Roller skating is about as American as baseball and apple pie. And at dozens of roller skating rinks from San Francisco to Philadelphia, time seems to stand still as kids of all ages (tots to seniors) lace up their skates and roll down memory lane. Longtime skating rink owners and managers share their thoughts on why roller skating is alive and well, and why quad is still the most popular style.
100,000 Skaters can’t be wrong
Ken Roesel, manager of Skatetown USA in West Chester, Ohio, has spent many years on the hardwood maple rink. He admitted that while music and fashion has certainly changed over the years, most skaters at Skatetown USA enjoy skating the old-fashioned way: on quad skates.
“Most of the adults prefer quad verses in-line skates,” said Roesel. “That is what they grew up on.” But the younger kids seem to use more in-line skates, he admitted. “Most of our elementary school parties enjoy a mix of both skates, while our junior high and high school parties prefer in-line. And the adult session are almost all quad skates.”
He recommended quads to young skaters who are just starting out on the rink. “I believe that the preschoolers and beginners prefer the quad skates due to balance and stability, while at elementary age the skaters are mixed,” he explained. “By junior high and high school, the trend is more towards in-line.” Skatetown USA offers the traditional quad rentals (known as brownies), as well as a premium Speed Rental and in-line skates.
Where age is only a number
At Rollerama Roller Rink, with two locations in Bakersfield, Calif., it’s not unusual to see kids as young as three and seniors in their 90s rolling around the indoor skate park. “Most adults use quad skates, while children use in-lines,” explained Kraig Kerwin, owner of Rollerama.
A member of the Rollerskating.org since 1961, Rollerama has seen its share of trends come and go. And while in-line skating is definitely popular among sports leagues (the rink hosts children and adult hockey games), Kerwin said most skaters prefer quads.
“Quad skates are a little more stabile side to side,” he said. “With in-lines, you have to push out on your ankles.” Children favor in-lines because you can move a lot faster and make much sharper turns. But quads, he admitted, are more comfortable for longer skating sessions indoors.
At both Rollerama locations, in-line and quad skates are available for rent. “Quad skates are my favorite,” he said. “I have been skating on quads for over 40 years.”
It’s all in the family
Natalie Mitchell has been managing Ohio Skate for more than three decades in Maumee and Toledo, Ohio. And while the music and technology have certainly changed over the years, she said most visitors can still be found on quad skates.
“Even when they come in with their own in-lines,” said Mitchell, “most will rent or purchase quad skates. Quad skates are much more user-friendly indoors. Most skaters prefer to use in-lines outdoors.”
Mitchell has noticed adults almost always favor quad skates, while younger skaters own their own Rollerblades. “We have both available for rent,” she said, “but 80 percent are quads.”
Quad skates are recommended for younger, less experienced children, while tweens and teens are comfortable on in-lines. “We even have customers who are almost 90 that skate on a weekly basis,” said Mitchell. “It’s something you can do forever.”
The impact of roller derby
Hipsters and young urbanites have found a new way to enjoy rinks around the country thanks to roller derby, a sport that combines speed and force and some pretty entertaining monikers.
“For indoor skating, I think the resurgence of roller derby as a competitive sport has really boosted the traditional skate to being the most popular,” said David Jacques, manager of Roller King Skating and Blading in sunny Roseville, Calif. “Roller derby is sort of a retro event, and the look of traditional skates has that retro feel to it since they really haven’t changed much over time.”
He compared the quad versus in-line experience to skiing versus snowboarding. “When you compare skis to snowboards, everything is different from having one board instead of two skis. And you ski with your hips and shoulders facing down the mountain instead of snowboarding with your hips and shoulders angled. When you roller skate or in-line skate you still have separate equipment on each foot, and your body orientation is the same.”
Jacques admitted most skaters favor what they first started skating on. “Older skaters who started on quad skates tend to stick with them,” he said, “and younger skaters who start skating on in-line skates will remain loyal to in-line. I think if age really plays a factor it is seen in older skaters choosing traditional skates because they have a better reputation for being safe.”
Roller King currently rents both in-line and traditional quad skates in its pro shop. “I used to skate competitively on quads and I am just better with them,” said Jacques. “Also, I broke my leg in-line skating.”
Quad for beginners
At Bonaventure Family Skating Center in Farmington Hills, Mich., quad skating rules. “The majority still use regular roller skates,” said Christie Kolis, general manager of Bonaventure. As many as 70 percent of skaters use quads compared to 30 percent of in-line users.
“Roller skates require less ankle strength than blades,” explained Kolis, “Blades push you forward more, working different muscles of the legs. We rent roller skates, Rollerblades or speed skates with fatter wheels and a shorter boot.”
Like her customers, Kolis also prefers quads: “Though I know how to skate on any skate type, I like the quad speed skates best. These were the trend when I was growing up in the early 1990s.”
A vacation around the corner
In sleepy Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in the heart of coal country, Melissa Ziolkowski, manager of Skateaway, said adults and teens love in-line skates, but most small children have trouble standing on them.
The Ridell USA, and GTX 500 are both among the most popular skates. “Both skates are made durable and are less expensive,” said Ziolkowski. “Quad skates are for more speed (which the roller derby uses) and dancing, while in-lines are great for outdoor use. I would say more teens and more experienced adults prefer the quads verses the in-line. They are easier to stand on, especially for beginner skaters.”
Ziolkowski recommended the Higer top quad skate. “They support your ankle while making it easier to stand on.” Ziolkowski said as many as 150 people on weekend nights take advantage of the skating rink, both using quads and in-lines.
“I personally like the Ridell USA,” said Ziolkowski, “which has a leather boot that’s very easy to break in, and is very comfortable and durable.” –