The Importance of Pro Bladers

Brian Aragon giving his autograph to a fan at Blades in NYC.

Who remembers those days when pro teams would venture—crammed into a van—right into your town to visit the local skate shop? Kids scattered across at least a 100-mile radius swarmed in on the city in their parents’ rides. I remember years ago when the USD team came to Corpus Christi, Texas, to what was then called Giggles. I think I was a freshman or sophomore, and I ditched the second half of school, after lunch, to blaze on down to Corpus to see Louie and Fade Hurricane. You can’t imagine how juiced I was, walking out to the parking lot and my ’92 Toyota 4×4 with the hot pink and purple sticker across the hood decrying the revolutionary words “Not Trendy!” Ha ha. See, I was the only rollerblader, or “skater kid,” in a town of 2,500 that gave residence to many haters and other cynics. Not that it mattered too much to me, I don’t even think I had enough gas money to actually get my ass back 56 miles to where I came from — little thing like that wasn’t going to stop me. But regardless (nice flick by the way, Brandon), I never made it to the shop on time! Apparently, as legend has it, I missed the OG USD swagger squad by 15 swift minutes! Are you kidding me? Like, seriously?! Ha! Maybe next time, right? All the lil’ homies I grew up blading with—that I still blade with—or see regularly were there talking about how nice everyone was, how easy they were to speak to. Easy going cats, that most of the kids there recanted on about, like, “Damn! Did you see how small Louie’s skate was?!” while we chattered there, all giddy like girls in our size 12 Razor Marco Hintze Flats.

Even though I didn’t get to meet them, I could feel that feeling of energy with the homies all super juiced on meeting dope ass pro rollerbladers! So with that motivation we hopped uptown to the Nueces County Courthouse to shred the bench ledges that we still shred to this day. All of us emulating Fade’s lurches, or back nugens. Copying Louie’s back royales to a “T.” Holding the ole’ bows a lil high, emphasizing that steezo, sahn! Those were the golden days of rollerblading for me.

We still toss around the old war stories of our downtown days. Packing that backpack and struttin’ around the city to each spot type days! I think that is the era where the pros of the time were portrayed as motherfuckin’ Pros! Is it possible to get those days back? Can I return some of today’s pros for a full refund?

I guess my lil’ story is about how I miss getting that new DB and chunking it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to melt the glue in the spine because I was for sure hanging up that Roadhouse 270 back nugen! Damn, this shit fits perfect next to Fabiola’s 50-50 soul ad!

I’ve seen a change in today’s game. You know you see it too. You can feel it. Shifting attitudes and what seems like disregard for admiring fans. I’ve said it before, so I might as well drop it on you again: pros with inflated egos, you’re just a paid rollerblader depriving the future of our ART with your lack of professionalism! No matter your status, your sponsor, your skill, we all come from the same place. From the heartland of defiance! We’re all the people who continue to rollerblade despite the screaming skateboarders mobbed up in a 2-door Neon, or the misunderstood looks down the halls. “What brand backpack is that?” I look at the dude, your favorite jock, “It’s Rise Above!” I can’t imagine that there are many kids walking the halls these days wearing V-lux Ts or Fiction Ts, much less the “Fuck you I Rollerblade!” Senate classic.

Pro bladers, you get paid and sent around the world because you’re good at what you do. You’re marketable to a brand, you’re the promotor of that brand. Rollerblading! That’s what you do, and people notice you for that!

Let’s bring back that feeling of what it felt like to blade with your first pro, whether he was your favorite or not. You were juiced. It felt like you owned the world and the moon’s ass! Pros being let go from boot sponsors, internet hate far greater than the ancient Runner’s Project board, disrespect shoved down throats, etc. We all are too small a unit, a community, a brotherhood, to be so exclusive—so damn elitist! Give your fans their time. They purchase your plane ticket to BCN. They bought that hotel room you so rightfully trashed. They’re the future that you guys should provide for them! Deflate. Don’t forget where it is you came from. The little guys. We deserve that at least!

Now that I’ve ruffled your feathers, let me slow you all down. Don’t write that hate-spewing comment just yet. I wouldn’t be so crude as to leave out the grip of today’s pros that are legitimately putting in heavy work for the greater good of our art. I can do nothing but commend all of you that pinched pennies in order to start up your boot companies, wheel companies, and frame companies; all the quality edits and videos that make no real money. But does that really matter? You do it because rollerblading is a part of you, it has changed and shaped your worldly perspective! You are the guys that get blades off the shelves and on to kids’ feet. You’re the ones that make a kid’s day just by showing up and saying “Hi.” You’re that magazine page/poster tacked up against the textured wall! People usually forget or lose sight of the good you do as compared to the negative light that never seems to burn out once turned on. We all know that a few bad seeds prevent the tree from growing like it should, so you quality professionals need to maintain that proper watering regimen. Push those roots deeper into the soil. Stand firm and continue progressing rollerblading further into the future. You’re the reason I still rollerblade. The reason I even bothered to write this. Maybe I can even plant my own seed here. End the hellish drought. Bring on some heavy rain! — Rob Zbranek

Photo via Blades

Leave A Comment

Joe Gamm - Monday, September 5th, 2011

I cant believe there are no comments on this post. That no one is saying damn ive been thinking this forever. Anyway Rob Z is the realest cat i know and he has always stepped up and raised his voice when it was getting just a little to quiet. Rob Z you r a beast son keep killen em on the blades and drowning them with ink.

John Mayes - Monday, September 5th, 2011

you rule Rob Z and your one of those people I look up too in the rollerblading scene

E - Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

So true. Pull up the “Rollerblading back in the X Games” or the “Robbie Pitts Seven Rats edit.” I recently had my skates stolen…BY OTHER BLADERS and although I eventually got them back (minus frames and straps) its still beyond sad for me. All of this blade hate is fucking disgusting. In my opinion rolling is supposed to be a safe haven from the world, a sort of getaway where we can focus only on one thing……BLADING. When your rolling how much are you focused on bills at home, trouble at school, annoying girlfriends/wives…whatever. I think this internal hate is two things. A sort of a rite of passage to the mainstream because as our sport progresses and rollerblading gets more exposure folks become

more critical of the people doing it. That’s what’s going on in

skateboarding and other extreme sports… Mainly though I feel as this hate, critism, whatever is serving

E - Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

As us destroying us from the inside. Were supposed to be (in my opinion) a family…brothers and sisters fighting to push ourselves to the limit and put rolling on the map. Its really disapointing that there aren’t any comments on this thread.

James Q - Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Those are pretty amazing stories Mr. Rob! made my morning! your pudslide in issue #17 is flawless!