How many lessons does it take to learn how to skate?

It really depends. People who have roller skated or ice skated before (even if just as a child) tend to learn faster than those that haven’t. You will learn rollerblading more intensively in a private lesson than in a group, where the pace is set by the average level of the students. We recommend you start with 1 or 2 lessons (either private or group) and see from there how you go. What is essential is how much practice you do in between classes, as this is where you really gain the experience and confidence.

Will I fall over a lot?

We have noticed that people who learn to skate with some initial instruction, tend not to fall over very much at all (to their surprise). We at Skatefresh believe that skating is a safe and fun sport, and when you are taught how to use your protective gear properly (and so encourage you to fall forwards), you also learn some key positions that help you get out of trouble before a fall actually happens. Those that teach themselves, tend to learn the hard way with many backward falls.

What’s best, a private class or a group lesson?

Obviously a private class is tailored to your personal needs, so if you wish to stay on the grass practicing a little longer before getting to the concrete, then that’s more easily accommodated. If you have a high level of fear about learning to skate, or have tried before and had a bad experience, then maybe a private lesson is best to start with. Our beginner group classes assume that you have no prior experience. Our Beginner workshops are aimed at people having instruction for their first skating experience. This is what we encourage. The choice is yours. Our private lesson from range £35-£50 (1 hour), and our groups from £45 for (3 hours).

Should I buy or rent skates?

This really depends on whether you see yourself skating a lot. The initial investment in skates will cost anything from £80-£200 (average first purchase skates £100-£150 including protective gear), while a day of skate hire from central London shops is about £10. Why not rent some skates yourself and organise either a private lesson or a group class and then see how you feel about buying.

What about protective gear and accessories?

It is a fact: You will fall over much less (if at all) if you are wearing protective gear. This is because, if you have learned how to use your protective gear (in a lesson) you will know how to reach forwards in a moment of imbalance. Almost all injuries in inline skating take place from backwards falls, not forwards falls. Knee and wrists pads are the absolute minimum, but a helmet is recommended especially when you start to street skate, where is becomes stupid not to wear one. When you are buying your pads make sure you try them all on, especially the knee pads which cannot be guessed from the fit of the wrist guards.

If you are planning on travelling with your skates (prepare for your holiday destinations to change to include smooth seaside promenades), then a skate rucksack is a must. This allows you to strap your skates onto the outside of a rucksack and still be able to use the rucksack for ‘stuff’.

A strapon water bottle holder is useful for bag free summer days (check hiking and camping shops, cycle shops and The Marathon Store (long Acre, London).

In autumn, and winter you will also need lights and reflective gear if you are street skating. Bike shops have good lights, some of which can be clipped onto clothing (red at the back, white at the front). You can even buy wheels with lights inside them or lights for clipping on skates. Be seen!

Make sure you always have a skate tool with you in case any of your wheel bolts become loose.

How should skates feel and how do I know if I’m buying the right size?

When you try on a pair of skates, try your own shoe size (and not the size up, as some skate shops do). Put both skates on, stand up with both feet parallel, hip width apart (Ready Position), and bend your knees. In this position, with knees bent so that your shin bone is supported by the ankle strap, you should be able to ‘play piano with your toes’. If your toes touch the front or side of the skate, then try the next size up.

You do not need to skate around the shop, its best to keep stationary, and focus on your feet and how they feel. Buy the most comfortable pair you can try. Many people buy incorrect fitting skates and the result is aching feet, which means you won’t enjoy skating as much. Try on different brands and see how the fit changes. You will get similar design features from different brands at the same price, so focus on COMFORT!

What’s the difference between different kinds of skates?

Inline skates fall into 4 main categories, Recreational, Speed, Aggressive and Hockey skates.
Recreational skates are for all purpose park skating, street skating and fitness skating. They have 4 wheels, a heel brake on one skate and many different styles and models. This is probably the type of skate you want if you are a beginner and not yet specialising in any of the following forms of skating.
Speed Skates have a longer frame and much larger wheels and no heel brake, for increased stability at speed. They can have lower cuffs for lightness and increased flexibility.

Aggressive skates are very heavy with a short wheel base to facilitate landing jumps. They have a grind plate for sliding and performing tricks. They have no heel brake and are not designed for any speed.
Hockey skates have a short wheel base for maneuverability and no heel brake. They have a harder boot to withstand impacts.

I’ve been skating a few times and my feet hurt. What’s wrong?

Foot pain or ache while skating is something to take notice of. It can show you that your skates are either badly fitting (too big or too small), or that you are simply not doing them up correctly or it can show you that your technique is missing something and you are therefore ‘tense’ and gripping with your feet.

Wrong size boots – If your skates are too small you are likely to feel pain in the toes and front of the foot. If skates are too big you can experience pain almost anywhere, but most common is the inner arch of the foot and around the ankles. You may also see yourself pronating onto the insides of your wheels as your boots are not secured to your foot.

Badly fitted boots – Many people do not tie up their skates tightly enough when starting to skate. You want to do the laces fairly tight (but so that your toes still wiggle freely). The ankle strap is where most people go wrong. It needs to be tight enough for you to bend your knees and then feel supported by the strap. If its too tight you cant bend your knees at all, if its too loose, you bend your knees and never make contact with the strap. Use your knee bend in the ready position to help you tighten your ankle strap sufficiently!

Bad skating technique – When we learn to skate, most of us feel tense about it and its normal for our bodies to be in a more tense muscular state. This extends down to your feet. Do this experiment to see if your foot pain is caused by your technique. Stand in Ready Position, feet hip width and parallel. Bend your knees correctly into the ankle strap (your knees should be over your toes with your weight on the balls of the feet). Now play piano with you feet and see how easy your toes feel. Now slowly straighten your knees and continue to play piano with your toes and feel how much more difficult and tense your toes become. Keep straightening the knees until they are locked straight. Your toes will now be ‘gripping’ the soles of your skates in an attempt to stop you falling over backwards.
Bend your knees again into the correct knee bend position and see how relaxed your toes are now.
This experiment shows clearer than words why bent knees is helpful for skating. So, if your feet are hurting while skating, it could be that you are skating on knees that are not bent enough. As a result, your toes and feet are tense, which will build up (often after 10-15 minutes) and will result in deep, aching pains. Your instructor should be able to advise you further.

What’s the age limit for skating?

If you can walk and bend down to tie your shoe laces, then you can learn to skate. Skatefresh has taught people to skate of all ages, from 5-80 years old. Our age limit for children starts at 6years of age (but exceptions have been made when a younger child displays sufficient coordination and strength to warrant instruction). A child’s physical size and strength will determine how fast they pick up skating. If your child wants to skate but is too young or can’t manage alone on concrete, then let them play with their skates on, on grass. This will help build up the leg muscles they need to learn on concrete.

What is a ‘Street Skate’?

A street skate is an organised event whereby groups of skaters (from 10 to 35,000) get together and skate through the streets of major world cities. These are not protests but a fantastic way to experience a city, see its sites, meet new people, get great (free) exercise and improve your skating, all at the same time!

In London we are lucky enough to have 3 street skates a week in the summer (and 2 throughout the winter). The Friday night Skate and The Sunday Stroll (for newer street skaters) are both on the same website. The Wednesday night skate is run by Londonskate and Skatefresh has been involved with LondonSkate since its conception over 10 years ago. Every Wednesday evening from May to October the LondonSkate has reached numbers over 1000 skaters, but averages several hundred every week. Skatefresh speiclaises in teaching Street skating courses to people wanting to participate safely in the street skates and who may also want to travel solo on their skates through the city.