Rollerskating is the new skateboarding

Maddy Reda | @maddyreda1, Staff Reporter

Getting from one class to another on the UA campus can be time-consuming, sometimes taking over 15 minutes to walk across campus.

Many students sport an extra set of wheels to navigate campus while also avoiding the rush of students crowding sidewalks and the Quad.

Motorcycles, bicycles, Veo bikes, Razor scooters, skateboards and more are common.

Caleb Acton, a sophomore majoring in music education and music theory, has been roller-skating for eight years and quickly grew curious about the possibilities of skating on campus upon arriving at The University of Alabama.

“I started when I was in seventh grade. At my local roller rink, I would get little four quad wheels, hold my hand on the rail and walk across the floor,” Acton said. “I was there because my sister had a friend whose birthday party was there, so that’s kind of how I got into it.”

Malik Furniss, a senior majoring in communications, was also introduced to skating by family members.

Furniss said he was forced into it by his mother when he was four years old. and though at first he didn’t enjoy it, he ended up loving it and has been skating on and off ever since. 

Juno Knott, a sophomore majoring in psychology and criminal justice, said they started skating when the COVID-19 pandemic started and it helped them get more accustomed to the campus’s layout.

Knott said that while skating around campus helped them learn the layout of the campus, it also showed them how inaccessible certain areas are for disabled students and employees.

“I did not realize how inaccessible our campus can be to the people who are in wheelchairs, because just trying to go around stairs or get into buildings without having to go through some kind of step,” Knott said. 

The majority of campus buildings are labeled accessible on the UA Campus Map, however, Knott said that while many buildings on campus do have wheelchair ramps or accessible entrances, they are not always in convenient or visible places. 

Knott and Furniss both enjoy listening to music while they make their daily rounds skating across campus. 

Knott said dancing to music on skates makes them feel like they’re “the main character.” 

Knott prefers to listen to New Age or upbeat jazz. Furniss listens to freestyle rap and trap.

“It’s crazy, like when I’m doing the most elegant or ballet-looking stuff, I’m probably listening to more hood or trap stuff,” Furniss said. “It’s really weird. It’s like the more destructive the music is, the more elegant my skating gets.”

Furniss said social media roller-skaters make people think the process is easy and effortless to master, but even the most experienced of skaters aren’t completely out of harm’s way. Acton took a long hiatus from roller-skating after he fell on his right wrist and broke his trapezium bone “right down the middle” near the UA Student Center and had to have immediate surgery.

Furniss said he experienced a close call after a Camaro turned into the crosswalk and nearly hit him while he was attempting to skate across the intersection of Hackberry Lane and University Boulevard.

“I did like two 360s on my foot and then spun off and then just skated like nothing happened at all, but I was terrified,” Furniss said. 

Acton said the most important thing a first-time skater needs is the proper safety equipment, and that choosing that equipment wisely is crucial. 

“With roller-skating, I think it is very important to use helmets and wrist guards,” Acton said. “Wrist guards are the most important piece of equipment you can use. When you fall, you’re not going to be able to catch yourself with your feet, so your wrists are your next best thing.”

Buying the correct skates for the terrain is another important thing for a beginner to consider when starting out. Acton recommends quad wheels for beginners, as well as wheels made specifically for asphalt or outdoor terrain for those looking to roller-skate outside.

On most pairs of skates, the two numbers on the side of the wheels will inform the user of the hardness, or durability. Wheels numbered between 70 and 80 are thinner and exclusively indoor skates, while any skates labeled 85 or higher are more durable and can be used outdoors.

Furniss said that while skating on the pavement is the easiest way to start, picking the wrong wheels or skates for the terrain you plan to skate on can cause unnecessary falls and accidents.

“Make sure they’re outdoor wheels, because that’s people’s problem. They get skates, try to skate outside, trip over a pebble the size of a piece of corn and then be mad because they can’t skate,” Furniss said. “It’s like, no, your wheels are just not made for outdoors. You’re going to trip over everything.”

Knott said cheaper skates are easier for beginners because they are easier to break in and also are a good investment because they hold up well.

Furniss said roller-skating with more advanced skaters is the easiest way to get better.

“I looked like little Bambi when I first started skating. All I knew how to do was left, right, left, right,” Furniss said. “You don’t got to be good to skate with good skaters. That’s what drives you to be better.”

While there are many different group chats composed of students interested in roller-skating, there are no official clubs or extracurricular skating activities on campus. 

Acton used to participate in a roller-skating league in his hometown of Birmingham and hopes to see a roller-skating league founded in Tuscaloosa soon.

“It would be really cool to start a league or something where we could just meet up and skate on campus like a unit,” Acton said.

Knott said they would love to organize group skating trips on game days and other outdoor events on campus.

Furniss said he is interested in the school offering a class or recreational league for roller-skating, or potentially adding an extra bike lane on the roads for skaters to avoid bicycles.

Questions? Email the culture desk at [email protected].