Rollerblading is now entering its fourth decade of existence. In that time we’ve seen many things come and go, some for the better, some for the worse.
Few, if any of us, mourn the loss of front flips, Sidewalks, XXXL t-shirts, Flyaway helmets, or any of that other ’80s and ’90s crap that made us all look like a cavalcade of imbeciles.
On the other hand, there are those extinct taxa whose unfortunate and untimely deaths triggered somber and agonizing lamentation within our ranks. I bow my head to the VG series, Cozmo wheels, Fiziks frames, grind plates made from every imaginable material, a dozen contest series now lost, and countless other blading companies and organizations who fought the good fight.
Of the former: good riddance. Of the latter: may their souls roll forever in peace…
…on a nice mini… with fresh Masonite… and good coping that slides.
Sometimes it’s not all that difficult to come up with a good reason why something went extinct. Sidewalks, for instance, looked pretty stupid. They were too slow, too safe, and too easy. But those, to me, aren’t good reasons. There are loads of other tricks that can be done slowly, safely, and easily. A better reason for the demise of Sidewalks has to do with the fundamental way we conceptualize and perform tricks.
All grinding tricks, whether one- or two-footed, hold each foot in a position sustainable independently. You can imagine that a forward pornstar is built from the two fundamental stances makio and torque. The front foot is essentially doing a makio, the back foot a torque. Same thing with our most basic trick, the frontside. The front foot can now be imagined as doing a fastslide, and the back foot a pudslide. Each one of those is entirely sustainable on its own. And this theory holds true for all other grinds: unity, soyale, mistrial, X-grind, soul, royale, and so on.
But not so with Sidewalks. The front foot is doing a makio, sure. But what about that back foot? A one-footed grind on the laces of your boot? No sir. I don’t think so. Go out and try it though, I’ve definitely been wrong in the past.
Now, it’s important to think of what I just said as a theory — though certainly not a bad one. The tricks that have endured the test of time fit nicely with that theory. The ones that don’t went extinct. Remember Tom Fry’s backside heel? Gone. That heel foot is totally unsustainable on it’s own. We still love you though, Tom. (By the way, Mr. Fry, if you happen to be reading this post, I’d really like to get in touch with you about your eponymous contribution to rollerblading language).
As an aside, I should point out that I’m not saying other tricks aren’t possible, or that they’re undesirable. I’m simply saying that a two-footed trick with at least one independently unsustainable foot is endangered from its moment of birth.
When it comes to deciding why certain terms are either endangered our extinct, we have even better tools at our disposal.
Currently on the chopping block is the term farside. While many of us older guys (and gals) recall the term fondly and even with some degree of nostalgia, a lot of people out there may never have even heard of farsides before.
But not to worry, it probably isn’t going to come back, despite its fascinating linguistic characteristics.
First, let me explain what it is, or was, just so we’re all on the same page.
One conceptualization of farside defined the rail’s shape, the skater’s approach, and his (or her) foot orientation relative to the rail’s sagittal plane (that’s a ten dollar word for the imaginary vertical line that divides left/right symmetry). So, first off, this conceptualization demands that the rail must be round. People with this conceptualization imagined that a round rail has a near side — the side nearest you when you approach, and a far side — the side opposite the one from which you jumped. The second thing this conceptualization holds has to do with the skater’s approach. If you were a left-foot-soul, this would have put the rail on your right hand side. Righties approach with the rail on their left. The final characteristic of this conceptualization of farside had to do with having at least one foot locked in soul position on the far — as opposed to near — side of the rail.
The people who conceptualized farside this way distinguished it from topside largely due to rail shape. If the same fundamental maneuver were performed on a ledge, the trick would be better described as being “topside” since a ledge doesn’t necessarily have a “far” side (imagine, for instance, a ledge next to a wall).
The second popular conceptualization of farside was largely identical to what I just described, but with one crucial exception. Rather than conceptualizing the trick relative to the rail’s sagittal (again, left/right) plane, the people with this interpretation defined tricks relative to the angle (or tweak) of the skater’s ankle. For them, it had nothing to do with rail shape. What that means is that a skater could still do a topside soul (for instance) on a round rail if the skater’s soul foot was tweaked over enough to replicate doing the same trick on a ledge. In other words, if your soul foot was all the way flat, you could call it a topside soul. Farside was reserved for instances in which the soul foot was held nearly vertically, or “boned out” as some people used to say.
Of these two conceptualizations, it was the first one that caused the term farside to fall into disuse. The second one — which eliminated the rail as a basis for orientation — survives as the predominant term for describing soul-foot-based stance orientations.
Now that we’re all on the same page, we can deal with why the term farside died.