How roller skating became the sport of the year
11th October 2020
IMAGE: SONYA NAGELS/THE SPINOFF
Few hobbies have captured the mainstream imagination in 2020 quite like roller skating. Jihee Junn explores the many reasons why.
Just down the road from Auckland’s Glenfield mall is the ActivZone Indoor Sports Arena, an inconspicuous-looking building which, many years ago, used to be a Chipmunks play centre. These days though, it’s the self-proclaimed “home of skating on the North Shore” where a large, grey oval rink – along with about a dozen ping pong tables – now occupy its central hall.
When I visit the arena on a late Monday morning, a beginners roller skating class for adults is about to start. It’s a small group of 10, but that’s because it’s mid-September and strict gathering limits are still in place. On any other day, according to Macarena Carrascosa, such a class would typically be double, even the triple, the size.
“The fact that I’m turning people down because I can’t fit them on the rink is just crazy,” says Carrascosa, a former competitive roller skater-turned-recreational coach. “In 2018, when I first started doing my adult classes on a Friday night, I used to get like six people. But at the end of last year, it really picked up and I was getting like 30 people every night. Then, at the start of this year, it just blew up.”
Right now, recreational roller skating is back in a big way. While its popularity has been steadily growing over the years, the last few months has seen an explosion in growth. From March to May this year, web searches for roller skates skyrocketed to a five year high worldwide, particularly in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Not surprisingly, skate companies have seen an enormous surge in demand with brands like Impala selling at astronomical rates and the ever-popular Moxi having to open a whole new factory just to try and keep up.