In June last year, 29-year-old Berlin-based rollerskater Oumi Janta posted a short video on her Instagram that shows her dancing on her skates. She is dressed in egg-yolk yellow sports shorts and a matching T-shirt, and shot against a background of bright blue sky. Bassy house music is playing and she moves effortlessly, doing a kind of salsa-inflected moonwalk. “Bit windy, weather on point tho, everyone is vibing,” reads the caption. “Just jamming is good for now.”
In the middle of a gruelling year, the sunny atmosphere and Janta’s skill and easy joy struck a chord. The video has since racked up 2.9m views and rollerskating has become a new It hobby.
Janta’s post tapped into an already accelerating trend. Google searches for rollerskates began to climb as soon as lockdown hit in spring, with worldwide searches increasing by 77 per cent in the time between March and May 2020. When season four of The Crown arrived in November, with its scenes of a bored Diana, Princess of Wales, skating around Buckingham Palace listening to Duran Duran on a Walkman, it cemented the sport’s new cool. (The scene was based on the princess’s real penchant for blading around Kensington Gardens, although she usually wore sportier inline skates, rather than the retro-style quads on display in the show.)
“We’ve seen an influx in sales and people sharing the love with us,” says Pariss Cozier, marketing executive at UK brand Rookie Rollerskates, revealing that its sales increased by 115 per cent year on year from 2020 into 2021. “People have more time to explore interests and hobbies: some people are baking bread, others are discovering the joys of rollerskating.” Part of the sport’s appeal is the way it transforms cardio into a fun activity. “Skating is a great way to keep fit in small spaces and while remaining socially distanced and outside.”
Nicolai Benjamin Simmons, skates category manager at action sport retailer Skate Pro, agrees: “When we can’t do the ‘normal’ routines of team sports, people look to what they can do on their own or with their families. Rollerskating has been popular for that reason.”
The first decision for new skaters is to choose which of the two subcultures to join: rollerblading on inline skates, with the wheels in a single row, or rollerskating on quads, which have two rows of two wheels. Inline skaters tend to be sportier, as the straight line of wheels makes you speedier. If you want to get from A to B, or skate as a form of cardio, inline is the best option. Quad skates are more stable and therefore better for beginners and dancers. Personally, I’m in it for fun rather than fitness, so I have opted for quads.