We may not be full-time skaters, but we have had some experience in the past. And we learned even more about it this past weekend. If you thought that inline skating was just about gliding at a leisurely pace through the park or along the boardwalk, then you haven’t been keeping up to date with extreme sports. While rollerblading can be a gentle activity – about as much exercise as going for a walk – there are lots more exhilarating ways of going skating if you are looking for thrills and a heart-pounding workout.
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You’ve probably seen rollerbladers performing the same sorts of tricks that you expect to see on skateboards and with free runners. This is known as aggressive rollerblading, where the focus is on performing spectacular moves, such as spins and grinds. You will see skaters spending their time defying gravity as they fly through the air. While it’s not for everyone, aggressive skating has a huge following, and it’s guaranteed to get your adrenaline running.
If aggressive rollerblading interests you, there are two different types that you can try. Street skating, which is also called freestyle skating, uses the urban environment as the stage. Street skaters jump down flights of stairs, grind down rails, and leap over obstacles at high speed. In many ways, street skating has a lot in common with other extreme street sports, such as parkour.
If street skating seems just a little too much for you – and it can be pretty intense – then you can try park skating. As the name suggests, this form of aggressive rollerblading takes place at the skate park, with skaters focusing more on technical tricks than on the freestyle moves seen in street skating. Not only do they try to perfect individual tricks, they try to connect them together into a fluid series of moves known as a line. This can include tricks on features such as pipes and curved ramps, which just don’t exist in a street environment. If you are looking to try park skating, ask around for a good park – the best parks have a flow to them, and have good lines that make it easier and more enjoyable to perform tricks.
Of course, if you are going to perform all those tricks, slides and grinds, a regular in-line skate just isn’t going to do the job. What you need is a pair of aggressive rollerblades, which are specifically designed to take all the impacts and strains. Not only are they tougher in general than regular skates, they also have specific features designed for aggressive skating. For example, the frames are specifically made so that skaters can grind on them, and some include grind plates. Street variants may also omit the inner two wheels, giving a huge area for grinding.
As well as aggressive rollerblading, there are a number of other types of in-line skating that you can try. For example, freestyle slalom skating is incredibly technical and involves performing tricks as you weave around cones that are laid out in a line. Vert skating is another variant, and is basically park skating on steroids – skaters perform acrobatics as they zoom up and down the sides of a half pipe, carrying out complicated aerial stunts such as spins and flips that can take them 10 feet above the sides of the pipe. There are also inline sports that mirror traditional winter sports, such as hockey, speed skating and off-road skating – this last one is basically the equivalent of cross-country skiing on rollerblades.
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Whatever type of inline skating appeals to you, it’s incredibly important to take the right safety precautions, otherwise the sport can be hazardous. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are slightly more than 400,000 rollerblading and skateboarding injuries every year. However, given that over 11 million Americans are into these sports, that means that you have a less than one in 20 chance of getting injured in any given year – and most of these injuries are preventable. Buy quality skates that fit you properly and support you, so that you avoid injuries like twisted ankles – and make sure you keep them in good working order. Also, it’s inevitable that you’re going to fall from time to time, so learn how to fall without hurting yourself – if you don’t know how to do this, ask someone who does. And of course, proper protective gear is essential, starting with a helmet that meets or exceeds government safety standards. Other things you will want are quality wrist guards, along with knee and elbow pads. If any of this protective gear gets damaged, replace it – it’s already done its job.