Long gone are the days when rollerbladers could make a living out of daring stunts like handrail squeaks and gaps on huge stairs. But brothers Sean and Colin Kelso, two of Philadelphia’s most legendary inline skaters, are still pushing the boundaries of the sport nearly three decades after they first strapped wheels to their feet.
The latest video from their clothing company Bacemint SPACEMINT2 made his debut Nov. 5 at California’s Blading Cup, the nation’s premier “aggressive inline skating” event. The feature is a 15-minute follow-up to a 2020 version that captured Kelsos’ skating at the start of the pandemic. “It’s a combination of all the skills we’ve learned over the years,” Sean said. “There’s a lot of fancy footwork, tricks and changes.”
In the 1990s and early 2000s, when skate parks were less common, the Kelsos earned the respect of the Philadelphia skating scene with jaw-dropping street stunts, often referred to as hammers.
They started rollerblading in their hometown of Abington in the 1990s.
At the time, there were tons of other kids rollerblading. The brothers honed their skills on suburban sidewalks, at a local college, and through roller hockey, which was also experiencing a boom at the time.
Colin was known for his huge shortcomings. He once threw a 540 up 18 steps at the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building across from City Hall.
Sean was known for his daring on difficult handrails, but one of his most memorable tricks occurred at the Washington Monument fountain across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The two-level structure is surrounded by a series of metal animals. Sean jumped onto the bull on the right side of the upper stairs and rode along its back before jumping through its horns and through the lower stairs.
The Kelsos began taking trains to Philadelphia in the late 1990s in search of new skate spots. But the brothers were far from the first aggressive skaters to make a name for themselves in the city.
Before them, there were legends like Jimmy Shuda, who once ground down a twisted handrail at SEPTA’s Penn Medicine station. This is the same staircase Elijah, the character of Samuel L. Jackson, fell in the 2000 film Unbreakable.
“You can see the marks from my skates in the photo,” Shuda said.
This previous generation of Philadelphia skaters developed a strict code for tricks intended to make skating as stylish as possible.
“Rolling is the easiest thing to make look stupid and the hardest thing to make look cool,” Colin said.
In 1998, Shuda and another prominent Philadelphia skater, Jeff Frederick, enrolled at Drexel University with the primary goal of spending more time skating the city’s street spots.
The following year, fellow Rollerblader Chris Majette joined them. He was an award-winning photographer and spent his free time documenting street skating in Philadelphia.
The Kelsos both had impressive sections in Majette’s films, Underestimated (2002) and Opinions (2004). That’s how they eventually got sponsored by Powerslide, one of the biggest manufacturers of inline skates in the world. The Kelsos are now riding for a new skate company called Them.
For the brothers, who live across the street from each other in Port Richmond, nowhere in the city is off limits. A lot of SPACEMINT2 was filmed in Kensington.
While there are still big gaps and high handrails in their latest videos, now that the Kelsos are getting older (Colin is 37 and Sean is 36), they’ve steered their skating in a more technical direction.
The way they traverse rough pavement and twist their legs to bounce, spin and slide over gritty streetscapes is enhanced by the brothers’ signature filmmaking style, centered on their mastery of the fish-eye lens and ability to get extremely close to each one. other people’s stuff.
For less experienced videographers, the risk of the camera breaking if dropped would be high. But the Kelsos understand each other’s skating so well that they always know when to back off.
Skating has kept the Kelsos’ relationship exceptionally close. “It’s all about this love for skating that we share together,” Sean said. Sport has long been a labor of love for them.
“We don’t have the luxury of being taken over by the industry,” Colin said. Both brothers work full-time in the pharmaceutical industry.
When the sport first emerged in the 1990s, it quickly became a cash cow for ESPN thanks to the X Games. But in 2005, inline skating was completely removed from the event.
This was partly due to a homophobic smear campaign started by some in the skateboarding industry. Some were unhappy with the attention given to the younger sport and feared losing money with the large number of kids buying blades instead of boards. These sentiments have spawned derogatory terms and occasional violence.
“Nobody wants to be an outcast,” Colin said.
There was also a great deal of hostility toward the X Games and other corporate contest circuits, especially among grassroots street skaters, who viewed rollerblading as a form of self-expression.
“Skating is something you can’t win,” Colin said. “The contests were created just for an audience that needed winners and losers.”
The aggressive online community became increasingly insular as the entire roller skating industry continued to shrink. This trend only stopped when the pandemic hit in 2020, when more people became interested in individual outdoor sports.
But little of that money reached the Kelsos or their counterparts.
Today, there are few serious skaters in Philadelphia. Anthony Marchione, a skater who featured in the original SPACE MINT, just turned 29 and is one of the youngest members of the Rollerblade community in the region.
“There are no children in it, which is a real obstacle,” he said. “There’s not a big enough scene in Philadelphia to feed the youth.”
Shuda managed to get her 9-year-old son, James, to rollerblade. He also plays roller hockey.
These days, the father-of-two lives in Media, where he’s part of the Delco Skatepark Coalition, an organization fighting to get more facilities built in the county. His daughter Francesca, 11, is a sponsored boarder with Meow Skateboards.
Marchione said young people today are often shocked and impressed when he puts on his skates and starts doing tricks.
None of these former inline skaters plan to slow down. The Kelsos are currently filming a new video featuring Shuda skating. Marchione’s band, Ceramic Animal, have just finished their national tour. Now that the guitarist has some free time, he’s also looking to hit the streets with the Kelsos.