Collin Martin / February 11th, 2014 / Blogs
Indecent Exposure: The Aesthetic of Rollerblading

Everyone can be blown away by Pele. Tarzan would get bug-eyed at Michael Jackson’s dance moves. Michael Jordan could bring tears to the eyes of a young Tibetan girl. Across almost all sports, the greatest athletes have universal appeal and appreciation. Even the best curler in the world could make a teenage boy giddy. However, generally speaking, some sports and activities have less visual appeal than others. A viral, extreme unicycling video may not lure the masses to the local unicycle store, and potato sack racing isn’t necessarily the most enticing of activities in which to participate. The best human in potato sack racing may be impressive but the action itself of hopping very fast in a sack is quite difficult to make look appealing to the masses.

Style in sport and performance is what separates the appealing from the appalling. Whether one activity or performance is more difficult, more fun, or more creative than another is totally subjective. But having style is as easy to recognize as beauty in the human face. You can’t exactly describe why someone’s face is stunning, it just is. There’s nothing specific you can point to that describes why most rollerbladers look goofy and unstylish. They just are.

Almost everyone can look a little more stylish wearing sunglasses. It might take a second look at Carrot Top in sunglasses to recognize what’s really happening beneath those tinted shades. A skateboard under the feet of a skateboarder with bad style is like sunglasses on the face of an ugly person. The ugly is obscured by the restricted view. Conversely, many striking people on the planet have beautiful eyes. Put sunglasses on beautiful eyes and they look less appealing because the sunglasses restrict the view of the beauty.

In extreme sports, the reason skateboarding, BMX, scootering and snowboarding looks more stylish or more appealing than rollerblading to most is because the participants of these sports are not as exposed as rollerbladers. A squirly snowboarder is like a close-up cleavage shot of a woman that may otherwise be a butter-face. The snowboarder may look good up close, but zoom out and you’ll take a pass. Likewise, the restrictions of the body’s placement on the skateboard, scooter, bicycle or snowboard limit the body’s ability to show something beautiful. These sports are full of unstylish participants wearing sunglasses as cover. When I watch any of these sports, it’s like watching a beauty pageant in Iran — interesting but rather limited. In blading, the unrestricted movement of the arms and legs both in the air and on the ground allow for total freedom of expression of body form — a blessing if skilled but a curse if not.

It seems that every rollerblader I’ve ever seen skating down a bike path looks terribly awkward, with arms and legs stiff as if balancing on stilts while simultaneously being crucified. Very few people can make rollerblading look good because of how naked rollerbladers’ style is. If they are not stylish and in control it is blatantly obvious. You can easily look cool simply bouncing a basketball even if you can never sink a 3-pointer. You don’t need to be a pro to look chill if you lean a little while coasting on a skateboard. There’s no need to learn to ollie. But it takes a decade on rollerblades to look comfortable simply striding down a sidewalk with cracks on it. Add the elements of a crooked run-up to a fastslide grind on a hand rail and you quickly have the hardest sport in the world to make look impressive and easiest sport to make laughable, thanks to an out-of-control landing that results in a feature on Tosh.0.

This is precisely why rollerblading is incredible and unique from the rest of the extreme sports. There is no other sport that is so exposed and so difficult to make look impressive.

Discussion / Indecent Exposure: The Aesthetic of Rollerblading

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  • Inline Downhill Vancouver - February 12th, 2014

    This article is terribly misguided. It tries to take partially or wholly incorrect stereotypes that are placed on inline skating and attempts to explain them. The premise is flawed.

    There is nothing magical about a skateboard or snowboard that compensates for a lack of skill or style. You can find me on a skateboard, longboard, or inline skates. I don’t look any more stylish on one more than the other any more than my experience and skill dictates. The factor that changes is the perception of others, which has been guided by a commercial and cultural assault by skateboarding and others.

    This article speaks of inline skaters on a bike path looking “terribly awkward, with arms and legs stiff as if balancing on stilts while simultaneously being crucified.” Inline skating is a popular recreational sport and is thus susceptible to a large contingent of inexperienced and awkward looking skaters. Combine this with the cheesy image that Rollerblade relied on to bring its industry to popularity and we have this difficult hurdle of image to overcome. However, to then extrapolate this image onto the style vs. sport debate is a silly premise. Take a segment of ill-equipped and inexperienced participants of any sport and they will all look awkward and unstylish, no matter what the vessel is.

    To say that inline skating is difficult to make look good because it is somehow inherently “goofy and unstylish” is a misguided “woe is me” attitude that buys into the notion – as put forth by the skateboarding industry – that inline skating is inherently uncool.

    Nice pic, though. 🙂

  • Mitchell Macrae - February 12th, 2014

    Nice reply. 😉

    I’m inclined to agree with both points. I do believe that rollerblading is a much harder sport to master in terms of just cruising around and looking ‘chill’.

    Think remember when you first rode a push bike (If you did). With in a couple of hours you’d be doing laps where ever it is you are riding. And with in a week you’d look reasonably competent on the bike.

    It’s the same with transporting ones-self on a skateboard. Those sports do seem to be easier to learn to look ‘good’ and competent on.

    Rollerblading takes a-lot longer to relax with. But I do also think that the reason we ‘judge’ the way certain people look when rolling is a reflection of what we have seen from the anti-rolling media. I think this simply because I can still remember as a kid seeing someone on Rollerblades (And they were very terrible at it) and thinking “Hot damn, I wanna do that! It looks fun!”.

    It wasn’t until later that we (or just me) started to worry about how we ‘appear’ to others cruising around.

    That’s my 5c anyway.

  • Matt Dudley - February 12th, 2014

    I totally agree with this article. I have always thought this about rollerblading and have always wanted to express my opinion on it, but could never be bothered.

    @Inline Downhill Vancouver – I totally disagree with your viewpoint.

    If you pick a sport, and play a video with nothing but silhouettes of 5 or 10 different people performing the same action, it would be very difficult to tell them apart. 5 different people doing a tailwhip on a BMX, 10 different people doing a kickflip on a skateboard, 30 different people hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racquet. I am telling you now, it would be a challenge to tell each person apart.

    On the other hand, take 5 or 10 rollerbladers and do the same thing, it would be a different story. Every single silhouette would look different and unique, regardless if it was rolling down a footpath, or grinding a handrail. There is so much freedom of movement involved and as stated in the article, its a blessing and a curse.

    When watching rollerblading, a persons clothing, size, experience and general style plays a massive part in how it looks and how its perceived. No two people skating down a footpath look the same. No two soul grinds look the same. For example, everyone says Jon Julio’s top souls are one of the best in the game. Why? because jon does them in a way that is visually appealing. No one ever says ‘damn, kobe bounces that ball with so much more style than the others’. Why? because its the same motion no matter who is performming it.

    This isnt a ‘woe is me’ article. It simply saying that when compared to other sports, rollerblading is hard to make look good, and look appealing to the outside world, because 50% of the time, it dosn’t look good, and it dosn’t look appealing.

  • jc - February 13th, 2014

    this is really stupid. pathetic. this is the type of shit that keeps “extreme” sports, or street sports(or whatever you want to call them) apart and in constant antagonism. stop the narcissist bullshit! who wrote this? an american? what the fuck is up with this fight between skaters and rollerbladers?? ” oh that’s gay, oh that’s easy, oh that’s so mainstream…” SHUT THE FUCK UP!! why do you keep comparing yourself to everything else? why the hell do you care if you look “chill” or “cool”?? that is the most sad thing i’ve ever read! and THAT is really fukin GAY. (i don’t care if you are actually gay or not, I’m not a stupid american littke kid that calls everything and everyone “Gay”.

  • skibro - February 13th, 2014

    sauce on pic plz!

  • Chris - February 13th, 2014

    “There’s nothing specific you can point to that describes why most rollerbladers look goofy and unstylish.” How about arms flailing everywhere, poor balance, and general lack of control?

    I get what you’re going for, but I see it more like this: rollerblading, moreso than any other “extreme sport,” relies on the body for expression. You’re not manipulating a board or bike – you’re manipulating yourself (heh). Blading is actually really similar to dance, which I think is one reason people get homophobic about it.

  • Matt - April 29th, 2015

    The fact that an article like this is still being written after decades of rollerblading being around is a bit embarrassing.

    Seriously guys, rollerblading is cool, I swear.

  • Garry - June 13th, 2015

    This guy is really good. Glad to see him back. Julian Bahs scndaal was a lovers quarrel that exploded at a big event nothing more. Rollerblade was doing bad financially at the time so they didn’t want to get caught up in the heat. This scndaal talk makes the situation sound worst than it actually was. Regardless Tyrone has got some skill and I hope to see more of him in the near future.

  • Michael Soos - May 29th, 2016

    This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read in my life. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but people on skates, especially women look hot when they know how to balance. When I see skaters I see grace and ability, balance and most of all strength.

    The most uncool thing that has happened in any physical activity which is completely laughable to people who do have the skill and ability to balance and skate is the awkward bicycle riders who dress like they are in a competition when they are out for a leisurely ride and strap on a helmet like the bike is going to somehow kill them. It doesn’t take much skill to ride a bike and you have a better chance of falling and smashing your skull open just walking along and tripping on a glob of gum. Lose the funky clothing bike riders and unless you’re in a race, the helmets have to go.

    Another totally uncool thing (from a skaters perspective) is the awkwardness of the walkers and runners we blow by every few feet on the trail. All I see is a bunch of people who feel a bit ashamed that they can’t put on a pair of skates and actually move their body and get some actual stimulating exercise. When I go skating by someone who is walking or running along, pounding their feet and bones on asphalt, that to me is uncool and in a way I pity them.

    The real difference between this mythical time period when you think inline skates were cool and now their not is the ability of people today. From the time I learned to skate many years ago I see people getting slower and fatter and so much more unattractive. It saddens me. No. It sickens me.

    So to perpetuate this really odd notion that someone rollerblades are an uncool thing really only goes to show how well you have accepted a fat and degraded society and think that this is the actual cool thing.

    No, fat and lazy is uncool. Get a pair of skates and don’t listen to this bizarre crap people. Make your life your own.

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