Why Rollerblading Is Cool Again

February 12, 2024

According to my research, Washingtonians were not alone in subsuming to the in-line skating craze of the mid-1990’s In 1994, Newsweek estimated the in-line skating market in the U.S. to be $650 million, 40 percent of which was captured by Rollerblade, Inc., the brand name that has come synonymous with the sport much as Kleenex® has become a stand-in for the word tissues and Xerox™ has doubled for the word photocopy.

By 1996, statistics showed that in-line skating was the fastest growing sport in America — an activity undertaken by ladies and gentlemen, as well as children of all ages.

I thought about these erstwhile swarms of in-line skaters as I took a bike ride on the Capital Crescent Trail on the Fourth of July. During my ride, I spied many bikers and joggers, but not a single in-line skater. I wasn’t surprised. I had hardly seen in-line skating on this or any other trail for more than 15 years.

No Facilities Supported Sport

In-line skating’s demise was hastened by the fact that no one ever built facilities or infrastructure to support the sport like they did for skateboarding and other popular sports, Jump on Wheels reported. Moreover, most people who took up in-line skating did it as a diversionary activity — not so they could compete against other skating maestros — as is often the case for skateboarding.

The events of 9/11 seemed to deal a fatal blow to the sport. After witnessing the horrific events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, many people felt that in-line skating was a risky business that one might best avoid. A survey by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association showed that between 2010 and 2015 sales of in-line skates were flat.

Pandemic Leads To Resurgence

But then COVID-19 hit America.

Hockey players and other athletes who were locked out of athletic facilities needed a way to stay fit — and under strict social distancing rules, going to the gym wasn’t going to fly.

In that vein, in August 2020, in-line skate manufacturer Rollerblade, Inc., reported that it had seen a more than 300 percent increase in sales since March of that year, reported SGB Media. Other inline skate manufacturers saw a similar jump in sales during that same period.

Now there’s even a term for renewed interest in in-line skating: glide envy.

“‘Glide envy’ is the term of the day, because inline skating is rad. And people aspire to be rad,” said Richard Williams, skate ambassador at K2, a manufacturer of in-line skates.

Hockey Players Advocate for Sport

The idea seems to be catching on at the highest levels of the professional sports.

Ten-time Art Ross Trophy winner and retired National Hockey League (NHL) player Wayne Gretzky, pitched in-line skating during a press conference last year.

During the worst of the pandemic, when Gretzky was asked what he would do to stay in shape during a suspended season if he couldn’t get on the ice, the hockey player replied: “I would try to find places to Rollerblade as much as possible,” according to Inside Hook.

In a similar vein, retired NHL player Stephen Johns is rollerblading across the U.S. to bring awareness to mental illness and depression, according to WKBN 27 First News in Youngstown, Ohio

... And It’s Healthy!

If that’s not enough reason to take up in-line skating, an article last month in Real Simple Health encourages readers to take up rollerblading as a fun and healthy activity. According to the article, in-line skating improves your posture, burns 300 calories per hour, gets you outside to breathe fresh air — and is “incredibly beneficial to your mind and body.”