Yesterday I bought my first pair of inline skates — roller blades. Just about eighteen months ago, I returned to ice hockey after a twenty-five year hiatus and I’ve still got a lot of work to do. As I only get out on the ice a couple of times a week, I scooped up Bauer Vapors from Hockey Monkey, hoping to work on crossovers and all-around balance in the comfort of my cul de sac. I received the delivery notification email mid-day and proceeded to plan my first skate on the way home; I’d need my elbow pads and hockey helmet, at the very least, and a stick to negotiate my balance as I tried to find my edges.
On the ice, if I’m not skating, I’m not moving, but on wheels, it seemed that even the slightest curvature of the road meant that I’d be in motion unless I figured out how to stand. I figured out that if I pushed my ankles inward, I could control unwanted rolling. But standing up and sitting back down proved embarrassingly awkward. On the ice, I can skate up to the bench, stop short and throw a leg over the board to get onto the bench. On wheels, sitting down backwards was a bit dicier and while I didn’t wipe out, my girlfriend remarked, “Well, now we know what you’re going to look like when you’re ninety.”
Taking off into the street was an odd sensation, as the motion of skating was pretty similar, and the way the road felt under my feet felt vaguely the same as ice, but all the little nuances were gone. I realized that on the ice, I can drag my skate to slow down or change direction, but the wheels gripped the asphalt like erasers. There were no sharp turns or smooth skidding – it was just wheels, gravity and me.
I tooled around in circles for awhile, getting a feel for the edges and noticing that my balance was pretty similar to ice skating. I tried a couple of crossovers but the wheels grabbed the pavement so tightly that I couldn’t finesse anything. Mind you, I’m no Wayne Gretzky on the ice, either. I realized that before I use rollerblading to improve my ice skating, I’d have to get good at rollerblading first.
Returning to the house, I texted a pic of my purchase to one of my hockey playing friends, who also blades. He replied, “Be careful of the wheels – new skates usually have soft wheels that are made for indoor skating on really smooth concrete. For street skating, you need to pick up a set of harder wheels.” And so my education begins.