In-Line Skating. I INTRODUCTION In-Line Skating, activity in which people glide over a surface on in-line skates, which are lightweight boots with three to five wheels attached in a line under the foot. The activity is also known as rollerblading, a name that comes from the company Rollerblade, Inc., which was the first firm to design and sell mass-produced in-line skates. Some people participate in in-line skating as off-season training for winter sports such as Nordic skiing and ice hockey, but most do it for its own sake, as exercise and for enjoyment. Enthusiasts can in-line skate indoors in arenas and outside wherever smooth pavement or concrete is found. Popular locations include trails, sidewalks, and skate parks (areas specially designed for traffic-free skating activities). Understanding in-line skating's basic techniques make the sport fun and easy. To learn these techniques, beginners should take a class offered through a store or organization. Once they have mastered the sport's basic skills, advanced skaters often participate in one of the many forms of competitive in-line skating, such as aggressive skating, racing, and roller hockey. II BASIC TECHNIQUES Before they in-line skate for the first time, beginners should assess the skating surface for slight hills, small cracks, debris, water, and oil. Skaters should avoid these obstacles because they can make the skate unexpectedly slip or slide. Beginners should also skate in a traffic-free area to avoid collisions with cars, bikes, pedestrians, and other skaters. Striding, stopping, and turning are the basic techniques each skater should learn first. For any maneuver, skaters should look ahead and keep the knees and ankles slightly bent. The position of a skater's elbows and hands is also important, as maintaining both arms in front of the body provides better balance. Skaters move and create speed by using a technique called striding. To stride, skaters balance on one foot while pushing off with the other. They then glide and repeat the technique with the opposite foot. Advanced skaters develop a rhythm of equal and forceful strides that move them forward in a straight line. Skaters can use several methods when they want to stop. Using the heel brake, which is a hard rubber pad attached to the back end of the right skate, is the most common. To use the heel brake, a skater moves the right foot slightly in front of the body while balancing on the other foot for support. Then, with knees bent, the skater pulls the right toe up, forcing the brake pad to make contact with the ground. With the brake gently engaged, the skater can come to a controlled stop. Some skaters prefer to remove the heel brake from their skates because it gets in the way when doing advanced tricks. Without a heel brake, several other methods can be used to stop. Two of the most common are the t-stop and the powerslide. In a t-stop, a skater drags one foot behind the body, perpendicular to the forward foot. When the wheels of the dragged skate come in contact with ground, they cause the skater to slow down and eventually stop. A powerslide is an extremely short and quick turn that results in a full stop. The skater abruptly pivots and turns sideways, while maintaining balance. The quick turn causes the skates to slide just a few inches before stopping. Turning is the third basic skill in in-line skating. To turn right, a skater moves the right foot slightly forward and points both feet right. This pulls the skater's right skate onto its outside edge and left skate onto its inside edge, guiding the skater into the turn. To turn left, the skater follows a similar process, but puts the left foot forward and points both feet left. A specialized type of turn, called a crossover, is used to accelerate through corners when balance is critical. Turning to the right, the skater lifts the left skate slightly off the ground and places it on the right side of the right skate. The skater simultaneously pushes on the outside edge of the right foot. This crossing motion and foot pressure helps the skater turn the corner in a controlled manner. III ADVANCED TECHNIQUES Advanced skaters use special techniques when they participate in street skating, also called aggressive skating. Street skating involves doing tricks and stunts by using obstacles such as curbs, handrails, and stairs. The curb launch and grinding are common street skating techniques. Curb launches are jumps off of elevated surfaces such as curbs. As they approach the curb, skaters keep their knees bent. They then lift their feet as they pass over the curb and fly into the air. Skaters absorb the shock of the landing by bending at the ankles, knees, and hips. Grinding involves jumping on curbs, rails, or other objects that have a thin edge. The skater begins by skating toward the obstacle to pick up speed. The skater then jumps onto the edge, positioning one or both skates perpendicular to the edge and the desired direction of travel. The speed of travel allows the skater to slide sideways across the object. Vert skating, short for vertical skating, is another type of advanced skating. It involves skating in a structure called a half pipe, which is shaped like a trough and can rise as high as 2 m (6.5 ft). Skaters ride the curves of the trough to propel themselves into the air and remain airborne for a few seconds. While in the air, skaters can perform a variety of tricks, such as turning their body in a half circle (called a 180) or a complete circle (a 360). Flips are also popular, as is a maneuver called a foot grab, in which the skater extends the body horizontal and grabs the feet. The most difficult maneuver, however, is dropping in, or returning back down onto the trough's side when landing. Launch ramps and fun boxes (obstacles, including launch and landing ramps, stairs, curbs, and rails, specially made for in-line skating and skateboarding tricks) can be found at designated skating areas or skate parks. The versatility and angle of ramps and box construction allow skaters to practice and perform many different types of tricks. Because skate parks prohibit cars, bikes, and other traffic, they are safe areas to enjoy skating. IV EQUIPMENT Because most skating takes place on concrete or other hard surfaces, in-line skaters should always wear protective gear, primarily wrist, elbow, and knee guards and a helmet. This protects skaters in case they crash. There are several different types of skates. Most people prefer a four-wheeled model that offers adequate support around the lower leg and a snug fit. Skaters should make sure that the skate fits correctly, because improper fit can cause blisters and discomfort on the feet, ankles, and lower legs. On average, a pair of skates weighs between 2 and 3 kg (4 and 7 lb). Most skates are composed of a hard plastic outside shell and a boot liner. The shell closes over the foot using a combination of laces and buckles. Many skaters prefer a simple closure system that has laces on the lower portion of the skate and a buckle at the top. The boot liner is made of a soft, padded, cloth portion that fits inside the outer shell. Boot liners should be vented, which keeps the feet cool by allowing perspiration to escape during strenuous workouts or long trips. Attached to the bottom of each skate is the wheel frame. The frame houses from three to five wheels. The wheels are lined up between two carbon-fiber composite runners, which keep each wheel fixed in a straight line. Most frames are permanently attached to the outside plastic shell, but some skates allow skaters to switch between longer and shorter frames. Shorter frames are more maneuverable while practicing tricks. Longer frames house more wheels and allow for smoother, faster skating. Wheels are made of urethane, a durable material that absorbs shock. Wheels come in varying sizes and are generally grouped into two categories: large and small. Large wheels are between 76 mm and 80 mm (2.99 and 3.15 in) in diameter and are more stable at higher speeds. Small wheels are between 70 mm and 72 mm (2.76 and 2.83 in) in diameter. The benefit of smaller wheels is the added maneuverability they allow. The proper wheel size therefore should be based on the performance requirements: speed or maneuverability. Some skaters use additional equipment for street skating and vert skating. Power straps that wrap around the feet and ankles are used to provide extra support when landing jumps and drop-ins. Large, heavy-duty protective pads for knees are also available. V COMPETITION In-line skating competitions include racing, aggressive skating, and roller hockey. Information about these forms of competition can be found at stores that sell in-line skating equipment and at local park and recreation departments. Each form of competition has several different levels, from beginner to professional. The simplest form of in-line skate competition is racing, on circuits of various lengths, from 1 to 50 km (0.6 to 31 mi). Racers compete one on one, in larger groups, and in relays. Sometimes two skaters compete in slalom runs, where they race a similar obstacle course at the same time. Another popular form of racing is speed skating. In-line speed skating resembles the speed skating that is practiced on ice, where participants race on a relatively short oval track. Nearly all professional aggressive skaters compete in events sponsored by the Aggressive Skater's Association (ASA), which is the world's largest sanctioning body for aggressive skating. Competitions are held in skate parks throughout the world. Generally, skaters are given two 60-second or 90-second runs during which they blend free form skating tricks with compulsory moves on rails, ramps, and half pipes. ASA judges score each skater's performance based on style, difficulty, and creativity. Roller hockey is another popular form of competition. The rules are similar to those of ice hockey, but there is less physical contact. Roller hockey is played with a small, hard, plastic ball instead of a hockey puck. Many parks and recreation departments organize amateur league play. Roller Hockey International and USA Hockey Inline are governing organizations that oversee advanced amateur and professional roller hockey leagues. VI HISTORY In-line skating dates from the 1700s, when people in the Netherlands fastened wooden wheels to shoes. In-line skating failed to become a popular recreational activity, however, because wheels wore down quickly, and only elite athletes used the skates in speed competitions. In-line skates gave way to the design of traditional roller skates. Roller skates have a set of two wheels both at the front and the back of a boot. This design makes it easier for people to remain balanced while rolling. During the 1980s a young American entrepreneur named Scott Olsen wanted to create a way to train for ice hockey during the off-season. He developed the first modern in-line skates by putting together a metal frame, durable urethane wheels, and a heel brake. Olsen later founded Rollerblade, Inc., and began producing in-line skates for general recreation. With innovations like polyurethane boots and wheels, in-line skating became an easy, enjoyable activity available to many people. Today there are more than 30 in-line skate companies that produce skates, protective gear, and apparel specifically designed for recreational skaters. Contributed By: Suzanne Nottingham Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.