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.
- Getting up: At one stride-length out, lift the skate closest to the curb high enough to clear it, while reaching over the curb with both arms. As you step onto the higher pavement, push off against the inside wheel edges of the support leg below to keep your momentum.
- Stepping off: As you near the curb, put all of your weight on the balance skate as you reach the skate closest to the edge over the curb. (Be sure to leave plenty of room if you’re stepping off with the brake skate first.) Land this skate at an angle that will allow you to push off into a glide as soon as you release weight on the other skate.
- Rolling off: If you aren’t at a busy intersection and no cars are in sight, you can simply relax and roll off the curb at skating speed. There’s no need to hop or jump: as long as you maintain that ever-lovin', ready position, you will drop lightly to the pavement and continue rolling along. If you’re worried about your brake catching on the curb, scissors that skate ahead slightly and increase your approach speed.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue to practice hopping over lines and cracks in your practice area, working on good body position throughout the jump and landing.
- 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.
- Manhole covers and cattle guards: These are city and country versions of a similar physical hurdle to skaters. Avoid them if you can, just as you would a pothole or patch of gravel. If you approach with enough speed, you can roll right over most manhole covers in a solid scissors position. When you encounter cattle guards (real, not painted ones) step or, if you’re really a pro, leap over them. Learn to stay on the alert for such obstacles and enjoy the challenge of dealing with them.
- Slick spots, wet leaves, and puddles: In-line wheel traction can almost disappear on slick surfaces. Avoid them if you can. For long, unavoidable wet patches, build up your speed before you hit them so you can coast all the way across without having to stroke. Consider riding on one skate so you'll only have to wipe dry half your wheels to prevent rusted bearings. If you get caught in the rain or find yourself skating across a really large patch of oil, water, or wet leaves, take shorter, light-pressure strokes and stay centered over your feet. This is where Stride One really shines!
- Steep hills: There is one sure-fire way to get safely down any decline: dare to be a "wimp"! Simply take your skates off and walk when a hill looks too steep for your heel brake or speed control skills. Don’t even consider rolling it out and hoping for the best. Besides increased chances for intimate contact with a moving vehicle, just hitting a pebble the wrong way at high speed can cause a serious accident, too. If it’s a short slope, you might try side stepping down: Face across the hill and step sideways until you reach the bottom. If you’re lucky enough to have a railing, use it. If there is grass or soft dirt near the path, step down that.
- Wooden bridges: The faster you skate over a bumpy wooden bridge (or any slightly raised blip on the pavement, for that matter), the easier it will be to get across and keep your balance. To climb an arched bumpy bridge, take short, quick Stride One strokes with toes out and your weight forward. On the downhill part of an arch, just relax and roll in a scissored stance, keeping your body as loose and centered over your feet as possible.
- Stairs: Accomplished street skaters can do some amazing stunts with stairs, including riding them forward, backward, or with knees pointing both fore and aft. Sorry, folks, but such stunts are not described in Get Rolling. At first, it is easier to both ascend and descend stairs by facing toward them. As your balance improves, you will be able to walk down stairs facing the normal direction. Handle stairs as though they were a series of multiple curbs and avoid stairs without railings unless you’re confident you can handle them.
To climb stairs:
- 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.
- Lean forward as you transfer your weight to the upstairs skate.
- 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.
- Focus on leaning forward as you climb. This helps lock your front wheels into the side of the stairs.
To go down stairs:
- Grip the railing (use both hands if it feels better) and extend
a skate down the first step.
- Roll your back wheel against the wall of the step, toes angled toward the railing.
- 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.