SK8 or Die: My Roller skating Journey

As a kid, one of my favorite activities was going to Skating Plus, the local roller skating rink. I spent countless Friday nights there with my friends off and on throughout the years. It was the highlight of the week! Skating around and around and around and forgetting about the turmoil at home, if only for just a few hours.

In 2006, A&E released a reality series called “Rollergirls” that followed the Texas Roller Derby league, the Lonestar Rollergirls. My cousin and I watched it every week, both of us imaging that one day that would be us. The derby players all had cool names such as “Sister Mary Jane” and my favorite was “Miss Conduct.” Their outfits were cute, the players were fierce women, they had punk bands playing, and most enticing of all was the raw energy at each game. Eventually, the show was cancelled, my cousin moved away, and it was years before I returned to the rink regularly.

It happened out of the blue, one day my friends and I were talking about how much fun we used to have there growing up, and we decided to check it out. My memory is fuzzy, but we must have had fun because after that, we were there every weekend. We’d spend the weekdays teaching each other how to skate, duct taping pillows to our butts for protection. We’d hope for the best during the weekend with no form of butt pads except for our chubby cheeks themselves.

Eventually that ended, I went to the rink sparsely throughout the years since high school. Skating was always in the back of my mind. I moved to Santa Barbara a few years after graduating and decided to try out roller derby. I went to the orientation and quickly realized I didn’t have the funds to invest in skates, gear, and insurance so that was that. Becoming a cool skater girl had become just another pipe dream. Then 2020 hit…

While sitting at home during stay at home orders, I dug out the old pair of skates my cousin had left me when she moved. If there was anytime to pick up skating again, 2020 was it. I put on some thick socks, laced up my skates, and hit the driveway in my apartment complex. It felt great! I was still pretty stable on my feet and I skated through the smooth carports and onto the asphalt. I skated so much that week I literally shredded the wheels!

By this time, I had been scrolling through skating videos and posts on social media and joining several beginner skating groups on facebook. With the pandemic and social media, roller skating had really taken off. With my wheels shredded, I had to sit out for a while. Roller skates, outdoor wheels, and many skating accessories were hard to come by. As soon as they went on sale, they would fly off the shelves. Finally, I found a pair of beautiful aquamarine and pink skates. I got some pads and a helmet to match. The day they came felt like being a kid again, waking up on Christmas morning. I tore the box apart, laced them up right away, and hit the driveway.

One of the groups I found on social media was Roller Sk805. This group was formed by some local derby players who would get together to skate around the streets while COVID-19 had put a stop to derby. They decided to open up the group to all local skaters of any skill level and the group has grown ever since. I went to my first meet up two weeks after my skates came. I was so nervous to go and be around so many talented and interesting people, but I worked up the courage and went. As soon as I got there, I was approached by one of the main skaters, was given a pin, and linked with another skater who had also only been at it for two weeks. The group felt welcoming, open, and I was so pleased with myself for going. We did a short, few mile skate on a beautiful bike path in Oxnard, CA with views of the Santa Clara river bed and the Sespe Wilderness off in the distance. It felt so good to feel the breeze on my skin, hear the sound of all the skaters rolling out to the trail, and know that if I were to fall, someone would be there to pick me back up and help me with what I needed to learn to improve.

It has been about two months now since I first went. I still go to the skate meet up almost every week (masked up, of course!). I’ve started skating along the beach bike path in Ventura, California as well. Sunset skates are my favorite. The feeling of being at the beach, watching the shore birds seeking out their dinner, breezing by the other people on the path, and listening to my favorite bands is unmatched. I’m so glad I finally invested in this hobby I’ve so long neglected. Perhaps when the pandemic is over, it will finally be my time to try out derby.