Oli Benet recently started interesting discussion on facebook, about skater owned companies (as Dong-Kyu Kim noted, it is more about “well known aggressive pro skater owned”). Skater-owned companies seem to be what many aggressive skaters see as remedy to industry problems. It would be awesome if it was that simple, but things are much more complicated. Rollerblading, after all, is also a business.
Aggressive skaters do have rebel spirit in them. It’s nothing strange many of them reject “corporations” and want to be loyal to smaller companies. Companies that focus solely on aggressive skating market, stays “pure” and loyal to it. But that is a foolish way of thinking. There are no evil companies in rollerblading, and there are no holy ones, everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and what counts in the end of the day, is what company did to expand the sport and push technology forward.
I think, no other people hate rollerblading more than rollerbladers. Internet is filled with elitism junk and rollernews and be-mag are basically nests where haters hatch. Countless people ready 24/24 to spit on everything that is different from “standard” aggressive skating. Hell, to spit on everyone and everything. (This also applies to other skating types of course, I’ve heard opinions from slalom skaters and speedskaters that aggressive bladers are vandals and adrenaline junkies with ADHD syndrome).
“Powerblading? Ridiculous. Freeskating? Rec. Speedskating? Gay. Freestyle slalom? Even gayer. Mushroom blading? Disgrace. Fitness? Cancer.”
In their tight, dark, closed minds, there is only one proper way to rollerblade. And that include more time spend grinding rails and ledges, than rolling itself. And any company that dares to make skates of different kind than aggressive ones is a parasite that sucks money out of industry and use them to make more money on rec skaters! Oh, the horror! THEY ARE MAKING REC SKATES OUT OF MY PRECIOUS XSJADO, I DON’T WANT ANYBODY TO CONFUSE ME WITH “DOOPERS”, CURSE YOU POWERSLIDE! THEY DARE TO MAKE REC SKATES USING SOLO SHELL, SO SOLOS ARE REC SKATES, CURSE YOU ROLLERBLADE! CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY REAL ROLLERBLADING!
Above: REC SKATES MADE OUT OF YOUR PRECIOUS XSJADOS!
Thing is – there is no conspiracy. No one wants your blood, no one wants to make skating look “gay” (I’m against using this word as an insult, but unfortunately many people do use it that way – gives away level of their maturity…), no one wants to destroy “proper” rollerblading, no one wants to forcibly replace your antirocker frames with powerblading ones.
Closest thing we have in skating to such bloodthirsty parasite is in my opinion K2. They no longer innovate, they release their skates (of ALL kinds) every year without any changes other than looks, they offered depressingly low contract to Louis Zamora, only person that potentially could bring interest in their aggressive skates back. Louis turned their offering down because of it, and worse, now they have no team in any skating discipline. You can clearly see they decided to treat rollerblading as side source of income for their skiing branch. There is no progress of their product either. One new soulplate and slightly changed Fatty boot was not a comeback. What is worse, K2 holds patent for replaceable H-block, limiting possibilities and creativity of frame companies.
Above: Evil incarnated
But they aren’t THAT bad. First of all, K2 makes quality products, and their basic rec models are price-competitive and comfortable. So many people buys them – and for sure it’s better when someone starts on good quality skates, instead of some no-name made in China ones that barely roll and torture feet. People who buy the later ones usually end giving up skating, because it’s no fun to skate on skates like that. There is significant chance that someone who bought K2 will sink in to skating and sooner or later upgrade to different, more specialized skates. K2 is also one of very few good quality brands present in markets and multisport shops. It’s better for a newcomer in aggressive to start on K2 Fattys, or newcomer to speedskating on K2 Radicals, than on “junk brand” skates. This company also support many local events like speedskating marathons, and that’s always a good thing.
So as you can see, they are useful in some ways to inline skating. Having them around is not that bad.
ALWAYS look at the bigger picture, and do not focus on only one fragment of skating world. Especially because technology overlaps between disciplines, and branches support each other.
Remember when Powerslide introduced Carbon through, now gone, Deshi? Don’t think anybody simply said “hey, let’s make carbon aggressive skate”. Completely new idea, required different technology. This technology was borrowed from company experience with carbon speedskating boots. What is more, Powerslide also applied this technology to their fsk line of skates, creating first one-piece, and then first carbon one-piece skates designed for slalom.
Above: Dear hater, do you see her skates? Don’t you want to tell her how much “gay” she is?
This evolution simply wouldn’t be possible if Powerslide weren’t be a company that makes almost all kind of skates. And they constantly use their resources to invent new ideas and products, be it powerblading, better fsk frames, or even Carbon IV that inherited liner similar to the one designed for Powerslide Vi line. Now they are using Xsjado construction to make doops, and again, this wouldn’t be possible without multi-discipline character of a company.
Rollerblade created their successful Fusion line of freeskates and re-introduced UFS in to freeskating because they got an idea to use their existing aggressive skate for something new. Without Solos, there wouldn’t be Fusions.
People who hate or laugh on “rec” skaters simply have to realize, they are backbone of this sport. Rec skates sales are biggest, and people who skate them are a group from which new aggressive skaters, speedskaters, freeskaters and slalomers emerge.
Above: sadly, best effort at innovation “well known aggressive pro skater owned” company ever did…
It’s VERY rare for someone to go straight for specialized skates. Thing is, they are simply harder to start with, and their price point is higher. Someone who don’t know yet if he will stick to rolling usually don’t want to spend huge amount of cash on pair of skates.
Aggressive skates turn too bad, and are usually too stiff for beginners. Speedskates with long wheel base are too high, and do not have enough support for newcomer untrained ankles. Freeskates and freestyle slalom skates can be too unstable because of short wheel base. Also, most of specialized skates come without a brake, and that’s a very useful piece of rubber for beginners. Rec and fitness skates are cheap, comfy and safest way to introduce new people to skating.
Rec skates also provide large source of income for a companies, as they sell in large amounts, and such company can use this money to develop new products for more demanding customers. That is reason why brands like Powerslide and Rollerblade can make technological advancements. They of course do not work on all branches simultaneously, and some things take longer to develop, so it may seem they put less effort in from time to time, but eventually, they both push rollerblading forward as a whole. I’m angry at Rollerblade for direction they are going with Solo and Fusion skates right now, but I do not know if they don’t cook something new in their headquarters. And I would be a fool to not appreciate development on Gravitational Torque technology they introduced in 2013 speedskates. It’s hard to not approve new Swindler skate aimed at beginners, as aggressive skating desperately needs more of good quality skates at affordable price.
Above: new GTR technology from Rollerblade and Luigino
And it’s big companies advancements that secure ground for smaller companies. Chances are, that if big player make something successful, smaller one will follow up with product based on the same idea.
There are numerous examples of this. Fila was first company to took risk and create 4x100mm speedskating setup and it quickly became standard in speedskating. Powerslide was first company to introduce one piece boot slalom skates and Seba did their own ones a while after. Creation of Deshi sparked idea of Valo Lights, surfacing of Adapt that make strikingly similar boots, and probably more companies to follow. Rollerblade put skins on their skates and soon others copied them. Xsjado frame became a blueprint for other freestyle frames. Tecnica Twister became basically a blueprint for other hardshell freeskates, and now Seba, Fila, and Powerslide make similar constructions. List goes on and on.
But sometimes big fishes owe something to smaller ones. Kaltik Flat frames are one example. Another are EOSkates carbon frames (first ones that are actually worthwhile), idea that now PS is tinkering with. Gyro was first company to make pre-rockered slalom frames, and larger ones eventually made their own. Most fresh ideas in speedskating boot construction were invented by small manufacturers.
Above: original skate, criticized by many, but now everyone wants to make clones
This is so simple. All skating types need each other, because ideas flow between them all, introducing new technologies and allowing to make advancements. Think twice before you’ll hate on people who enjoy other skating types, or a company for supporting them. Rollerblading grew and matured, that’s normal it divided in to a different types. This happened before with almost any sports activity, cycling, skiing, motor sports… and more types of blading emerges and will probably emerge along the way. Inline alpine slalom anyone? Or kite-blading?
Elitism won’t take anybody anywhere. We are all rollerbladers and if we want our sport to grow, we must stick together, support each other. There is simply no other way, if we all want to blade in the future. And when you’ll meet a person who clearly struggle to make first steps on skates, do not look down on them, but introduce yourself and give a few tips about basic skating technique. It won’t cost you anything, and will actually prove that rollerbladers are kind people and it’s good to be one of them.