Being a roller skater in a rural area stands in extreme contrast to the bright world of California-esque skaters we see on social media every day. But this often lonely endeavor has its advantages and positives.
Anyone who uses social media to connect with the world of roller skating will know that it’s very easy to get lost in the beautiful bright world of California-esque skaters. These skaters have a seemingly eternal summer to enjoy, millions of indoor and outdoor skate parks to choose from and hordes of local roller skaters to make friends with.
But for many of us, myself included, this simply just isn’t our skating reality. Instead, we face hoping for dry weather so we can actually leave the house to skate, a choice of (if we’re lucky) around 2 local skateparks that aren’t an hour’s drive away and worst of all, a difficult time finding someone, anyone, who also roller skates too.
While skating is known as a social sport, for us rural skaters skating sometimes feels quite lonely, as finding community anywhere other than social media often seems like an impossible task. It also creates some frustration, as winters spent without access to a local indoor rink means we might go a few months only skating on our kitchen floors or waiting for the rare dry day to turn up so we can go back outside. Overall, this often leaves us with an ongoing envy for all those who live in more populated and sunny places.
With all these limitations in mind, what’s a skater to do when skating in a rural place?
The answer lies with creativity. During my time spent rural skating, I have found that rural areas provide incredibly unique skating experiences, it just takes some thinking outside of the box to be able to fully enjoy it. For me, this meant hunting down skateable spaces – and anywhere relatively flat and safe held potential. As time progressed, I also found that obstacles and obstructions had transformed from inconveniences into opportunities to learn new tricks and develop skills. I realised that I was naturally developing street skater vision – a positive side effect of living rurally and constantly navigating difficult terrain.
I also can’t deny that living in a rural place has clear perks, the combination of skating and being surrounded by mountains, beach, fields, trees or wide-open spaces is great for clearing the mind and also makes for great photos and videos, especially if you’re into tracking your skating progress via a camera (and wanting to share your journey on social media too).
Instead of feeling ‘out of place’ make friends with people in different disciplines
This creative outlook I developed also extended into my search for a sense of community. Skate parks are often hard to find and may feel precious to us rural skaters, I consider myself lucky to live a 15-minute drive away from a great skate park as some people are faced with over an hour’s drive to reach a good spot, which significantly lowers the chances of meeting other people to skate with. While I have found it difficult to find other local roller skaters to meet up with, I have been lucky enough to make connections with other kinds of skaters by using a combination of social media and chance meetings at my local skate park. While a roller skater in LA or California might be a normal sight to see, a roller skater in a place like the English countryside might appear more ‘out of place’. Having other friends that do some form of skating, be it skateboarding, inline skating or even BMXing, can greatly help anxious skaters or those craving the more social aspect of the sport.
When it comes to the feeling of being ‘out of place’ I have found that confidence is key for rural skaters. It can sometimes feel difficult going up against a small-town mindset, the nature of people being that when they spot someone on roller skates and it isn’t a normal everyday sight, they want to ask you questions and know more. Even if it feels quite awkward and uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that nine times out of ten these people who stop and talk to you or those who often ask you how your skating is going generally mean no harm and are normally just trying to express interest in your life. Keep your head held high and continue skating, it doesn’t matter what the town gossips want to say, you don’t need other people to reaffirm your right to skate.
Ultimately, roller skating in a rural area has both its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, we have the power to choose to see the positive in where we live and skate. Sometimes it isn’t so bad feeling like the only person in the world who roller skates, it takes off a lot of pressure for beginner skaters, as a rural setting can well and truly wrap you up in your own little private skating world. Skating in a rural area also helps us clearly see that social media is equally fantastic and destructive. While it does help us make connections and feel part of a community, it’s important for us to remember to take time out and avoid falling into the pit of comparison. We might not all live in ideal places with access to all the things a skater could ever desire (hell, my closest skate shop is an hour and a half away) we just have to think creatively and see the challenges that come with rural skating as opportunities to grow as skaters and to develop our skating journey’s in a unique way.