Alan Hughes / November 12th, 2018 / Blogs
Let’s Argue About Trick Terminology!

Who created god? Why does anything even exist in the first place? These are the questions that don’t keep me up at night, because I’m too busy arguing with strangers on the internet about rollerblading terminology.

Just a quick disclaimer, this is by no means an attempt to solve all of our problems or tell anybody they’re right or wrong. This is just an attempt to look back over the years that brought us to this point and respectfully list the existing arguments and why some people believe them and some people don’t.

* * * *

Anytime these conflicts come up, I make the same dumb joke about the “official sanctioning body of rollerblading trick names n stuff.” It’s half joke, half serious, because there really never has been any kind of official organization to make these decisions. Reading this article or comments online, I think that’s important to remember. We’re just a bunch of idiots talking about fishbrains and pornstars, while idiots on the other side of the planet were probably doing the exact same thing but talking about fannypacks and goatcheesegrinds.

So anyways…

The origin of the term “alley-oop” was slightly before my time (I was just beginning to learn how to jump off curbs). But from what I understand it originated from vert skating, to describe a way of airing from one end of the ramp to the other, as opposed to airing straight up and down the ramp. When people started doing reverse/backwards soul grinds, it had a similar appearance, so the term began being used for the reverse variation of all grinds.

So we were off to a decent start, until somewhere around 1997, when people started turning/spinning the opposite direction to these reverse grinds, and the paradox of “truespin alley-oop” was born. This seemed perfectly logical to thousands of little dudes like me because we had only ever known “alley-oop” to mean reverse. But since it actually referred to the direction you were spinning, and truespin referred to spinning the opposite direction, this was obviously a problem, as DB pointed out about twenty years ago.

To this day we still have no specific term for a reverse variation, and some of us still say “truespin alley-oop.” We conducted a super scientific emoji poll on this last summer and over 50% of the 264 people who responded said they still say it.

Just for a second I’m going to jump ahead about a decade. Somewhere in the mid to late 2000’s an argument began to appear, that the terms alley-oop and truespin should not be applied to frame/groove tricks.

Some have told me they based this argument on the belief that the terms should only be used for the spin directions and not the grinds (as described in the previous section). Some have told me they based this argument on the belief that the tricks shouldn’t even be considered reverse variations of the original grinds, but standalone tricks themselves. For example, a torque slide should not be considered a reverse backslide, it’s just a torque.

Like I said at the start, I’m not here to tell anyone they are right or wrong, I’m not going to say any of these opinions are right or wrong, I’m just here to list them on the hypothetical ballot. But for the next section I do need to continue using some of these terms to talk about it.

Savannahs! This is usually where the whole world ends. In the beginning, there was unity, and it was good. But then some asshole just had to start doing backside unities. Then an even bigger asshole just had to start doing, what some would call, alley-oop unities. Then one giant freaking asshole had to start doing alley-oop backside unities!!! What an asshole!

Oh yeah, and then there was this cool sounding word “savannah” just to make things even more confusing. I attempted to track down the creator of the term. Justin Eisinger thought it was Nick Riggle. Nick said he thought it was Jon Julio. Jon is a businessman and knows how emotionally unstable rollerbladers are, so he pled the fifth. Azikiwee Anderson said he thought it was Julio also, so that didn’t help. Ultimately none of it really matters anyways, because the problem is right from the start, some people used it to refer to alley-oop unities, and some used it to refer to alley-oop backside unities, and both sides will stab you in the face if you say otherwise.

So do we want the term “savannah” applied to alley-oop unitiy? Or specifically to alley-oop backside unity? And do we specifically want it applied only when done alley-oop? But not truespin? Is the term so redundant we should just drop it all together? And how would we refer to these other variations if we decide against using alley-oop/truespin for frame grinds?

We also conducted an emoji poll on this conflict and over 70% of the 285 people who responded said a savannah doesn’t have to be backside, it could just be an alley-oop unity.

I can’t not mention the inspin/outspin conflict. But there is so little consistency, it’s hard to even summarize. If a rail is on your right and you 360 left to a top soul, some people would call that outspin. But if you 360 left to a soul, some people would call that inspin. Sometimes it is even the same person saying it would have been outspin for top soul but inspin for soul. Sometimes a person will consistently say both were outspin, but if you had rolled up fakie, they would say it was inspin. Some people even try to some how factor in the skater’s switch and natural. Then there is the lesser used term “hurricane,” arguably created first to refer to the spinning cess slides made famous by Robert Lievanos. Then the even lesser used “inside/outside,” and even lesserer used “hardspin/easyspin.” And don’t forget the overlapping terminology of alley-oop and truespin.

So that’s a whole bunch of options and very little sense. For the sake of minimalism it has always been my opinion to just drop all spin references except for alley-oop and true spin, since they are the most common, and then finally create a term specific to reverse variations of grinds. It might sound crazy, but maybe we could just say “reverse.” But it’s obviously not my place or any one individual’s place to say.

There are other smaller squabbles, but these were the big ones. Again, I’m not trying to tell anybody they are right or wrong. I just wanted to provide a respectful overview of all the major conflicts and arguments. We tend to get locked into our own understanding as if there is some objective science to it all. There’s not. It’s all made up. For everyone who has made it this far without becoming too emotional, thank you. I hope I was able to provide some insight into opposing arguments and you understand a bit more why the other side argues what they do and they now understand a bit more why you argue what you do. If we can gradually begun discussing these conflicts in a more reasonable manner, one day we might actually be able to create a logical system everyone can agree on.

Discussion / Let’s Argue About Trick Terminology!

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  • Cole Collins - November 12th, 2018

    Haha! An “alley-oop unity”. Savannah’s can be front side or backside just because it’s a backwards unity even though you’re also sideways while you’re backwards. Sort of weird to think about being backwards and sideways.

  • Anders Fisher - November 13th, 2018

    As a han that recently discovered switch frontsides were easier if you thought of them as regular frontsides going backwards I have no idea what to think about anything anymore.

    Another interesting twist is the introduction of freestyle makios etc by Jon Elliott!

    As far as other uses of the term alley oop one can look to basketball for its use on slam dunks.

    It doesn’t seem important but the terminology we use helps us shape how we think about What we are doing which in turn changes what we do!

  • Tjl - August 29th, 2019

    Inspin, outspin, truespin, and alley-oop should only refer to the last 180 before locking onto a grind. It’s the most consistent.

  • J dirt - March 19th, 2021

    There was an article about this in a early pre glossy era Box magazine I think by Arlo. Any got a copy?

  • Drew - November 30th, 2023

    I’m confused on the unity/savannah stuff.

    Alley oop unity
    True spin unity
    Frontside Savanah (some call ao)
    Backside Savanah (some call ts)

    These are 4 completely different tricks. No?

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