I've been thinking a lot lately about why people who seem to have so much in common have such a hard time getting along. You who know who I'm talking about: Bosnians and Serbs; Irish Catholics and Protestants; Israelis and Palestinines; Crips and Bloods; Sharks and Jets; skiers and snowboarders; and, of course, aggressive skaters and those hated, lycra-wearing recreational and speed skaters.
Perhaps there are deep-seated, in-born instincts in humans that cause us to fear those who are different-not part of our immediate group. After all, humans are an aggressive species. Our history is a long list of struggles, one group against another. We've always had to protect ourselves from outsiders. Only very recently have humans made significant progress toward living together peacefully. The French and Germans haven't fought for over fifty years. That is one of the highest achievements of civilization-ranking right up there with putting wheels on our feet.
I'd like to propose a similar truce between in-line skating groups. There is no reason why baggy-pants'ed rail grinders can't get along with bike-shorts-wearing fitness skaters, and why puck-whackers can't embrace five-wheelers (although those speed skaters do get pretty sweaty). To take it a step further, I suggest everyone get out and sample new skating disciplines. There are so many ways to have fun on skates. Why get stuck with only one or two? Try new things, meet new people-it's hard to hate others when you're having fun with them.
Here are some things you may not have tried. Is there a skate park in your area? Many locales have parks that were originally constructed for skateboarders (speaking of folks we can't get along with!). These parks are often open to skaters. They have a variety of obstacles to play on and in. Leave your lycra at home and be sure to wear your protective gear. Skate parks are a fun way to learn new skills in a protected environment.
Find the local hangout where the kids are doing stairs and grinding rails. I bet one of the sales staff at your local in-line shop will know where that is. After watching appreciatively, ask the best skaters for some tips and to explain some of the lingo. Then try it yourself. If you're old like me, you'll probably stay away from soul grinds, but doing stairs can be a real kick. If you do want to sell your soul to grind some rails, I recommend you buy hip pads first. You'd be surprised how much padding there is under some of those baggy pants!
Beg, borrow or steal a pair of five-wheel skates. These babys are built for speed. Put on some lycra, find a place where you can go fast and do it! You may be able to find a group that skates or trains together regularly. And, of course, you can race.
Never tried in-line hockey? Many skaters take up in-lines just so they can play hockey year-round (that's how Rollerblades® were invented). And yes, even women play. Regular pickup games and leagues abound in our area.
There are lots more ways to enjoy your skates and other skaters: dancing at the local scene, touring, downhill skating, figure skating, and, Liz's newest discovery, wind skating. Get out there and civilize.