Skateboarding has found its way back into the hearts of active Hawaiians

Skateboarding has found its way back into the hearts of active Hawaiians

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At a volleyball court at Geiger Park in Ewa Beach, a bunch of people got together on a recent Thursday night to end the good times.

As hip-hop music blared from a digital boombox and disco lights bathed the scene in bright colors, the group embarked on some slick dance moves — “crab walking,” crawling sideways while bringing them heel-to-heel-to-toe-to-toe; and “crazy legs,” a move whose name alone best describes what it looks like.

Sparked by pandemic conditions, fueled by nostalgia, and fueled by social media, roller skating is making a comeback on Oahu. From east to west Oahu, from Kailua to Mililani to the North Shore, more than a dozen ice skating sessions are regularly held each month. Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas, a roller rink that previously focused on hockey, offers public skating on weekends and draws crowds. Skaters race through local parks and neighborhoods.

“It’s so much fun and really therapeutic,” said Harmony Moses, 33, one of the organizers of the Geiger Park session, which takes place on the first Thursday of every month. “And everyone is so supportive and helping you study.”

Moses roller skated when she was a child but slowed down as she got older and had a family. Two years ago, she contracted severe pneumonia that hospitalized her for six weeks, brought her weight to about 80 pounds and required her to use a walker to get around. She started skating again about a year and a half ago and now does so regularly at Mililani Skate Park, usually with her brother who enjoys skateboarding on the ramps and bowls.

“When I skate, I forget all my worries a bit,” she says. “It gives my family and I a reason to get outside and exercise our bodies instead of just sitting around the house looking (at) screens.”

Victoria Wonsowicz, 26, co-organizer of the Geigerpark skate sessions, usually brings the music and thinks hip-hop is the best beat for dance skating. “I’ve been skating since I was 8 and dancing since I was 5, so the whole dance skating thing started,” she said.

When she moved to Hawaii in 2017, she hadn’t skated for a while. She then bought a pair of skates and initially planned to use them at local skate parks, but eventually returned to dance skating. It was’nt easy.

“Everyone who skates with me has seen me fall at least once or twice,” she said. She practiced every day for about nine months and now skates effortlessly and even teaches others her dance moves.

Wonsowicz and Moses started Geiger Park Sessions earlier this year. At that time, most organized skate sessions took place in East Oahu and at places like Magic Island, where skaters often meet on weekend evenings, or at skate parks in Kailua or Hawaii Kai. “Here (in West Oahu) there are a lot of people in the military who didn’t have a place to skate, so we brought it to this site to make it more convenient for them,” Wonsowicz said.

Keep it going

While there are basics for all forms of roller skating, there is also variety. There’s jam skating and artistic skating inspired by disco dancing and figure skating, and aggressive skating on ramps and bowls in skate parks. There is speed skating, street skating and trail skating. Here on Oahu, people also compete in a roller derby league.

Skaters say they enjoy the sense of freedom and creativity that the sport gives them, as well as a sense of accomplishment. Barbara Delaforce, 46, a sergeant with the Honolulu Police Department, has taken on a “365-day challenge” and attempted to skate every day for a year.

“I started on January 1st and I think I’m on day 186 or 187 today,” she said recently. “I just needed a goal, something to be accountable for. Come rain or shine, I can skate at work or at home.”

She was a figure skater and got into roller skating during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think like everyone else I was bored to death and looking for something to do. COVID made you want to get out,” she said. “For me it was exercise, good cardio, easy on the knees and not that much money. And you never stagnate. As soon as you learn a new skill, you will make another one.”

She teased her colleagues about skating at work. “In Pakistan they have a roller skating unit (police),” she said.

In its heyday during World War II through the next decade, roller skating was the most popular hands-on sport in America, according to the book Skate Crazy: Amazing Graphics from the Golden Age of Roller Skating.

Interest in skating waned in the 1960s but revived in the disco era of the 1970s, and while it appears to have waned again, it has remained popular in urban areas such as Detroit, Chicago, and Atlanta . More recently, dance-skating has been taken up by Marcus and Michael Griffin, aka The Griffin Brothers, whose slick dance videos went viral, earning them appearances on Today and Good Morning America.

“Skating hasn’t really made a ‘comeback’ on the mainland because it’s stayed popular all along,” said Melissa Garvey, 40, who runs a pop-up skate shop at Lokahi Kailua Market and lists roller skating events on her website , rollerskateoahu.com.

Over the past year she has sold dozens of skates and skate components – wheels, bearings and accessories – helping her customers find boots that fit properly. Most of her clients are middle-aged people who haven’t skated in decades and want to get back into the activity, she said.

“I really like talking about skates, and it’s nice to meet people, and it’s nice to sell them skates and get them going and keep them going,” she said.

Garvey has competed in roller derbies and dance skates, but she particularly enjoys street skating and taking to public streets with large groups. She has rolled with a group of about 6,200 skaters in New York and another group of about 400 in London. “It’s like a rolling party,” she said. “Your music plays, they all carry lots of flashing lights, whatever you want, and you skate the streets for two hours.”

learn to skate

Roller skating has had its ups and downs on Oahu. Longtime skaters remember a handful of roller rinks on Oahu, but these days the main rink is the Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas, or KIHA. Owner Richard Pentecost originally planned to limit the two-rink facility to ice hockey, but began offering public skate sessions in 2018 and found a welcoming audience. While KIHA was forced to close during the pandemic, the public ice skating sessions now attract about 1,500 skaters per week.

Florida native Jerry Anderson offers free classes at KIHA on Sunday evenings, which is open to those ages 18 and older. Teenagers often skate recklessly and can be “dangerous” to adults, he said, so he asked Pentecost to limit the evening to adults. About 100 people usually come on Sunday evenings, many of whom get tips from Anderson. He expects the number of visitors to increase.

“The more people know about it, the more they will come. I have freshmen every week,” he said. “And as long as they can get up, I’ll teach them.”

Anderson offers his fellow enthusiasts a lifetime of skating experience. He’s 74 and has been skating since he was 9 in cities like Atlanta and Detroit. Now he skates in memory of his mother, who taught him to skate as a child. He remembers it vividly because he actually wanted to quit skating and threw away his skates.

“She cooked Christmas dinner. She turned everything off and said, ‘Come on,'” he said. “She took me back outside and walked me onto the sidewalk and she stayed with me and helped me learn how to stay up until I could skate on my own. I always felt that if I quit skating it would be an insult to the effort she put into teaching.”

Social media has become the most convenient way for skaters to meet. On Facebook, there’s CIB Oahu for people finding community in bowls at skate parks, and Hawaii Master Skaters for skaters on the island of Hawaii.

Kathleen Pi’ikea Hicks, 33, of Kaneohe, is the co-admin of the Hawaii Roller Skating Facebook page, where members share tips on places to skate — newly paved roads on Sand Island, for example, are now a big hit — while others post videos on the site showing moves they are learning. Newcomers to the 365-day challenge are also happy to share their journey on the website.

“It’s kind of inspiring when you can see the progress they’re making in a fairly short amount of time,” Hicks said.

Hicks had skated as a kid but quit around middle school and became a volleyball star at Kalaheo High School. She decided to start skating again during the pandemic because it seemed cheaper than surfing — she researched online and found skates and protective gear for around $150. Today, she’s a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, taking her skates to places like Venice Beach in Southern California where a bike path attracts skaters.

She launched her Facebook page in September 2020 and has since grown to more than 1,500 members.

“I was surprised when people got involved and didn’t even have skates,” she said. “Once they had skates and everything, they were really active in the group.”

Get rolling

businesses

>> Roller Skate Oahu: Melissa Garvey’s online store has information on upcoming skate sessions. Info: rollerskateoahu.com

>> Retrospect Skateshop: The tiny shop on Kapiolani Boulevard focuses primarily on skateboarding and also offers wheels, bearings and kits that convert shoes into skates. Info: retrospectskateshop.com

social media

On Facebook:

>> CIB Oahu: For those interested in skating in bowls and skate parks

>> Hawaii Roller Skating: General Interest Group

>> Hawaii Master Skaters: Facebook group for skaters on the island of Hawaii

On Instagram

>> Rainbow Rollers: For dance skaters, @rainbowrollerss

>> Aloha Blade Crew: For inline skaters who want to skate in bowls and skate parks, @alohabladecrew

>> Leon Soon Designs: Oahu’s Sherrill Leon Soon offers handmade skate accessories (as well as bags and cards), @leonsoondesigns

For more

>> Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas: Adult Public Ice Skating Weekends, Info: kihawaii.com

>> Pacific Roller Derby: For roller derby fans and participants, information: pacificrollerderby.com

>> Unity Jam Hawaii: Billed as Hawaii’s first (traditional) quad and inline skate competition with prizes exceeding $3,000. Competitions all day on October 1st at Manana Skate Park in Pearl City, followed by a potluck on October 2nd from 11:00am to 4:00pm at Magic Island. Info: unityjamhi.com