If you’re on TikTok, you’ve seen the videos. Beautiful people gliding through the air in cute outfits to great music. Even if you’d never thought about trying a roller skate on in your life, you’ll be hooked.
There’s a certain kind of nostalgia these roller skating videos evoke. Of simpler times when we felt free and didn’t even know how good we had it. Thanks to these mesmerising TikToks, roller skating has become as popular a balm for soothing 2020 uneasiness as bread making.
Users like Ana Coto, a 29-year-old Cuban-American actor and dancer based in Los Angeles, have helped bring skating back in a big way. The reigning queen of roller skating content on TikTok, her motto is simply “don’t hate, roller skate!”
Coto sashaying down a neighbourhood street to J Lo’s ‘Jenny From The Block’ has been viewed over 14 million times. A scroll through her feed shows that garnering millions of views is standard issue for her at this stage – the people are into it.
And while you struggle to learn a TikTok dance on a good day, Coto is nailing moves while simultaneously rolling backwards.
But the peaking iso popularity of roller skating isn’t just a USA thing. Sure, American retailers were selling out of skates in May, but Google Trends shows a spike in searches for roller skates in Australia, too.
“We have definitely noticed the huge influx of people strapping on eight wheels for the first time lately,” says Stacey Short of RollerFit, an Aussie roller skating fitness class with outposts in NSW, VIC and QLD.
“I remember a time when it actually felt possible to know every quad skater who skates in skateparks in Australia. That might seem ridiculous in other countries, but for years, we really have been a pretty small community”, Short explains on her blog.
“Now, I don’t even know all the roller skaters in my local skate park, not to mention all the skaters hitting the sidewalks. Roller skating is definitely booming.”
After seeing Coto’s moves on TikTok’s ‘For You’ page, I shared a couple of the clips with my sister. We then began shooting roller content back and forth between us over the following months, until a pair of cream, pink and turquoise Impala skates turned up on our doorstep.
Never the type to just jump on a new hobby or trend, this was a big move from baby sis. Clearly, the roller vibes are strong.
“For me, it’s not something I want to do to get fit – it’s to have fun and feel free”, says Fiona Taylor. “There’s something so fluid and freeing about how the skaters in those TikTok videos looked and I want to feel that way. It reminded me of being a kid.”
“I miss going out and dancing, so roller skating is the perfect hybrid. It also happens to include sparkly skates and great music. I love how you can still wear whatever you want and be yourself,” Taylor adds.
Like any physical activity, there’s an element of self care to roller skating. Movement, getting outside and (hopefully) getting the wind in your hair are essential ingredients for boosting anyone’s mood. But there’s an added sense of self expression via music, outfits and choreography that makes skating so addictive – and historically, important.
Roller skating has a fascinating history (and definitely isn’t a ‘new’ trend)
Roller skating isn’t a new trend nor did it originate in the 70s as the legendary roller disco era. It actually has a rich history in many communities and has been around for centuries. In fact, roller skates were invented in the late 1700s and the first roller rinks opened in 1857 in London.
“The Golden Age of Roller Skating lasted from 1937 to 1959 in the USA, during which time roller skating was the number one participatory sport in the country,” explains RollerFit.
African American skate culture also has its own unique history. According to the NY Times, during the wrenching period of segregation, rinks kept black and white skaters apart, which led to the formation of a distinct black skate culture.
Nowadays, roller rinks and parks pride themselves on being inclusive spaces and safe havens for everyone, including LGBTQI individuals and those from marginalised communities.
The best part is that even during a pandemic, this centuries-old activity continues to stand the test of time: you’ll get the same joy from skating iso-style with headphones on as you would at a roller disco rink with friends.
There’s a bunch of online courses and even TikTok tutorials available to start learning, but now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing, rinks are beginning to open up again.
Ready to get your skate on? Here’s 11 rinks to hit up in Australia.
#1 RollerFit, Various in NSW, VIC and QLD
#2 Skate Australia Find a Club, Aus-wide
#3 Maximum Skating, Sydney, NSW
#4 Collingwood Underground Roller Disco, Collingwood, VIC
#5 Skate Away Family Skate Centre, Brisbane, QLD
#6 Stafford Skate Centre, Brisbane, QLD
#7 Skatescool, Erindale, SA
#8 St Clair Roller Skating Rink, St Clair, SA
#9 Ingle Farm Recreation centre, Adelaide. SA
#10 Rolloways, Perth, WA
#11 Rollerzone, Perth, WA
(Lead Image: Pexels / Laura Stanley)
Sonia feels most at home on the road, with travel her greatest passion. But really, she’s hype about a lot of things: beautiful design, tasty food, wellness, nature, interesting people and women’s issues. The Founding Editor of Junkee’s The Cusp and former Homes Editor at Nine, Sonia prides herself on seeking out authentic experiences with charm and loves sharing a personal rec. Catch her on Instagram @sonnietothetee.