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In June last year, 29-year-old Berlin-based rollerskater Oumi Janta posted a short video on her Instagram that shows her dancing on her skates. She is dressed in egg-yolk yellow sports shorts and a matching T-shirt, and shot against a background of bright blue sky. Bassy house music is playing and she moves effortlessly, doing a kind of salsa-inflected moonwalk. “Bit windy, weather on point tho, everyone is vibing,” reads the caption. “Just jamming is good for now.”
In the middle of a gruelling year, the sunny atmosphere and Janta’s skill and easy joy struck a chord. The video has since racked up 2.9m views and rollerskating has become a new It hobby.
Janta’s post tapped into an already accelerating trend. Google searches for rollerskates began to climb as soon as lockdown hit in spring, with worldwide searches increasing by 77 per cent in the time between March and May 2020. When season four of The Crown arrived in November, with its scenes of a bored Diana, Princess of Wales, skating around Buckingham Palace listening to Duran Duran on a Walkman, it cemented the sport’s new cool. (The scene was based on the princess’s real penchant for blading around Kensington Gardens, although she usually wore sportier inline skates, rather than the retro-style quads on display in the show.)
“We’ve seen an influx in sales and people sharing the love with us,” says Pariss Cozier, marketing executive at UK brand Rookie Rollerskates, revealing that its sales increased by 115 per cent year on year from 2020 into 2021. “People have more time to explore interests and hobbies: some people are baking bread, others are discovering the joys of rollerskating.” Part of the sport’s appeal is the way it transforms cardio into a fun activity. “Skating is a great way to keep fit in small spaces and while remaining socially distanced and outside.”
Nicolai Benjamin Simmons, skates category manager at action sport retailer SkatePro, agrees: “When we can’t do the ‘normal’ routines of team sports, people look to what they can do on their own or with their families. Rollerskating has been popular for that reason.”
The first decision for new skaters is to choose which of the two subcultures to join: rollerblading on inline skates, with the wheels in a single row, or rollerskating on quads, which have two rows of two wheels. Inline skaters tend to be sportier, as the straight line of wheels makes you speedier. If you want to get from A to B, or skate as a form of cardio, inline is the best option. Quad skates are more stable and therefore better for beginners and dancers. Personally, I’m in it for fun rather than fitness, so I have opted for quads.
“It’s harder to jam on inlines, but I have friends who do it,” says LA-based skater and dancer Kelsey Guy, who skated occasionally on inlines as a child and now rolls on quads. “Bladers and skaters definitely coexist. All wheels are welcome and we all groove out together,” she says of the scene in LA, from where she regularly posts dreamy videos of sunset skates.
She recommends California-based Moxi Skates – whose founder, Michelle Steilen, played Margot Robbie’s skate stunt double in Birds of Prey – for their comfort, and the fact that they’re designed for outdoor skating. Its suede skates come in a rainbow of colours, from poppy red to pineapple yellow and soft pink (£257). Melbourne-based Impala Skate is another brand beloved for its playful roller-disco-style designs, available in both quad and inline styles. Its vintage-style vegan leather designs in coral red and candy toned turquoise with hot-pink laces (€99.95) are particularly good fun, as are a pair of pale-pink holographic boots (€119.95) born from a collaboration with Instagram skating sensation Marawa. Impala Skates also does a good line of protective gear, including knee pads and hand shields with metal bars, allowing you to learn without fear of falling. For those who want to hit the roller disco, Moonlight Roller has a line of skates inspired by vintage roller-rink styles – its silver and black-and-grey suede styles ($249) regularly sell out.
Rookie Rollerskates does a good everyday skate. Its Artistic boots (£99.99) combine the retro aesthetic of a leather skate with sporty, ice-hockey-style chunky laces and padded ankle support, and have one of the smoothest rolls of all the skates I tried – which makes them suited to skating both indoors (around the living room) and out. Their silky glide, or lack of grip, makes them trickier for beginners, but once you’ve cracked your balance, they make for a highly elegant skate. For those looking to get fancy with their tricks, Guy recommends Jackson’s streamlined Mystique figure skate (from £114.95). “They’re so supportive. I feel really safe when working on new skills. This boot has me!”
To get The Crown’s Diana, Princess of Wales-on‑wheels look, Italian brand Roces’ sleek figure skating-inspired RC2 Roller Skates (£89.95) are ideal, and come recommended by SkatePro’s Simmons as a good-quality beginner style. For inline skaters, Simmons recommends the Roces PIC TIF Inline Skates (£169.95). With four wheels and multiple supportive ankle straps, they’re well suited for doing laps of the park in lieu of a run. As for tips in how to get your skates on? Beginners should get comfortable by skating around the house. Then, once you’re ready to start freewheeling through the park, the real fun begins. “It’s freedom on wheels,” says Guy, of why she got into the sport. “I don’t feel my age on wheels, I feel youthful and full of hope and wonder. It’s the one thing other than dance that allows me to feel bigger than my body. Talk about pure magic!”
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