Back in the 90s, it was impossible to leave the house without being affronted by rollerbladers of various levels gliding down the street looking from incredibly cool to tremendously silly. There was nothing more amusing than seeing a child on her first pair of pink and purple skates so decked out in protective gear that she could barely move. And yet you could see the progress happening: within the course of the afternoon, that same little girl could skate you under the table.
So what happened between then and now? It’s more complicated than just the trends fading. Rollerblading, of course, emerged from quad-skating and was inspired by hockey players who could skate much more aggressively than figure skaters. Quad skaters loved this idea, and so the in-line skate was born. It took off nearly instantly, with the X-Games including the sport in four different events. Every family in the United States was donning rollerblades and going for skates in the local on Sunday morning. Skate parks emerged, and a rivalry between skateboarding and rollerskating emerged. Every available space was then dedicated to rollerblading events, and the sport became popular among professional athletes.
But the glory of the inline skate was short-lived for a number of reasons. For one, it wasn’t easy to skate well and look good doing it. Unlike learning how to ice skate, learning to rollerblade involved not only dealing with the mechanics of the actual skating process but also obstacles to go around or jump over. Leaves didn’t typically pose much of a problem, but it was branches and pebbles that made for a stressful experience. It’s also quite easy to fall on rollerblades, and unlike falling on a skateboard, the chance of a severe injury is quite high. You could easily break an ankle if the skate were to fall out from under you, and rolling down the hill you were meant to be skating down is no fun because you couldn’t stop the momentum since there were wheels on your feet. With this decline in popularity, the X-Games discontinued all their rollerblading events. But what happened to all of those professional rollerbladers? Unfortunately, many of the top skaters ended up changing routes and joining the skateboarding path. Their days on in-line skates became but a memory.
But despite all of these disadvantages, people seem to be getting back into rollerblading. With the height of 90s fashion being back in style are the interests of the time coming along for the ride. More and more people are registering to become skate instructors, and more and more schools are opening up. Skateboarders are more and more regularly accompanied by groups of teenagers on rollerblades brushing up on the tricks of the generations. However, there is a long way to go before rollerblading gets back into style with professionals. BMX and skateboarding have long dominated the ramps and are not likely to make much space for inline skating. It seems as though rollerbladers will need to build up from scratch.
Our friends abroad, as per usual, are far ahead of the game. Freestyle slalom, a sport involving dancing around cones, is quite popular in Russia and France. The World Slalom Series is slowly gaining a following, with the next event happening in Gradignan, France, while the World Roller Games, held in Barcelona this year, saw a surge in popularity. The Games were held in July, and the Roller Freestyle event was quite popular. The gold medal was won by Brit Joe Atkinson after he confirmed the crowd’s expectations at Palau Saint Jordi.