Archive for June, 2012

Why Get Rolling at Camp Rollerblade?

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Why do I believe  Zephyr Adventures’  Camp Rollerblade on Hilton Head Island, SC is the best possible way for novices and advanced beginners to gain confidence and inline skating skills?

The rink

For starters, we have full access to the Bristol Sports Arena with its smooth surface, morning shade and bench seating. Whether it’s an astounding breakthrough or a taste of future grace, this rink is where everybody makes progress on the basics as well as more advanced moves for the duration of camp.

Desiree coaches Wini; Sheba, Mike and Rick get a jump on skating skills

The trails

Once our newbie skaters are ready, the trails meandering through the forests and golf courses of the Sea Pines Plantation offer a sampling of real-world conditions. Skating here (with our help nearby) gives our campers experience with street crossings, a variety of surfaces, sharing the path with other users, surviving on rolling humps and the occasional alligator sighting. We also provide bicycles for non-skating spouses or those who need a rest from skating.

Tony and Wini enjoy an extra sweet patch of pavement

The weather

Camp Rollerblade is scheduled in early May. This date is largely based on local weather patterns conducive to a great tour. Besides skating, we offer other optional outdoors activities: kayaking, biking on the seashore, tennis and even horseback riding on request. But as our 2012 camp commenced, Alfredo, the first tropical storm of the season, was spinning in the Atlantic just offshore.

"We survived Tropical Storm Alfredo!"

Not to worry! We plan ahead for bad weather. After a very productive indoor rink session on our second day (thank you, SuperGoose in Savannah!), the sun came out for our kayaking trip that afternoon. Our group was just as proud of “surviving Alfredo” as they were of their growing skating skills.

The people

One of the best reasons to get rolling at Camp Rollerblade is the new friends you will make. Amazingly close  personal bonds can emerge while learning this “extreme sport” and sharing battle stories around the dinner table with other active and adventurous people. (And photogenic!)

Desiree’s photo album

With such good luck with the weather and a perfect mix of personalities, this year’s Camp Rollerblade will remain especially memorable for me and my co-instructor Desiree Kameka. She took charge of my camera for 5 days to capture the fun in images. Here is a password-free  slide show of the newest grads progressing from rink to trail at Camp Rollerblade 2012.

Paying attention to trail hazards

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

It was a beautiful spring day for a roll on the trail.

My ski season doesn’t end until after Memorial Day, but with the arrival of spring, the early Daylight Saving time and our first hot spell, I chose a day in late April for my first skating workout of the year. I literally dusted off my skates (we’ve just survived a complete kitchen remodel), and hit the streets, relishing the faint vibrations of urethane on smooth pavement.

It was after 10 am when I entered the Iron Horse Trail, already crowded with cyclists, walkers, joggers, and folks pushing baby strollers or walking their dogs. I gave a friendly wave as I passed a silver-haired gent on inlines, fully geared, as I was.

Awareness pays off

I had an unusually strong focus on safety that day. With the participants at an upcoming Camp Rollerblade on my mind along with my recent writing assignments for the safety team at the company where I work, I felt compelled to track the safety hazards I encountered during my 45 minutes on the trail:

  • twigs and other bumpy surface debris remaining from the winter
  • dogs darting about both on and off their leashes
  • clots of people and the frequent need to pass them from behind
  • trail users not leaving any room to pass, not paying attention
  • converging opposing traffic competing for passing room
  • reduced visibility and a blanket of moist leaves in the shade
  • bumpy transitions from street to trail at intersections
  • gaping cracks just the right width to snag my wheels
Photo of patched crack in asphalt on trail
Step on a crack and break your own back!

“Hm,” I mused. “Flat and car-free as it is, this is really not a great trail for beginners today.”

However, because I know how to avoid or handle the worst of these common trail hazards, I relished stride after stride in my Spark Pro skates after such a long time away from them.

A canine altercation

A few miles out, I approached a pair of ladies at a trail-side bench with two large, friendly-looking dogs on leashes. Suddenly a little pooch darted out from behind them and sprinted toward me, barking furiously. I braked to a screeching halt as one woman leaped up, grabbed him, and delivered a spanking, yelling, “Bad dog, bad dog!”

Meanwhile, the other woman released her shaggy charges in the excitement. They came trotting over to greet me, wrapping the leash that connected them around my legs. “Well, now we’ve got another problem,” I grinned. I didn’t feel a need to chastise the lady who was beating the smaller dog. She was obviously mortified over his antics.

Extricating myself from the leash, I continued skating up the trail. After encountering an entire classroom of middle schoolers a bit further ahead, I finally decided my workout was half finished and did an about face. Heading back, I managed to slip unseen past the “bad dog,”who had just wriggled out of his leash and again dashed away from his handler. I completed my first skating errand of 2012 by stopping in at my mobile phone store and then skated back home to have lunch in my beautiful new kitchen.

Tricks Aren’t Just for Kids

Sunday, June 10th, 2012
(Updated article from 1996)

Because all the world is not a stage (flat, smooth, protected), I make time in every lesson to help my students work on real-world skills and drills designed to improve overall balance and agility. Aside from the safety aspect, it’s always fun to have a frisky move or two to impress your friends.  As always, gear up before experimenting.

Get Air

How are your hopping skills? Being able to get both skates off the ground at the same time is a prerequisite to hopping up a curb. Out in the real world, this is an essential safety skill: it’s often necessary to hop over an electrical line seen at the last minute. Try your first hops on the lawn or carpet and remember these key points:

  • Do start from a crouch for good springing power
  • Do push off from a flat foot so you go straight up
  • Don’t spring off from your toes (or your skates will roll backwards
  • Don’t spring off from your heels (or your skates will roll forward and you will land on your rear)
  • Don’t go for height until you’ve mastered tiny hops while rolling at a slow speed on the pavement

Curb Coolness

 Since curbs are an inevitable part of skating in most locations, you might as well look cool rather than geeky. Make sure your practice spot is in a low traffic area.

Skating off a curb is the easy direction, so let’s learn that first. A word to the wise: don’t approach too slowly, or your brake can catch on the edge of the curb where it might trip you.

  1. On a sidewalk, head for your first curb at an angle, not in a straight line. This makes it easier to keep your balance.
  2. As you approach the edge, make sure your knees are bent and hands visible near your waist.
  3. Push one skate forward about half a skate length. Not only will this improve your fore-to-aft balance, it will make your first “descent” less traumatic.
  4. Do not jump up as you go off the curb. Just relax and roll off, letting your body drop the short distance to the pavement.

Hopping up onto a curb requires self confidence in your ability to clear such a towering obstacle. You must know you can jump at least six inches high and land without losing your balance. Here’s how to build up your confidence:

  1. To warm up, practice on the flats, jumping over cracks, leaves or invisible curbs. See how high you can pick up your feet.
  2. When you jump, try to tuck your feet up and out to one side so you can actually slap one of your heels. Once you can do this easily, you know you can jump high enough to clear the curb.
  3. Now you’re ready. Roll towards a likely curb, preferably at a corner where you can continue rolling on the sidewalk after you land.
  4. Just before you reach the curb, hop high and make sure your feet and knees come up high, too. If you need to, use your arms to help throw yourself upwards.
  5. Land in the ready position with one foot advanced for balance. After the first curb they’ll all be easy.

Heel-Toe roll

Here’s a stunt to impress your friends. (For this one, you must have only one heel brake.)

  1. Coasting slowly on smooth, flat pavement, with knees flexed and your feet close together, raise both arms out to the sides for balance.
  2. Lift the right heel (or the heel of the skate with the brake), so that you are rolling on that skate’s front wheel plus all four wheels on the left.
  3. Shift your weight back slightly, so that it is evenly balanced over both skates.
  4. Push your left skate forward and in line with your rear skate, and tip up the toe until you’re rolling on just the back wheel.
  5. Now that you are rolling forward on one toe wheel and one heel wheel see how far apart you can spread your skates apart–without falling down!


Help Shape the Future of Skating!

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I tested Alex Bellehumeur’s impressive cuff-activated disc braking technology, currently named the 4XS system. Why isn’t this system available on inline skates yet? Because manufacturers just don’t get it. They underestimate how much and how many people care about staying in control of gravity and momentum when they’re inline skating.

My efforts to support Alex’s attempts to get the 4XS into production have probably helped raise awareness a little, but have not yet resulted in improving the safety of our current technology:

  • I wrote “The Brake of My Dreams” in 2007 and continue to update this article from Alex’s emailed reports.
  • I summarized a comparison of all of my Brake Test Results showing the 4XS as a clear winner over other technologies.
  • I created a Facebook page to socialize the 4XS technology.
  • I published a YouTube video to demonstrate the 4XS in action.

But we’re still waiting!

After two years of hearing skates with the 4XS brake will be on the market in the coming year — from two manufacturers — we are still waiting–and waiting, and waiting.

“[company x] continues to be a very poor communicator,” inventor Alex Bellehumeur reported recently. “This is very frustrating and I would like to begin exposing the product broadly. It would be helpful if you could provide me with contact names for any other candidates who might want to license the 4XS.”

Calling all skaters and their social networks

What if every member of every skating community sent out a query for contacts who are connected, passionate or funded enough to make a difference?

Whether you are a curious inline beginner, a member of an active skate community or somebody who would love the extra confidence while screaming downhill at top speed, I am asking you to search through your list of friends and contacts to share via email to Alex.

At the very least:

  • Submit a statement of support on the Alex’s Contact page and in return for your interest, you will receive a discounted price as one of the very first to experience this incredible breakthrough.
  • Become a fan on Facebook and invite your friends to join you.

Thank you! The results of our combined efforts could make a dramatic improvement for skaters and skating everywhere.

Skater Crossing

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Your friendly crossing guard is here to point you to a few choice inline destinations shared from friends across the Internet.

  • YouTube – A unique style of skating was all the rage in France in 1923. (Thanks to )
  • YouTube – Off-skates training for Olympic ice skaters in 1953. (Thanks to Mike van Erp,
  • Inline Planet – Get the latest inline skating news and views
  • See how new instructors are cultivated across the globe by ICP International.
  • Destination Florida! – Anybody who has just graduated from Camp Rollerblade with all of the basic skills (stopping, turning and skating at least 5 miles) will enjoy this 5-day skate tour.
  • Long Beach Shoreline trail  – A classic! Enjoy harbor and city skyline views as you head up the middle of the sandy beach on this 17-foot-wide(!) bike and pedestrian path.