I run up the wall. The rubber of my purple-blue, star-shaped toe stop hits the wooden ramp hard for only an instance as I alternate feet on my vertical escalation. I can only think of keeping my body and mind in sync with my intentions—one faltering step or any second-guessing, and I risk gravity causing some serious damage.
I’m hugging the ramp now, elbows barely above the metal rail known as the coping. I resort to tossing one leg over the coping, finally able to hoist myself onto the narrow stage of a ledge. When you put eight wheels and two trucks on your feet, the weight adds up.
Strapped to my feet are yellow roller skates I had miraculously found on Depop that met my criteria:
1.) Not ridiculously price gouged (suppliers were not ready for the quarantine roller skating uptick),
2.) vegan (not leather—my preference as someone who leads a vegetarian lifestyle)
3.) in my size
4.) in a cute color.
From the top of the ramp I can see a panoramic view of ‘Hurt City’ skate park. Scooter kids take turns outdoing each other as they push off onto the ramps and kick their decks midair; skateboarders whiz by yelling the occasional “board!” (This is skate etiquette for a runaway board.) Other skaters are awaiting their turn for the mini-ramp – the hollowed out skate architecture I stood petrified at the very top of. For the amount of pride I felt just from climbing to the top, I may as well have backflipped off the side.
But any sense of euphoria was gone when I heard a young scooter kid from below yell out to their friends.
“Hey, she’s gonna drop in!”
Minutes prior, two of my skateboarding (a sport which wouldn’t exist without us roller skaters but that’s a story for a different day) friends had tried to convince me to, “just send it”. No thoughts, just go.
My helmet was getting warmer. They make it look so easy. I thought back to clips of roller skaters who popped up on my social media feeds shredding effortlessly.
My skate experience had been positive but my skill level was nothing above beginner thanks to elementary school gym class units and occasional visits to the local roller rink. I had been practicing skating back and forth indoors for a few weeks and had a sloppy moonwalk but impressive shoot-the-duck move under my belt—at least in my hallway. (‘Shoot the duck’ is a roller skating move that involves crouching down while rolling forward and holding out an extended leg.)
The Five Stages of Grief had not been on my agenda but it’s essentially what happened to me at the top of the ramp that day: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and lastly acceptance. At first I was very excited and preparing to “send it.” I looked down at the curvy, wooden ramp debating my drop-in (the act of rolling in from the top of a quarter or half pipe). My heart reached my helmet, the rhythmic thuds adding to my ever-present anxiety. Oh, no.
I wanted to do it. Just go. Some people get it on the first try. As badly as I wanted to be that fearless person with natural balance who starts carving like it’s second nature I knew my place in the universe and I was not them.
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You better believe I clumsily climbed my not-so-frail but definitely not-so-fresh early 20’s bones down to the flat concrete before they were carried out on a stretcher.
Learning anything new is a process. I had already pushed myself to invest in a new hobby spending a considerable amount of money, hyped myself up to leave the house and go out during the pandemic and put myself out there in a pair of bright yellow wheeled boots in front of intimidating strangers (kids with wheels). You don’t know intimidation until a 7-year-old scooter kid is staring you down waiting for their turn to do a run*.
*A run is a skater’s skate routine, usually starting from the top of a ramp. The run ends when the skater stops skating or bails—meaning they fall.)
Roller skaters also run the risk of skate park unfriendliness at a higher rate than other types of skaters, so that was a fear as well. Roller skater park harassment horror stories and documentation can be found online. Fortunately, such has not been a problem in my experience at any of the skateparks that I’ve visited. I’ve definitely been snaked but I always put it up to it being a busy park.
That day at ‘Hurt City’ I skated around the flat ground and rolled some inches onto smaller ramps only to roll right back off immediately backwards—fakie style. I called it a day and got over disappointing those scooter kids.
Just send it.
That’s what I would do days later when I visited another skate park, this time ‘Hot Wheelz’ Park, and with several roller skating tutorials from Instagram, TikTok, Reddit and YouTube under my belt. I chose a large, coping-less flat ramp to attempt as opposed to the curved mini-ramp at ‘Hurt City’. Essentially all I have to do is roll in.
Roll in, maintain my balance, roll out and gradually lose speed … it would be a lot cooler if I could accomplish that. Sounds simple and the physics are straight-forward. Got it. I gave myself a push.
And did not maintain balance. Common rookie mistake: you have to commit. This means letting your body go with the momentum and, if anything, leaning forward, not back which is a common defensive impulse a lot of people have when starting out.
I did the latter (of course) and ended up falling backwards. My backside ended up majorly bruised, my one-size-too-big protective pads slid off the moment I needed them and I have a 2 inch scar above my right elbow to this day. My head excessively thanked me for my helmet. It wasn’t even a real “drop-in” since it was a flat ramp without a coping. My park skating journey was going to be a long one, but it was going to be fun and very worth it.
From the unpublished college archives.