Restrictions brought on by COVID-19 have forced many people to explore new hobbies. Pictures from new bakers and gardeners litter social media, but there’s another hobby gaining renewed interest: roller-skating.
Salana Young, who works in Savannah’s restaurant industry, is one of the many Savannah residents learning to roll again. "I used to skate a lot as a kid. I grew up in Savannah, so going to Star Castle was a monthly thing we did."
Life as an adult soon eliminated that tradition, but Young never fully forgot how she felt about roller-skating.
Once a coworker took up skating, Young knew it was time to commit and buy her own skates. The shutdown of many restaurants and bars in April gave her a chance to brush the dust off her old skills and enjoy bonding with friends. "A few of my other friends also have skates, so we’ve all just kind of taken this time of unemployment to skate a ton."
Karli West, an office manager for a low voltage system in Chatham County, was also inspired to buy her own pair of skates a few months ago. She said taking up roller-skating again gave her a sense of normalcy again. "It was hard, but very rewarding mentally and physically."
Roller-skating has also given Young a new appreciation of the town where she grew up. "As most locals will tell you, we don’t often take time to enjoy the city’s natural beauty."
Now Young likes to skate around areas of downtown she’s never been to take pictures. "I’ve seen beautiful homes, beautiful art pieces, random graffiti that looks really cool. I stop and take that in a lot more."
It isn’t just new roller skaters exploring Savannah. For style skaters like Jimme K. Smith, who would normally frequent Star Castle, not having a rink to depend on forced him to get creative. "We resorted to skating in the streets, parks, and pavilions once all the rinks closed." He adds, "Most of us used the closure of the rink to learn routines."
The closures also forced another Savannah skater to try something new. Magen Peigelbeck has skated with the Savannah Derby Devils, the local roller derby league, for five years and she’s a founding member of the Savannah chapter of Chicks in Bowls, an international group that encourages roller skaters to learn skate park skills.
After using her time outside of roller derby to gain confidence at skate parks around the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, Peigelbeck was sad when many of the parks closed in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. With no roller derby or park skating, she decided it was time to build her own ramp. "COVID killed vacation," said Peigelbeck. "I figured if I can’t do derby, if I can’t go on a vacation, and if I can’t really get to a skate park, then I’m going to build my ramp."
She bought all the parts for the ramp online from OC Ramps, a California-based company, and had it shipped to her home. "I’ve thought about building my own, but with the amount of cutting and getting these curvatures perfect, I just didn’t want to mess with it." Peigelbeck refers to it as the IKEA for skate ramps.
With businesses opening and then closing or limiting hours, there’s still plenty of time to take up roller skating. "It’s a good way to meet friends you wouldn’t normally meet," said Young. "It’s really hard to make friends as an adult, and when you’re part of a community as large as the skate community is, it’s actually easy to meet new people and make friends."
It’s a sentiment shared by West. "Everybody is a beginner. You can’t feel insecure about it."
Looking online at the prices for some roller skates can be intimidating. Peigelbeck said it doesn’t have to be expensive. "Start simple. Buy a cheap pair of skates. It doesn’t matter as long as they fit comfortably."
Another item Young recommends to buy is safety gear like elbow pads, kneepads, and wrist guards. "You never know when you’re going to fall," she said. "If you have your gear, you should be totally good to go."
Peigelbeck agrees. "If you’re not falling, you’re not learning."
Both Young and Peigelbeck said they’ve learned a lot of what they know from skaters on YouTube and TikTok. There’s something on both platforms for every age, skill set, and style. "I’ve never been in a community that’s so inclusive and accepting of all people," said Young.
"You don’t have to be great at sports," said West. "It’s just something to make you feel good."
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