Summer is traditionally a time to be outdoors. Whether camping, hiking or just sitting in the park, abandoning the confines of our living spaces is made easier by summer's (mostly) fine weather. This year in particular, fleeing those confines will be especially sweet, won't it? The pandemic has caused us to rethink how we do life. Our attitude towards everything from exercising to staying indoors is undergoing a revolution. So, the question is: when lockdown ends, will you take your newly-bought roller skates or rollerblades outside or look for an indoor skating rink? That's assuming you too jumped on the skating craze that's currently sweeping the UK. If you've long been a devotee of rollerskating or rollerblading, your inner dialogue likely leans more towards "Let me out!". Either way, Superprof now lays out the pros and cons of both indoor and outdoor skating.
The Type of Skates You Have
Let's start off by saying it doesn't matter what type of skates you have. You can skate both indoors and out, and you can even skate in a skatepark if you feel so inclined. Also, good on you for having skates, with all that that implies. While it's true that both roller skaters and rollerbladers can pursue their passion in a variety of settings, the quality of their experience depends on the type of skates they have. For instance, a roller skater would have a much harder time gliding down a gravel footpath than an inline skater would because their skates' wide wheels can't cut through the gravel like inline skates' narrow wheels can. On the other hand, the chances of a piece of gravel getting lodged in the inline skate' frame are far greater than for roller skates. Conversely, an inline skater would have to make sure that they equip their skates with softer wheels so they will grip the indoor skating surfaces better. And, even if they did, those skaters still wouldn't be able to do a lot of the fancy moves, spins and tight turns their rollerskating counterparts can execute with ease even if they arrange their wheels in a full rocker. Their skates' boot is just too rigid to allow for such movement. Another difficulty challenging outdoor roller skaters is their wheels' relatively small diameter. Even changing them out to a larger size and more durable material, they are simply not made for speed, nor can they navigate cracks in the pavement very easily. And a small pebble would be enough to send even the best skaters to the ground. By contrast, inline skates' narrower wheels drastically reduce the likelihood of hitting a pebble and the wheels' arrangement, all in a row, can easily propel the skater across pavement gaps with little to no hiccup. The verdict: both skates can be used either indoors or outdoors, provided that the skater changes their wheels to suit the terrain and are aware of the limitations their skates impose.
What's Your Skating Style?
If you've compensated for your skates' limitations, your skating style shouldn't matter much whether you skate indoors or out. For instance, if your particular passion is freestyle slalom skating, you can use either quads or inline skates; you only need to adjust your skates and performance expectations. Admittedly, that style of skating is best done outdoors, where skaters have plenty of space to set up their course. Likewise, if you prefer an aggressive skating style, one with plenty of jumps and tricks and speed, that would best be done outside rather than the limited confines of an indoor roller rink with other skaters close by. On the other hand, if skate dancing or its latest incarnation, jam skating is your thing, you need the smooth, level surface an indoor skating rink can provide. Oumi Janta's stunning outdoor skate dance aside, most anyone would be hard-pressed to find such an unblemished surface to skate-dance on, unless it's in an indoor rink. If you've seen her video, you'll surely have noted that she dances in a small space. Her moves are impressive but it's not like she's travelling while executing the twirls, twists and turns that are standard in skate dancing. If you wanted to develop your skills as a jam skater, an indoor skating rink is the obvious place to do so. What if you don't yet have a skating style - you're a beginner skater? Here too, indoors would be best because skating rinks give you a safe, contained space, usually with rails or some sort of wall that separates the rink from the facility's snack bar and spectator areas. You can hold on to the rail until you get your feet firmly under you and learn how to move on wheels and, if you do suffer a nasty spill, the rink's staff are trained to help you. Unless you are taking skating lessons with a skating tutor outdoors, there likely won't be anyone qualified or appointed to help you when you skate in the park or on the street. Rollerskating in the 80s, the difference between indoor and outdoor skating was much clearer. Beginners aside, people who saw skating as a fun pastime made their way to their local skating rink while those who saw skating more as a fitness activity practised their sport outdoors. Each type of skater had the equipment best suited to their preferred environment and skating style.
Your Location Matters
On any given day when the weather is fine, you could head to the Brighton seafront and see skaters aplenty. Whether they're sporting quads or inline skates doesn't matter; the point is that they're out and having fun. You would be hard-pressed to find such a bevvy of skaters in, say, the Scottish Highlands, no matter what time of the year it is. Not only is the weather there less amenable to such a carefree outdoor pursuit but the terrain is everything a skating surface cannot be: craggy, saturated and not in the least level. Granted, that's an extreme example of how geography can impact skating opportunities. The Highlands are great for other outdoor activities, just not skating. However, that example illustrates how where you are can impact whether you skate indoors or out. Manchester, lovingly(?) nicknamed The Rainy City for its excessive annual rainfall, boasts fewer outdoor skateparks than either Liverpool or Leeds. By contrast, there are far more indoor skating venues than any nearby city, save perhaps for Bradford. So if you have a choice of whether to skate indoors or out, consider yourself lucky because some geographical locations make outdoor skating impossible. Another point to consider: whether you live in a decent-size city or in a more rural area. If you live in a city, you will likely have a choice of indoor and outdoor venues but if you're outside of any metropolis, outside skating may be your only choice. And you may not have any dedicated space to skate in; no skatepark or other such a level, maintained area. If your local school or church has outdoor tennis or basketball courts, those may serve well, especially the tennis courts because their surface is so smooth. Luckily, if you skate on a court, you won't have to worry about having to follow any rollerskating rules, unlike basketball players have to when playing even the most casual of pickup games.
Indoors v. Outside: Pros and Cons
There's no definitive argument for whether indoor or outdoor skating is best. Both environments have their pluses and minuses and both types of skates offer advantages and disadvantages, depending on the environment they're put to service in. Let's see if we can construct an overview of all the points we made (and some we haven't).
- great for quads, less advantageous for inline skates
- Indoor skateparks are better for inline skates than roller skates
- skating surface is well maintained
- best suited for skate dancing, partner skating and so on
- no worries about weather conditions
- help is available should you get injured
- lots of amenities: refreshments, seating areas, gaming areas and lounges among them
- great for inlines, less so for quads
- many different skating surfaces - quads are at a distinct disadvantage
- perfect for distance skating, speed skating or doing tricks
- weather conditions may prevent you from skating
- emergency help may be harder to come by
- you must carry your snacks and water
Two more factors to stack on the indoor side of the argument: public toilets and skate maintenance. Imagine you're out on the skate of your life and, suddenly, you feel the call of nature. If you're in a park or skating along on a city street, you might have a hard time finding a loo and what if you're skating along a trail, far from any public facilities? Skating outdoors is hard on your skates. Not just the wheels - though they take most of the punishment, but the whole skate. Everything from the air's humidity to any puddles you might skate through can cause premature bearing seizure and rusted hardware. And, if you don't clean your skates regularly, exposure to the elements may cause them to become cracked and brittle. Still, there's nothing like the feeling you get when you're gliding along, caressed by the wind and with the sun on your shoulders. After the year we just had, don't we all crave that? Now, join the discussion: is rollerskating making a comeback or is this current craze just a passing fad?
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