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Why Rinks are Changing their hours and Drop-off Policy

Several roller-skating rinks around the country are closing earlier and enforcing strict policies regarding kids under a certain age from being dropped off without adult supervision. The cutoff age for unaccompanied teens is typically younger than 16 for a Friday or Saturday night. There is a caveat, though. If the dropped-off kids (regardless of their age) have their own skates, they can stay without their parents in tow. A handful of adults have complained on social media. One cried out that it’s a slap in the face to “poverty-stricken” families (their words, not mine). She unfairly accused a rink operator of being greedy, assuming the reason for the skate policy is to sell more skates from their pro shop. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s break it down.

Prior to COVID-19, rinks were in a bit of a slump. Few, if any reached full capacity, or even 50% on any given night. Admission prices were always low, even though theaters, trampoline centers, and amusement parks charge much higher rates. It’s amazing to me how many rinks have stayed in business all these years with low prices and few customers to support it.

COVID-19 Changed Everything.

Fast-forward to 2020. Rinks got locked down along with the rest of us stuck at home. Those of us who skate consistently went a bit stir crazy. Kids without regular activity started getting restless as well.

As rinks were given the green yellow light to open, most had to start with either 25 people, 25 percent, or some other arbitrary number issued by their state governors. One Ohio rink owner consistently sold out of advance tickets online and had to turn people away at the door because of the limited capacity. This led to a lot of arguments as well. No one wanted to see this happen. But what choice do they have? They were forced to do so by the health department.

Staying Alive.

You can’t make the mortgage, pay the utilities, insurance, employees, and other expenses on 25 people. That’s why loans were taken out in order to remain in existence. According to Ginger Mathews, aka The Skate Critic, 1,234 rinks are still in operation. And that number is dwindling.

This month, as more COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, people are headed to roller rinks in droves. In my 40+ years of watching the industry, I have never seen such excitement. Last weekend there was a line wrapped around the building at my local Skate Center with people eager to get in.

Lockdown and emotions.

For diehards like me, I’m happy to see others come to the rink. However, teens driven by emotions and hormones have been causing some trouble. These are the ones who show up, don’t skate and get into fights. The video goes viral and then no one wants to skate there anymore. It’s been problematic at trampoline parks, too. Even Bath and Body Works had an incident this past week with violence erupting between 2 adults waiting in line. The lockdowns have us all pent-up, and we need an outlet.

Why rinks are changing policies.

These new policies at roller rinks are a step in the right direction. People who show up with skates are there to skate. Non-golfers don’t hang out on the course. Kids who don’t practice karate don’t loiter at the dojo. And non-skaters shouldn’t be hanging out in roller rinks. In fact, a North Carolina rink operator with 3 locations explained on their Facebook page that 99% of the problem kids do not own their own skates.

Cutting out the drama.

Parents who accompany their kids provide added supervision in the rink. Kids are usually better behaved around their parents. Those who are not civil tend to be the drop-offs that the parents want to get rid of for a few hours to get away from them for a needed a break. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has to deal with their kid’s bad behavior, and it’s the business owners who bear the brunt when their other customers are chased away. Those who love to skate are not there for the drama. Plus there’s the negative publicity that comes with it when videos start circulating on social media and end up on the evening news.

For skaters, owning is better than renting.

As for the poverty-stricken mom whining about the “price” of buying skates, she should look at the big picture and do the math. Shelling out $4-5 to rent skates once a week for 52 weeks adds up to an additional $200 per kid (which can instead be invested in equipment.) Owning a pair will not only save money every time they go skating (and make them better skaters), they can resell those skates or hand them down to a sibling once they outgrow them.

Renting generates more revenue for rinks

If you think rink owners make more off selling skates vs. renting, then you are mistaken. The markup is really slim and is taxable to the business. The skate pro puts in the time to ensure a good fit, place the order, and adjust them to the skater’s needs. Once they sell a pair of skates, they’ll never receive rental income again from that person.

It’s not greed that spurred this policy. It’s emotionally-driven out-of-control teens and the goal of keeping all guests safe.

I wish all rinks would implement this policy. So far it’s working to maintain civility, enhance safety, and provide a better experience for those who want to skate. Rink owners are reporting positive results as well!


Why Your Skates Don’t Fit

I’ve been watching a lot of buy and sell action going on within Facebook groups that help people find a pair of skates. Before COVID19 hit, banter was mostly among experienced skaters with high-end equipment that was refurbished and sold. Now the traffic is mostly hawking “brand-new, worn once for 20 minutes” cheap brands that were purchased online and don’t fit.

Many of these sellers hopped on the re-surging quad roller skate bandwagon, causing demand to outstrip supply in what was once a quiet marketplace. One seller offered up used rental skates for more than $100 that were 40 years old, and needed a complete overhaul before they are safe to use again. In fact, the plate may be the only thing salvageable. The buyers will have to shell out another $250+ for boots, laces, toe stops, wheels, bearings, wheel nuts, pivot cups, cushions, and possibly axles. And don’t forget the mounting hardware and probably a Dremel tool to saw off the old boots.

Your skates don’t fit for a few reasons. One, the sizes among the different brands vary. And the only way to determine your best size is to trace your foot. You can’t rely on “oh, I usually wear an 8 medium in a lady’s shoe.” There are so many variables. How high is your instep? What is the span between the ball of your foot and your heel? What are the total overall inches from the tallest toe to the heel? And don’t forget the width from the widest part of the foot. I often see new faces at the rink wearing gear that wasn’t properly sized. And I know why they won’t be skating for long. The skater’s feet weren’t measured and sized by a professional skate tech. Yes, it matters. And now those $150 skates they bought online will be up for sale.

Sales have exploded for colorful brands, such as Moxi Lollies, Beach Bunnies, Sure Grip Boardwalks, and others like Chaya and Impala.  Skaters performed in them on Tik Tok and people stuck at home decided they should start skating. They bought what these Tik Tok influencers were promoting. Good skaters understand how a skate is supposed to fit and will give them a test run before buying them. Purchasing skates online is risky. For one, if they don’t fit, they’re a hassle to resell to someone else. For another, if they weren’t mounted correctly (it happens more than you think) or something breaks, you could be seriously hurt. Plus, rink operators are going to charge you quite a bit to fix the skates, if they can even source parts for them. Some of these emerging brands are using different sizes for wheel nuts or have a design that doesn’t allow a standard toe stop change.  Once they fail, you’re out of luck.

Your feet are as unique as your mouth. In dentistry, there is rarely a one-size, fits-all solution. Whether it’s a filling, or an implant, someone had to make it to fit you or it’s going to not feel right in your mouth. The same should go for your skates. If saving $20 grand on a broken arm puts it in better perspective, then take heed. Investing in a GOOD pair of skates at $600 and up costs a lot less than a trip to the emergency room. You’ll skate better and be more relaxed. And in the event that you do fall, you lessen the impact when you’re relaxed.

Your local roller rink or an experienced skate tech should be your “go-to” source when it comes to roller skating.  The pro will ask you how you skate, where you skate, how often you skate, measure your feet, and make a recommendation based on your budget. Don’t expect a quality skate for less than $250. But $600 and should get you a nice set up in just about any brand. And don’t forget the real cost if you go for the cheapest brand. A broken bone is very expensive and will ruin the skating experience.

There is something else to consider. During the pandemic, many indoor skating rinks are limited to the number of admissions they can allow in their building. You can help by purchasing your skates locally from your roller rink. Together, we will skate through this.

Thank you for supporting rink owners and skate manufacturers.


The “Best Roller Skates” are the ones you like

There’s an article floating around in cyberspace, published by NY Mag’s The Strategist outlining “The Best Roller Skates, According to Roller Skaters” by Dominque Pariso. The article is full of affiliate links to a few brands which are questionable when it comes to “best.” There’s a lot of missing information regarding who these skates would be good for, and the recommendations were given by a slim field of experts.

The article has been shared on social media to real roller skaters, many who compete at the national level.  And they have chimed in loudly about what a disservice the article is doing to our industry. While some research was done on leather vs. synthetic boots, wheel size and hardness, the recommendations left us scratching our heads when it came to brands. Where’s Roll-Line? Snyder? RD Elite, or Luigini, or Bont?

Who are these expert roller skaters anyway?

For one, the article interviewed derby girls and aggressive skaters who recommended appropriate equipment for their style. That’s great, if you like derby or careening down a hill at 35 MPH, but that’s not mentioned until you’re almost done with the blog post. If you’re into recreational, jam, or figure skating, you’ll be disappointed if you buy their recommended products.

Their top pick, Moxi Skates, is colorful and sleek, with a leather boot that works well for beginners, outdoor skating, and jumping around in outdoor bowls. But you won’t see these skates at national or world competitions among dance, freestyle, speed, or figure skaters. Nope. Take a look at who’s wearing what on the podium. It’s not Moxi, Sure Grip, or Chaya skates. These are outdoor street skates, and may or may not be a good match for you depending on where and how you skate.

Many brands in the Strategist article were not given any credit at all, so here’s an addendum so you have an idea of what’s out there and how to choose your skates wisely. This list is in no particular order, because everyone has a different budget, need, and foot size. Most of these brands are also members of the Roller Skating Manufacturers’ Association, a division of the Roller Skating Association.

Skate Brands to check out

Sure Grip: Sure Grip hails from Southern California and has been a long time leader in recreational quad roller skating products. Their specialty is rental skates, low-priced entry level skates (like the Fame) as well as the Sure Grip Century and Classic metal plates that reigned in the 70s and 80s with budding artistic skaters. They have branched into street skates, and jam skates as well.

Snyder: formerly known as Douglass-Snyder and created by Charles Snyder for his daughter Shirley, Snyder patented a top of the line chassis used by award-winning skaters throughout the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. The brand was purchased by Sure Grip in the 80s and the re-branded “Snyder Skates.” They’re still available for purchase but you won’t find them advertised or on display at skating trade shows.

Roll-Line: Roll-Line plates are made in Italy and some of their models have been co-manufactured by Ferrari. These high-end plates come in several designs for dance, figures, freestyle, and even an inline model that closely mimics an ice skate. Well-designed, and the highest price of them all, nearly all competitors at Worlds and Nationals are on winning on Roll-Line plates. They match up perfectly with an EDEA boot, which is also a top selling boot among competitive figure ice skaters.

Energy Plate from Roll-Line.

Chicago: Chicago used to be a leading brand known for its quality and only sold in roller rinks during the heyday of skating. The brand was acquired by National Sporting Goods about two decades ago and now they are sold mostly in big box stores with a low price point.

VNLA: Also know as Vanilla, this brand is popular among young recreational skaters, and jam skaters. The company is known for sponsoring passionate young skaters and using them as part of their promotional campaign. VNLA skates have a low heel and low cut boot, which make them perfect for jam or derby.

Image Copyrighted

RD Elite: Roller Derby has been on the scene for decades and offers a wide selection of skates in various styles, colors, and performance levels. The RD Elite line specializes in quad and inline, speed, derby, jam, outdoor, and indoor. They also sell an array of accessories.

Bont: Bont is an Australian maker of skate boots and is known for their light, carbon heat moldable speed and derby boots and plates.

Luigino: Luigino is another Italian brand, this one specializing in high-end inline racing skates.

Moxi: Moxi Skates started as a skate shop brand in Long Beach, California and continues to grow. Their custom colorful boots are made by Riedell, and depending on your price point, the plates will vary among the different brands.

Riedell:  Riedell is known for its high quality durable leather boots that can be custom-made in any color combo you want. They also make plates, travel gear, wheels, and bearings, as well as tools and accessories, and apparel. 

Atom: Popular among speed and derby skaters, Atom is a brand that has evolved over the past decade with new exciting products in production for art skaters.

MOTA: Created by world champion inline/roller skaters, Mota produces premium inline racing boots and roller-skate components of high-level/top-end products for inline and quad applications.

The brands mentioned are just a few in a sea of manufacturers and custom bespoke skates that continue to expand. Skate purchases are personal, so visit a knowledgeable skate tech, get recommendations for your style of skating, get fitted, and above all purchase your skates there.

When you support your local rinks and skate shops, you’ll get follow-up service when you need it, and a pair of skates that will serve you well.

Gear Skate Maintenance Uncategorized

Maintain your bearings for a smoother roll

When did you last clean your wheel bearings? For many of us, the answer is, “I’ve never done that.” And that could lead to disastrous results. With skates, maintenance is a must.

While most of us are quick to change up our wheels based on changing trends or floor surface, an often overlooked preventative maintenance inspection (PMI) on roller skates is the one that produces a smoother roll. Your bearings. Much like your car needs a regular oil change, your bearings need a good cleaning and lube to keep them performing like new and for far longer. With regular cleaning a high end set of ceramic bearings can last 10+ years.

Photo Courtesy of Bones Bearings

The folks at Bones Bearings have posted a comprehensive, yet simple guide to bearing maintenance, with just about any scenario on what could go wrong — like your bearings locking up from lack of maintenance. They also explain how to put them back together if they come apart during cleaning. To make the task easier, Bones delivers with a clever bearing cleaner unit to keep the fumes at bay, and get you back on your wheels as fast as possible.

For the DIY skater, a bearing press is a must have tool. Whether it’s the portable and moderately priced T-handle from Bones, which is only available in 8mm, or the larger and more robust machine from Roll-line or Sure Grip that handles 7 and 8mm, having your own tools means you can wrench your skates at home, and when you get to the rink, spend more time on your skates.

The other option is to find a good skate tech to do the job for you. They’ll also inspect the cushions, cups, wheel nuts, and toe stops while they’ve got your skates apart.

There’s nothing like a long smooth roll of a well-maintained wheel bearing. Don’t overlook this vital procedure when it comes to a smoother, and longer roll around the rink, and prevent accidents.

Featured Gear

The Best Place to Buy Your Roller Skates

Many times when I’m at a rink, I meet people ready to buy a pair of rollerskates. Some are venturing into the sport for the first time, others are returning, and some are accomplished champions. They all have their own opinions where to make skate purchases, and here’s my take. Buy them from the rink you skate at most often. And avoid the big box stores and the Internet like the plague. Here’s why.