If you feel that you have gotten all you can out of just gliding those inline skates around and around the park, why not take your skating skills to the next level? Try your hand (and your luck) throwing down grinds and grabs everywhere from your local skate park to the mean streets.
Aggressive skating is an extreme sport in which moves familiar to those in the skateboarding set have been taken up, adapted and augmented by inline skaters. The sport, as yet, still considers itself somewhat underground, although there are competitions and sponsored skaters at all levels, on all continents, competing to outdo each other on the pipes and on the streets.
Types of Aggressive Skating
There are three categories of aggressive skating: vert skating, street skating and park skating. Vert skaters perform mostly aerial tricks in a half pipe, whereas street skaters literally take to the streets, using handrails, handicap rails, curbs, ledges, and just, generally the architecture of their environment to pull off tricks. Like skateboarding, street skating is illegal in many cities due in part to the danger involved, and also in part due to the perceived “damage” done to public and personal property. Obviously, this adds to the thrill. Park skating is a hybrid of the first two types, using smaller half pipes, but also implementing elements of street skating, such as handrails and staircases.
If you are just getting started in aggressive skating, then you need to first have a handle on basic inline skating skills. If you are shakey on your feet when you are on a flat surface, you are not going to have a chance when it comes to landing tricks. Half of the psychology of landing tricks is confidence (mixed with a healthy dose of recklessness and a high pain threshold). If you are a total beginner, hone your inline skating skills before you rush into any tricks.
Once you have honed your skills on flat land, trade in your traditional inline skates for a pair of aggressive skates. These are specially designed to help you pull of tricks and protect your feet from damage. For the beginner, buy your equipment off the shelf. Once you have honed your skills and fallen into a niche (vert, street or park), then you can start to get into custom parts.
The boot part of the skate has a hard shell and soft lining to protect your feet and support your ankles. This outer shell is often covered in a cloth skin, to protect the plastic, and also for aesthetic reasons. While there are softer-shelled skates on the market that are geared toward greater flexibility, it is important for a beginner to start with a hard shell for safety reasons. Concrete does not forgive.
There is a range of wheels available, depending on what kind of skating you want to do. They vary in both size and hardness (measured by the durometer). The size of the wheel affects speed: the smaller the wheel, the faster you can go and the more control you have in acceleration and deceleration. The hardness of the wheel affects handling and durability. A softer wheel is important for gripping and turning, but can wear out on the rough terrain of the street. Vert skaters, who need speed for their aerials will wear a slightly harder wheel than street skaters.
One of the primary differences between inline skates and aggressive skates are the frames. Aggressive skate frames (the part that attaches the boot to the wheels) have thick plastic sidewalls and internal reinforcements to protect the foot and ankle. They also have spaced axels and molded grooves that hold an H-block for grinds.
From those basic structures, you can have several different wheel bases, depending on what you want to do. A freestyle skate is missing two middle wheels to lighten the skate, at the expense of some stability. An anti-rocker skate has two normal wheels on the outside and two smaller wheels in the inside. Both the freestyle and anti-rocker skates are designed to make grinding easier and faster. For a beginner, a “eight down” model (which has all four wheels in contact with the ground) is the place to start for maximum stability.
When you are starting out, it is recommended that you don the appropriate safety gear. This means knee and elbow pads, a helmet (that covers the back of the head), and wrist guards, to support the wrists and protect your hands when you inevitably crash. For added protection, you can buy bum savers to protect your tailbone. Tuck it under some loose clothing that is easy to move in, but that is hard to rip (like denim).
To get an idea where aggressive skating can take you, hit the internet to check out videos of some of the sickest tricks. There are tons on personal web sites, but some of the best lessons can be seen on viral video sites. People love to post their worst wipeouts almost as much as they love to post their successful executions.
If there is a skate park near you, go there to check out the local scene. Go when it is less busy to get your chance to try out looking on, but if there are just one or two, ask them for some pointers. Everyone started out knowing nothing, and hopefully they can give you some guidance.
The easiest way to get started is to wax up a nice smooth curb and just try the basic grind. There are great tutorials on various aggressive skating web sites, such as Grindside.com. They will help you get the basics down for grinds, switch-ups (when your feet change positions during the grind), grabs (various patterns of grabbing your skates while in mid-air), and aerials (flips). Take your progression through the tricks slowly.
You are going to have to practise and fall a thousand times before your body and mind gel into landing a trick. You will be bruised, bleeding and broken by aggressive skating, but the first time you land a trick, and every time after that, will just reinforce your desire to keep getting out there and pushing the limits of your body against the concrete and metal of your environment.