Even as a young child, Danielle McGrath had wheels attached to her feet.
From wearing Fisher Price skates on her shoes as a three year old to growing up roller blading on piers in Ontario and later playing derby for the Kootenay Killjoys, McGrath has always found joy in wheeling through life.
Especially, she later discovered, in a pair of roller skates.
“When you put them on you just feel free,” says McGrath.
But with derby games and practice shut down by the pandemic, McGrath and her Killjoys teammate Michelle Sylvest have turned to training the next generation of roller skate enthusiasts.
Every Wednesday night in February and through March, McGrath and Sylvest take over the skatepark at the Nelson and District Youth Centre where they teach how to safely stand, glide and, eventually, skate the ramps in a pair of roller skates.
The transition to roller skates can be awkward, even for people who are used to ice skating. The stance is different, and there are more points of balance and edges to get used to. McGrath said even her derby teammates will still unexpectedly fall in practice.
“It just happens if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing.”
At a practice Feb. 17, McGrath shows a young girl how to safely go down a small ramp. The girl rolls down, goes up another ramp and falls as she attempts to turn around. But she flashes a thumbs up and returns for another try.
McGrath and Sylvest’s students only need to bring a helmet, and ideally some knee and elbow guards. The skates, which are in men’s sizes three to nine, are provided for free out of the Killjoys’ stash.
Just one pair won’t do either for McGrath.
Her collection includes vintage skates that look as though they rolled out of the 1980s, to skates specific for derby as well as her custom park skates she sheepishly admits to having cost more than $1,000.
“Skate gear, just like any other gear, you can geek out about it and get as technical and change up as much as you want,” she says.
But before her students start debating which wheels to use or how loose their trucks should be, they need to learn how to walk before they run. Or, in this case, stand before they roll.
When they do, McGrath says, they don’t want to stop.
“It just makes you feel like a kid. It’s just fun to roll around and get it once you get it. I have met anybody who was like, ‘Oh I didn’t like that.’”
Roller skating runs every Wednesday, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Nelson and District Youth Centre. Anyone ages 12 to 21 interested in trying roller skating can register by calling the youth centre at 250-352-5656, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $5. Helmets (and masks) are mandatory.
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