Pandemic introduces students to roller skating
By Keri Johnson
The pandemic has brought about many lifestyle changes, one of them being hobbies.
People have adapted their hobbies for socially-distant, COVID-friendly activities. Within the past seven months, Ohio University students have picked up photography, sewing and latch hooking. As October marks National Roller Skating Month, it also marks a particular hobby that has taken off in 2020.
Ohio University junior, Justine Orr, rollerblades along the bike path in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Image by KELSEY BOEING
According to Google Trends, interest in rollerblading and rollerskating increased in late March, and peaked in late April and early May. Justine Orr, a junior studying journalism, wasn’t new to the sport; in fact, her revived interest in skating due to the pandemic marked a return to the activity.
Orr learned how to rollerblade in first or second grade, she said, but after a couple of years her interest trailed off. Until this past spring, when she bought a pair of nice skates after 12 years.
“I’ve been wanting to get back into it ever since I was a kid,” Orr said. “It’s always been right for me.”
Orr likes rollerblading because it is a good way for her to exercise. “It gives me a purpose sometimes,” Orr said. “It really helps with my mental health and getting active in general.”
Orr said that though she’s not very good, she can go pretty fast. “It’s so rewarding,” Orr said.
Some of Orr’s favorite spots on campus to rollerblade are the Nelson parking garage, the Athens Skate Park, the Hocking-Adena Bikepath and around her neighborhood on the West Side. She has a rollerblading playlist, she said, consisting of “a lot” of ABBA, Fiona Apple and Stevie Wonder.
Orr said she finds rollerblading easier than roller skating. Rollerblading is a type of roller skating. According to inlineskateworld.com, there is not a huge difference between the two, other than wheel setup; however, both require a learning curve.
Maddi Butina, a senior studying journalism, prefers roller skating. Like Orr, she had experience roller skating in elementary school. It wasn’t until April when she was looking for a new hobby that she hopped on another set of wheels.
When quarantine hit and Butina was still with her family in Pennsylvania, she looked for a fun way to get out of the house.
“I don't remember what really sparked it,” Butina said. “I started doing research online and watched a ton of videos. There’s a big roller skating community online.”
Butina got some skates and went to work. She started practicing in her driveway and said the first thing she did was fall. It took her some time to get used to the skates, but once she did, her passion was reunited.
Butina thinks the ability to skate depends on the individual, but Orr thinks everyone can –– or should try to –– rollerblade.
“I recommend it to everyone,” Orr said. “It honestly came pretty naturally to me. I have no sense of balance –– I can't skateboard for the life of me. It was really easy to pick up.” Rylie Miller, a senior studying strategic communication, thinks one of the great things about roller skating is that, unlike ice skating, it can be done year-round. Unlike Butina and Orr, Miller picked up rollerblading just this year after she was given a pair of skates. She was inspired, in part, by rollerblading she’d seen on TikTok.
“(My cousin) who was pregnant at the time was like, ‘I have rollerblades and I won't be using them anytime soon,” Miller said.
In April, she donned a pair of thick socks and began skating around her Cleveland neighborhood. Living next to both a metro park and an empty parking lot, she had great options to learn to skate.
For Miller, rollerblading was a good way to bond with her family during the pandemic. She always skated around town with her eight-year-old sister.
“She’s a lot younger than me, obviously; I’m a senior in college and she’s in elementary school,” Miller said. “The pandemic is really weird for both of us. We’ve both really been able to tell how it’s altered our lives.”
For those interested in picking up the hobby, it might be best to start secondhand. Orr, Butina and Miller all said that they’ve found that skates are hard to come by and sold out at many retailers. Orr also said that it is essential to get a good pair of skates.
For Butina, it’s additionally important to recognize the history of skating and its contextual origins.
“Roller skating has a deep history in African American culture,” Butina said. Though the activity seems like it's experiencing an online resurgence, roller skating transcends both time and circumstance.
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