How to learn to roller skate as an adult
At first, I was surprised to find that I am not the only person rollerblading in quarantine. My daughter found an old pair of plastic skates that still (barely) fit her and dug up the skates I used to play derby with years ago. We put on some Disney tunes and skated in the garage.
Then I realized other people were doing the same: Taylor Lorenz, who follows youth trends on social media, Noted that roller skates are now a trending trend on TikTok:
Skating is actually a very good activity these days. There are a lot of fun dance moves you can do in a small space, and even if you dream of walking around an ice rink or skate park, the first step is to get comfortable on wheels at home.
So whether you’re looking to kick out your old roller skates, or jump into skating for the first time, here’s what you need to know.
There are two types of quad roller skates that you will see around. Those with heeled boots that lace up the ankles are made for figure skating moves like jumps and spins, and they work just as well for casual skating. These are your classic retro style roller skates.
The other type is a low cut skate that looks more like a sneaker. These give you no ankle support, but more flexibility. They are perfect for sophisticated footwork in jam skating, and they are also the preferred style of roller derby players.
(I have also heard that there is something called a “roller” “blade”? No idea of those.)
Either type is good to start with, and I’m not going to judge you if you choose your skates based on what looks the cutest. Just a word of warning: although it is often a good idea to buy the cheapest option first and improve when you wear it or exceed its capabilities, with skates you want to make sure you don’t go too much cheap. Anything less than $ 80 or more is suspect. Some skates are too fragile or do not have the proper equipment. For example, if the area connecting the wheels is just a piece of smooth plastic, like on these children’s skates, these are not “real” roller skates. Look for something with a pile of metal and rubber between each pair of wheels, Thus; it’s the trucks, and they’re the ones that keep you in charge. You want to be able to adjust them.
Another thing to watch out for: Nylon (soft plastic) plates tend to flex too much for people weighing over 200 pounds or so. Children and light people will find this to work very well, but everyone should be looking for aluminum or fiberglass plates instead.
Some inexpensive beginner brands:
Do not hurt yourself
Until you fully develop your safe fall instinct, it is a good idea to wear safety gear while you exercise. You will fall to your knees, so get yourself knee pads. The kind of skater with hard caps is the best, but if you want to live a little dangerously, I like thin dancer knee pads like those. If you fall with these, it will still hurt, but the cushion takes off the edge a little.
Get a helmet to protect your head and consider elbow pads and wrist guards. Clear a safe area every time you practice: Sharp and delicate objects should be out of reach and never attempt to descend stairs or navigate difficult terrain unless you are very sure of your skills.
Know the basic maintenance of skates
There are a few things you will need to do with your skates to keep them rolling smoothly. First of all, know how to tighten or loosen the nuts on your wheels. Often the pads will come with the nuts too tight. Make sure they are loose enough that when you hold the skate and spin the wheel, it spins freely.
A basic skate tool (like this one) will include a socket for the lug nuts and a socket for the nuts of your trucks. Looser trucks will steer sharper, but they will feel more unstable. You will need to adjust your trucks according to your skill level and the type of skating you want to practice.
If you skate primarily on hard indoor floors, you will need hard wheels (with a hardness rating in the 90s, like 90A). If you skate outdoors, softer wheels will give you a smoother ride on rough pavement; the durometer rating for these will typically be in the 80s. Many skaters have an outer wheel set and an inner wheel set, and swap them out accordingly.
Your toes are another thing to check. Some dance moves work best with no the toes, you may want to remove yours and replace them with little nubs called blocking plugs. On the other hand, if you skate outside a lot, you may find yourself using your toe stops so much that you tire them out. Stops can be replaced and some types allow you to adjust the height, which usually requires an Allen key.
Get comfortable on your skates
The first step in learning (or relearning) to skate is to simply train your body to move when you have wheels under you. The fastest way to do this is to simply wear your skates around the house, whether or not your house has good places to skate.
Even if all of your floors are carpeted, you’ll know where to put your weight on your foot as you walk. Maybe you will find yourself hopping on your toes to get up from a chair. And when you wear your skates in a small space, like in your kitchen while you do the dishes, you’ll discover all kinds of ways to turn and maneuver on your wheels while you’re still. All of these skills will come in handy when moving on the ice rink, on the dance floor or on the street.
Learn some moves
Now on to the fun part! What are you going to do on your skates? If you plan on going outside, don’t forget your helmet and knee pads and start with smooth, flat areas.
If you want to learn indoor dance moves, you can just put on some music and start moving, or choose a TikTok dance to copy. For a more structured approach, I like the lessons that popped up on Instagram live. The LA Roller Girls have an online lesson almost every day; they’re free, but if you like them, you can support the effort by sending the instructor a Venmo or Paypal donation. Missile, another rollerdance team, teaches mostly on Zoom (pay what you can, and they’ll send you a link to sign up). Dance skate also offers classes, and their feed is a collection of flashy roller skate moves of all styles, so it’s great for inspiration as well as instruction. Rollerfit, in Australia, has a bunch of beginner courses in their IGTV, and the @ rollerskate.together keep track of everything and publish daily schedules in their stories along with all online classes and events from other roller skating accounts.
Whatever you choose, stay safe, know your skates, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Support your instructors with a donation anytime and post your moves on social media to cheer on others. Happy skating!