York’s Rockefeller Center hosted a roller skating rink this summer for the first time since 1940, announcing that it “brings the magic of the 1970s with it”.

And then there are all the celebrities in skateboarding.

Country star Tyler Hubbard does tricks under a disco ball in a video for new song ‘Baby Gets Her Lovin’. Madonna circled a pop-up ice rink in New York’s Central Park during a disco party this summer.

R&B singer Usher’s fluid skating videos are attracting attention on TikTok and YouTube, while Joanna Gaines wore skates in the summer edition of her Magnolia magazine. Actors Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie cruise Venice Beach on neon yellow inline skates as Ken and Barbie in next summer’s film ‘Barbie’.

The filmmakers behind a 2019 HBO documentary, “United Skates”, on rollerblading as a vibrant black subculture, told The Associated Press at the time that they expected to tell the end of an era. But they found the opposite. As one young black skater told them, “Skating is not dead. It just went underground. »

To Harlick skates, a San Carlos, Calif.-based skate shoe company was established in 1933, fourth-generation owner Jason Kuhn says roller skate sales started to take off again in 2020.

“I started seeing orders coming in,” he said mischievously.

While roller skates only made up 20% of Harlick’s activities, they are now more popular than ice skates. “It was difficult to find workers. Not everyone knows how to do this kind of work,” he said.

Many adult roller skaters haven’t skated since they were kids. This sparked a boom in online courses.

Nicole Fiore, 30, of Orange County, Calif., teaches skills and choreography classes online and on YouTube. Her parents worked as roller skating instructors and she is a four-time world champion in roller skating. She often missed school growing up because she competed.

“I had never seen people rollerskating in grocery store parking lots, and suddenly there they are,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”

A day of skating can be a deadly workout. There are various forms of roller skating, including competitive, speed, dance, and roller derby, a contact sport played between two teams.

However, you don’t need to be in great shape to start skating.

Dana Johnson, whose roller derby name is Val Kyrie, started competing in a local league seven years ago after getting divorced. She started roller derby after watching a game, although she didn’t consider herself athletic.

Kyrie, 35, from Minneapolis, is an engineer who now handles public relations alongside the Minnesota Roller Derby.

“These skates are a great equalizer,” she said. “It’s all about how you use your body on these skates.”

Of course, there are roller skating influencers. On all social media platforms, you can find people posting videos, tutorials and cute pictures of roller skates.

Ana Coto, 31, lives in Los Angeles and goes by the social media handle @anaocto, a tribute to the eight wheels of a roller skate. A 2020 TikTok video of her skating effortlessly to Jennifer Lopez’s hit “Jenny From the Block” garnered 2.5 million likes and millions of views.

“There was no intention – just to feel good and feel happy, not to find something to put on TikTok,” she said. “I started publishing a skate journal, really for me.”

Then Coto saw that people were interested in watching her skate. An actress, she was approached for film appearances and has since appeared in Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” music video.

“It’s funny. Skating gave me that little foothold in the industry that I never had before,” she said.


Tracee Herbaugh is a lifestyle and culture writer. She lives in the Boston area with her family and can be reached on Twitter at @T_Marie.

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