Retro Active:  How Roller Skating Became Cool Again


Retro Active:  How Roller Skating Became Cool Again

In a time when nostalgia rules and TikTok reigns, a whole new generation are giving the retro sport a spin. So, are you ready to roll?

Pip Jarvis

0 minute read

Published: May 2022

Origin: Australia

Some of us revel in the routine of exercise. Others need a little more motivation.

If you need to shake up your fitness game, it might be time to pop on some booty shorts, strap on some wheels, and have a little fun(k)... because roller skating’s back.

In a time when nostalgia rules and TikTok reigns, a whole new generation are giving the retro sport a spin. And, naturally, it’s those born a good decade or two after skating’s ‘70s heyday who are spearheading the revival.

Instagram and TikTok skating sensations like Oumi Janta and Ana Coto (2.1 million followers and counting) appeared to be living their best lives – hypnotising us with their slick moves and retro aesthetic.

Their viral videos seem to have served as a reminder to go chase some joy of our own. And from London to Lorne, Brisbane to Berlin, we’ve been giving it our best shot.

“Over the last 12 months we’ve seen a surge in people buying roller skates and learning how to skate outdoors,” says James O’Connor, manager of Rollerskating Sydney. Google Trends data and media reports of a global roller skate shortage back up his claim. However, all you really need to do is swing by your local skate park or car park to see the wheels in motion.

“The online skate groups I admin, my skate school and other community groups have tripled in size with no sign in slowing down,” says Jan Juc’s Laura Issell , founder of Surf Coast Roller Skaters – a business launched during the pandemic.“

Skate rinks have also seen an increase in attendance and all our discos and skate performance nights have booked out in seconds,” she adds.

So, what’s driving the worldwide obsession with old school quad skating?

According to O’Connor, COVID19’s social distancing requirements and the rise of reels on wheels created the perfect storm.

“Lots of the world’s best ice hockey players were suddenly unable to go to ice rinks and adjusted their workouts to on-skates outdoor workouts.

This combined with the growth of women’s ramp skating, Instagram and TikTok have led to a huge resurgence of roller skating.”

Setting aside practical considerations like closed gyms, Issell says the mood of the past two years meant roller skating was perfectly placed for a revival.

“I think roller skating gives you a sense of freedom, self-expression and joy and due to the pandemic causing so much grief and loss, people were searching for anything to help them feel good!”

Even more than the fitness benefits, it’s this feel-good factor that has skaters starry-eyed. “I just turned 40 and roller skating makes me feel like a kid again,” says the Surf Coast’s Jacintha Field. 

"It’s a feeling of pure bliss. It lights up my soul. I love that I feel free when skating. It brings me into the present moment to surrender and enjoy just being."

Hailing from Sydney’s Hills District, Tay Haora agrees. “Roller skating wasn’t intended for fitness, although it’s a bloody good workout!” says the 28-year-old. “For me it’s fun! It doesn’t matter how you skate, it matters how it makes you feel.”

Worried you’re too old to give roller skating a go for the first time or after a decades-long break? Don’t be. “As a kid, I tried roller skates and I couldn’t skate in them at all! I was actually terrible at it,” insists Haora. “I found that being an adult made it much easier to master because I had the right kind of determination and mindset.”

Field loved skating as a child and took up roller skating again last year at the age of 39, after relocating to the beach following a separation.“

Separations create a wave of emotions so it’s a great opportunity to reinvent yourself, and to dig deep to find what lights you up.” In Field’s case, this was roller skating.

Part of the Surf Coast Roller Skating Skaters tribe, she loves that the school caters equally for kids, adults, and families. “The ages vary up to 60-year-olds – it’s very inspiring.”

“Most of my students are 40-plus and getting back into it after a 20 or 30-year break! You are never too old to try something new,” insists Issell.

From disco to derby, there are also different skating styles to try on for size.

Taking up the sport after the first Brisbane lockdown, Rib, 19, refers to herself as ‘an aggressive park roller skater’. Meaning? “I hit skateparks compared to like jam/dance skating or rink skaters that stay on flat ground.”

Ask any roller skater why they’re hooked and they’ll say the same thing: the community. “I love that roller skating is a solo journey with the best supportive community,” says Rib. “We all progress at our own rate with different goals in mind but at the same time we all experience that same stoke and it’s so fun to encourage each other to push ourselves to that next level!”

Field agrees. “It’s a beautiful community, everyone is so supportive of each other, regardless of their level of roller skating.”

So, the only question remaining is, are you ready to roll?

Pip Jarvis


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