Two writers explore Dartmouth’s in-line skating culture and try the activity for themselves.
Even on our fairly small campus, Dartmouth students seem to use all alternative means of transportation, whatever the season. In the winter, that meant cross-country skis, and now that the weather is warming up, we’re getting out our skateboards, bikes and, of course, inline skates. When the sun is shining, hardly a day goes by that we don’t see someone skating, and we had to ask ourselves: why is inline skating a must on campus?
We – Annabel and Ally – had to investigate this phenomenon on our own.
Me – Ally – have harbored some curiosity about the blade lifestyle for some time; after a purchase on Amazon and a trip to Hinman earlier this term, I secured my blades. For legal reasons, if my mother asks for it, I also got knee pads and wrist guards at that time. Having only rollerbladed indoors a few times, I was extremely unprepared for 1) hills, 2) uneven roads, and 3) my inability to brake. In short, always listen to your mother. I may currently have a few bruises, but alas, I will persist, as there really is no better feeling than skating down Tuck Drive with friends, even after deliberately falling to a stop.
Unlike Ally, I – Annabel – had never had any particular interest in skating – that is until last Tuesday when my bike was brutally ripped off outside Collis (that’s is a black Specialized Hard Rock – please keep an eye out). Once I was wheelless for the foreseeable future, I began to reconsider my stance on the current transport craze in Dartmouth. Blading has its own unique allure – it sits somewhere between the cool cliché of skateboarding and the traditionalism of biking. So I made the $50 investment in my own pair of skates and joined the ever-growing community of bladers in Dartmouth.
When we first started skating we tended to err on the side of caution, using our new wheels for recreation rather than trying to use them for transportation. We didn’t think we’d look very cool dropping aggressively through the middle of Novack, even though we admit a slingshot has the potential to be sick. When we were actually on the bumpy sidewalk and in the cool air, we found it was most important to know who you were riding next to. The second most important game was this fun game called “Let’s try not to get hit by a car”.
Every Friday afternoon at Occom, you’ll find the Dartmouth bladers in their natural habitat, gliding around the pond in droves. We spoke to several other bladers, and everyone we interviewed last week had nothing but good things to say about the activity. Madeleine Shaw ’25, a member of the Dartmouth Figure Skating Club who we caught skating with her team, said she was happy to be skating with her teammates again, although some were struggling to learn the style of skating different required by inline skating.
“The rink is closed right now, so we’re all having a good time pretending we’re on the ice again,” Shaw said, joking that inline skating was their off-season training.
Emma Staiger ’22 also got her blades by thinking about socializing. She started her skating journey in 2020, during her quarantine.
“[I have] friends who have rollerblades, so it was a cool activity that we could all do together,” Staiger said.
Nevertheless, although she primarily uses her inline skates for recreation, Staiger has found that her inline skates are “quick enough to get around”.
Unsurprisingly – as we are the College in the woods – many students also choose to rollerblade for a get out.
“It’s so nice outside…I feel like Dartmouth is so nature, everyone’s always outside,” Shaw said. “And when [students] aren’t at the river, I feel like being on skates is a good opportunity to get outside.
Staiger added that in addition to being a fun way to get out, the campus is also “very easy to get around on rollerblades” as the terrain is mostly flat and paved. Recreational blader Katherine Takoudes ’24 echoed that sentiment.
“The roads are very safe, the sidewalks aren’t very crowded overall, and we have a great loop around Occom,” she said.
Takoudes sees the sport as “an integral part of Dartmouth culture”, adding that she was once approached by an elder while on her blades. “He came up to me and he was like, ‘Oh my god, is it still something here? … I used to do 10 to 12 laps around Occom a times per week.'”
Shaw agreed that there is a distinct skating culture on campus, as she said she “always sees people rollerskating.”
Staiger supported this opinion, saying that inline skating is “getting more and more popular”.
The accessibility of inline skating is also a boon for Takoudes, who noted that the sport is enjoyable even when you’re not “super good.”
It is true that there is a danger that accompanies blading. When we inquired about his worst blade injury, Takoudes quickly pulled up the edge of his shorts to reveal a mass of white bandages on the back of his thigh concealing a large patch of road burn. But no pain, no gain…right?
However, not everyone is worried about the dangers of blading; Staiger said she’s “not really afraid of falling.”
While we can’t call ourselves experts yet or say we’re not afraid to break an arm, we certainly have a newfound appreciation for Dartmouth as a prime location for bladers. So if you want to put your body through even more physical pain after Green Key, please join us this week around Occom. Buckle those blades tight! Dartmouth’s skating community welcomes you with open arms.