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Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Handling Urban Obstacles

By Liz Miller

Excerpted from Get Rolling, the Beginner's Guide to In-Line Skating, third edition.

Taking Curbs at a Roll

Eventually, you’ll want to be able deal with curbs while in motion. If you feel uncomfortable rolling on one foot, go back and practice the one-footed balance drills described in the Beginning Skills chapter.

Whether going up or down, approach curbs at an angle to reduce the distance you must step across. And don’t approach too slowly, or you will lose your stability.


Practice the Hop-Over drills that follow, and soon you will have the confidence to hop onto most of the curbs in your path. This skill is a must for the budding aggressive skater. Read carefully so you don't end up looking like the youngster in my drawing!

You want to practice by doing a stationary hop on the grass first, before progressing to a stationary hop on the pavement.

Warning: Most of us are used to using our toes to jump. However, to avoid crashes when learning hop-overs, be careful not to push off with your toes or heels. Since your foot is fixed to a flat, inflexible frame, hopping while on skates requires a flat-footed launch.

Assume your best ready position stance with hands just below waist level.

  1. Starting from flexed knees, spring up 1 to 2 inches off the ground. You don’t need to reach for the stars, but a slight lift of the hands helps with balance.
  2. Land on flat feet. Let your legs absorb the impact as you land. The key to keeping your balance is to maintain that solid ready position.

Now let’s get rolling.

  1. To help focus your effort, choose a line, crack or other mark on the pavement to hop over. Approach your Grand Canyon coasting at a moderate speed in your best ready position.
  2. Lightly spring 1 to 2 inches off the ground and then allow your legs to absorb the impact as you land. Try not to swing your arms wildly, or you’ll crash.
  3. Continue to practice hopping over lines and cracks in your practice area, working on good body position throughout the jump and landing.
  4. Once you’re King or Queen of the Cracks, try leaping higher and tucking your heels up under your hips. Success with this can be construed as proof that you are ready to hop up your first curb.

Other Common Obstacles

As your skills and confidence improve, you will acquire a broadening perspective on where you can go on in-line skates. Relish this, but remember, skating terrain is full of challenges besides curbs, other obstacles, changes in surfaces, and stairs. Here are tips for handling a variety of unforeseen elements skaters face every day.

To climb stairs:

  1. Grip the railing (if available), and place a skate on the first step with the front wheel rolled up against the side at a toe-out angle.
  2. Lean forward as you transfer your weight to the upstairs skate.
  3. Place the second skate on the second step, toes angled out, and rolled up against the side of the next step. If you prefer, you can also side-step up, with both skates angled in the same direction.
  4. Focus on leaning forward as you climb. This helps lock your front wheels into the side of the stairs.

To go down stairs:

  1. Grip the railing (use both hands if it feels better) and extend
    a skate down the first step.
  2. Roll your back wheel against the wall of the step, toes angled toward the railing.
  3. Using the railing for support, bring the left skate down, either to the same step (both skates will be parallel and angled toward the railing) or, if you feel comfortable, to the next step down. Set it down angled toward the railing.

    If you are worried about descending the stairs facing forward, turn around and do it backward. Simply reverse the ascending instructions and use the railing for support. If there is no railing and there are lots of stairs, play it safe by removing your skates altogether.