Rolling Limbo

25 07 2009

NOTE: So the article doesn’t get too confusing I’ll call what we do “rolling” and any other form of inline skating “Rollerblading.”

I have always found it funny that rolling has always been in a type of limbo in terms of identity. We have never really known what to label ourselves or how to separate ourselves from the other forms of rollerblading out there. For a while we picked up the term “aggressive” but that always struck me like we were trying too hard to separate ourselves, and I think a lot of people agree because it seems like we avoid that term like the plague today. Seriously, how many times have you heard it called “aggressive skating” or “aggressive rollerblading” in the past couple of years? That shit just sounds corny. However, that still leaves us with problem, how do we identify what we do?

I think the identity crisis and not being able to truly define what we do comes out of still being a young sport and still trying to find are way. I know, it probably sounds absurd that rolling is still young to some of you, but in relation to the other “extreme” sports we are still a fledgling with a rather short history. If you think about it we are no different then BMX or skateboarding, both those sports evolved out of something else, and both caught some flack for trying to do things differently. In fact, just like BMX, we use the same tools but have modified them to better suite our needs. The main difference is that BMX has been around long enough to blaze their own path and carve out their own identity to the world at large. Rolling, on the other hand, is still culminating an identity, something to present to the mainstream so that we will not have to explain ourselves when we tell people we roll and they get a strange look on their faces and we feel that we have to clarify what we do (but try our damnedest not to use skateboarding in our explanation). I am not saying that rollers themselves have no identity, within rollerblading there are an abundance of personalities and styles, each more distinct then the next. However, I am saying that to the mainstream we are nearly non-existent. If you don’t believe me, next time you go out skating and people see your blades, notice the surprised look on their faces, like they just saw something completely alien, or if you have been blading long enough, I am sure you have heard, “what are those?” at least a couple of times. Hell, how many times has a security guard told you to, “stop skateboarding”?  This identity crisis is not just something that happens in the mainstream either. How many blogs do you know with some form of “Roll” in their names, well you know at least one because you’re reading this article on it. I have a strong suspicion that many people out there name their blog generically because they went through the same thought process that I went through. It went a little something like this,

“Shit, I need to come up with a name that is creative, catchy, and will draw peoples’ attention while still being related to rolling and representing what we do.”

1 day later

“Fuck, I still got nothing; let me look around on the internet for some ideas. (I Search rolling websites on the internet) What the hell, they all have ‘roll’ in their names, how uncreative. I’ll never do that.”

2 days later

“Fuck it, I’ll call it CanadianRoll, I give up.”

Now it doesn’t help that my mind lacks the creative portion, but that doesn’t explain why many other blogs, including the beloved Rollernews, have to use “roll” in their name. I am sure a lot of these people are extremely creative (if their blogs or websites are any indication). It also doesn’t explain why most rolling clothing companies usually have designs that have nothing to do with rollerblading.

The only logical conclusion that I can come up with is that we are still unsure about our collective identity, or how to present that identity to the mass media. This explanation helps me justify why we still can’t come up for a proper name for what we do, why we can’t really explain what we do to other people who do not even know what rolling is, why we use some form of “roll” in many of our titles / websites, and why a many rollerblading clothing companies have designs that have nothing to do with rollerblading on their clothing (can I have another skull or star please?). It also helps me explain why we are so protective and confused about how rollerblading must be portrayed. How many times have you seen rollerblading poke its head into mass media, and the rollerblading community is split on how to take it? It happens quite often, the most recent example I can think of is the Speed Stick Deodorant commercial featuring Nick Wood, Connor O’Brian, and Demetrios George Azikiwee Anderson was right, we do have our backs turned and no one can look in, but I think that is because we haven’t quite figured out how to present rolling to these people once they can see. What some rollers deem as good exposure others deem as bad, it is like rolling has a split personality. Sure, this happens in other sports, but I do not think all of them are as protective as we are. A lot of us still have memories of when the main stream decided rolling was “not cool,” and pulled out their support and their dollars leaving rolling to reel from the blow. Now we do not want to present rollerblading as that same “aggressive,” “extreme,” sport that burned us in the beginning so we are trying to find something new, but this process takes time.

Yes, we are a young sport. Yes, we are going through a growing period. However, these should not be deemed bad things. Like anyone who gets in on the ground floor of something, you have a better chance of altering it; affecting it; introducing your ideas and opinions more freely; and watching it grow. I feel like this is one of the most exciting times in rolling, mainly because we have so many people with a passion for it who also posses a “Do It Yourself” (DIY) attitude, and many great things throughout history have grown from those same roots.  This DIY attitude has helped some of our sports best companies emerge today, companies who actually care about rollers, and rolling as a whole; companies that will try to hang in there when the going gets tough (and trust me, it has been tough for a while now). The examples are numerous, Vibralux, Nimh, the whole Rat-Tail family, Valo, The Conference,* One, Denial, plus many others. Not all of these companies are skater owned, but they do have people who are avid supporters of rolling to help guide them. People who have grown up with rolling, and have watched it grow. People who understand what is best for it and what it needs. However, the great thing is that rolling is still young and there are people like this emerging everywhere. Our exile from the mainstream and our identity crisis seems to be our greatest blessings. It is because of these things that rolling has room to grow and people have a chance to contribute to its growth and have their opinions and ideas heard, debated, and appreciated, which, I believe, can only make rolling stronger for the future.

*Yes I do talk a lot of shit about the Conference, but there is not denying that Matthias Knoll is a rollerblader  who has a passion for it and he is trying to constantly push rollerblading with innovative products.  I am just disappointed that a company with so many resources at their disposal handles them so poorly.




3 responses

25 07 2009

Great read Nick, I enjoyed it.

I like what you’ve been doing recently by posting these editorials.

Keep it up, C-Roll is back in the right direction 😉 (because some people clearly thought C-Roll was done for)

30 07 2009

Good article Nick. I agree with what you said about the exile from the mainstream and identity crisis being a blessing. We definately have/are building a strong foundation as a community and have a good thing going on that other “sports” dont have.

6 08 2009

in other words, i just watched barely dead and summarized it for you. you’re welcome.

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