Although you may have forgotten what quad roller skates look like, there
are people who almost live in them! They are artistic roller skaters, and
they are rolling around all over the world.
Roller rinks were popular hangouts in the '70s and '80s. And although participation
may now lag behind that of in-line skating, there are still many people who
lace up the quads.
Kristen Pannunzio is an artistic skater from Macedonia, Ohio. She says
roller-skating does not get much publicity. "Not that many people know that
they can do it," she says.
Artistic roller-skating has a lot in common with figure skating on ice.
"We do all the same things -- except on wheels," Pannunzio says.
There are three different competitions: figures, freestyle and dance.
For figures, skaters must retrace a series of figure patterns over circles
drawn on the skating floor and keep the line between their wheels. This combines
a variety of difficult takeoffs, edges and turns. Well-skated figures demand
tracing accuracy, body control and intense concentration.
In freestyle skating, skaters must combine the technical components --
jumps, spins, and footwork -- with music. The end result is a performance
where sport meets art.
Dance can be done in pairs or solo. There are different categories for
dancing in competition, but it can also be done just for fun.
Roller skates have been impressing crowds since 1849 when a French actor
used them to simulate ice skating for a play. By 1937, the sport was so popular
that the first U.S. roller-skating championships were held. A decade later,
the first artistic world championships were held.
Many competitive skaters stay involved through coaching. However, this
is more of a hobby than a career.
"There are probably less than a dozen coaches in the country that make
a living from it. Most have other things that they do. Some have bought a
rink or manage a rink -- that becomes a career for them," says Dean Morss.
He is an artistic skater from Omaha, Nebraska. However, he adds that most
rink owners and managers are not ex-skaters.
Whether you want to compete or you just want to get out there and have
fun, there are roller rinks around North America. But if there isn't one near
you, don't fret. If you just want to skate for fun, all you need is a safe,
smooth surface of ample size.
If you decide you want to get serious about skating, you should seek an
indoor roller-skating rink. In the spring and summer, some community arenas
will remove the ice and provide a great surface for roller-skating.
Most facilities Pannunzio has seen are only used for roller-skating. She
says floor time is scheduled for lessons and recreational skate times for
You can rent skates to see if roller-skating is for you. If you like it,
find out if your rink has a roller-skating club and inquire about lessons.
Group lessons are often available at low cost and are a good way to learn
some basics. Once you feel confident, private lessons are the next step.
Private lessons vary in price, depending on the coach. They start at around
$20 per hour and go up from there. Ask around, call a skating association
and watch some lessons before you decide on a coach. Having the right coach
can make a difference.
Pannunzio gets along well with her coach. "He's taught me not only about
skating, but about things that help you in life in general. Teaching yourself
discipline to practice every day and a certain sense of competitiveness....He
pushes you, but not too hard. And he knows his stuff," she says.
A pair of beginner skates could cost you between $100 and $150. Keep your
eyes open for opportunities like skate swaps where used skates are traded
or sold for low prices. Skaters who enter competitions usually have top-of-the-line
skates that vary in price from $600 to $1,500 or more.
The initial expense of the skates might seem like a lot, but once you have
them, maintenance costs for things like wheels and bearings are low. Just
hope that your feet don't grow! "I'm still wearing the same skates that I
bought in 1980," says Morss.
If you are entering competitions, you will need something to wear. "Some
of the costuming gets kind of expensive...it's a matter of what you want and
how you want to feel when you are out on the floor," Morss says.
Tylor Janzen is a junior world class artistic skater. His mom helps to
keep costs down by sewing his costumes herself. The younger Janzen says a
plain outfit at a retail store could cost around $200.
Travel to competitions is another expense. Tylor Janzen is lucky to have
his travel costs paid for by his skating club. Other skaters are not so lucky.
"There's usually a couple of days in a hotel and sometimes you can fly
to an event cheaper than you can drive," Morss says.
Roller-skating does require a level of fitness. Being out there on skates
is a great aerobic exercise. Serious competitors practice five to seven days
a week, spending an hour or two at each practice.
Serious injuries are not common to roller skaters, but they do warn that
bumps and bruises come with the territory, especially for freestyle skaters.
The most common breaks are bones in the arms, wrists and hands.
"Some people go without ever getting hurt," says Pannunzio. "Some people
are clumsy like me and fall and hurt everything."
Morss agrees there are few serious injuries. When injuries do occur, skaters
make the best of it, Morss says. "There were at least a half a dozen girls
with casts on their arms at the national competition skating,...you just decorate
it [the cast] and it becomes part of the outfit."
USA Roller Sports (USARS)
U.S. Roller-Skating Locations by State
American rinks to get you rolling
A great list of rinks, organizations, FAQs and more
Roller-Skating International -- Starting a Business
Advice on how to start a skating rink