Okay. I admit it. I succumbed to the hype of trending TikTok videos. Deep in the throes of pandemic summer, I scrolled for hours – literal hours – through videos of gorgeous ladies (and funny dudes) on roller skates, tube socks meeting tanned thighs, floating down California boulevards with the wind in their hair. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one mesmerized by the saccharine nostalgia of the viral phenomenon – roller skate inventory sold out.
As the pandemic wore on and boredom, loneliness and opportunities to stay active seemed to dwindle, I kept California dreaming. Then, at some point in the fall, my friend Kristen Zory King posted a story looking fly in her teal and pink Impalas. I had no idea she was a roller girl, right here in D.C. Not too long after that, I met artist Khadija Jahmila at an outdoor pop-up art market hosted by local makers collective Femme Fatale DC. I loved the collage piece I bought from Jahmila and started following her on Instagram. Lo and behold – another skater girl.
“That’s it,” I declared to myself (and maybe the dog). “I’m doing this!”
I did some research (a.k.a. watched a lot of YouTube videos) to determine what type of skates would be best for a beginner. Finally, I settled on a pair of iridescent silver Impalas with glittery teal wheels and matching laces, and purchased them as a Christmas gift to myself.
I grew up in the ‘90s, so inline skates or rollerblades – not quads (roller skates) – were all the rage. My best friend Julie and I would lace up and play street hockey in front of her house every day after school. One of my most vivid memories from that time is when I – still wearing my blades – “Sandlot”-style beat the shit out of one of the other neighborhood kids after he tried to take one of us down.
So, I thought, “Hell. I’m practically a pro already. I’ll be cruising through Rock Creek, down U Street and along the waterfront in no time.”
This is the part where we ignore the fact that I haven’t put on a pair of skates in 20 years. And let me tell you: While it’s true I haven’t had many opportunities to break these beautiful gals in, I can report this. Roller skating. Is. Not. Easy. It is work, and it’s a workout. Expect your shins to burn and your thighs and glutes to give you that good hurt.
Still, even through the stumbling and would-be skinned knees, flailing arms, and feeling silly, there is something incredibly freeing about just letting go and feeling the wheels fly beneath you as the ground gives way. And when you’re focusing so hard on ah, ah, ah ah-staying alive, you can forget for a moment the whirl of the world around you. That’s right: Channel your inner Stevie Nicks, girl. You got this.
Is Skating the New Calling Card of Creative Babes?
We caught up with two local skater girls about what drew them to roller skating, why it’s tough and what makes it worth it to each of them.
Poet, Essayist + MoonLit Founder Kristen Zory King
District Fray: When did you start roller skating, and why?
Kristen Zory King: As a kid, I did a lot of roller skating at the local rink, which was the hotspot for birthday parties. There was a dance corner with a fog machine for kids who didn’t want to skate, but I was all about the rink, whipping around each curve as fast as I could under the black light with Cher blasting overhead. As birthday parties shifted to sleepovers and the like, I stopped skating until I was in my late 20s. I had a pretty difficult winter in 2019 and as a treat for myself, bought a bright turquoise pair of Impala roller skates with hot pink laces for the spring. I was so excited when they arrived and have been relearning to skate ever since, [for] about two years now.
What is the hardest thing about being a beginner skater?
The hardest thing for me is the limits of my own body and mind. I was an athletic kid and skating came easily to me. As a less active adult, I have been surprised to find myself more cautious and somewhat fearful than I ever was as a kid. I guess that’s in part because I’m higher from the ground now, so a fall feels like it could be more catastrophic. In addition, I’m just less, well, bendy than I used to be.
What do you like about skating?
I find a lot of joy in movement, in particular the whirlwind flow of skating. I often find myself laughing when I skate around, just out of the sheer thrill of delicious forward motion. That’s what I like most about it: getting lost in the movement and momentum. I also love being outside [and] working up a good sweat under the sun and sky.
Learn more about Zory King at www.kristenzoryking.com.
Collage Artist Khadija Jahmila
District Fray: When did you start skating, and why? Why inline skates as opposed to roller skates?
Khadija Jahmila: When I was 6, there was a neighborhood kid with rollerblades. We’d all take turns trying them on and trying our luck. As lockdown and stay-at-home orders extended, I decided to invest in some hobbies of interest: rollerblading, tap dancing and indoor gardening. I started skating in July of 2020 and the choice between rollerblades (inlines) [and] roller skates (quads) was decided based on what was available at my local thrift store. For $5.99, I could not resist.
What is the hardest thing about being a beginner?
Members of my skate family have been skating for over 20 years. Sometimes, I’m intimidated and crippled with performance anxiety. Getting over the fear of falling and smashing my face or looking silly is definitely up there on my list of newbie hardships.
What do you like about inline skating?
Nostalgia finds me when I’m flowing around on my aggressive skates. A feel-good memory that comes to mind is my first official hill bomb flying down a massive incline – feet vibrating and tears rushing away from my eyes. It’s liberation.
A Few Pointers
- Do your research. Find a solid pair of skates that won’t break the bank but that will support you (make sure to get a metal and not a plastic frame).
- Remember your protective gear. Seriously. Get this before you even get your skates: a helmet at the very least, but wrist guards and knee pads are also crucial – especially when just starting out.
- Stay lower to the ground to find your center of balance. Crouch like a tiger.
- Don’t be afraid to fall, but try to fall forward when you do.
- Empty parking lots are great places to practice.
Where to Skate Around the DMV
Anacostia Skate Pavilion: 1900 Anacostia Dr. SE, DC; www.nps.gov/anac
Laurel Roller Skating Center: 9890 Brewers Ct. Laurel, MD; www.laurelskatingcenter.com
Maloof Skate Plaza at RFK Stadium: 1522 East Capitol St. NE, DC; www.eventsdc.com/venue/skate-park-rfk-campus
Powhatan Springs Skatepark: 6020 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; parks.arlingtonva.us/locations
Skate Zone: 1082 Route 3 South @ Capitol Raceway Rd. Crofton, MD; www.sk8zone.com
Wakefield Skate Park: 8100 VA-620, Annandale, VA; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks
Where to Buy Roller Skates
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