interview: ryan loewy • edit: erik burrow • filming: matti haapoja • teppo haapoja • taylor ritchie • aaron mcinnis • immony men • aaron wheat • photos: aj delong
Ryan – I think the gracefulness that goes along with the sport, or at least what people strive for, is similar to that of ballet, and with that, a feminine aspect comes along. Everyone seems to focus heavily on promoting their masculinity, what do you think about focusing on femininity though?
Erik – People should not get so concerned certain aspects of skating. Especially the beginning learning stages, do not accurately represent the vision of skating that they want other people to see. I guess the way I looked at the question is that for the most part skaters want people outside of skating too think of skating in a way where someone like Chris Haffey, Aaron Feinberg or any other skater of that caliber would be the model that outsiders relate to. After all skaters like these are as masculine as it gets, you might hear people toss around the idea that “they go so big they put skateboarders to shame”.
The problem is not everyone gets in to skating to put their life on the line, not everybody puts skates on then feels compelled to skate a drop rail. In all honesty not everybody is gonna put skates on and ever want to do a trick.
If people have an attitude that skating is a go big or go home sorta thing and thats all there is, then of course people will feel awkward about developing skills on skates that don’t really relate to aggressive skating. If you don’t care about what Skateboarders think of you, then its even more important to not care about what skaters who can’t relate to your style of skating think either.
In the end Blading is something that can become part of your lifestyle. I know a lot of skaters who wouldn’t be caught dead fitness skating because they’ve been brainwashed to think that fitness skating is feminine in the same way a Skateboarder wouldn’t be caught dead trying to rollerblade without mocking it. In the end its these people who miss out the most. These are the same skaters that don’t skate backwards their switch way in front of other skaters because its embarrassing for them to show that much weakness. They care way more about spin to win, acid drops and posting ignorant comments on shitty message boards
Feminine aspects of skating like grace and fluidity are best developed by just constantly skating being on skates, regardless of the wheel size, regardless of the trick, regardless of how you look. The people who are developing aspects of their style that others are trying to call out as feminine are the ones that are and will be making names for themselves in the future. In the end the more time you spend working on your style and understanding how tricks work, the better you will be in those raw moments when the camera comes out to capture you.
As far as the song goes I wanted a fast instrumental. The song might not make me look that hard but I know that ten years down the line I’ll be glad I used this song in an edit over what would have been trendy at this time.
Ryan – Next, I’d like to talk about the issue of safety in rollerblading and how it is neglected. This is relatable to the first question in that, it is very macho for one to disregard their well being for the sake of looking cool or obtaining a sort of rush from the thrill of the risk. I personally think that if the sport were to embrace safety more (stricter rules at comps about wearing a helmet, more pro’s wearing helmets in edits, etc), that might at least strike some of comfort or interest with a parent looking to give their kid something new to do. Would you agree with that? Do you think we as a sport need to take that extra responsibility?
Erik – Being personal friends with people who have gotten really hurt skating, including major head trauma, I’m always conflicted about the role helmets play in our activity. While its undeniable that if top pro’s all started wearing helmets more and more kids coming up would do the same, I don’t think you can force anyone to wear a helmet. It should always be someones choice.
I do however think it is important that our culture does not hate on people who choose to make the responsible choice and wear a helmet. Helmets are like a hat, its not that hard to get over. The last thing anyone needs to do is giving these people a hard time on the internet, at skateparks or behind their backs. After all these people are may not be interested in buying vintage blouses or creating an image for themselves, they probably just really like skating and care more about how it feels than how it looks to other people.
Skating is sick because there really aren’t any rules. Its healthy for our sport to be diverse, to be filled with people who have different styles and spot preferences. We don’t have the right to tell someone they need to have a helmet or that they should just man up and ride without one. We just need to support the homies and make sure we our presence if felt.
Ryan – I’d like to sort of go 180 on that stand point and discuss the, sort of hypothetical but ever so present, “outsider view”. A lot of industry leaders involved in the sport discuss the public perception of Blading and what it will take to get us the recognition that the sport deserves, yet isn’t that sort of a waste of time? Rather than focus on the external, why not continue to focus on the internal?
Erik – This is where I think that a physical skate shop becomes most important. In order for aggressive skating to get whatever recognition people think it deserves, Blading still has to be around. Even more than aggressive skating I believe its extremely important to get average people back on skates. These people might be 30+ and just want to do something fun, they are the people who wake up one day and realize they don’t have a hobby and want to change that. At Shop-Task we are the ones getting these people back into skates. The difference between us and a sporting goods store is aggressive skaters are making the decisions as far as what skates people are actually able to buy in our store. We try to stay clear of selling people skates with wheels that are too big for what they want to do, or sell traditional soft boot style skates that offer minimal support.
We try our hardest to sell these people an urban style, freeskate or whatever you want to call it. Basically, we are putting people into powerblades. 80mm setups with a solid boot from brands like Seba or models like the Rollerblade Twister are such amazing skates because they are easy to move around in as well as solid like an aggressive boot. It’s skates like these that let people ease into an understanding and appreciate the way we skate. Whether or not these people will ever be able to emulate our moves doesn’t really matter. Instead it’s just nice to know that these people are skating around the city having a blast on their Blades. They can stop saying they Rollerblade and instead that they are a Rollerblader. These people might not check Blader websites everyday or ever, but you can guarantee they were the guy showing everyone at their office “Richie’s” new edit.
More rollerbladers, especially people who aren’t getting tricked into thinking 110mm setups are the best for them because they are more expensive, means more potential aggressive skaters in the future or at the very least more aggressive appreciators. I’ve seen multiple people crossover from a pair of Seba’s to Aggressive and vice versa. My new favorite thing about Blading is there are so many ways to enjoy it and so many awesome and interesting people who want to get involved.
Ryan – Let’s talk about Canada a bit, you guys had D-Structure, Shop Task, the MTL Classic. Mind you, things change, as everything does, so I guess what I’m getting at is, how would you compare and contrast the scene you are in today with the scene you started in, and how can that scene continue to build itself? What does it take to build a proper scene? I am talking more than just a Friday Night Skate and an edit here and there, but the engagement that you have with others and how that positively effects them to continue to participate in the sport, and how to breed that kind of mentality to make the scene flourish.
Erik – A lot of what I said in my last answer relates to this one. Right now in Toronto but also in the rest of Canada, Shop-Task is working hard to make sure that people who want to skate are able to find what they need. As far as Toronto goes there has always been a great scene with truly talented street skaters coming in and out of the picture at a moments notice. We have had many transplants from places like Japan, France, the UK, Germany and other parts of Canada. When they arrive in Toronto these people pretty much have a solid crew of friends to work with right away. One of the most important parts of a strong scene is also the age and commitment of members within it. I have grown up with many of the skaters from the Toronto area and as time goes by I’ve noticed that our role becomes more and more important in terms of taking care of the scene. I was lucky to grow up in a scene that had good skaters, skate shops and high quality contests. These things were a constant reminder that skating was alive and well, and regardless of what the outside word thought of us, I always knew I had something to do with my spare time.
For the most part we’ve learned from the mistakes of past scenes, learning that the most important thing we can do is embrace everybody who shows an interest in skating. We aren’t competing against one and other or trying to find out who is the best. We skate because its way more fun than sitting at home and we try to make skaters feel welcome. The best way to make a scene flourish is to make sure that the average dude is always aware that there is a session going on. Skating won’t go anywhere if people don’t stop skating. If you can’t remember the last time you showed up to a local session in your scene then you probably don’t skate enough. People who tell tall tales about back in the day are just a waste of time. Scenes die when you stop making new friends or acquaintances. The average skater needs that extra push to get out and meet up for local sessions. In Toronto there are lots of people who are willing to share their experience of skating with other people, this is what keeps our scene alive and keeps us in the public eye.