Seattle roller skaters take on the pandemic: 'Reclaiming of joy under any circumstance'
By Megan Farmer
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, roller skating is having a big moment. Skates are flying off shelves across the globe, as thousands pursue the activity in an effort to both stay fit and socialize in a socially distanced manner. Here in Seattle, the outdoor recreational roller skating community is stronger than ever.
Skating is the hottest thing on the planet right now because people are locked in at home,” said Tiffany Mason, founder of the local roller skating collective Roll Around SeaTown.
“Nothing to do but be in their neighborhoods, so they ordered a bunch of skates. The skate manufacturers are sold out.”
In Seattle, roller skating isn’t anything new – but perhaps the community surrounding outdoor skating is. Even before the pandemic, Mason saw an opportunity to bring together both seasoned and new skaters alike. She founded Roll Around SeaTown in 2019.
Naima Pai, co-founder of Seattle Skates, stands for a portrait on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, during a decades themed skate meet up at the White Center Bicycle Playground in Seattle.
CREDIT: KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER
Several days a week, people gather at the Judkins Park sports courts to skate.
“I wanted an outdoor community for Seattle because we really didn’t have one,” Mason said. She grew up skating and never stopped; she’s been skating in the Seattle area since 1984.
“People have told me, ‘You don’t even realize you’re saving lives,’” Mason said. “And you think about it and you’re like, wow. People say, ‘Thank you so much – I’ve been stressed, Covid has literally brought me to my knees. I come here and it makes me so happy.’”
For Mason, it’s a labor of love.
“Everything I do is for this – for the community. For it to just be a positive place with good vibes. And everybody is welcome. This is come one, come all.”
For Zenobia Taylor, it’s a nice reminder that the world keeps spinning.
“People are going to keep skating and doing what they can do for as long as they can,”
Taylor said. “Humans are adaptable and we find ways to create joy wherever we can. And especially Black people – that’s literally all we know.”
“Skating and the history of it, especially jam skating that’s so popular now, is a very historically Black thing,” Taylor said. “So I think that part of where this comes from is just this reclaiming of joy under any circumstance.”
Artemis Peacocke and Naima Pai are the co-founders of Seattle Skates, another outdoor roller skating group to emerge amid the pandemic. They also emphasized a profound sense of community among local roller skaters.
“We definitely have a genuine care for each other and it’s not just random people I like skating with,” Peacocke said. “It’s genuinely a community. I love it so much.”
Artemis Peacocke, center, co-founder of Seattle Skates leads a group of roller skaters along Alki Avenue Southwest during a meet up on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, in Seattle.
CREDIT: KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER
Peacocke and Pai organize weekly meet-ups at places such as Alki Beach and the White Center Bicycle Playground.
“I thought, it would be amazing if we could just get people together and just have fun,” Peacocke said. “And I wanted to go to different locations too so we could explore the city while on skates.”
“It teaches me discipline and not to be afraid of failing,” Peacocke said about roller skating ahead of a group trail skate along Alki Beach during sunset.
Mason expressed similar sentiments. “You’re only in competition with yourself; your fear, basically. If you can conquer your fear, you can do this,” Mason said. “It’s not about being the best, or competing —it’s about learning and growing.”
JNiyah Williams and Kayan Hanks, a couple, met at Judkins Park skating around during the summer.
"Skating by yourself is really fun, but skating with someone else, you have to get the synchronicity down," said Williams. "It’s really fun, you have to hold hands and it’s kind of awkward at first, but then you start to get each other’s vibe and it gets really fun."
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