Skating can be great fun and exercise, but if you’re not a pro, let someone teach you a few tricks.
I HAVE TAKEN more beginner lessons than I care to count, and yet there I was, realizing yet again a fundamental rule when taking up a new sport: Find help.
My previous attempts at roller-skating were driven by family outings. What I learned over several open-skate sessions is that skating forward on my own is possible, though more challenging with a kid hanging on. Stopping, however, was nearly impossible, kid or no kid. That’s what walls are for, right?
But in one hour at Lynnwood Bowl & Skate, the instructors taught me stopping (forward and backward), crossovers, turning backward, turning forward, skating backward, derby start and derby stop.
Lynnwood Bowl & Skate
Take a lesson. Trust me.
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I showed up at the regular weekend beginner classes. I was pleasantly surprised to find three instructors working with a range of skill sets.
I started with the beginners, where Alex Pearson taught us to walk forward with skates in a V-shape. I wanted to learn to fall. “Oh no; go low!” Pearson told us, and we brought our hands to our knees when a fall was imminent.
After he watched me skate, I was graduated to another teacher, Shaun Kelly. I told him I needed to learn to stop. He showed me a lunge, dragging the back rubber stopper on the wood floor. It was so straightforward, I almost slapped my forehead.
He showed me how to turn backward by skating forward on one foot, then doing a quick turn onto the other foot. Easier said than done.
We worked on crossovers, tracing circles in the middle of the rink. He reminded me to put all my weight on one foot and to get comfortable lifting the other, an important skating principle. He left me to practice.
I felt like I was back in my childhood ice-skating days, working on technique. I did a figure 8, practicing crossovers on both sides. Crossovers on the right were easier than the left. I practiced stopping.
I also did transitions front to back. These were scary, and not so smooth. Kelly said it takes 20 hours of practice to get comfortable. I was sweating profusely at this point, though whether from fear of falling or from effort, it’s hard to say.
After I got comfortable turning backward, Kelly had me work on reverse swizzles, taking my feet from parallel, out in a half-moon shape and then back together. He also told me I wasn’t falling enough. You should fall at least three times, then we’ll know you’re out of your comfort zone, he pronounced, as kids crashed around me.
I frowned, then went at it with more vigor. I practiced turning backward on the other, less-comfortable foot. I tried stopping backward. Pearson came over. Roller skates are made for backward stops, with the rubber stopper on the front of the boot. He had me scissor my feet so I could stop without falling forward. He also demonstrated the derby stop, putting both stoppers down, heels in the air. We were venturing very close to not-at-all comfortable territory.
Kelly showed me one more transition backward, swiveling both feet at the same time, then gave me my last challenge — a derby start balanced on my rubber stoppers, running a couple steps, skating, swiveling backward, then a derby stop.
I decided it was time to push. It was not pretty nor all that stable, but I did it. I didn’t fall. I was exhausted.
Like all sports, roller-skating requires a few key tools. My advice? Take a lesson or two.