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We are not going to try to teach you to skate. We are just regular street skaters. If you want a good book on that my favorite is "Beginning to Intermediate InLine Skating". I got my copy at Amazon.com. Also see the section below on Coaching. We are only going to pass along a few tips that we have found to be off extra importance as we skate around Asia Pacific..

  Skate Break and Breaking    Street Skating (Polite)    Pads and Helmets    Equipment    Check your Equipment    Coach    Flexing    Stopping

Street Skating

Street Skating in Asia is not the smartest past time ever. If a friend came up to me and said he wanted to start Street Skating in Asia as a pastime, or an obsession (like me) I would talk him out of it. Which is why I bought my good friend Gabriel his skates and pushed him out on the road with me.

But my advice for anyone else is find another pastime. Skating in Asia is dangerous. I have been hit by taxis, crashed when trying to avoid dogs, kids and cars. I have spilt blood in most country's in AP. I have been hit by a bus, had to purposefully hit the pavement while speeding down hill - at night - in traffic - in order to save myself, I even had wheels crumble (SALOMON wheels) which resulted in a couple or crashes.

For Street skating Gabriel and I have two places to plant our skates, the street or the sidewalk.

First the street.  The roads are usually bad, cracked, full of holes and gravel. The weather, its normally hot, and humid. Today I was back in Hanoi, skating, the sun was so hot I thought I was going to melt. In some countries being on skates, on the street, makes you a target. It is essential that you stay focused and balanced. You have cars coming behind you, and then blasting their horn, kids on motocycles playing chicken, sometimes people stopping their vechicles so they can have a good look at you. Most people in AP are friendly (ok - except in Hong Kong). Being Friendly can be a dangerous problem. I have had people in passing cars, grasp my hand to shake it, try to give me a push, pat my rear, tickle me....you get the idea. In Manila the police chased us with motorcycles, waving hands and shotguns.  I can only assume they were giving us a friendly escort, not trying to chase us out of the exclusive residential area we were in.

The roads are usually bad, cracked, full of holes and gravel. The weather, its normally hot, and humid. Today I was back in Hanoi, skating, the sun was so hot I thought I was going to melt.

Sidewalks. Sidewalks are worse than the streets. In many countries in AP forget even trying a sidewalk. All sidewalks are taken up, for parking, or filled up with small food stalls, or vendors, and anyway they are often in worse repair than the roads. Oh yes, they also have pedestrians, which in Asia will not even think of giving you a little space to skate through. Even someone like myself who loves to skate the streets in Hanoi, Mumbai and Beijing, would not try the sidewalks there for a minute.

Be Polite. We are doing a sport for the large part of Asia is not well know. Our behavior is how all skaters will be judged. And Police in many countries can stop you at any time, if they feel like it. It helps yourself and all of us to be a polite skater.

If you insist on doing this "sport" in Asia then this leads to my next tip.

Pads and Helmets

You should wear a helmet, I should wear a helmet. I bounced my head on pavement and bled from my nose for two weeks afterwards. But I always wear my pads. ALWAYS. It just tears me up to see a beginner (which is like only 10 minutes behind my skill level) out not wearing pads. For Example, myself and Gabriel were skating in Singapore (East Coast Parkway - GREAT place for skating) I saw a cute young thing (CYT) skating with her boyfriend. He looked liked he had some experience, she none.  He was wearing pads, she was not. I wanted to scream "WEAR PADS" to her, but I minded my own business. 40 km later, as we were returning, we saw her again, with red (blooded) on knees, elbows and wrists. Wear Pads Wear Pads. Now I do open my mouth and scream wear pads. I know why people do not do it, they think it is not cool, or it means they are not good at skating.

Here is my best story (and it is true) about why everyone should wear pads. I was in Sydney, slowly skating on the sidewalk going south on George Street about two blocks or so north of Woolworth's. I heard "wheels" behind me. I stopped and turned. To my disappointment it was not a blader, but a skateboarder. "In a rough patch Skateboarders can bail, rollerbladers are committed!!" But this fellow was good, real good, weaving in and out of walking traffic. I was impressed. Then his board just stopped and he went flying. He came up bloodied and skinless on the normal points. I checked and he had hit a small round metal plate (maybe 3 inches in diameter). These plates are in the sidewalks in Sydney for some purpose. Being so small they are difficult/impossible to see. This fellow hit one and suffered. With pads on, he would have likely come up ok. Without, let me just say he was more blood outside than in.

Think of yourself as a street blader Mad Max (all geared up) if you have to, but wear your pads!! It changes crashing from a bone breaking, fleshing eating event to something you can laugh about. I show off the ruined pads I have, not the ruined bones. Even with the crappy wheels I got from Solamon's, when they crumbled on me and I went down, I just slid on my pads for 20 or so feet, no medical bills. Oh, and the best pad (IMHO) are RollerBlade Pads.

As mentioned IMHO the Best Pads I have are RollerBlade, hands down (sometimes literally). They are really built for street skating. Mine have survived many falls. They are great. I have used others, but most have not survived too many road spills. I have more than one other kinds burn holes right through.

The point is even the best can go down, no fault of their own. With Blades you can not jump off. You go down. Wear knee, elbow and wrist pads. I have crashed A LOT, I ALWAYS wear pads and I only have a few scrapes to show for it, all bones and joints still working

Equipment

Get good stuff, don't cheap out. Good equipment means fun, and safety, and will last a long time. I have went through many sets of wheels, bearings and a couple of axles, but my first pair of upper grade Salomon skates (sans the wheels) are still working fine. Gabriel has Rollerblade skates, and they are still providing good service. I only know enough to say the upper models of these two makes seem to be excellent. My one experience with cheap skates showed me quickly how important it was to have good, comfortable, reliable equipment. You are going to be going down some steep hills, and your health will depend on good equipment. For pads, I have not found anything better than my Rollerblade make pads. I would suggest going to a REAL skaters shop, one that carries several brands of equipment and get their advice. Ok the Salomon shop in Chatswood (Sydney) was not good for me, but shops with real skaters, like Total Skate in Sydney or Skateline in Singapore, really spent time with me. They discussed what was good and why. More than that they have talked me out of several bad choices, choices that would have made their shops a few more dollars, but would not have been best for me. Find such a shop in your area, (these sort of shops generally always have guys who coach) support the shop, and learn from their experts.

Please get and use Wrist Guards, Elbow Guards, and Knee Guards - everytime you go out. No joking - they have saved my and Gabriel bones many times. Maybe (MAYBE?!?) if all you do is skate in a skating rink you can live without them, but out on the street, you are going to crash. It is going to happen. Today in Hanoi, I was cutting through a small road, that had been turned into an outdoor food stall, I clapped my hands, yelled, but an old lady just walked - and stopped - right in front of me. Hitting old ladies probably does not ring up points with the Big Skater in the Sky, so I Decided to do anything I could to avoid hitting her, a decision that was easier to make with pads on.

Check your Equipment

This seems logical enough, but I am surprised how often I see people just put on their skates and hit the road. Check the wheels, make sure they are in good condition, do not need rotating, and are on tight. Hitting the road with skates that might fall apart under me is something I would rather avoid. I also recommend carrying the wheel tightening wrench with you. After 10 k or so I always check my wheels again to see they are still tight, more than once I have found one had come a bit lose.

If you have recently rotated your wheels, stop after a few minutes of skating and give the wheels a check, just to see if anything is loose. You might save yourself a long walk home in bare feet. Right Gabriel?????

I travel too much to do this myself, but I think getting and working a while with a good, qualified, coach would be worth a lot. In Sydney call Total Skate, in Singapore call Skateline, both of these guys are great.

Flexing

Ok, now the hard one. The most important thing to learn when skating is "the position".  This involves constantly flexing. Believe me, it sounds easier than it is. Your knees should always be bent, flexed. Never lock your knees. This is important. Keep you upper body bent over a bit, your nose goes over your toes, eyes straight ahead (focusing on what is coming up and below) keep your weight over your toes.

Keeping flexed is the key. From this position your body is ready to react quickly, stay blanced, and fall (as happens or is required) properly.

The problem seems to be that when your body is tired (or really nervous) it tends to lock up.  Your knees lock and your spine straightens up. Locked knees require less strength than proper flexing, but it also means less balance and you are more likely to crash and crash wrong. Beginning to Intermediate InLine Skating has a great section on this topic.

Falling

You are going to fall, crash. so learn to do it properly. Our bodies seem to want to fall backwards, on our rear ends. Ok, makes sense that is where the most padding is. But it also means pain, and a good chance the head will bounce back on the pavement. Wear pads and learn to fall correctly. This involves coming forward and sliding onto your knee pads, then wrist pads, and then perhaps elbow pads. Done properly you can avoid injury. The problem is your body will want to fall backwards, but with your pads on you can crash without serious injury. I have had to do this going downhill in traffic (my Solamon wheel crumbled on me), I slid 10 - 20 feet. Nothing broken. My good friend and fellow skater Derek (Who unlike me is a natural athlete) always seems to fall into a baseball slide. OUCH! He has lost skin from his legs, and even elbows. As he went into the baseball slide, instead of hitting the pads properly, he hit the flesh first and then slid the pads out of the way (I have this in an AVI file in the Tai Tam Hong Kong page). This meant an afternoon at the hospital for us all. Derek could not even get stitches, no skin left on his elbow to stitch together.

Get a coach and learn how to flex and how to fall.

Stopping.   

Explanation Skate Brakes Skate Brakes Braking  T-Stop

Explanation. My one complaint with the books I have read is they have not told me how to stop when you are speeding down a big hill. If you are skating in Singapore in East Coast Parkway (Great RollerBlade lane) or in Mumbai, then learning all the stopping techniques may not be that important, and what is in the book may be ok. But for everywhere else, the first thing to learn is how to stop, I mean really stop.

Now we are not coaches, we are just avid street skaters. So this is what we found to work for us. For the best advice hire a world class coach, with Street Experience.

Rollerblades come with these Skate Brakes on the back. I had a discussion with a very good skater, but not a street skater, he wisely thinks the streets are too dangerous. But he believed in the brake attachment. We were staking together on a nice level outdoors skating path. But the car (not mine, the only thing with wheels I want to own are my blades) was parked on a hill, so I asked him to show me how that brake worked, and could it stop him. He started standing still at the top of the hill, then leaned into the hill. Just as he started moving he applied the brake. Ok it slowed him down some, (but he was not going fast when he applied it) and he could not get the brake to completely stop him. After 50 feet or so he was picking up speed and had to bail. Looking at the brake pad, just after that little bit, it was about half gone. Enough said, it would not stop you going down a hill and after two or three big stops on pavement it would be gone anyway. On a average skate it would last me about 5% of the skate.

Skate Brakes Braking: But now Bill at Manly Skate in Sydney insisted I put my breaks backs on and learn to use them. So I have been practicing with them over and over and over. I am getting better with them. The method is do a sissors (move you right skate forward so the heel of the right is even or more with the toe of the left), Flex properly. Then move the heel of the right skate down. After the break makes contact, sort of sit down into it, this applies more pressure from the break pad to the skating surface. To get my mind in the right frame of mind I put my hands on my right new to help focus of getting the heel down. As I have been practcing I can stop better and better, but still can not stop as fast as as I can with a T-Stop.

T-Stop. Probably the worst way to stop is also the way I use the most and suggest to learn first. It is the worst because it eats your wheels quickly (which is why I am called wheel burner) but it does allow you to stop quickly. Gabriel can do this with either foot (SHOW OFF), me just one. But either way it takes practice, first on a flat surface then gradually increasing the slope. This method is the T-Stop.

In concept it is simple. Flex deeply on one leg, and drag the other skate behind you. I try to drag the behind skate with the wheels as flat as possible (saves sharpening them to a knife blade edge) But often (for me) to maintain balance, or because I am going to fast I have to drag it slanted.

I much prefer to use the methods I am going to discuss next, but at least for me and Gabriel the T-Stop is the one we use frequently. Ok going down a sidewalk in Sydney, a child or lady steps out of a shop right in front of you, what are you going to do, hit them. No, you are going to stop or find another way to avoid hitting them. For me, if I am going to fast for a spin (which is often), If I have enough room I T-stop until I can spin in place. Or if I have to hit a wall or a pole or something to avoid splattering a non-combatant, and I have a few feet, I will t-stop to slow down first.

Sometimes, like in Singapore going down the bridge on the freeway that heads east out of the city center


Skating in the Rain

So the first word here is DON'T. Don't skate on wet surfaces, they are slick and dangerous. This means the Gabriel and I and working on it and learning. We have spent the past three, rainy days, in Manila, (going to and from work) skating in the rain. What we have learned so far is, it is difficult. Of course the roads are slick. But during rainy periods many sidewalks become covered with slim or mold, and these are almost impossible to stand up on in skates. Metal plates on the roads also offer no resistance and you can not stop or turn on.

It seems to actually takes a lot more effort to skate in the rain. I found I can not push as well, push your leg/skate to far and it will slip out and down you go. Muscles seem to get much more tired, I think it is because I tighten up my legs so much more when skating in the rain. As the road is so slick you have to work harder at finding road resistance to push against. Going uphill becomes for of an effort in the rain.

Downhill and stopping. As you might imagine you can go really fast downhill when the roads are wet. And that is the problem, because just not only did we go fast, but stopping is much more difficult. Normal resistance is mostly gone, so all the normal ways to stop are either useless or less effective. This means we had to slow down much more than we would have normally done, and started the stopping process earlier than before.

Another factor we notices is drivers in the rain behave much less reasoned than in normal driving conditions. They were less likely to pause, or look around them. The rain seemed to reduce their driving safety thinking process. Drivers speed out into traffic more, moved around other cars and us more aggressively. This meant we had to be more observant and careful.

Equipment. Skating in the rain is hard on the skates, bearings to be more exact. After each skate some skate cleaning and (boring) bearing maintenance was required.

Overall we find the key for us was to stay focused. Keep the road conditions always in mind. Flex our knees even more, and keep speed under control.

 

 

T-Stop AVI

Spin Stop AVI

Slalom Turn Stop AVI

 

 

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