“We released our new Pastel Fade skate during lockdown, which sold out in the same day.” Matt Hill, chief executive, Impala Rollerskates
“Back in April, [we made] 12 times our regular sales. Now, it’s a lot more than that.” Michelle Steilen, owner and founder, Moxi Roller Skate
Skating is officially ‘back’ en vogue. It’s getting support as a ‘sport’ thanks to its elevation to the Olympics - and has recently gone from ‘fringe hobby’ to ‘a worldwide influence on cityscapes and fashion.’ When lockdown began so did a refreshed love and appreciation for skateboard and roller skating culture amongst young people. May saw a spike in the search for roller skates on Google Trends that has remained fairly consistent - this summer has even been dubbed ‘The Summer of Roller Skates.’ This 52INSIGHTS explores the resurgence in skate culture and why so many young people turned (or returned) to skating and roller skating over the last few months.
GETTING THE SKATES ON
Covid-19 inspired young people to look for something pure fun to do...Plus, skating is not only accessible, it’s relatively safe (being outdoors!). Skating provides social value, it’s a different way young people can break free from the mundane and play with one another IRL.
“It was such an escape from the worries of the pandemic and allowed us to bond and practise new skills together as a consequence. If you were to walk around town today instead of seeing lots of teenagers gathered together with nothing to do, you will see groups of teenagers skating instead.” Katie, aged 17, Ireland
“For my 29th birthday my family gifted me money to pay for a yoga teacher training course here in Melbourne. When it was cancelled (like most things this year) I was under strict instructions to spend the money as irresponsibly as I could, no rent or groceries - so I bought myself a pair of bright blue Moxi roller skates! WILD and not my usual responsible self. It's fun to be learning something new, using my body to be playful and honestly having so many laughs at myself and how ridiculously freeing it feels to be buzzing around and challenging myself. The skates helped me to break up the mundane everyday that lockdown brought.” Aimee, 29, Melbourne
“I think this revival is our way of coping with Covid-19 and everything that’s going on. The nostalgia can help us feel better about everything and we can dance it away a little bit.” Eric, 23, Denver
The 70s / 80s nostalgia vibe plays into a desire to escape from the here and now - skating has the power to transport us from the fearful mask-wearing world of Covid-19 to the sunny bubble-gum paths of LA....Freedom! A first-of-its-kind study of skateboarding culture also recently revealed that skateboarding ‘improves mental health, fosters community, and encourages diversity and resilience.’
SKATING ON SOCIAL
Social media, of course, also had a lot to do with it. Viral roller skating videos on global platforms like TikTok and Instagram (the #rollerskating page on TikTok has more than 3.1 billion views) made the hobby trendy, and inspired others to try it for themselves.
“...the proliferation of skate tutorials, a new crop of bright and catchy roller skate brands, and the itch to get outside in the midst of the pandemic have driven interest in roller skating to new heights.” Taylor Lorenz, NY Times
Arguably the most successful recent viral clip, Nathan Apodaca's skateboarding video featuring Fleetwood Mac's hit Dreams, simply reflected the good vibes you can have with the sport. (Read more about how the brand featured in the clip got involved here).
SKATE COMMUNITIES & INFLUENCERS
Other online skating influencers include Oumi Janta and Briana King. Janta’s content inspired many because of its joyful energy and fancy footwork - pairing skating with music is the next best thing to a disco these days! King gives beginners helpful tips and tricks to upskill...
Female skating communities like Skate Birds (Ireland) and Display Only (LA - by Briana King) are also creating new ways for people to pick up the sport. In fact, in the past decade, more girls have taken up skateboarding, and the number of full-time professional women in the sport has doubled. This sense of support, inclusion and community is adding to the accessibility of the sport, helping individuals overcome any stigmas associated with it.
“The only negatives about skating would be how it is perceived by a significant amount of adults and the public. When an adult sees a teen with a board or skates it makes them think we are nothing but trouble.” Katie, aged 17, Ireland
Skating is not going anywhere. It’s especially valued by young people now as a form of unadulterated fun that can happen IRL and shared online to spread joy. The culture around it is just as important as upskilling in the sport itself - visuals (eg. clothing) and music is a big part of what attracts young people to engage. There’s plenty to learn from the viral online content that young roller skaters and skaters in general are putting out online - colour, music, dance and good vibes in general is warmly welcomed.
A sense of community is hugely important for young people - especially now at times when certain communities and individuals may be struggling (whether that’s financially or mental health-wise etc). How could you support young communities or enable young people to connect in accessible, simple, fun, ways together safely?