THE ROUNDS: The Scooter Situation

The Rounds is a space for ONE contributors to get together to discuss a specific topic, event or controversy related to the blade scene. Please feel free to add your voice to the conversation in the comments below.

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John Adams: The recent dust-up regarding Shaun White and his comments about rollerblading has been as lively as it was expected. Rollerbladers took to Facebook and comment sections like a bunch of Beliebers after a Grammy snub to defend their true love. One aspect of the issue that has been overlooked, however, is the changing dynamic between the rollerblading and scooter scenes. Two things became very clear in the wake of White’s comments: First, bladers seem largely incapable or uninterested in defending, or even empathizing with, the scooter scene. Second, scootering has eclipsed rollerblading in the extreme sports pecking order.

Sam, you seem most qualified to comment on this subject. Is my assessment of the blade/scooter relationship correct? And do you think scooterer’s perceive the blade scene as a bully or as a target?

Ryan McNamara by Sam Cooper

Sam Cooper: As a blader who works within the scooter industry, I’ve found myself in a unique position that has allowed me to witness a number of things around this issue of hatred amongst the different extreme sports. It is very much true that freestyle scootering has eclipsed rollerblading and most other extreme sports with its rapid increase in popularity. In many ways it’s going through the same boom that rollerblading saw in the mid-nineties — the parallels are plain for all to see. It’s for this reason that I would expect to see nothing but empathy from the rollerblading community for the growing sport rather than the torrent of hate that comes with being the new boy on the scene.

From what I can see, the blading scene is very much split in its reaction. Some see the benefits of a boom sport and others simply accept another human expressing themselves in a way they choose. Those that don’t think in this way seem to be a mixture of younger guys that don’t know the history of blading and elders who simply are falling into a played out pattern of negativity that reminds me of the behavior of the individuals that put me down for my choice to be a rollerblader when I was younger.

Despite the hate coming thick and fast and from all angles, the freestyle scootering scene is made up of open-minded and tolerant young people. Oddly, they accept, love and even champion the work and achievements of people within the scenes that tell them what they do is “gay.” As rollerbladers who have been through years of verbal abuse and hate, how can we as a community let our own kind become the devils that blight a generation of young people who simply have a passion no more different from our own?

Jeff Stanger: I agree that the current attitude of many bladers towards scooter folk range from accepting all the way to downright hateful. Danny Way hateful. One would think after being disrespected and mocked for years that rollerbladers would choose the higher road. This is almost certainly people expressing their deepest insecurities that have been built up over the years by tearing down the new kid on the block. 

What do they hope to achieve (besides making themselves feel better) by degrading scooters? Are these people going to start a scooter smear campaign similar to what the skateboarding industry unleashed on blading back in the ’90s? As we can all attest, this only emboldens the oppressed. How can these ignorant bladers, young and old alike, be made aware that this is simply history repeating itself and to perpetuate the hate is showing that we’ve learned nothing?

John: History does seem to be repeating itself. One of the interesting aspects of our current rollerblading scene, for me at least, is the way we have attempted to consider our history objectively. By that I’m referring to our acknowledgment that the skateboarders of the mid to late ’90s were kind of right about us. We had no history or culture then, and our pros really hadn’t put much work into the sport when Senate was taking over Pacific Sunwear or when we were first being featured on international television broadcasts. And this was happening alongside people who had dedicated most of their adult lives to their chosen discipline. Granted, hindsight is 20/20 and someone like Arlo has proven to be a True Believer and it was wrong for other athletes to question his dedication. But how many of our other founding bladers have disappeared in the years since?
 
That last question is kind of beside the point, though. Even if we had proven to be a bunch of interlopers, that wouldn’t have made the response of skateboarders any more moral (to use Shawn White’s word). Just because someone is in a position of undo privilege, it doesn’t make it right for someone else to call him out on it. In the same way, it isn’t right for rollerbladers to project the frustrations we have with our place in the world on scootering, no matter how young or inexperienced the participants of that sport seem to be. In fact, their age and inexperience might make our sport’s treatment of them even worse.
 
Looking back, specifically on the history of the X-Games, it’s kind of telling that rollerblading and scootering have been vilified to the extent that we have. There have been plenty of other sports that have briefly captured a share of the television audience only to vanish in an instant from the collective consciousness. Think of skysurfing, street luge, bungee jumping and barefoot waterskiing. The fact that rollerblading and scootering are still acknowledged (if only negatively) by Olympic athletes and millionaire skateboarders means, at the very least, that they recognize we aren’t going anywhere.
 
One difference that I want to point out with regard to rollerblading and scootering is the fact that scootering appears to have learned from our mistakes. Blading came on the scene seemingly out of nowhere and we were basically left to establish an identity and culture only after being cast aside by the media and corporate sponsors. From what I’ve seen, there is no NISS or ASA scooter equivalent and I certainly haven’t happened across scootering on an X-Games broadcast. The sport seems to be doing pretty good without that attention, and it has been around for easily over a decade now. Sam, has the scooter scene made a conscious decision to grow organically on its own terms, or are they just as pissed as rollerbladers to be ignored by the mainstream world of action sports?

Sam: You are right in saying there is huge difference between scootering and rollerblading in its infancy. Though it’s not due to not having a freestyle scootering equivalent to the ASA as it does have the International Scooter Association. It’s definitely not for the fact that it hasn’t been knocking on the X-Games door because it has been for the last few years, setting up ramps outside X-Games events to showcase the sport. 

The big difference in rollerblading and freestyle scootering is that although it’s in yet another boom, freestyle scooting has roots that go back some twelve years. Unlike blading the sport grew slowly at first, managing to build a small but solid industry of brands just before the boom hit. It’s the brand owners who have handled the boom in a much better way compared to kids who owned the majority of blading’s biggest brands in the early nineties. It’s these freestyle scooter brand owners who have made the difference and continue to grow the sport and industry with their business acumen and passion for the sport.

The difference in having an industry run by business men who listen to kids over an industry run by kids is very apparent to me and I’m sure all other bladers who work within scootering. I believe it is these people who envisioned and planned how to grow the sport the right way as to avoid what happened with our own industry and sport. It should be no surprise that ninety percent of those scooter brand owners all learnt from the demise of our industry and, even if they were not apart of it, saw it all unfold.

As stated before this is a sport made up of young, happy-go-lucky characters that just get out and ride and let the business end of things get dealt with by the people who deal with the business. This lack of care from riders seems strange to me, but then maybe it’s an age thing. I mean, I don’t remember heads caring about the industry when we were all young and everything was thriving. It’s only since our industry’s demise and the fall in numbers that every other rollerblader has become agony aunt for the hardships we have since gone through.

Is history really repeating itself and if so do we have something to learn from this new sport and its boom? Or is it simply a case of rollerblading being the first of the new boys and therefore the casualty from which all other new extreme sports learn from? Are we the blueprint of what not to do?

John: I think it goes without saying that rollerblading set the standard for how a sport should not go about establishing itself, but I wonder if there is a good way to do it. One thing that I think we have avoided in this conversation is why our industries treat each other as a threat, and a lot of it really comes down to the numbers of participants and the dollars that those participants represent. In preparation for this conversation I watched a bunch of scooter videos online and one of them stuck out to me, partially because I was impressed by the tricks being done, and partially because the kids were riding a lot of famous spots in the Chicago area. I shared one of them on my Facebook page and one of the responses that I received was significant: “Growth in scooters has certainly cut into new rollerbladers and skates sold. Feel free to be nice. Skateboarders saw a threat and dealt with it.”

There is a harsh truth to this statement. It’s impossible to watch a kid on a scooter do a trick on a spot that you are familiar with and not realize that if that kid had grown up 10-15 years earlier it would have been more likely that he would have been skating that ledge on rollerblades. But it’s also possible that he would have been on a skateboard or bike. This is where I think we need to learn from our own history. We shouldn’t be trying to have the largest industry possible. We should make sure the industry we have is healthy and sustainable. Absolutely we should be reaching out to the youth and getting them excited about rollerblading, but we ought to be able to do that without tearing others down.

Leave A Comment

Chris Gascoigne - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I’m really stoked you guys had a discussion about scooters. I’ve been riding scooters since 2001 and I have been working in the industry since 2006. I’ve worked for many of the top brands in our scene and I can attest that a lot of businesses are Business Men or Entrepreneurs listening to feedback from riders. There are also a few homegrown brands that are purely rider owned and do really well.

We have a really unique community. The core of our demographic is kids that range from 9 years old up right up to 17 years old or so. We have older riders(like myself) who had really humble beginnings on scooters We ted to appreciate what we have a hell of a lot more. This stems from riding a childs toy. It wasn’t meant for tricks and broke all the damn time. We had to mod the things to make them useful and even then they never lasted long. So when we had real companies enter the market we were quick to provide feedback and appreciate having handlebars that were rigid and decks that didn’t fold down.

Most of us have a ton of respect for other sports. It’s actually where we draw our inspiration from. A scooter is a cross between a bike, skateboard, and blades. So we can relate to nearly every sport. I personally vibe off of anyone who shreds and has a good time riding, no matter what they choose.

I care a hell of a lot about scooters and we have a very long way to go. Our image is a kid who gets in the way. Most of the time our sport isn’t taken seriously. It sucks but it’s reality. Either way I am glad to hear some real talk that shows you have an understanding. I don’t see any sport as a threat, ride whatever makes YOU happy.

Tanner Markley - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Awesome article, you guys hit a lot of good points. Scooters definitely welcome other action sports as their equal. Its a bummer some people think that they’re better than someone because they choose to ride something different. I perform in a show called All Wheel Extreme working with bikes, inline skates, scooters, parkour and gymnastics. We are a big family and realize each one of us have a lot in common, we just choose to take a different activity to the skatepark.

SkateOrDie - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Scooter are fuckin gay lol

Cheesy dick - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

My 6 year old sister recently bought a barbie scooter from toys are us. She is a strong supporter of the scootering movement

Chris Gascoigne - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

@SkateOrDie

Keep hating dude, you’re only keeping it on your mind and getting the scene more attention.

@Cheesy Dick

Sorry to hear you have Cheese Dick. I am stoked to hear your Daughter has been able to combine her love for Barbies and Scooters and is able to have fun. I hope you are a good father and support her in her quest to ride scooters.

Cheesy Dick - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

My sister isn’t my daughter you dumbass scooter ridin fool.

Adam coupland - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

@cheesy dick @skate or die bet you guys have intresting lives you probberly put more effort into hating on sccoters than progressing in your own sports so now thats proberly the only thing you think you’re good at but its just fueling us to keep on riding ;;)

Chris Gascoigne - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

@Cheese Dick

Daughter / Sister, whatever man. Just support your family and stop worrying what other people do. You don’t need to be a tool.

Shane Malecha - Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I have a really great appreciation for all extreme sports. I like that people are doing incredible things with whatever they can get their hands on and I take inspiration from all of them. As a scooter rider in southern Minnesota, the scene isn’t as big here. I used to be the only one who rode my local park. I never really had a crew until a few bladers decided to let me come out with them. I haven’t ridden with them in a long time, but I would always get soooo stoked watching them hit a long rail with no run-up and be able to hit obstacles I only wish I could hit. I love watching blading videos and really appreciate the sport as an art form. I don’t know how realistic this is, but I really would like to see roller blading make a comeback. There are still plenty of sick bladers around and I am always coming across blading videos that blow my mind. I think if the blading community could step up the marketing push and focus on reaching a broader audience rather than your own little clicks, it could get more young kids to pick up the sport. If I could afford it, I would pick up some blades myself.

Hanson@SkateSports - Friday, February 14th, 2014

Guys, thanks for sharing, I really appreciated this article.

We’ve enjoyed 17 years growing “Skating Sports” here in Asia and although we have a much smaller scene, without the “aggro” in most cases, we’ve had our fair share of challenges but,… it’s been a blast!

For those who find it interesting to learn fronts past and grow into the future, I’ll share a little about our journey.

As skaters, we ride skateboards, scooters, inline skates, ice skates and, ok roller skates back in the day, we’ve come to understand and appreciate that all kids will pick up on or many of the skating sports in their life time, so there’s no beef.

We fell into the business of this sport becuse there was a demand for programs which provided kids (5-13) the opportunity to TRY a new sport, “Discover the Fun” has been our tag. Demand grew, parents saw their kids having FUN and we rolled out a road map (long term programs, activities and competitions) so the Parents invested in this and the invested in quality gear…..

Back in the day we jumped on the wagon with the brands, become certified coaches, attended all the industry events like NSGA, ISPO etc, took riders / teams to most of the big events and organized many of our own, great FUN! Now based in Singapore (since 99), we have two shops, a team of Coaches and still run inline skating & skateboarding classes and run activities & events which include scooters. I have two wonderful little boys (Zandar 4 and Harley 6) and they both ride scooters, ride skateboards (Team Dragon 🙂 , do a little inline skating and ice skating too. It’s been a blast and we look forward to many more years skating together……. you get it. Regaress of what you skate, it’s a life of skating.

To all those I’ve met in and our of the industry and especially those (you know who you are!! ) who’ve helped us do our part to grow the sport, THANK YOU ALL – IT’S BEEN A BLAST, oh an yes I’ll be at the SkateSports shop later if you wanna drop in 🙂

Barry Hanson
The Kiwi grounded in Asia
http://www.Facebook.com/SkateSports

Frank Sidebottom - Sunday, February 16th, 2014

I think scooting has gone and picked up where rollerblading left off and taken lameness to a new level.

The reason I think this is because scooters combine the worst of rollerblading, skateboarding and BMX. It’s also a very young discipline and is yet to look refined.

Having said that, I would never mock anyone for doing it, let’s face it, rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, they’re just toys!

I also think this article is an unnecessary waste of time. If you scooter and you’re reading this just remember this: Don’t snake people in the skate park and you don’t need anyone’s approval, just do what you want and don’t even conform to what other people on scooters do!

Also, Justine Eisinger wrote a really embarrassing e-mail response to a vice article about rollerblading, it only made rollerblading look even more stupid.

tommy boy - Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

you all are fucking retards.
the scooter video posted…. this is like the best video in scootering. go watch a fucking mindgame aaron feinberg section and then watch that shit. scootering has no arlo. there is no senate. there is no jon julio making shit cool. it is a bunch of little kids and maybe a 23 year old and none of the shit is that good. just cause people publish bullshit edits on rollernews skating the same size obstacles as skate boarding on rollerblades doesnt mean its cool, and just cause scooters skate the same dinky 3 flat 4 doesnt mean its cool. look at the top level, look at the art, look at the culture….. scootering is immature and no one is doing anything exemplary. Finally skateboarding is starting to push itself to rails over 15 stairs and bigger gaps but there is no denying the level rollerblading has been at is more comarable to bmx and snowboarding….. we can skate little benches but that isnt the highest and best use. stop conceding. ROLLERBLADING IS SUPERIOR. but we are all cool in our own ways….just look at latimer, ledoux, perket…. so many people who have done things that will never be done on any other vehicle…. ever.

I am down with love for all the sports because if we all support each other bmx blading whatever its better than kids playing billion dollar industry sports like base ball and foot ball. Thats what all of us hardcore people in these sports dont realize we all hate each other because we think we are all competition…. we are not…. take the money from foot ball, base ball etc.

Scootering has money because little kids buy scooters. They havent done what we have done. And we have been hated on so much we pushed ourselves to levels that skateboarding cant come close to surpassing. Dont give up hope. We are still the future. Stand strong, we are quite valid and one day people will see.

John Adams - Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

You had me at “fucking retards.”

tom bistro - Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

you didnt have me at all but I hear you are a really nice guy so three cheers for taking time to write something. I just think you are a little off in your assessment. I am known to be a little off though so what can I say

Chaz Mitchell - Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Hey Guys,
I ride scooters, and I have for about 3 years ( a small number compared to some people) . Before that I rode bikes and before bikes I rode skateboards. I tried some major action sports, but I could never get into blading; mainly because i do not have the balls to do any tricks that some of you bladers do. I love scootering, especially with my crew. Where I live (NSW, Australia) there aren’t too many bladers, but whenever I see one at a skatepark I always admire the crazy tricks they do. I know some scooter riders give bladers hate, but I don’t, I think blading is sick haha. Some of the tricks you do are so crazy, especially your grinds, bladers do such gangster grinds. I often get shit from bikers and skaters, but it doesn’t bother me because I know what I do makes me happy. I think you bladers that hate us shouldn’t (I know not all bladers hate us, but to the once that do) If you don’t ride scooters, fine. But please respect us and don’t give us shit, it just makes some riders make generalisations and judgements on the whole sport because one or two of you give us hate. That also applies to any skaters of bmxers.
Thanks

Emily - Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Honestly, I’m yet to come across a scooter that doesn’t want to snake me all the time, when they give respect I’ll give it back

blue - Friday, April 11th, 2014

Maybe, just maybe it is the way it has to be. That last quote did have some harsh truth 0_0
Maybe blading has to deal with scootering the way skateboarding did to blading, in order to rise back; look where all the money is at now!
But its okay ^^ then scootering will be in our postion, blading will be where skateboarding is now, and freestyle unicycling will be the new kid on the block to get bashed ^_^;
Immoral yes but…The vicious cycle will continue…

blue - Friday, April 11th, 2014

Or or OR…
Blading will encourage the scooter industry, and join forces with them, taking control of the entire extreme sports market yet again >:)
It’s either those two options or fade into obscurity…lol(jokes)

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