Marta “Zwrotki” Szawel skates in Łódź, Poland. The big city sits pretty much in the center of the country but its quad community is quite small. And as the Polish roller skating scene generally flies under the radar, we thought it would be about time to hit Marta up to learn something about the community in Europe’s east.
Marta, please introduce yourself.
Hi! I’m Marta! I’m 24 years old, I graduated from sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland, and I am currently in the master’s program in artistic jewelry at the same university. I work as a make-up artist, set and costume designer in the video department. Along the way, I also studied Spanish philology, thanks to which I was able to travel to Galicia to escape the Polish winter and skate. There I met many wonderful Spanish skaters and the queen herself, Bomba Hache.
How long have you been roller skating and what inspired you to start?
I started park skating in 2018 (before that I tried to skate, but I wouldn’t call it skating…. it was more of a fight for life once in a while). Like most skaters I was lost after watching Moxi skate videos. From that moment on, my soul knew what my life’s purpose was. And so the roller skating dreams began. First, I dreamed of owning roller skates. When I bought my first pair, I started dreaming of being able to just stand in them, then to skate forward, then backward, change direction and so on. Well, and so far I’m making up new roller skating dreams for myself, and I hope I never stop.
Tell us a bit about the roller skate scene in Lodz.
Currently there are about 10 people in the Łódzki Gang Wrotkowy (Lodz Skate Gang), but everyone also has a life outside of skating, so at the skatepark we usually hang out with three to four people.
The whole ŁGW started in August 2018, when Zuza (@mcrollerskate), Ala (@odpalwrotki) and I started going out together to skate at the skatepark. We called our 3-person messenger chat Lodz Skate Gang as a joke. In 2020, practically overnight, a lot of fresh skaters joined us and since then the size of our crew has remained more or less the same. Some skaters go less often, resign, new faces appear, skaters return after a break, people from other cities join us when they spend more time in Lodz, it just flows naturally. We skate when we feel like it and welcome every new person with open arms.
How big is roller skating, specifically park/transition skating in Poland?
It seems to me that compared to what it was a few years ago, the quad skate community in Poland is huge. But if I were to compare it to other skatepark sports in my country, roller skating is still tiny. Comparing to roller skating in countries such as the USA, for example we are also very small. Currently, in addition to our ŁGW, the density of skaters is certainly in the capital, Warsaw, and there are also Tricity skaters from the north, girls from Oleśnica, from Gdańsk. In addition, there are also individuals skating in various places scattered around Poland, who I follow on social media. It is also the case that not every person who skates identifies with being a skater. And such people I will occasionally meet somewhere at a skatepark, but it’s usually a once in a lifetime encounter.
Do you feel like it’s growing and progressing?
Yes, and I am very happy about it! In addition to more and more aggressive quad skaters, I’ve been noticing a revival in the skating community lately (maybe it’s the result of the workshops we hold, maybe I just started paying more attention, or maybe it’s a matter of planetary alignment). I have the impression that roller skating and aggressive roller skating are slowly starting to be taken more and more seriously. For example, some time ago a new indoor skatepark opened in our city, which includes roller skating (not rollerblading! i.e. rollerblading too, but as a separate discipline) as a sport that can be practiced there. I also recently saw that the website of a large Warsaw indoor skatepark featured a drawing of a roller skate! They even held an evening session for rollerblading and ROLLERSKATING!
It may not be much, but it still makes my heart happy.
Do you have good skateparks in your area and how is the vibe there?
Our favorite skatepark is the outdoor Skatepark Widzew named after Igor Kowalewski (Polish skateboarder). It has a great, sometimes a little scary, bowl and a tiny quarter perfect for practicing new tricks and overcoming the fear. It’s free! That’s a big plus too. The vibe at this place can vary. I think it used to be not the best. It was hard to get along with young, rude scooter kids claiming the whole skatepark. Sometimes even with their parents, too. But somehow things have calmed down and it is currently nice. I think everyone now cares about skating in a pleasant atmosphere.
There is also a new indoor skatepark (the one I already mentioned). This is a great option for winter, autumn and any other day without good weather. We are no longer so dependent on atmospheric conditions and the end of the season doesn’t scare us! I no longer have to flee to Spain from the cold and lack of skating!
Also, an indoor private bowl was recently built in Lodz, where you can sometimes skate with inliners! It’s just heaven on earth! It has great coping, the angles are just perfect and there is a really great atmosphere.
Favorite tricks you go for everywhere you show up?
My favorite trick is definitely the Aerial! This is probably the most impressive trick I know how to do. Besides the fact that it attracts attention and looks nice, the very feeling of making it is just amazing. I love it. Recently, I’ve also started working on millerflips and 360s, which I’m starting to enjoy more and more. There will always be 50-50, tabernacle, slides and grinds in my mini ramp repertoire.
Best skate trip you had so far?
In 2021 I made the longest skate trip of my life. I went on an Erasmus exchange to Santiago, Spain just to skate when it would be winter in Poland. Despite the fact that I chose the rainiest region of Spain, the weather was good for almost the entire five months. I skated every other day, met a lot of fantastic skaters, learned a lot of new tricks. At the very end of my stay in Spain, my ŁGW friends (@wrotkaranacia and @skatan666) visited me and together with friends I met in Spain ( @emmatoma.32 and @bomba_hache) we made a skate trip to the beautiful Skate Church in the town of Llanera in Asturias.
Sara also showed us Woodguay, an amazing indoor skatepark built by her friends and a gorgeous outdoor skatepark in Gijon. It was a beautiful time full of skating, wonderful places and people. After this skate trip, the three of us flew to Tenerife for another skate adventure. We checked out all the possible skateparks in the area and met super cool roller girls from the island!
What do you do if you are not skating?
When I’m not skating, I’m thinking about skating! I’m probably doing something creative. Whether it’s at work, at home, or at university.
In addition to the obvious things such as dealing with makeup, sculpture or jewelry, I take great joy in decorating my apartment and constantly coming up with newer and better solutions to use in it. I really enjoy taking care of my plants and chatting with friends over coffee and cake. I also love costume parties!
Which Polish skaters should we watch and follow?
It’s obvious, me! All joking aside, we really have a lot of amazing skaters in Poland that are worth following on social media (and it’s even better to skate with them!).
As for profiles that show Polish roller skating groups, this is @lodzkigangwrotkowy (skaters from my hometown, Lodz), @4x4_trojmiejskiewrotkary (skaters from tri-city), @wrotca (skaters from Oleśnica), @warszawska.ekipa (skaters from the capital), @piranhas.in.bowls (skaters from tri-city, Gdańsk).
The Instagram of the entire Polish aggressive roller skating community is @cibpoland