How to start roller skating in Toronto this season

Roll your way back into the 70s by getting started with this summer's hottest trend.

A stylish new hobby is hitting the streets of Toronto and it’s giving us flashbacks to the 1970s.  In the early months of lockdown in 2020, roller skates were rolling off the shelves. Now with the success of downtown’s Retro Rolla and the opening of Nitro Skate, roller skating is becoming even more trendy.

To  fully release your inner roller skater, we’ve consulted with one of the city’s top aficionados.

Michka is a roller-skating enthusiast who found a love for the sport in 2018 after spending a day renting at Scooter’s Roller Palace. Now Michka is showing off her newfound talent online with over 42K Instagram followers and 187K TikTok followers.

The Torontonian was kind enough to sit down with us and offer up some beginner tips for learning to skate like a pro.

Buying roller skates and equipment

A quick internet search for skates will have you shocked at the number of styles available. But the best for beginners is the quad skate, which is the original style with two wheels at the front and two at the back. This is easier to balance on than the inline skates, which have the wheels lined up in a row. These ones (which are often called rollerblades) are better for roller hockey or speed skating rather than for recreational use.

More importantly, the quads are the trendier ones!

“I would definitely recommend Riedell to any beginner,” says Michka.

Riedell is an ice and roller skate brand and is the maker of the Moxi skates, which are the brightly coloured retro style skates that you’ve probably seen all over Instagram the last few months. Michka likes the high-cut, heeled boots as they’re easier to balance on. Roller skates should fit snug and typically match your regular shoe size.

The next piece of equipment you’ll need is padding. “Safety gear is very important,” says Michka, “especially when you’re starting out. I have my knee pads, elbow pads, wrist pads.”

For extra precaution, helmets are a good idea too. With all the protective gear, you won’t be afraid of getting hurt and will be able to skate more freely.

You can get all this protective gear in the groovy colours that match your roller skates at a new shop that just opened its first physical location in East York this past weekend. Nitro Skates is run by two members of the Toronto Roller Derby League including skating sensation, Nitro Gena. While selling everything you’ll need to get started, Nitro Skates additionally runs group and one-on-one lessons for those in need of basic skating skills or those looking to learn to street skate.

Balancing on skates

For people who aren’t familiar with ice skating already, the best way to learn to stand on skates is to get on all fours with your hands and knees on the ground. Then, very carefully, bend one knee so you’re resting on one skate and have the other knee on the ground still. Put all your weight on one thigh and slowly push yourself up.

Now that you’re in standing position, Michka says to waddle like a duck.

“Your back should be straight with your chin up. It’s okay to bring your torso forward a little bit so that you can have balance. Arms out also helps to keep your balance and make your core tight.”

When Michka was just learning, she relied on YouTube tutorials to help her master the sport.

“There are a lot of roller skaters out there that are professionals, and they offer a lot of great tips. And YouTube is a great resource for how to get started and how to get moving.”

Falling, tricks, and feeling the music

When you begin any sport or activity, it’s common to feel anxious or worried about falling. Nobody wants to get hurt! The best way to protect yourself when roller skating is to practice the cannonball technique. This, Michka explains, means getting into a squatting position and wrapping your arms around your knees. If you do this when you feel like you might be about to fall, it will help you regain your balance and you can get back to skating!

Once you’re balanced and gliding away, why not try some fun tricks? Michka’s favourites for beginners include Shoot The Duck, which involves squatting down and sticking out one of your legs, Dribbling which is essentially just moonwalking, and Silly Legs, which involves making an S-shape with your legs.

Check out Michka’s Many Minute Moves series on Instagram and IGTV for tutorials on some of her favourite tricks.

From the videos on her social media channels, it’s obvious that for Michka, roller skating isn’t just a sport. It’s a lifestyle and a way for her to have fun and be creative. She often dances and creates roller skating videos with music supporting and promoting young new artists. For Michka, the important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience.

“It’s all about the music and feeling the music for me.”

Where to skate in Toronto

Toronto got it’s first outdoor roller skate rental pop-up last year that’s operating out of a refurbished shipping container at The Bentway. An instant hit, Retro Rolla provides you with colourful skates and matching protective gear for hours of old-school fun.

After a year of demands, the City of Toronto provided leisure skate times at parks and community centres across the city. They provide free forty-five minute sessions at locations including Trinity Bellwoods Park and Riverdale Park East.

Michka’s favourite beginner rinks are at College Park and Greenwood Park. At College Park, roller skate enthusiasts often gather in groups to learn from each other, while Greenwood Park has a covered rink, making it perfect for all weather.

With over 3,000 members, the Roller Skate Toronto Facebook group is a platform for skaters across the GTA to meet, interact, learn from each other and plan skating activities and events. It’s worth checking out to interact with the community in a fun way.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO