The Healing Power of Roller Skating

My friend Arlan Hamilton, once said, “Be yourself so that the people who are looking for you can find you.”

I think there’s probably no shortage of relevant quotes on this topic because of their inherent truth. To illustrate further, I’d like to share a personal story about roller skating.

“Skate Free or Die,” was the lifelong motto of Donn, a dear member of our San Francisco roller skating community. Sadly, as of 2016, he is no longer with us. Considering our ages and backgrounds, we became unlikely friends. Donn once shared this story with me about a time that he was recovering from a spinal injury. Perhaps enough time has passed that it would be ok to share with you now in his honor.

“One night, about 3 years ago … I showed up at Redwood City Skate. I was fresh off of a spinal injury that left me permanently without feeling in my left leg and foot. I could barely still roll – but I had not given up hope. I was struggling to skate that night … until I noticed you in the middle towards one end – doing your thing. And I thought – she’d never believe me if I told her I used to be able to skate (something) like that! But watching you made those ‘feelings’ come alive again – I could ‘feel’ what it felt like to skate that way … and wanted to do it again, no matter what. Quite the inspiration – you were certainly that night.

Look at me now – and all that I have regained since that night … and tell me: how does one repay that kind of debt? I owe you something that will be difficult to ever repay directly.

So … please forgive me for treating you like family – I consider you my Sister. And thank you for being you!”

Over next few years Donn attended more skate parties and put in more skate party miles than I ever have. You could always find him smiling and in the groove wherever there was skating.

Donn B. (RIP 2016) - Photo: Randy Wong

In as much as I had inspired him, he had just given me this enormous gift that I will never forget. It’s one of the things that drives me to share my love of skating with others. Skating is a positive force, with the ability to create friendship, love and healing. 

Caught on Camera!

Photo: Randy Wong

Most of the content on my pages focuses on the talented skaters I admire from our skating community. I’m usually behind the camera, but on occasion I get caught out in the wild myself!

Since I haven’t been skating much while I’ve been rehabilitating my neck, I thought I would compile some of those old clips together for fun! They are taken from around 2014 – 2019.

People sometimes ask me to teach them my “moves,” but the truth is, the MUSIC tells my feet what to do. You can definitely see that in these clips.

#ProTip Learn the fundamentals then FEEL what your body wants to do with it. ❤️🎶❤️🎶

Enjoy these silly moments of showboating fun! 😂😂😂

Outdoor Skaters Unite!

Philly skater Cohen Thompson has been making headlines for his incredible skating ability, and once again for his efforts to bring outdoor roller skating to his community.

So happy to see that community leaders are supporting this. Too often I’ve seen skaters shooed out of public parks and recreation areas just for trying to exercise the way they choose.

Why do cities prioritize space for tennis courts for a chosen few, when we could invest in multi-purpose areas for more varied interests and serve more of the community?

Now that more skaters are having to roll outside, due to the Co-vid19 pandemic, conversations with our community leaders and park officials are going to be very important. Skaters are going to need to coordinate and show up in numbers so that we can’t be ignored.

A few years ago, I interviewed one of the most successful community advocates for outdoor roller skating. David Miles Jr., San Francisco’s “Godfather of Skate.” Over the last 40 years, he has developed a very vibrant and successful skate community producing over 2000 skate events, many which have been featured in national magazines including Sports Illustrated and on the front page of newspapers throughout the country.

Since arriving in California from Kansas City in 1979, D has developed great working relationships with the local government in the city and county of San Francisco to create a positive image for skaters and help implement laws that benefit skaters.

Here again are his thoughts on how to start, and grow a thriving outdoor skating community in your city!

David Miles Jr. is the owner of the Church of 8 Wheels, San Francisco, CA. Since co-vid shut down his rink, he recently added an online skate shop offering official Church of 8 Wheels skates, wheels and accessories.

Black Roller Skating Appreciation Post

The recent rash of headlines touting the new “TikTok roller skating trend” reminded me a lot about why I started my website and social media pages back in 2014.

I was struck by how often media coverage on roller skating was centered around white women in some strange, exclusionary form of “girl power.” I had been an avid roller skater for nearly 5 years by then. Although I am white, I didn’t look like that, and neither did the people I skated with. My intention was to use my privilege to amplify those who weren’t being seen.

Many of these articles centered skating around white influencers and erased the African-American communities that have been nurturing and elevating this activity for decades. 

On top of that, some were quick to capitalize; positioning themselves as the gatekeepers of some skating “revival.” Never turning down the spotlight, they could be seen taking credit for, and profiting from, dances and skills they took from the culture, but did not create.

Both types of passive and active whitewashing send the unfortunate message that black skaters and their beloved activity didn’t really matter until white people discovered it. It also prevents black talent from receiving any media recognition or compensation.

Despite black skaters’ apparent erasure from the press, they have had some of the most significant impact on our culture.

Even the film makers of the 2018 HBO documentary “United Skates” embarked on their original journey thinking that roller skating was dying off with the last of the original New York “roller disco” skaters. They soon learned that there was a whole vibrant movement of adult roller skating they’d never heard of. To their credit, they worked tirelessly with those skaters for over 5 years to get their story told on a bigger scale.

Prior to that, Tyrone Dixon released his independent documentary, “8 Wheels and some Soul Brotha Music” in 2004 to critical acclaim. Without these films, the media has virtually ignored black roller skating culture.

In an attempt to course correct, some authors have recently taken up the cause to remind people how the roots of modern skating stem from the civil rights movement. While skating does indeed bears roots in the struggle of racism, we must not overlook the positive and joyful contributions the black community has made to modern skating culture.

When the media continues to portray skaters as majority white, retro, eye candy, or conversely when black skaters are only represented by their racial trauma, they are missing out on the cutting edge of music, dance, fashion, style, etc.

This is a vibrant and important culture still fighting racist policies, continued gentrification, and historical erasure. Black skaters deserve to have their contributions acknowledged, respected and appreciated at the forefront of cultural conversations, not as a footnote.

Roller Disco Party Playlist #1

Skate music has it’s own unique groove to give you that “roll, bounce” action. There’s a reason that people have been rolling to these great old school tunes for decades!

For those on Spotify, I’ve put together for you 4 hours of roller disco fun! These songs are the real deal! This is a loose recreation of one of my DJ sets at San Francisco’s Church of 8 Wheels.

For best results, let it flow. Do not shuffle!

White Chocolate’s Roller Disco Party #1 – #RollWithSoul

Overcoming the Fear of Falling

One of the biggest obstacles that new or returning skaters face is the fear of falling.
Surprisingly, it’s not always the bumps and the bruises that will keep you down, it’s your mindset.

Watch below as I string together some sentences on the topic of falling.

Note: I do mention some fundamental techniques that are not actually shown in the video. For safety, I highly recommend learning those with an in-person instructor.
To find an instructor near you, search this database of SkateIA Instructors

More videos to come on various aspects of skating, so stay tuned!

How to Start a Skate Movement in Your Town

One of the things that frustrates roller skaters the most is the struggle to find a safe place to skate.
Rinks across the country are closing due to skyrocketing costs of land and insurance. Some places don’t even have rinks.
It’s a hardknock life, for us!

During my skating journey, I’ve been lucky to meet and work with one of the most successful community advocates for roller skating here in San Francisco. David Miles Jr. The Godfather of Skate. Over the last 3 decades, he has developed a very vibrant and successful skate community producing over 2000 skate events, many which have been featured in national magazines including Sports Illustrated and on the front page of newspapers throughout the country.

Since arriving in California from Kansas City in 1979, David has developed great working relationships with the local government in the city and county of San Francisco to create a positive image for skaters and help implement laws that benefit skaters.

I thought I would go straight to the source when it comes to finding out how to he created all this from the ground up. So during a break between sessions at the popular “Church of 8 Wheels” I asked him to share some ideas on how anyone can do it in their own community.

Straight from the Godfather to you…

Be sure to let me know if you start something in your community. You can comment below, or join me on Facebook and tell us about it!
Keep Rollin!!

5 Tips for New Skaters

Did Santa bring you some roller skates for Christmas?
Did you recently have a birthday or other celebration and received some roller skates?
Perhaps you’ve treated yourself to the gift of roller skating?

Congratulations!! Now what?

Here’s a few tips to quickly get you started on your new wheels:

1. Invest in some protective gear
A set of knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards are found at your local sporting goods store for relatively low cost. A helmet is also recommended.

Seriously, don’t skip this part. It’s too important when you’re just starting out. An injury can not only hurt your body, but your confidence too. Totally preventable. Protective gear is a simple way to minimize the inevitable bumps of bruises of learning along the way.

2. Take a Lesson
Youtube videos and books are great, but nothing beats real-time feedback and motivation. A good instructor will help you learn proper fundamentals and stop any bad habits before they start. You simply can’t get that from a video. An instructor will probably also have good nuggets of info on gear, places to skate, etc.

If you have a local roller rink, check to see if they offer lessons. If you don’t have a rink in your local area, search this directory to find a certified skate instructor in your area.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, I am a certified skate instructor and would be happy to help.
Click for more info on private lessons with me.

3. Make friends with falling
Falling is a part of skating. (believe me, I do it all the time.)
Steps 1 & 2 are essential to this process. There is a correct way to fall. Make sure to learn it.

4. Allow yourself to be a beginner
Even if you’ve skated previously, cut yourself some slack if it doesn’t come as easily as you hoped. I didn’t start out skating the way I do now. It took a bit of practice.

Strive for greatness, but make sure your expectations of yourself are realistic. Take it slow and progress in a way that feels good to you – don’t worry about what others are doing.

5. Have fun!
Remember why you wanted to skate in the first place. Roller skating is super fun!!

Enjoy! Happy Skating!

#RollWithSoul

New Year Skate Motivation

It’s that time of the year again, where we start thinking about starting the new year off with a renewed determination to eat better and exercise more. #NewYearsResolutions

I’m right there with you! For me, this year’s wedding planning and a busy work schedule dropped my skate nights from 3-4 a week to about 1. Dreadful. This is no way to live!

Time to get back on track!

Exercise_Meme

All exercise is great, but as the picture demonstrates, skaters have the advantage to keep up healthy habits because skating is fun and enjoyable!

Here’s a couple tips to stay motivated!

1. Remember why you skate.
Big smiles? (See above photo.) The great music? How about the sweet, sweet feeling of the wind blowing through your hair? Getting love from your skate crew? All these are great reasons to lace up!!

2. Give yourself a micro-challenge
Practice a new skill, or work on a move that’s been giving you trouble for awhile. Mastering a new skill will open many new doors to new ones! Level up!

3. Take photos and videos to share!
Post photos and videos of your skating so that your friends and family can see what you’re up to and cheer on your progress! Maybe they’ll want to join you! (We can’t let those CrossFitters have all the fun!) Create a visual reminder of your journey (See #1).

4. Post-Skate High
Get those endorphins pumping! A great skate brings out the natural feel-good vibes and keeps the motivation going! You’ll feel your body getting stronger and leaner as well!

5. Take a skating class or private lesson
A great way to work out those nervous kinks. Let a certified skate instructor show you the fundamentals! If you already know how, a private lesson can help you unlearn any bad habits and provide some fine-tuning to unlock your full potential. With both money and time invested, you’ll be more likely to keep at it!

If you live in the San Francisco area, I can help! Learn more here.

Good luck in the new year skaters!

Whatever you do, keep rolling!
#SkateEveryDamnDay #RollWithSoul

12294755_435211926674790_9079209165798930688_n