Rollerblades may be an iconic emblem of childhood, but for many Provo residents, inline skating remains a multifaceted adult pastime.
From leisure to exercise, rollerblading is the ideal way to take advantage of summer for many people. Retailers group inline skates into several categories, including recreational, aggressive, fitness and roller hockey. Local inline skaters can also be grouped in much the same way.
SUU graduate Marci Harman enjoys leisurely rollerblading up the canyon with her cousin and roommate. As a teenager, however, she was all about stunting in the cityscape.
“I remember being chased off the Snow College campus,” Harman said, laughing. “They put in those high cement flower garden things, and we would jump up and grind across them.”
Initially relying on rollerblades to get to early morning softball practices, Harman said she started to try more extreme tricks after being teased by her friends.
“I had a lot of friends who were skateboarders and they would make fun of the blades,” Harman said. “It wasn’t really quite cool yet, but we would go to the skate parks all the time and I became really good at jumping stuff, grinding rails and what not. It was fun and exciting to master cool tricks.”
Those looking to work on their own skills this summer can do so, without getting in trouble, at any one of a number of outdoor skate parks throughout Utah Valley or for a relatively low fee at The Center in Provo. Offering daily and yearly passes, The Center features pre-fabricated ramps and obstacles to get the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing.
Avid rock climber and UVU sophomore Jessica Marrett is not opposed to inducing a little adrenaline herself.
“The thing about rollerblading is that it kind of feels like you’re flying,” Marrett explained. “For most of us, it’s much faster than we can run, and it’s less effort than running. Sometimes I just like to see how fast I can go.”
But Marrett said she prefers to leave the real tricks to someone else.
“You might consider me an unintentional stunt blader,” Marrett said. “I can be a little accident prone, especially when I forget how to work the brakes. My favorite place to rollerblade is the Provo River Trail up the canyon because it’s all smooth usually, rather than the cruddy sidewalk and gravel around town.”
The Canyon seems to be a popular destination for inline skaters, including BYU senior Matt Butters, an economics major from Summit, N.J.
“I was just up there today,” Butters said, adding that his plans for his rollerblades also have a more practical application. “I brought them out with the intention of using them to go to school. It will save me money, and especially in the fall, save me from having to find parking.”
Butters, who also recently took up longboarding, emphasized the relative safety of rollerblading.
“Rollerblades are more mobile, and the turning radius is way smaller than with a bike or a skateboard, so it’s easier to maneuver when you’re in close proximity with other people,” he said. “Rollerblades may take more effort, but you definitely feel more in control so it’s kind of like you get the coolness without the danger.”
That versatility allows some to see rollerblading as a fun fitness alternative.
Provo resident Kajsa Gardner has a daily commute that pressures her to be efficient when it comes to exercising.
“I’m busy and I want to feel like my time is well spent,” Gardner said. “Rollerblading makes me feel free, and I get my heart rate going by pushing myself to go as fast as I can.”
In that way, it’s kind of like running, Gardner said, because you establish your own pace.
“But I would far rather be blading,” Gardner insisted. “It’s easier on your joints, and it doesn’t jar your insides.”
Unless, of course, you’re playing roller hockey.
By day Jared Stahura does financing for a marketing company in Pleasant Grove; by night he coordinates Thursday roller hockey at Orem Classic Skate, an unofficial group that has been gathering for the last seven years.
“We have a really solid foundation of players who come and play pick-up hockey,” Stahura said.
The draw? The simple competition of the game.
“Hockey is a great sport,” Stahura said. “It’s fast paced, competitive and a little bit physical, especially on rollerblades.”
With regulars ranging in age from 16-50 and representing a diversity of careers and backgrounds, the main uniting factors are skill level and intensity, Stahura said.
“Many of the guys have been rollerblading their whole lives and a lot of them played ice hockey,” he said. “I don’t know that you would say we’re upper echelon, but virtually all of us could compete in leagues.”
The enjoyment is not limited to those with a highly competitive nature, Stahura notes. Another group meets on Wednesday nights for a more casual pick-up game, and all equipment is provided by the center.
Equipment is the one thing that could be a problem for some who would like to try rollerblading this summer. A decent pair of skates runs well over $100 and outside of roller rinks, rentals are next to impossible to come by. Outdoors Unlimited used to provide rollerblade rentals but no longer does. Trolling for sales is one option for those who are patient, but buying used is another option, through outlets like Play It Again Sports in Orem.