Skating has rolled its way back into the hearts of active Hawaii residents – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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At a volleyball court at Geiger Park in Ewa Beach one recent Thursday evening, a few people got together to let the good times roll.

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

Triggered by pandemic conditions, fueled by nostalgia and boosted by social media, roller-­skating is making a comeback on Oahu. Every month, from East to West Oahu, Kailua to Mililani to the North Shore, more than a dozen skating sessions are held on a regular basis. The Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas, a roller-skating rink that had previously focused on hockey, has been offering public skating on weekends, drawing capacity crowds. Skaters are coursing through local parks and neighborhoods.

“It’s so fun and it’s really therapeutic,” said Harmony Moses, 33, one of the organizers of the Geiger Park session, which is held on the first Thursday of every month. “And everyone is so supportive and helps you learn.”

Moses rollerbladed when she was a child but eased off as she grew older and had a family. Two years ago, she contracted a severe case of pneumonia that put her in the hospital for six weeks, dropping her weight to about 80 pounds and causing her to need a walker to help her move. 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 likes to skateboard on its ramps and bowls.

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

Victoria Wonsowicz, 26, a co-­organizer of the Geiger Park skate sessions, usually brings the music, finding hip-hop to have the best beat for dance-skating. “I’ve been skating since I was 8, and dancing since I was 5, so that’s how the whole dance-skating thing got started,” she said.

When she moved to Hawaii in 2017, she had not skated in some time. Then she bought a pair of skates, initially planning to use them at local skate parks but eventually returning to dance-skating. It wasn’t easy.

“Everybody 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, even teaching her dance moves to others.

Wonsowicz and Moses started the Geiger Park sessions earlier this year. At the time, most of the organized skate sessions were held in East Oahu, and at places such as Magic Island, where skaters often meet on weekend evenings, or at skate parks in Kailua or Hawaii Kai. “There’s a lot of people in the military here (in West Oahu) who didn’t have a place to skate, so we brought it to this side to make it convenient for them,” Wonsowicz said.

Keeping it rolling

While there are basics to all forms of roller-skating, there’s variety as well. 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’s speedskating, 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 they get from the sport, and that they feel a sense of achievement as well. Barbara Delaforce, 46, a sergeant with the Honolulu Police Department, has embarked on a “365-day challenge,” trying to skate every day for a year.

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

She was an ice skater and got into roller-skating during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think like everybody, I was bored out of my mind and was looking for something to do. COVID made you get out,” she said. “For me it was exercise, good cardio, easy on my knees and wasn’t that much money. And you never get stagnant. Once you learn a new skill, you’re going to do another one.”

She’s kidded her colleagues about skating on the job. “In Pakistan, they have a rollerskating (police) unit,” she said.

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

Interest in skating fell off during the 1960s but revived during the 1970s disco era, and while it might appear to have fallen off again, it has remained popular in urban areas such as Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta. More recently, dance-skating got a lift from Marcus and Michael Griffin, aka The Griffin Brothers, whose slick dance videos have gone viral and earned them appearances on “Today” and “Good Morning America.”

“Skating hasn’t really made a ‘comeback’ on the mainland, because it’s remained 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 last year, she has sold dozens of skates and skate components — wheels, bearings and accessories — helping her customers to find boots that fit properly. Most of her customers have been middle-­aged people who haven’t skated for decades and are looking 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 rolling, and keep them rolling,” she said.

Garvey has participated in roller derby and dance skates, but she particularly likes street-skating, taking to public roads with large groups. She’s 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. “Their music is playing, they’re all wearing lots of blinking lights, whatever you want, and you skate the streets for two hours.”

Learning to skate

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

Florida native Jerry Anderson offers free lessons at KIHA on Sunday nights, which are reserved for people age 18 and above. 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 turn up on Sunday nights, many getting tips from Anderson. He expects the crowds to grow.

“The more people find out about it, the more they’ll come. I have first-timers every week,” he said. “And as long as they can stand up, I’ll teach ‘em.”

Anderson offering a lifetime of skating experience to his fellow enthusiasts. He is 74 and has skated since he was 9, in cities such as Atlanta and Detroit. Now he skates in memory of his mother, who taught him to skate when he was a child. He remembers it vividly because he actually wanted to quit skating and had tossed out his skates.

“She was cooking Christmas dinner. She turned off everything and said, ‘Come on,’” he said. “She took me back outside and got with me on the pavement, and she stayed with me, helping me learn how to stay up until I could skate on my own. I always felt that if I stopped skating, it would be an insult to the effort that she put into teaching me.”

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

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

“It’s kind of inspiring where you’re able to see the amount of progress they make in a pretty short amount of time,” Hicks said.

Hicks had skated as a child, but stopped around middle school and became a volleyball star at Kalaheo High School. She decided to take up skating again during the pandemic because it seemed more affordable than surfing — she researched online and found skates and protective gear for about $150. Now, as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, she travels with her skates, bringing them to places such as Venice Beach in Southern California, where a bike path beckons skaters.

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

“I was surprised when people would join and they didn’t even have skates,” she said. “Then once they got skates and everything, they would be really active on the group.”

Get rollin’

Shops

>> Roller Skate Oahu: ­Melissa Garvey’s online shop, includes information on upcoming skating sessions. Info: rollerskateoahu.com

>> Retrospect Skateshop: Focused mostly on skateboarding, the tiny shop on Kapiolani Boulevard also supplies 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 Hawaii island

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-based Sherril Leon Soon offers handmade skating accessories (as well as bags and cards), @leonsoondesigns

For more

>> Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas: Public skating for adults on weekends, Info: kihawaii.com

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

>> Unity Jam Hawai‘i: Billed as Hawaii’s first quad (traditional) and inline skate competition, with more than $3,000 in prizes. ­Contests all day Oct. 1 at Manana Skate Park in Pearl City, followed by a potluck, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 2, at Magic Island. Info: unityjamhi.com

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Skating has rolled its way back into the hearts of active Hawaii residents – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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