If you’ve been skating for a while in urban areas you might have seen people street skating in groups. If you’re wondering what street skating is and whether you’re ready for it, read this blog for tips and advice on the pre-requisite skills you should have before taking on your first street skate.
What is street skating?
Street skating is when inline and roller skaters take to the streets of their town or city for recreation and fitness purposes. One can street skate alone but it is more common for skaters to join an existing group street skate. This is an organised (usually free) event where a group of 20 to hundreds or even thousands of skaters complete a planned route of over 10km (or more).
The most famous street skates are in Paris, San Francisco, Barcelona, New York and London although many large cities around the world boast their own. They are a fun way to see and experience a city, but every skater must make it their responsibility to be good enough to participate. Otherwise accidents, falls and injuries can and do happen.
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Essential skills for street skating
How do you know if you are a good enough skater to be safe on a street skate? Only when you’re already a master of these essential pre-requisite skills for street skating, are you ready.
Because of the obstacles in the street (including other skaters, pedestrians and road users!) it’s a good idea to make sure you have the following skills fluently mastered to ensure your own safety and those around you when you join your first street skate.
1. Acceleration technique
Knowing the difference between how to accelerate and how to maintain speed is essential for safe street skating. If you cannot accelerate in a short number of strides to increase your speed quickly, you will very easily be tripped up on rough surface patches or obstacles such a metal covers. These two kinds of skating require very different techniques and practice to master.
Acceleration on skates demands a particular method of faster cadence steps with a definite V-shaped regroup. But this should only be sustained for about three to eight strides before the V-shape will no longer be appropriate and keeping it at your higher speed will then be dangerous.
You should be able to both accelerate from a standstill up to cruising speed and also from slower skating speeds to higher skating speeds (for example when overtaking a slower skater in front of you).
2. Medium to high skating speed
You need to be comfortable skating at medium and high speeds if you want to be safe street skating. This is because the rougher surfaces common on streets means that slower speeds are much more risky and you are more likely to be tripped up by changes in surface and obstacles such a speed bumps, metal covers, loose stones etc.
When skating in a crowd of people it is very common to be swept along with the average speed of the group and if you are inexperienced with that speed it can be extremely dangerous to skate faster than you are comfortable. This causes falls at medium and high speeds which often create the most serious injuries.
3. Speed control and stopping methods – an absolute must!
If you are using the urban environment as your playground then having excellent stopping methods (and several of them, such as the Heel brake Stop, Lunge Stop (or Powerstop), Powerslide and T-Stop) are an absolute must. This may seem obvious but excellent stopping is the most commonly overlooked skill set.
On inline skates the best, most efficient and easy to learn stoping method is the Heel Brake Stop. It can be learned from the very first day of skating and very quickly can become extremely efficient at stopping from high speeds in a straight line, on multiple surface conditions. Too many skaters give in to peer pressure and remove their heel brake before they have at least 2-3 other stopping methods (that work from their highest speeds).
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- For a FREE lesson on the Back Powerslide, see the Advanced How to Stop online course.
- For a FREE lesson on the T-Stop (quad / roller skaters) see the How to Quad Skate online courses.
4. Fluent Scissor positions
Without fluent Scissor positions a skater on the streets will get into difficulties when hitting rough patches of tarmac, surface obstacles like speed bumps, dips, metal covers etc. A Scissor position is one skate in front of the other in a narrow stance, both knees bent with more weight on the back skate.
This stance allows the lighter skate to hit the obstacle first and on inline skates means you hit the obstacle one wheel at a time. Rolling over an obstacle with both skates side-by-side would mean the obstacle is even more disruptive as 2 wheels hit it at the same time. On roller skates this effect is magnified as it would mean all four front wheels hitting at once, making it much more likely to be tripped up.
The Scissor position should be fluent which means it is achievable very quickly from striding and at the skater’s highest speeds. It should also be done on both sides. Inadequate knee bend in a scissor position will result in the skates slowing down (or stopping) over the obstacle while the upper body continues, and this can lead to falls and injuries.
5. Parallel Turns
Being able to turn 90 and 180 degrees using the Parallel Turn (in both directions) is a fundamental skill for street skating. The Parallel Turn is done in the Scissor position so lack of fluency there will mean unstable and unreliable turns. Turning in a scissor position means that the risk is reduced if the surface encountered during a turn is less than 100% smooth. The narrow stance of the Parallel Turn also makes it useful for weaving in and out of tight spaces and around obstacles such as the gaps between stationary cars.
Fluent Parallel Turns are also the pre-requisite skill for learning the Lunge Stop and Powerstop so without fluent Scissors a skater is taking a very high risk.
Want to learn parallel turn? Watch this quick parallel turn video tutorial on Instagram.
6. Skating Kerbs
Although you may think that when street skating you will always be on the streets, it’s important to realise that sometimes, the pavement or sidewalk is the safest place to be. Being able to move quickly and easily from the road to the pavement means being able to navigate kerbs successfully. This then will allow you to keep yourself safe and get out of trouble when needed.
Kerbs can quickly cause panic when a skater is unfamiliar with them or approaches too fast or doesn’t have the correct techniques. As one foot lifts to step up the kerb the other skate can slam into the kerb creating a very fast forwards fall. Descending kerbs can cause even more problems as road surfaces are often rougher than the pavement and vehicles are then in the immediate environment.
Skaters should be able to step up and down kerbs from their medium and high speeds from various approaching angles such as perpendicular and diagonal.
Remember to learn these skills in a safe practice area before hitting the streets!
With this list of pre-requisite skills for street skating, it’s essential that you learn, practice and master each of them BEFORE you go near a street on your skates.
I do not believe you should learn these skills on the street. They should be very fluent before you can expect them to function correctly in a high intensity city environment.
So, this means gaining the skill fluency on smooth areas with no traffic first. This could be a very quiet street or cul-de-sac where you have ample time and notification of a car approaching. Or it could be in your normal smooth flat skating area.
When you think your stopping methods are slope-ready, find a suitable, quiet slope with no traffic and begin to test your stopping methods on the slope (starting from the bottom and slowly working your way up more of the slope). Ensure you can control your speed on the slope and not accelerate but also that you can stop on the slope.
Make sure you can combine all of these pre-requisite skills one after the other quickly. For example, accelerate form a standstill then scissor (over an imaginary obstacle), then accelerate again and turn 90 degrees right and then emergency stop. This is a perfectly “normal” scenario on the street and you need to be ready for the unknown combination of terrain details that will determine which skills you need and in what order.
On the streets, you cannot choose when to do the skills. The environment will force you to do the skill when you might not be ready and this is the problem with street skating and why you need the fluency before you begin.
Practice, practice practice before you join your first street skate!
Street skating should be seen as the most challenging of all the disciplines and certainly the most dangerous. You should not be in a hurry to start this until you are absolutely sure that your skills are up to it. Street skating should be the “icing on the cake” of reaching the top of your Intermediate level prowess.
Everything is always “fine” until it isn’t. By that I mean, you can be happily skating along a street feeling confident and then a combination of unexpected events happens and the next moment you’ve fallen over and have sustained a serious injury.
In every week that passes, I see in all the Facebook groups that I am a member of the reports of different accidents and injuries and they are most usually on the streets and involve broken bones as well as serious cuts, grazes and impact swellings.
I wish every skater thinking about hitting the streets had access to the injury information I have. If they did, they would absolutely make sure they were “street skate ready” before getting on streets. Don’t be the next skater to be reporting from hospital what happened.
Take it easy out there and be sensible. You and your body are precious and I’d like you to stay fit, uninjured and out of plaster always.
Skate Well, Feel Alive.
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