From the Coast Mountain Culture archives we offer up the Coastlines column from Issue #3, which appeared in the winter of 2012. It ran with the title “The Sharp Edge of the Blade.”
Let’s play word association. What comes to mind when you hear the word “rollerblading”? Be honest. If you’re like most people who spend their free time sliding down snow, riding bikes or climbing mountains, your answer probably isn’t positive. I would bet most of you snickered self-righteously. Did your mind’s eye pull up images of people in tights gliding in gay (proper use) fashion along the Stanley Park seawall? Or did you just call it “gay” (improper use)?
Rollerblading gets a bad rap. People absolutely love to make fun of it. It doesn’t matter that, on paper, it’s no more or less ridiculous than dressing like a teenager and sliding down a mountain on a P-Tex tray, spinning little pirouettes off bumps. Is it any stranger than an adult man riding a tiny bicycle over dirt jumps in the forest, getting excited about how many times he can flip the bars around in the air? Does it look as goofy as windsurfing? Or kayaking? Or skiing through a giant stunt ditch? Not really. Maybe. I don’t know. All I do know is the harshness we harbour for rollerblading is unfair, and the value — or lack of value — we assign to it is bogus. Ask a yak farmer in Mongolia to quantify the cool factor of each individual sport, something we relish doing, and you’ll probably get a stunned look and a proclamation of “Eeez cool!”
Inline skating is the punk rock of any action sport. While you’re deciding which pair of skinny jeans matches your faux-ironic haircut, rollerbladers are getting spit on at your local skatepark.
How do we quantify lameness? When you really look at skateboarding — considered the holiest and most “authentic” of action sports — it seems pretty damn ridiculous. It also happens to be the biggest corporate whore of all the sports, generating $5.7 billion in sales each year. That’s a lot of trendy T-shirts and fashionable kicks. So why all the hate for rollerblading? I have an answer many of you won’t like. Could it be that it’s more radical than your sport?
It may be true. Rollerblading, or “aggressive inline skating” as its outsider participants call it, is the most individually punk rock of any action sport. While you’re deciding which pair of skinny jeans matches your faux-ironic haircut, rollerbladers are getting spit on at your local skatepark. While your favourite skier is recording a reggae album or renegotiating his contract with a major department store chain, “professional” rollerbladers everywhere are eating shit on concrete for free product and the promise of a video segment 75 people will see. While Shaun White is invoking Jimi Hendrix while wearing leather tights on the cover of Rolling Stone, the best fruitbooter in the world is unknown to any mainstream media. While skate, surf and snowboard companies are being traded on the New York Stock Exchange, dedicated aggressive in-line skate companies are almost non-existent, instead relying on ski companies to build their equipment. To be a rollerblader is to accept life on the fringe — the very definition of radical.
I think it’s time for people to give rollerblading a break. Or for that matter, give every sport a break. Sport as fashion has always been a pretty idiotic way to approach what basically breaks down to people having a great time while being physical. Any sport scrutinized closely enough by an objective eye will be revealed as exactly what sport should be aligned with: the pursuit of endorphins, getting in shape and connecting with your community. And if you can’t get on board with that, you’re probably a fashion whore. And that, dear reader, is as boring as it gets.