One “surprise trend” of the lockdown has been roller skating. Viral videos on Tik Tok have proved so successful that roller skates have been out of stock around the world. For people like me, who have been absorbed in the rollerblading and skating culture for a long time, the real mystery is why it never caught on before.
Perhaps I’m slightly biased. Anyone who knows me will tell you that skating is my preferred method of travel, since it is quicker than walking as well as skates being more versatile and easier to control than a bicycle. Still, I recognise why roller skates are having a bit of a moment now specifically, because skating is pretty much the perfect lockdown activity.
Not only is it fairly easy to learn how to do initially, it can be done in a space of any size: from a park to a backyard, to an empty street. With the huge reduction of cars on the road, especially in the initial part of lockdown, it seemed the ideal time to start doing something that has a small chance of ending with you sliding headlong into oncoming traffic.
The connection between roller skating and Tik Tok also makes a lot of sense. Tik Tok is populated by thousands of videos of people dancing to their favourite tunes. Roller skates allow you to cut some moves, while making sure that the video stands out. It’s also relatively easy to combine roller skating with a cute outfit, especially one with a retro feel. While something like a bike somewhat covers up whatever you’re wearing, roller skates allow you to show off your clothes. Since they come in such a wide variety of colours and designs, the right pair of skates can enhance an outfit rather than distract from it.
Lockdown has given many of us a craving for anything new combined with a nostalgia for times when things weren’t so restricted
It’s important to note that there are many different ways to enjoy roller skating and rollerblading. The form that has become popular online recently seems to be a form of dancing on traditional quad roller skates, but there are plenty of different styles and activities. The main options within roller skating are: rink skating and roller derby, a female only team sport played on a circular track.
In terms of rollerblades, there is: speed skating, roller hockey, aggressive skating (the form commonly found in skate parks, that involves flips and tricks using skate ramps and rails), and freestyle skating (another dance-like form of skating, which involves doing tricks in between a line of cones, generally accompanied by music), as well as many other smaller sub-types. Skating is a very diverse sport but I think I speak for many when I say that, although it’s a little depressing that it took the world falling apart for skating to become trendy, the more people getting involved, the better.
I can’t fault anyone for developing a sudden interest in roller skating, even if many people are simply following what’s popular. Lockdown has given many of us a craving for anything new, combined with a nostalgia for times when things weren’t so restricted. Learning to roller skate is the perfect combination of starting a fresh, fun activity but, at the same time, getting a chance to revel in a bit of old-school style. I can only recommend that you start out with pads on, in an enclosed space, on the smoothest surface that you can find.
Personally, I find there is something about the smooth curves of roller skating and the sensation of gliding that makes me feel free. Perhaps there is also something inherent in roller skating itself that lends itself to lockdown. In a time when it’s easy to be uneasy, freedom is something that a lot of people need.