Is it Easier to Roller Skate Inside or Outside?
If you are just learning to roller skate, or just bought your first pair of skates, you may be wondering if it's easier to skate down the sidewalk and skip the hassle of driving all the way to the roller rink. I am here to tell you that isn't necessarily the case.
As a general rule, roller skating inside a roller rink is much easier and safer than skating outdoors. Indoors you don't have to worry about tripping over rocks or debris, avoiding traffic or people walking into your path. At the rink it's simple to stop by rolling into the wall, outside you might not have objects around to help you stop.
Skating outdoors can be a lot of fun, but it comes with challenges
When you hit the park, parking lot, or sidewalk in your roller skates, you are setting off on a journey of uncertainty. You will likely encounter many obstacles in your path, which can be overwhelming for someone who is just trying to get the hang of balancing on skates. Something as small as the cracks in the sidewalk can be terrifying to a new skater, I know that they were for me! I googled, " how to skate over sidewalk cracks" several times in my first few weeks!
If you are a brand new skater who is determined to skate outdoors, some planning ahead will make all the difference. Scout around your town or neighborhood on foot to find a basketball court or public walking path that is smooth, crack and mostly rock-free. Once you find your spot, plan to drive or walk, carrying your skates, and get geared up once you get there. Bring knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a helmet. Some skaters even opt for padded shorts to protect their hips and tailbones, but this is more common in skate park skating.
When I started roller skating outdoors during lockdown, I began by going back and forth on one part of a public bike path near my house. Bike paths can be great if they aren't too busy because they tend to be continuous stretches of asphalt, rather than concrete sections like sidewalks. The first few days were awkward and a bit intimidating, but I soon gained confidence in my balance, and in my pads to protect me when I fell. From that path, I moved to a middle school basketball court that was smooth and flat, perfect for learning!
When you are looking for your first skate spot, surface and traffic are the most important things to look for. I know a lot of people who think that taking off down the sidewalk looks easy and fun, but that was a terrifying experience for me my first week of owning skates. Do yourself a favor and find a nice empty flat top, tennis court, or even your driveway to get the hang of being on wheels before you set out on any adventures.
Learn to stop first.
You have to be able to stop yourself whether you are skating indoors or outdoors, but when you are out in the elements, it can feel like a huge undertaking. Start by identifying a pole, wall, or your car that you can use to stop yourself if you need to. Stay away from hills or inclines of any kind until you have stopping under control. Practice your stops slowly at first, and build up speed.
Remember, all of the forward stops, such as the toe stop drag and the plow stop are really more of "slows" than fast "stops". If you are new and need to stop super fast to avoid traffic or a child and there is nothing around to grab onto, dropping into a cannonball and bailing is going to be your best option. This is another important reason to be wearing your safety gear. Dropping straight down onto your knees to stop is no problem if you are wearing hard, protective knee pads.
Watch this lesson from Dirty Deb before heading out!
Learning indoors is much easier if you have a rink nearby
Roller rinks are not in every town like they used to be, and it's possible you don't live within driving distance of a rink. If you are lucky enough to have one close by, it's a great place to learn. Not only is the floor smooth, rock-free, and designed for skating, but there are classes and other resources for learning.
At the roller rink, you are surrounded by other skaters who are moving in predictable patterns around the floor. Outdoors, walkers, bikers, cars, dogs, and other moving obstacles can prove challenging for a skater who is just learning to skate and stop. Starting out in a place where there is not a lot of other traffic can be important for outdoor skating.
When skating inside, people tend to wear less safety gear because you are less likely to fall over debris in your path or careen out of control down a hill. It can be a more budget friendly entry point into skating, as you will have access to the rental skates included in your session fee, as well as not having to buy so much safety gear. Spending a few weeks attending public sessions can be a good way to know for sure that roller skates are an investment that you are ready to make.
What about for kids?
If you just bought your kids their first pair of skates and are wondering whether to take them outside or inside, the answer is a little easier. Indoors, outdoors, and both! I am constantly amazed by the bravery and resistance of children on skates. Get them fully outfitted in safety gear, find a smooth, flat blacktop or path, and let them go. They adapt to skating so quickly and have so much fun.
All of the advice for adults applies to children as well, avoid places with heavy foot or car traffic, and save the sidewalk skating for next month. Cracks cause falls and you want to let them build confidence first!
If you have access to a rink, start there. You may find that your kids don't enjoy it as much as they thought they would and you can save yourself a lot of money not investing in all of the equipment right away. If they do take to skating, you can continue to rent skates for as long as you need, rather than buying new skates every time they grow out of them.
Many rinks have skate clubs that include a lot of children who are all learning together. It is a great hobby to get your kids started in, as there are zero screens involved, ever! Your kids will be active, having fun, and challenging themselves. What more could you want?
Classes build confidence and friendships
Taking a class at your local rink can give you the confidence you need to keep practicing your new hobby. Check the schedule at your rink to see if there are any beginner classes for you. If you don't have a rink, you can turn to the amazing teachers of YouTube to show you the basics. I started my outdoor journey with Dirty Deb, Rebel from Queer Girl Straight Skates, and Estro Jen from Moxi. Check out the videos below for great beginning outdoor skating lessons!