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Inline Skating Newsletter Article

It's All Downhill From Here!

By Dan Kibler

Scary slope!

Those simple words, usually meant to comfort the listener at the end of a hard journey, can strike terror in the mind of a novice skater. A hill you hardly notice on foot can look like a black diamond ski run when you're on in-line skates.

I vividly remember the scene outside of Skates on Haight, a popular rental shop near San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It was my second time on rental in-lines. The first time, we'd skated in an almost perfectly flat area. This time, my first downhill challenge awaited. Just outside the Haight Street shop, the sidewalk gently declines toward the busy intersection with Stanyan Street. To reach the park, we had to negotiate the sidewalk and cross the intersection.

With more machismo than skill, I ventured out the shop door and pointed my skates down the crowded sidewalk. Quickly, we (my skates and I) started to accelerate toward what I was sure was approaching light speed. I sped by an amused audience of street people, me trying to look like I'd done this a thousand times before. Down the street, the "Don't Walk" sign turned red and the heavy cross traffic started to roll.

Sure doom loomed ahead. Then it dawned on me, "Use your heel brake, you fool!" Gingerly at first, but with growing force, I tagged the sidewalk with the black streak that saved "Wow, it worked!" I was sure glad we had practiced using the heel brake on the flats, my first day out.

Keystone Comedy

Over the next few minutes, while I waited for Liz to peddle her new book to Lee Cole, the shop owner, I watched other skaters, singly or in groups, recreate my experience with many variations. Some of the more amusing methods included struggling hand-over-hand along the walls and windows of the businesses lining the street; bouncing from light pole to fender to bench struggling to stay upright at each collision.

My favorite group was the threesome who zoomed straight down the sidewalk picking up speed until, at the last moment the man grabbed for an overhead tree branch--swinging to a halt in classic slapstick style. His speeding wife desparately grabbed him and was followed closely by the daughter, who completed the family get-together. Each good attempt brought hoots and cheers from the crowd in the cheap seats.

Since that experience, in-line skating has become a big part of my fun and fitness repertoire and I've learned how to actually enjoy skating downhill. Of all the aspects of in-line skating, hills are the most fun for me. Being a downhill ski nut and former instructor probably helps, but I think anyone can learn the basics of downhill skating and live to enjoy it.

Over the next few issues, I'll share my insights into skills required to conquer those daunting hills and provide drills designed to help you safely learn them. I'll also provide tips on where to practice and the best equipment to use.

Downhill skating will add another dimension to your skating fun and open up play areas you've been avoiding because of the hills. Before you know it, your life will be going downhill, too! In the meantime, if you're headed out to do some hill skating, be sure to wear your protective gear.

See you next issue.

Other November 2005 Stories

bulletred picture All About Momentum - Advice for both ends of the spectrum: skaters who seek the thrill of downhills and those trying to avoid it.

bulletred picture Anti-Wobble Drills - Practice carpet skating to build memory in your joints, muscles and brain for proper technique and stances.

bulletred picture Ski Pole Tips for Skaters - Using ski poles adds confidence and a feeling of security on steeper hills. Get pole training tips from this excerpt from Get Rolling.

bulletred picture It's All Downhill From Here! - From the Orbit archives:
"With more machismo than skill, I ventured out the shop door and pointed my skates down the crowded sidewalk," Dan recalls.

bulletred picture SF East Bay - Lafayette-Moraga Rail Trail - Gravity aids momentum in this lovely roll past St. Mary's College, which glows white in the winter sun against the lush grasses of Mt. Diablo's foothills.

bulletred picture Adventure: We joined Zephyr Adventures' Tibet Trekking trip in August. Words cannot express what we saw, did, and felt in China, so we are sharing Dan's captioned photo album.