Inline skating—sometimes incorrectly generalized as Rollerblading, which is actually a brand of skates—had its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s, but it died out like bright blue eye shadow and teased hair. What’s curious about the sport—like the recent resurrection of choker necklaces and high-waist jeans—is that it may be the new cool thing again.
Robin DeRuwe, owner of sporting goods store Fitness Fanatics in Spokane Valley, has seen the rise, fall, and recent comeback of the sport. DeRuwe was an avid inline skater in the ‘80s and watched the trend of inline skates come in and out of her store. What remains to be defined—as with many pop culture trends—is why it’s coming back now. DeRuwe’s guess is that many people who are now parents have memories of inline skating and want to bring it back for the next generation.
DeRuwe had a pair of clip-on roller skates when she was a kid. She began inline skating in the late ‘80s to train for her winter love of skate-style cross-country skiing. She found that she loved the fast and flowy feel of being on skates.
The late ‘80s were good for inline skates in Spokane too—the Centennial Trail was built, creating a smooth pavement haven. “When the trail was built, inline skating just boomed like crazy. And then it kind of crashed. For a few years there, no one was skating. We [Fitness Fanatics] got out of the skate market. I was hardly on my skates anymore. It was just kind of like a fad that went away,” explains DeRuwe.
The first invention of roller skates was a 3-wheeled inline version, patented by M. Petitbled in Paris, France, in 1819. The Petitbled skate featured three inline wheels, a wood plate, and a leather strap to attach to the foot. Wheels were available in wood, metal, or ivory.
We’ve come a long way since then, and since the ‘80s. Inline skates now have bigger wheels to handle rocks, and a better boot design. “Inline skating is a great cross-training tool for a lot of athletes, and they kind of forget about it,” says DeRuwe. “It’s more fun that going to the gym and doing all those things you need to do to build supporting muscles.”
Especially if you ‘blade with carbide-tipped poles, as DeRuwe did in the ‘80s, to get an upper and lower-body workout. Depending on your intensity, skating can be equivalent in exercise to running or cycling. “Most people are just going to go skating, but you get a great abs workout, and you don’t have to do a bunch of sit ups because you’re really using your whole body as you’re skating,” she says.
Fitness Fanatics is once again selling inline skates locally, and parents can even find specific adjustable skates that will cater to growing kids. The Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, and Fish Lake Trail all make for great paved skating options. For the best experience, make sure you’re fitted with a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. //
Lisa Laughlin is Out There’s digital editor and a regular contributor. She was never coordinated enough to inline skate, but she has memories of roller-skating to ‘90s music and eating food-dye bright Slushies.