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Skate the Golden State

A 5-day trip to Northern California by Susan Geary

If you’re headed to Northern California, don’t forget your skates. There are plenty of rinks, including outdoor venues to enjoy, along with different types of sessions to choose from. Here’s the itinerary that Ginger Mathews (aka the Skate Critic) planned for me to get the most from my trip.

Wednesday: After my flight touched down at San Francisco International Airport, Ginger picked me up and we headed to the Golden Skate in San Ramone for Adult night.

Every Wednesday this quaint rink, located just off the 680 Freeway halfway between Walnut Creek and Pleasanton, hosts skaters 18 and older from 7:30 PM – 100:00 PM. Admission is $14 per person with quad rentals at $5 — $6 for inlines. Everyone entering must pay a fee, whether they skate or not. Skaters are required to enter through a metal detector that checks for weapons. The floor is polyurethane coated over plywood/particle board, and some of the seams appeared to buckle on one side of the rink. Great music and a fun DJ to start off our trip. I did notice the prices on admission and skate related gear are the highest in the region. Richard Humphrey, the founder of RollerDance.com, was in the house and demonstrated the Wave. He’s provides roller dance instruction and has an interesting background as a stunt double and producer of skate instruction videos.

Richard Humphrey
Richard Humphrey, founder of RollerDance.com teaches lessons from his studio in San Francisco.

Thursday: Early Thursday morning we headed out to Citrus Heights to skate with seasoned veterans at Sunrise Rollerland, located Northeast of Sacramento near the Sunrise mall. Sunrise Rollerland is one of the largest wood floors in the West, and the 5th largest, nationwide (according to the Skate Critic). With a gorgeous rotunda floor that is well maintained, it was like skating on butter. This morning skate adult session runs $7 from 10-noon which includes skate rental and coffee and donuts. The music is a mix of soft rock, and more mellow top 40 music from the past 50 years. I ran into friends that were made years ago on Facebook, but had never met “in person.” What a wonderful time and a fabulous venue. I picked up a souvenir t-shirt as well.   

Ginger Mathews, Tim Laskey, and Susan Geary at Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights, CA.
Ginger Mathews, Tim Laskey, and Susan Geary at Sunrise Rollerland in Citrus Heights.

After the session, we drove by King’s Skate Country in Elk Grove (south of Sacramento) which was closed, but we were hoping to go inside for a sneak peek. Perhaps next time.  

King's Skate Country.

Friday: Next we headed to the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco at 554 Fillmore St. near Fell Street. This old church turned disco roller rink is run by David Miles, the Godfather of Skating. We went to the earlier session from 5-7 pm due to our schedule. It’s open to all ages. But it’s the 8-midnight adult session that’s the showstopper. That’s when you’ll find a full house of adult skate worshipers, dressed in disco garb, to complement David’s light up sparkly hat and fuzzy leg warmers. There is neon everywhere. It’s a bit small, and more of a novelty rink, although it does have the original wood floor, brand new rental skates with light up wheels, and a fun selection of disco music that brought me back to my high school years when I was a rink rat in the 70s. Props also to David’s lovely wife, Rose and their daughter who greeted us at the door and made us feel extra welcome during our visit.

Church converted into a disco roller rink.
The Church of 8 Wheels is a renovated vintage church which hosts disco roller skating every weekend in San Francisco.

After leaving the Church, Ginger took me to San Jose to a pop-up rink in a former Sports Chalet at the East Ridge Mall. The owner, Liz Ruiz has done a phenomenal job in such a short period of time (8 days!) installing the Aloha Roller Rink, which started as an outdoor venue and morphed into the current location. It does have poles, which are well padded with pool floats, and they are lit up so you can’t miss them. Also, the floor is concrete and there is a practice area for beginners. Liz has utilized the space nicely, and it’s only been open about a year with huge party areas. A pro shop is also planned. The Hawaiian Beach theme resonates throughout, and there’s lots of couches, along with pool tables and pinball; plus a mini golf course under construction. Our DJ was DJ Taz from 10PM to 1AM. He played a mix of disco, rhythm and skate classics, like ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. This was a very fun rink. Save time by signing the online waver in advance. $13 admission. Skate rental is $2 and $4 for quads or inlines.

Interior shot of the Aloha Roller Rink with illuminated poles covered with brightly colored inner tubes.
The Aloha Roller Rink is situated in a former Sports Chalet at the East Ridge Mall in San Jose, California.

Along our route to San Jose, we stopped in Redwood City to see the recently shuttered Redwood Roller Rink. This iconic rink was owned by Jim and Suzie Pollard. Jim was a renowned skating coach and industry pioneer. After his passing, the family decided to sell the building, which is still looking for a new owner. The Quonset hut style is similar to Rollero, a former rink in the Phoenix area that closed in 2017.

Saturday we slept in till noon to prepare for the night’s festivities that would run from 11PM until 4AM in Citrus Heights. The 2RAW Skate Club holds an Adult Skate on the last Saturday of every month with a national weekend party in April. 2 RAW stands for Rhythm and Wheels. I learned the 2 was added to get at the top of the schedule among nationwide events that are listed at SkateGroove.com.

On the way, I wanted to get my king pins checked to make sure I had adjusted my skates properly. Ginger took me to the Roller King in Roseville, which I always admired from afar. While we did not put on skates, I was amazed at not only the number of well-behaved skaters, but the hundreds of photos of champions that adorned the rink. Owned by the Jacques family, headed by Michael and Pat, both world-class skaters, their son Michael (also a champion) took a quick look and said my skates were fine. When it comes to skates, finding a good tech who understands the nuances of plates and how they work can be hard to find at times. On my next trip, I definitely want to skate here and take a lesson from one of their coaches.

Back at Citrus Heights and Sunrise Rollerland we were ready to skate the night away at their monthly 2RAW event. The $18 admission price helps  bring in DJ Bowen from Chicago, who is popular among rhythm skaters. 2RAW is in its 10th year and will celebrate with a weekend event April 16-18th. After the first hour, I stepped off the floor to stay out of the way of the shuffle skaters who like to skate very fast along the outside edge of the rink. These parties are not for beginners who can easily get run over if they don’t understand the dynamics of the late-night adult skates. It’s important to stay toward the center lanes if you don’t participate in shuffle skating, and use the correct hand signals to enter and exit the floor. The rules are not very clear, so ask ahead of time if you do plan to go and avoid injury.

The first hour of 2RAW had skaters warming up before the lights went down and the bigger crowd showed up.

Sunday we headed back into the City to Golden Gate Park to meet up with David Miles (from the Church of 8 Wheels) for their weekly gathering of skaters. Known as the Skatin’ Place in Golden Gate Park, the skaters move in unison to songs from Miles’ boom box, while he spins around holding a wireless microphone, encouraging the group. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a group of roller skaters (aka The Skate Patrol) stopped the City Hall from banning roller skating in Golden Gate Park more than 40 years ago.) Now they have a permanent outdoor rink to call their own that is free for all to enjoy. There’s even a guy out there skating with his little white dog. Note that parking can be lean, you may want to consider public transit if you go.

David Miles, dressed in a red hoody and a sparkly red and gold hat.
David Miles, founder of the Church of 8 Wheels, also facilitates a weekly outdoor skate at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Later that afternoon, we checked out Paradise Skate in Antioch. This small rink with a wood floor is situated on the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, and offers derby, a pro shop, skating lessons, STEM, and birthday parties. There was quite a crowd, music was supplied by the computer program FEC, and they played the Red Light, Green Light Game and the Hokey Pokey while we were there. I also got to try out a new pair of Golden Horse Artistic Skates which I plan to review in the future. We skated the 3-5:30 PM session. This rink also has a beach/surfer theme. I loved the knowledgeable and friendly staff and good mix of modern music. Admission is $10 for this session. Quad and Inline rentals are $5 additional. They offer group discounts for those with 15 or more.  

Indoors at the Paradise Skate Roller Rink in Antioch, California
Paradise Skate in Antioch, California.

One thing I noticed about all of these rinks was the amount of skate-related items and gifts they had for sale with their logo on them. There were T-shirts, key chains, and other goodies.

My partner in crime, Ginger, the Skate Critic has full reviews of the rinks we visited, with more comprehensive info, such as the quality of the floor, rest rooms, and cleanliness. Check it out and follow her on Facebook at the Skate Critic.

You’ll find videos and additional photos on our Facebook page at Roller Sk8r

The next time you’re headed to California, don’t forget your skates. There are plenty of great rinks there.

Categories
National Parties Rhythm Skating Skate-Ettiquette Trips

What to Expect at Your first National Skating Party

by Sara Hodon

Public skating hours are a great way to connect with other skaters and show off your skills, but if you really want to find your tribe and pick up some new moves from skaters from all over the world, a National Skate Party might be for you.

So what is a Skate Party?

            Part skating session, part dance party, and all fun, a Skate Party attracts skaters (and non-skaters!) from around the world for a weekend of adults-only, all night skating, with other daytime activities like bowling, barbecuing, meet and greets, and trampoline parties added to the mix. These events give serious skaters the chance to let loose, meet other skaters and compare skills, and most importantly, have fun while keeping the sport and spirit of roller skating alive.

            Skate parties have two major differences from public skating sessions at a local rink. One is the sheer number of skaters. Some of the bigger parties will draw thousands of skaters; a smaller party, a few hundred. (Skate critic and enthusiast Ginger Mathews says the parties are held at rinks. Some organizers have tried moving the parties to larger venues like a sports complex, but they haven’t been successful because the floor in that type of venue is not the same as a rink floor).  Second, the parties will have different styles of skating, from JB Chicago to Shuffle Skating. Third, the DJ is the focal point of the whole event. Rob Cusmano started 8 Wheels No Brakes, a well-known Skate Party in New Jersey and ran it for 10 years before retiring the event in 2018, and says the DJ makes the party. Many skaters decide which party to attend based on who else is going, but Cusmano adds, “Seventy percent choose [the party] based on the DJ.” He cites Joi’s Sk8-a-thon in Atlanta, which draws so many skaters, the party was split into two sessions—30 and under from 8 to 11 p.m., and over 30 after 11 p.m. 

            Skate critic and enthusiast Ginger Mathews goes to a lot of Skate Parties and says the experience is hard to describe. “They are so much fun! The music, the environment, the people—it’s somewhere you can go and you can run into people from all over the U.S. and you can all skate together, whereas at home you only have your local friends. The music is off the hook from the minute it starts until the minute it stops—you won’t want to get off the floor.”

“But what if I’m not so much into skating?”

            And forget about feeling uncomfortable. Cusmano says everyone is welcome. “They’re good to attend just for the experience. There’s so much to see—they’re really like nothing else. Even if you’re not that into skating, they’re something to see. My wife will come along, and others who just like to sit and watch the skaters.” Most of the bigger skate parties are at rinks in larger cities, but Cusmano adds safety has never been an issue. “Skaters are the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” he says, adding he’s done quite a bit of skating in Camden and Newark, NJ, two cities with rough reputations, but says there’s never been a problem. “The area or neighborhood where the rink is located has nothing to do with it. When you’re inside, you just skate,” he says.

            But, he points out, the skaters who do take to the floor are serious and have the skills to prove it. So if you’re just an occasional skater or don’t have advanced skills, you may want to attend your first skate party as an observer and build up your skills. “A lot of rental skaters show up at these events,” Cusmano says. “It’s a lot, and it can be intimidating for rental skaters or first timers. A lot of these events don’t allow rental skates on the floor.”

            The crowd can be overwhelming for a first timer, Mathews says. “I would suggest not picking a large party,” she cautions. “Some can have 3- or 4,000 skaters. For someone who’s never been to a skate party, it can be overwhelming and a little frightening. Try to attend one with maybe 2- to 400 people until you get your bearings and are a little more used to them.”

“How do I find these parties?”

            But if you’ve got the skills and you’re ready to take your skating passion to the next level, it’s time to find a party. Most party organizers promote their events the way just about everything else is advertised these days—“People advertise online,” Mathews says. “You can also find them on my Facebook group.” She adds, “You can also look on SkateGroove for listings—the only parties they have listed are the ones who pay to advertise.”

            Eric Bahr of Phoenix, AZ, has been skating for almost a decade and has been attending the Toestoppas’ events (the organizers behind Sk8cation) for about seven years. An event admitting hundreds or thousands of skaters into one rink should be chaotic, but Bahr says that hasn’t been his experience. “They’re pretty organized,” he says. “You can usually buy tickets at the door or in advance. The tickets are for the skate events; a lot of the stuff [bowling, etc.] is free.”       

Do’s and don’ts for your first skate party

            Skate party “newbies” should be aware of a few important things before hitting the floor for the first time. Above all, know the rules of adult skating. “It’s very different from public skating,” Mathews says. “You could get injured or injure someone else.” To that end, Cusmano adds, “Do not try to get out of anybody’s way. That causes more of a problem. The skaters know what they’re doing—they’re doing their moves and they will see you.” Trying to dodge one skater ultimately puts you in the path of someone else, and this can lead to disaster. Mathews says, “There are so many people, rolling so fast—if one person goes down, they can take down 30 or 40 people in one shot.”

            Mathews also suggests arriving well ahead of the party’s start time. “Get there about an hour early if it’s a big party. You could be waiting to get in for an hour or more. If the rink reaches their limit per the fire marshal, you may have to wait for some people to come out first. If you’re going to a large party, skate for the first 45 minutes to an hour, then get off the floor and just watch everyone else. The bigger, faster skaters will run over you or crash into you!” She speaks from experience. “I was at Soul Skate in Detroit, MI last year and I was skating and these two people were doing a little dance. They crashed—the guy right behind him crashed into them, and the guy in front of me crashed into them. Somehow, I crashed, rolled over, and got up as fast as possible because I knew it would be a pileup!” In other words, a skate party is really not the scene for the timid skater. Cusmano says, “Do not skate on the wall. Do not hang on. If you do this at an adult event, you do not belong there.”

Although there may not be an official dress code (unless it’s a themed party), Mathews suggests dressing lightly. “It gets hot inside with so many people! I would recommend wearing shorts and a tank top, even if it’s winter,” she says. “Also, depending on where you’re going, you may want to lock up your skate bag. Some places can be on the rough side; it depends on where you’re going.”

If you think you’ve got the skating skills to show off with some of the best skaters in the country, try a skate party. It’s a showcase of the sport at its best, complete with fellowship and fun.