Rollerskating on wet or damp surfaces creates extra challenges in stopping, turning and striding, whether you’re on quads or inline skates, so it’s useful to know how to adapt your skating so you can still get home when caught in the rain.
You can make equipment adaptations to skate in the rain and also change your technique for certain moves to reduce the risks. The metal parts of your skates, particularly the bearings inside your wheels will suffer from getting wet so cleaning your skates should be a part of your wet skate routine.
What are the challenges of skating in the wet?
1. Slippery surfaces
The most important difference you’ll feel skating on wet ground is that every surface will become more slippery. This will affect inline skate wheels more than quad skate wheels because inline wheels are curved in profile and the mechanics of inline skating creates tilting the wheels, and this is where slipping is most acute.
Each type of surface will be slippery to different extents making it difficult to predict in advance. The smoother the surface in the dry, the more slippery it will be when wet. Take particular care on polished stone, marble and indoor surfaces which are the most slippery of all.
2. Skating stride
It’s much harder to create propulsion (i.e. the ‘push’ forward) when skating in wet conditions. When you push out to the side for a normal skating stride you might find yourself in an unwanted slide (especially on inlines) which can put you off balance and make it easier to fall over.
The common problem that many inline skaters have of pronating on a slight inside edge becomes critical in the wet. When the pushing skate regroups in the centre it must be placed on an upright, centre edge which is the only safe place to glide when on a wet surface.
An upright wheel cannot slide so skating on centre edges is the challenge.
Watch this video tutorial on how to skate correctly without pronation:
As with all forms of moving transport, stopping distances in the wet are much longer and this is the main danger of skating in damp conditions. Stopping distances can be up to up to three times longer than in dry conditions (from the same speeds).
Not all stopping methods are appropriate if you’re going to skate in the rain.
The best stopping methods on skates for wet conditions are those that already involve sliding one skate:
- Soul Slide.
These will however slide much further before actually stopping you, so you need to make sure you are completely balanced in each slide position.
In this YouTube tutorial on how to stop using the T-Stop and Powerslides I go through the steps to safely learn both stopping methods.
Any weaknesses in your technique will become exaggerated in the wet. Sliding stops where both skates are sliding e.g. Parallel slide, Hockey stop or Magic slide will be much more challenging to control on each slippery surface so go very gently on those. These are only used in the wet by extremely proficient skaters.
Of the non-sliding stops, the heel brake stop is the best choice for beginners in damp situations as the rubber brake will slow and stop you but again, it will take longer.
Top tip: Avoid all stopping methods that involve any turning or a wide stance like the plough stops. The tilted wheels (edges) in a wide stance will be much more likely to slide.
All turns on inline skates usually involve tilting the wheels over onto the inside or outside edges of the wheels (like how a bicycle leans into a turn).
When you skate in the rain or wet conditions you should avoid edging and this creates huge challenges when trying to corner. In the wet you should avoid crossovers which demand edging and body rotation. To skate safely on damp surfaces your speed on turns should be much reduced.
This can be the case with shaded spots also, so take note of surface colour irregularities as they often show you where the damp is.
Skating in the rain or even just on damp ground can affect your bearings and reduce their efficiency. After a wet skate it’s important to clean your bearings to ensure no permanent damage is done. Many explanations of this already exist online.
The durometer (hardness/softness) of your wheels will determine just how much grip your wheels are able to give you in the wet. A harder wheel will give you less grip than a softer wheel. Investing in a set of rain wheels will give you some extra grip.
We recommend Powerslide Torrent Rain wheels which come in various sizes.
How to skate in the rain if you have to?
1. Adapt your stride
To avoid over edging it’s important not to push out to the side as far as you would in the dry. Aim for a shorter stroke and higher cadence to create acceleration or maintain speed. It’s always advisable to skate much slower in the wet, unless in race conditions, because of the increased stopping distances.
Check your feet and make sure you’re not pronating on your gliding leg as this could induce a slide at the moment you begin to push. Make sure you’re well balanced over your gliding skate (with the wheels of this skate upright on the centre edges).
The higher cadence tempo of your wet skating stride will be more tiring than normal skating. Your body will also be more tense as it understands the risks of falling are now higher.
It goes without saying but make sure to look ahead often so you’re not surprised or need to stop in an emergency at short distance. Prevention is always better than cure in the wet!
2. Stopping adjustments
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The best stopping methods to use in the wet are those where one skate is sliding and one skate is holding the majority of your weight (such as T-Stop, Powerslide and Soul Slide). Pay particular attention to your support skate in each of these slides to make sure it’s on a centre edge (with the wheel upright and not tilted at all). This means you’ll be able to stay balanced and stable for the duration of the slide.
These stops are not appropriate for beginner skaters who usually don’t have the balance required to hold a centre edge for up to 10 metres while sliding the other skate. Beginners should stick to using the heel brake and leaving extra space for a longer stop.
Top tip: You can get the heel brake lesson for free on the Skatefresh How to Stop online course for beginners.
If you’re learning any of these sliding stops, practicing those in wet or damp conditions can be excellent training as the slide will be much easier to achieve than on dry ground. This is the best use of damp conditions, if you have to skate in the rain or wet surfaces!
As stated earlier avoid all stops involving turns as they will be very difficult to avoid an unwanted slide, and just remember, always reduce your speed in the wet so you can allow for longer stopping distances, whatever methods you’re relying on.
3. Turning adjustments
The safest way to turn on skates in the wet is to slowly skate around the turn with short strides, opening more the skate on the inside of the turn. This is only appropriate for larger turns where you’ve got room to actually move!
Turning on damp surfaces (using the parallel turn, lunge turn or crossovers) should be avoided until they have been trained safely in the wet and are ‘usable’.
For example, parallel turns can be trained to turn without tilting the wheels on to their edges, however this is very counter-intuitive and will not be achievable by beginners.
Parallel turning in the wet without edges requires shifting the weight in the feet from the balls of the feet in scissor to the heels so that the front wheels become lighter and can then be ‘guided’ around the turn while remaining on centre edges. The knees should not move in towards the centre of the turn but remain over the skates. Sharp turns will not be possible with this method, but larger turns at slower speeds will be.
Top tip: Learn the lunge turn for free with the How to Skate Intermediate online course.
4. Up and down slopes
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Possibly the most dangerous thing to do on any kind of skates is to skate up or down slopes in damp or wet conditions.
Skating up a slope will be even harder work than normal as only smaller strides are possible with an even higher cadence rhythm. It will be challenging to get enough speed to roll over obstacles so try to avoid all surface obstacles and skate around them.
Care must be taken on any down hill slopes not to gain too much speed. Ideally begin every slope from the bottom and work your way up in gradually increasing distances, rather than starting from the top of a hill and discovering after 5m you’re going too fast to stop.
If you have to begin at the top of hill, begin very slowly and apply constant braking pressure with your brake or sliding skate (in a T-Stop or Soul Slide). It’s possible that even while applying a sliding method eg T-Stop you may still accelerate in the damp as you’re receiving less traction from slippery ground.
This is when it is advised to stop using for example the Powerslide and reassess your situation. Some slopes depending on gradient and surface will not be safe in the wet even for intermediate level skaters.
Top tip: Ensure you’re 100% comfortable skating in the wet on flat ground before attempting slopes of any kind.
Skating in wet or damp conditions should be avoided until damp skate techniques have been practised and mastered. Stopping, turning and striding will all be affected and even experienced skaters will need to allow longer distances for all stops, reduce their normal speeds and avoid edging where possible.
Quad skaters will have more stability and grip than inline skaters in the wet, but similar precautions should be taken in terms of speed, cornering and stopping. The best use of wet ground is for learning and training new sliding stopping methods. For this alone, it’s worth cleaning your bearings for.
Learn to skate online with Skatefresh:
- How to Skate online course: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
- How to Stop online course: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
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