Roller-Skating Information

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dotAlthough 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.

dotKristen 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.

dotArtistic roller-skating has a lot in common with figure skating on ice. "We do all the same things -- except on wheels," Pannunzio says.

dotThere are three different competitions: figures, freestyle and dance.

dotFor 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.

dotIn freestyle skating, skaters must combine the technical components -- jumps, spins, and footwork -- with music. The end result is a performance where sport meets art.

dotDance can be done in pairs or solo. There are different categories for dancing in competition, but it can also be done just for fun.

dotRoller 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.

dotMany 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.

dotWhether 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.

Getting Started

dotIf 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 the public.

dotYou 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.

dotA 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.

dotIf you are entering competitions, you will need something to wear. "Some of the costuming gets kind of'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.

dotTravel 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.

dotRoller-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.

dotSerious 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."

dotMorss 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, 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

Roller-Skating Resources
A great list of rinks, organizations, FAQs and more

Roller-Skating International -- Starting a Business
Advice on how to start a skating rink