There's no real pleasant way to say this: I hate rollerbladers. I say this with a smile because I don't take opinions all too seriously, especially if they're my own...certainly not if they're someone else's, and even less if that 'someone else' is a rollerblader.
Disdain? Resentment? Bitterness? Fatherly angst? Big time. All of it. I've lived in this quiet bubble of a civilization known to nobody as the 'wild world of rollerblading' for nearly two decades and I've hated just about every year of it in one degree or another. Yet I love it. I love rollerblading. I love being on wheels. Today, for the first time in my adult life I can honestly say I think rollerblading is 'cool.' I mean, it actually looks kinda cool to me now; and that's never been the case in years past. I always enjoyed rollerblading...but there was constantly a voice in the back of my head that whispered, "This shit is fucking corny." It's something that was part insecurity, part humor, and part honesty.
I think maturity is the key component here. Rollerblading has matured just as its participants, both present and past, have matured. Take me for an example. I'm a thirty year old blue collar American with a house, a wife, and two kids. I've been rollerblading since the mid-late 90's when playing street hockey on my Brooklyn street became more entertaining than skateboarding in my tattered, rain-damaged Airwalks that I refused to throw out.
Yes. I'm one of the rollerbladers that spawned out of the street hockey fad that struck the States hard throughout the roaring 90's. Before I started using my mother's bronze-colored recreationals for hockey, (and well before I accidentally bought some M12's for the same purpose), I used 'hockey' quads; and before those I used, 'The Rollerball,' and before those it was a pair of blue leather derby quads passed down from somebody in my family's 1978 time capsule. Somewhere in that pellmell I got my hands on a skateboard. That is the most significant one out of them all, in retrospect. I feel fortunate for that brief upbringing in skateboard culture. My friend around the corner had an older cousin who introduced us to punk rock, blacklight posters, Dinosaur Jr, and, of course, the skateboard itself. We all took turns on the board with a 'Wet Willy' graphic until we got our hands on a beater of our own, (and a cheap pair of shoes to boot). I remember getting a skateboard for Christmas the same year I got 'Reasonable Doubt' on cassette and Hakeem Olajuwon sneakers, (the Spalding ones with the big '34' on the side). 'Mouse,' Tom Penny, and 'Off the Wall' were just some of the things that resonated with me in the midst of my new hobby.
And that's all skateboarding ever was to me: a hobby. I suppose you might expect me to follow up by saying that rollerblading is something more than a hobby--but you'd be dead wrong. I'm passionate about it, surely. I'm supportive of it. I've even found myself get into violent situations because of it. Still, rollerblading is just a hobby and I'm just a simple hobbyist. I'm a hobbyist who hates rollerbladers in the same sense that I hate skateboarders. I think you're all lame. You're a bunch of sissies who sometimes try to act tough and present yourselves in an edgy manner like you're above the rest of the world on some ego trip nonsense. We're the losers and that's how it's always been. It's frequently noted that skateboarders hate rollerbladers. Maybe you hear about rollerbladers who hate skateboarders. Scooters are hated, too. Bike dudes have sorta been doing their own thing on the low it seems, (shoutout to the old 'Road Fools' videos, by the by). But I'm a hobbyist and--much like everyone outside of skating--I'm saying that I can't stand any of you corny ass dudes.
It's funny to me whenever I catch a snide remark under the breath of someone as I'm walking up to a spot with skates in hand. It's like, "Shut up. Act like we're both not 30 year old men hanging out under a bridge geeking over this circus act shit." You know? What's this fucking divide grown ass men still hold onto? Back in the day it was the 'jocks' who were the enemy. It was the mainstream which sucked. Punk rock and its antiestablishment ideals reigned supreme. That's what attracted me and so many others to skating. (Tricks come secondary. Those are just things you grow to appreciate.) Nowadays, I see all these skate rat dudes who think it's 'punk rock' or organic or whatever to become an alcoholic or a drug addict and support Hillary Clinton. Like, what? What am I missing? When did everything switch up so hard? Maybe excessive drug use and liberalism were rebellious back in the day, but today that shit is as trendy as anything. Don't believe me? Turn on the radio. Turn on the television. Rent a movie. It's like how tattoos and piercings became more of a 'fashion' and less of a statement of dissatisfaction with social constructs. These are the things being pushed into our homes by popular culture, and thus these are the things skaters would have traditionally trashed and rebelled against. Perhaps it's as simple as not being able to adjust to the changes in which our society shapes. What used to be viewed yesteryear as radical is considered hip by today's standards.
Rollerblading, however, has remained and continues to remain unpopular. That's one strong trait that keeps me so attracted to it. It's almost like this: what's more 'punk rock' than being a sober rollerblader who is against the lies of Neoliberalism? I would boast about this more often if I thought it would be taken with a sense of humor, but surprisingly most kids in the game these days lack the part of the brain that allows laughter.
I'm tired. Literally. I'm a tired, aging man. I don't get out to skate as much as I used to, and I'm happy to have it that way. I spend time with my family. I work. I read. I laugh about things. I talk about the war. Eat too much food. Sit down. Think. Relax. Repeat. It's fun, and it's exhausting. So when I finally get a few hours (and the will) to put on my stupid rollerblades and then hear somebody going off on some head trip, or give a look, or roll their eyes, you better believe it pisses me off. Don't we all have better things to be concerned about than playing under a bridge or driving around the slums looking for that fun new piece to trick out on? I know I do. Maybe you don't. Maybe skating is all you have, and that's really sweet. Nevertheless. While it's not the focus of my existence I, like most of us lifers, still retain some pretty heavy thoughts on the topic.
Thankfully, rollerblading is finally at a point where it is being done more maturely and with more attention to detail than ever before. People nowadays who have been around for years and years are fine tuning the little things within their own skating, and frankly it shows. Some people don't have an eye for detail, or maybe they don't have any appreciation for it. That's not to imply that the level of skating has dropped, or gone soft, or lost its balls. Stunts are stunts. If that's what you enjoy, by all means go for it. But how many times do you really want to see a 360 whatever-grind on a drop rail? One hundred? One thousand? One million times? One billion times? How many people do you want to see put out sections wearing the same clothes, doing the same tricks, skating to the same music? Because that's mostly all I'm seeing right now whenever I tune into the World Wide Web, in all it's terrible glory, (at least when it comes to popularity.) Kids only seem to hype up the sections that have the mile-long handicap rail switchups, the drop rails, the top acid/back roy on a kink rail, the drop rails, the 180/540 gap ender to another fucking drop rail... What's so special about this kind of skating that wasn't special 15 years ago? Do you expect me to believe a kid from Argentina (or anywhere) trying to do the same tricks Aaron Feinberg did in 'Words' but with horrendous style and edited to dubstep is supposed to impress anyone? Perhaps, if you don't know your history. And that's one reason why it's important to want to keep and appreciate the old heads in the game. I recall the recent years where all that rollerbladers were concerned with was keeping the kids involved or getting more participation across the board, and rightfully so; but how are kids supposed to want to stay involved long term when they don't see any dudes past the age of 25 doing this shit?
Lots of people have simply dropped off the map. I can understand that, truly. Life changes and people adapt accordingly. To me, rollerblading is in a state of positive change. It's cutting all the fat off the bones. It's building on the basics that were overlooked by many of us for too long, which is why I think we're seeing a lot of the so-often referred to 'curb skating.' The combination of growing up in a city as influential as New York and witnessing the peak of rollerblading along with the slow, depressing pitfall and all the drama and confusion in between, I learned to appreciate the little things. The way a skater carries his or herself is important if you want to have a noticeable impact whatsoever. That's a tough concept to comprehend when you're still in that awkward grom stage, yet our industry today is so lame that it seemingly encourages that mindset and sometimes even awards our grom kids with the almighty 'pro' label. Well, good. I mean, good for those kids. That's gotta feel good. Good, good, good. But do we really want to continue down the same path we rocketed down twenty years ago? Is this the image we want to showcase? Goofy waddling, flailing arms, hucking ragdoll bodies over a flight of stairs for the guts and glory? Do we want history to repeat itself?
Stunts are exciting. They're ballsy. They're badass. Whatever. But a stunt doesn't define a professional. Not even close. In fact, I think they much more accurately define the opposite. They define the immature rollerblader. The undeveloped mind. The 'prepubescent' grom. The past.
Is rollerblading going to be big again? Is it going to hit the mainstream? Probably not. Sorry. That's the honest truth. That doesn't greatly bother me, though. I'm a hobbyist. You know that about me. I wish I had some sort of inspiring wisdom to share with you all in hopes to bring some sort of positivity to your outlook on skating, but I have none other than to have fun. Setting standards is a great way to keep the fun alive as you tip-toe into the 'elder years,' but that's just something that's worked for me over the course of time. I'd like to restate that I believe this is the greatest time rollerblading has ever seen, aesthetically-speaking, and it's on track to get better and better. To the youth: pay more mind to the old heads. If they're still out here with boots on their feet maybe there's a thing or two they could share with you if you're willing to listen. To the elders, especially professionals: speak firmly, frequently and with more candor. What have we got to lose besides perhaps a valuable piece of wisdom?