Like it or not, it’s what blading is all about.
Anyone can do a trick, but if you don’t make it look good, it’s not worth as much.
But beyond how you do a trick, there’s much more in blading that echoes who we are, what we do, and how we’re perceived. Actually, it has everything to do with how we’re perceived.
The greater society, the one that controls the contents of the wallets with their scattered attention and yearning to be part of the next big thing, chases style down, absorbs it, attempts to call it their own creation, and then dumps it like a used condom.
And that, in essence, is what has got us here in the first place.
We deserve it.
First, let’s take a look back into our roots.
Rollerblading started out—and existed for the majority of the time—mainly as this:
Middle America embraced the feeling of being able to ice skate in the summer While there were thousands of broken wrists and asses every year due to people simply trying to stand up on the things, people saw the opportunity to do more than glide down the boardwalk.
So, we got AJ “Action” Jackson, Chris Mitchell, and Chris Edwards to start showing the world what could be done on a pair of skates.
Now, if you were like me—a 14-year-old kid from BFE Wisconsin—those dudes in the oversized knee pads, helmets and khaki shorts were the coolest mother fuckers alive. Okay, no they weren’t, but they were onto something. They were the pioneers, so they were busy inventing tricks and doing shit for the first time, so they were allowed to do what they wanted because it was all entirely new.
Still, the larger society couldn’t tell the difference between them and the kids at the fucking mall. They were looked at the way most people look at dudes on razor scooters today—kids on toys (or grown men too fucking lazy to walk).
That’s when some motherfuckers in California got the big idea to go around and start hocking shit that didn’t embrace the Christian lifestyle like Edwards, but rather cut their hair into devil horns and start some shit.
That was the birth of Sentate and the birth of an identity to rollerblading. Senate’s ability to spark up national media with their “Destroy All Girls” labeling in their clothing line—and the entirely unapologetic Arlo Eisenberg in front of the camera—showed the world that rollerblading wasn’t about doing spins with a partner or weaving between fucking cones.
Rollerblading was young.
It was angry.
It wanted blood.
And society wanted a taste.
This was the era of the Extreme Games. Not the fucking X-Games, the Extreme Games.
The cartoonish street course brought together skaters from every coast in the sports first public event. Even as those guys were shredding on skates that could barely hold up to the pressure of the tricks, rollerblading was able to distinguish itself in a public forum as something different than the Sidewalk Sultans.
We had HUGE baggy pants like all those cool JNCO kids, we rocked the fuck out to Biohazard like all those metal kids, and we have every bit of cockiness because we thought that the bright spotlight that was on us would burn forever because we’d worked so hard skating for two years and now we were on national motherfucking TV.
That’s when shit got real. Dude’s started picking up corporate sponsors, traveling, and being able to afford a pretty decent lifestyle on their blades. Skating competitions happened all over the country, kids could buy shit at local shops, and all that other cool shit that brings a tear to my eye thinking about it.
Everyone was fucking blading.
It, my friends, was a glorious time.
But then we went and fucked it up. It was only 1996 and we were drawing our glory days to a close.
The Extreme Games were now the X-Games. The street competition was a monster compared to the year before, and our little 15- and 16-year-old pros looked like midgets in the mix. Still, shit went down there that qualifies as gold today.
Still, if you listen to the commentary on Matty Mantz’s run, you’ll hear what I’m talking about…
That’s all anyone wanted.
Not many people knew that in one year, rollerblading’s shifty went from being a difficult trick to be a royale, the standard in the industry. They couldn’t spot the technical differences because while small, it was a big deal to us. It opened the door to so many tricks, but all people wanted to see were airs, spins, and flips.
So we did. We flipped and high jumped to give the people what they wanted. Well, the performing skaters did that wanted the paycheck.
But, an emerging generation that grew up on the street and the skate park were moving fast, too. They’d bring the technical side of the street, the airs of the park, and something almost all too new to televised rollerblading: speed.
Still, it wasn’t enough.
Society loved watching, but as our sport progressed the technicality of the tricks surpassed the public’s knowledge. We were growing and expanding so fast in our abilities that no one could keep up.
This was 1998 and most people were retiring their skates, and pulling their eyes off of rollerblading. Why?
Most people’s little sister could do it.
No, most of them couldn’t do what Feinberg was doing back then, but that, to the public, was just hopping around and sliding on things. They didn’t understand the technical side. It was too hard, but rollerblading itself had become so popular that anyone could do it. There society was, looking at blading not as the blood, guts, and fear of the shit on the street, but the same thing that everyone’s cunt of a neighbor kid could do.
Who the fuck wants to watch that?
So the years dragged on and blading lost a lot of itself. Like most other things in life, we emulated from above ourselves, so when one pro did something, everyone copied it. (I confess, I am no different.)
This transcends fashion, style, mannerisms, video style, and more. It’s a plain fact that for most of blading’s existence, there has been one style that has been copied and copied and copied for so long that it’s nothing close to original.
Most people stopped watching once it got into the white-suburban-kid-rapping-while-wearing-huge sweatpants stage. Everyone wanted to be Josh Petty. Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool because Josh Petty was fucking tight.
Blading was still growing. We were still learning about personal style, what tricks we’d keep, which we’d trash, and where the fuck we were going. We were wandering around somewhere between pop culture and limbo. That’s a scary place.
You know it’s gotten so fucked when hammer factories like Jaren Grob, Blake Dennis, Carlos Pianowski, and Bruno Lowe weren’t enough to buy us a few more years.
Nope. Their speed, technicality, and beastness weren’t enough.
It wasn’t until 2005 that rollerblading got the boot (no pun intended) from the beloved X-Games, leaving us for decades to whine about it, especially in nauseating detail in the video Barely Dead. (Don’t get me wrong, good movie, but the bitchiness about all the X-Games shit is still too much.)
But really, it is our fault.We were going for the biggest shit we could find. We were doing it so much we made it look too damn easy.
Physical part of the sport aside, we’d become too much like the same person. The sport—or at least the part that was getting the attention outside of itself—was going suicidal. It’s like we were trying to rack up head injuries to prove a point. A point to who? Well, I’m not sure. Most of it was directed towards ourselves, as a way to push the sport, but there was something amiss that didn’t appeal to the masses like it had before.
Still, we didn’t rely on the outside. We stayed in close, took care of each other, kept creating companies while some folded, and made our own comps because no matter what…FUCK THE POLICE!!!
And that pretty much brings us up to speed.
Well, not really at all.
See, the style thing was important. We were all the fucking same. (Well, not every single one of us, but bear with me while I try to make a point.) We lacked diversity of thought, style, and opinion.
Most of the time in rollerblading, you were either just like everyone else, or you were cast aside. We had freaks from the very beginning and despite a few rad mother fuckers here and there, it seemed like we were trying too damn hard to be the fucking same.
Thankfully, that shit’s over.
The best part about blading now is the diversity.
In becoming autonomous, we’ve accepted realities. We don’t have to act a certain way to get on TV. Actually, no matter what someone did, they wouldn’t get on TV for it.
We lost everything. In other words…
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” — Tyler Durden
You see, by fucking everything up, we achieved freedom.
We dictate our own style because no one’s watching.
For once in our sport, we have style that distinguishes us from the rest.
We have it in the sense that there is no single style to the point where someone could look at a dude not on skates and say, “Fucking rollerbladers.”
Most people don’t even know we exist!
Now we have all this awesome shit in blading.
Companies are being selective and straight forward about their image and who fits on what team.
Every fucking skate company has it’s own look…
Let’s not forget all the other companies—clothing, wheels, etc.—that have their own shit.
As far as personalities to emulate, we’ve got everything from the clean cut, protein shake-drinking Brian Aragon…
…to the drunkem, teased hair badass rock star Chris Farmer…
…and other bad ass dudes like these in the middle…
See, we’ve got style.
We’ve got so much of it in fact that we can finally be able to have more than one or two.
This doesn’t mean that we can expect people to understand the technicalities of the sport, which, quite frankly, have become retardedly complicated, but it does mean that the image—that lovely thing people absorb like fucking sponges—has evolved enough to keep someone’s attention span for more than a few fleeting seconds.
Now, I don’t consider myself a shallow fuck, but every day you wake up, you make a conscious choice on what you want to look like to other people in clothing hairstyle, mannerisms, vocabulary, etc. Say you don’t care about what other people think and I’ll call you a dirty whore liar.
Style is important.
(You call it swag and I’ll find a loose piano wire, book a plane ticket, and come over to your fucking house to put some S.W.A.G. [sex with a garotte] on your entire family. The only person in the world who can use that word and not get the taste slapped out of his mouth is Vinny Minton.)
Some people, well, they’ve got style, but they go to some strange, convoluted, complicated, and mind-boggling shitty places with it.
It took us so long to find our styles, and, although they are not unique to our sport, they do visually represent that rollerblading has grown beyond a single mindset and idea into a lifestyle that accepts all.
If someone wants to get into blading, they can look around and see tons of options. The best option they have is to be themselves because we have plenty of people doing that and thousands of us embracing it.
Blading has gone beyond a sport bitter that it is no longer in the spotlight and one that’s happy being itself and won’t change when people come looking.
That, my friends, is somewhere we need to be.