While inline skating is relatively new as a form of recreation, it is a hugely popular activity for both those who just want to cruise along the seawall and those who compete in national and "aggressive" competitions. Some of us old fogies remember the good old days when we would slap on a pair of roller skates and spend a Sunday in the park. Does anybody even know what roller skates are anymore?
Inline skates appeared on the scene big time about 10 years ago. Advances in technology have allowed for lighter and more durable materials. As a result, skate companies began mass producing skates with all four wheels "inline." These wheels are thinner than traditional roller skate wheels, and the skate behaves more like an ice skate.
Where roller skate trucks (the assemblies between the skate and the wheels) were bulky and complicated in order to give the skate better turning capabilities, the inline skate only needs good solid axles.
Like a motorcycle, the inline skate banks on the wheels themselves, rather than on the trucks, as is the case with roller skates.
Inline skaters range from those who just like to get out in the sun to "aggressive" skaters who "take it to a new level," as enthusiast Peter Edwards puts it.
According to Edwards, the aggressive skater is one who regularly partakes in "jumps, spins, grinds and rails."
There are national competitions across Canada and the U.S. The National Inline Skating Series (NISS) put on by Anywhere Sports Productions is one of the best known and most popular.
A number of cities have night skates, where a huge crowd of skaters gets together and goes on a trip through the streets. Good times and new friends are always found at a night skate.
Many inline skaters, though, are just concerned with heading out after supper to get some good licks in before the security guard kicks them out of the parking lot.
To solve the security guard problem, some people are beginning to build skate parks, specially dedicated to aggressive skating. They're much like skateboard parks, with lots of concrete, rails, banks, half-pipes and other neat, curvy things.
While the average skater is between 12 and 20, Lynn Schabarum of Anywhere Sports says the competitors in the NISS range from five to 37 years of age.
Last year's NISS tour covered 10 cities and saw over 1,300 skaters compete. "Of course it's a growing sport," says Schabarum. "It hasn't been around very long, but the interest is huge."
A pair of new skates can be had for under $60, but a pair of long-lasting, quality skates will run over $100.
Elbow and knee pads are recommended. These items can be bought used for under $20.
The cost of a helmet ranges between $30 and $100. Gloves are also recommended for catching your falls without losing your fingerprints.
You can be really out of shape and still get a lot out of skating. It's much easier than jogging and a heck of a lot more fun. In fact, if you're out of shape, it's a great activity to get into. David Rhoades, a racer from Seattle, says he lost a pound a week for 39 weeks by skating during his lunch hour. "I would skate, shower and go back to work feeling great," says Rhoades.
If you think you've got two left feet, don't let that discourage you either. Skaters will tell you that it's easy to learn with a little practice -- and the odd scrape or bruise.
Some skaters end up making a business out of their activity. Peter Edwards, for example, found there weren't any good parts distributors in his town. He and a friend set up a small company and now they sell wheels and other parts to their fellow skaters. With a new, blooming sport such as this, the possibilities are endless.
Getting started in inline skating is easy. Buy a pair of skates, a helmet and you're off. Elbow pads, knee pads and gloves are strongly recommended as well.
Look in your local classified ads or buy and sell publications for used equipment. Otherwise, you should be able to get a pair of beginner skates at a sports shop for under $60.
Ask at your city's parks and recreation office for details on night skates.
The easiest place to get information on the sport is through the Internet and in magazines. And see if there's any clubs or organizations you can join in your area. It's a great way to meet people and get tips from more experienced skaters.
The skater's online magazine
A site from About.com
International Inline Skating Association
Includes industry news and a chat are
Skating the Infobahn
A huge collection of related links