What’s old is new again: Roller skating making a comeback in the Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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What’s old is new again: Roller skating making a comeback in the Okanagan

Roller skaters in Stuart park prior to increased pandemic restrictions.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Colleen Milligan
April 20, 2021 - 7:00 AM

From gardening to cycling, Kelowna residents are trying all sorts of outdoor activities to stay busy amid the pandemic — and that includes roller skating and inline skating.

Kelowna residents Colleen Milligan and Tara Ricketts started teaching roller skating last year amid COVID-19.

“Originally I’m a figure skater and growing up in Kelowna I skated at Mount Boucherie and Kelowna clubs and roller skated at the Boardwalk (a popular skating rink). As I kept skating and the Boardwalk disappeared, I lost roller skating for a while and then picked it up again about 12 years ago in connection with roller derby,” Milligan said.

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Trained by the Seattle Skate Instructors Association, they can teach both forms of beginner skating.

“It’s such a great thing to do during the pandemic because it’s a great social distanced activity, we’re all spaced out in Stuart Park,” she said.

She's watched the trend come and go, and said she's seen an increase in interest within the last year. Her Facebook group of skaters, the Okanagan Rollers, was started as a way for people to learn outdoors and has roughly 30 members.

"When I first started in the 80s my favourite spot was the Boardwalk but now it's definitely Stuart Park. It's a beautiful spot with a great vibe," she said.

Milligan said the two most important things to learn for beginners is learning how to stop and learning how to fall safely.

"Globally it’s just exploded, especially in the States. One of the important thing to mention is the roots of skating and where it comes from. A lot of the dance moves are strongly rooted in the black community and (there’s) strong ties to the civil rights movements. Although we’re not as diverse in the Okanagan as some other areas, we don’t want to lose that aspect of that history,” she said.

The first recorded use of rollerskates was in 1743 when actors strapped wheels to their feet to mimic ice skating onstage. Roller skating was very popular in the United States from the 1930s to 1950s and has been a part of an important part of black culture as rinks were segregated even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, according to JSTOR Daily.

An image of an old roller skating rink was near the north end of St Paul Street.
An image of an old roller skating rink was near the north end of St Paul Street.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Old Kelowna

In the 1970s roller skating was popular when it was associated with disco music and roller discos and inline roller skating became popular during the 1990s.

You can see the popular inline skating movies in the 90s to see their popularity today, it’s a natural part of the cultural shift following vintage fashion, said Michael Saad, communications professor at Okanagan College.

“We’re such an active community and we adopt things so easily, it seems like one of those things people have taken up,” he said. “In terms of fashion, everything goes through a cycle so if rollerblading goes out, I don’t know if scooters are on a down trend but at some point in the future we’ll see them come back again."

Fashion tends to follow five to six year cycles in stores, he said.

“I cringe to think what’s next, could hair gel come back? And we’re all wearing shiny electric clothes like NSYNC... it might happen,” Saad said.

Rollerblading in Canada seems like a natural transition, he said. Hockey players and athletes can stay conditioned by slapping on a pair of roller blades and can use them anywhere that's paved.

“When people can’t go to the gym and can’t travel around, (it's) one thing you can do to keep your body in shape. Also, people, when everyone is stuck at home, are picking up new challenges or hobbies and I think skating is one,” said Eric Li, associate professor at UBC Okanagan and Principal’s Research Chair (Tier 2) in Social Innovation for Health Equity and Food Security.

Social media platform TikTok is also creating the culture and helping spur it's popularity, he said.

“From a consumer perspective, it’s also a very affordable space even compared to biking,” he said, adding that it can also be used for travel around town.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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