Retro roller skating and why it's still going around (and around) after all these years

Retro roller skating and why it's still going around (and around) after all these years

Retro roller skating and why it's still going around (and around) after all these years

Updated 10 February 2018, 9:15 AEDT

Roller disco was all the rage on the dancefloors of the glitzy '70s and '80s before it lost its mojo, but for some it never really went away.

Roller skating is the act of travelling across smooth surfaces while wearing wheels and, just for the record, it comes in two forms.

Whether you choose to wear roller skates or inline skates depends mostly on your age.

John Harvey, a small businessman who has skated all his life, assists in the running of an ice skating rink in Sydney and tours the regions with a portable retro roller rink.

He reckons that anyone under the age of about 16 would prefer inline skates because "they've all been brought up on scooters with two wheels, so they are used to the property of balance".

"But anyone who was skating in roller discos on a Friday night in the '70s and '80s, they are on roller skates," Mr Harvey said.

Music and flashing lights

History records the first use of a roller skate way back in 1743 as part of a London stage performance.

But it really took off as a hobby 200 years later in the 1930s before picking up again in the early 1960s and then becoming popular again with the introduction of the polyurethane wheels for disco extravaganza events in the glitzy 1970s.

Now, courtesy of Mr Harvey and others, it's experiencing yet another comeback — this time as "retro roller skating".

Mr Harvey, who travels regional Australia with his mobile skating rink, believes people love '80s music and flashing lights.

"It's a bit of a trip down memory lane," Mr Harvey said.

"It takes them a few minutes to get back on it, but all I ever hear is that it comes rushing back."

Skating for fun

As a child Liz Sikora went roller skating with her family regularly. Sadly her local rink closed in the 1990s and never reopened.

However, this summer Ms Sikora has been reliving childhood moments by skating in the evenings at the Huskisson Carnival on the shores of Jervis Bay near Nowra in New South Wales, where Mr Harvey set up his portable rink.

She said she had been surprised at how quickly she learned again, but still can't do more than just "around and around".

"I just skate, that's it," she said, "Nothing special."

Ms Sikora said she enjoyed the fast-paced, noisy atmosphere at the rink as well as the company.

"I really like watching the younger kids enjoy it. It's just a pity they can't do it all the time," Ms Sikora said.

Like Ms Sikora, Allan Barraclough is also happy going to the rink alone.

Mr Barraclough said he felt comfortable asking for help.

"I was looking at the ground a lot when I started doing it and I was told that one of the things I should do is look in the distance because I'll be able to balance better. So tips like that are helpful," Mr Barraclough said.

Increasing spatial awareness and balance

He said he knew his mates were laughing at him but didn't mind because at 60 he was learning something new.

"My surfing fitness had dropped right off, but I went out the other day and I felt more together on my board as a result of my time roller skating," he said.

And for those who love a bit of action with their skating, there's roller derby.

Betty Batemen, aka Betty Doom, is in her 20s and loves the high-octane activity because it is exercise "without feeling like exercise".

"It's more of a fun thing than an exercise thing," Ms Bateman said.

She said roller derby could get fairly aggressive.

"There are some pretty solid rules that you have to adhere to which basically help people to be safe," Ms Bateman said.