Changing recreational tastes and rising real estate values drove many Lower Mainland roller rinks out of business long ago.
A pair of Vancouver women on wheels are trying to drive them back.
Carla Smith and Lucy Croysdill are the proprietors of Rolla Skate Club, a colourfully-painted former FedEx truck that’s filled with 120 pairs of vintage Dominion roller skates from the 1980s, protective pads and helmets that they drive around to pop-up rollerskating events, parties and weddings.
And for the next three Sundays, they’ll be pulling up to the Poirier Forum in Coquitlam to conduct learn-to-skate classes, roller workouts and even workshops in roller derby, the rock-em, sock-em version of the sport that’s enjoying a revival as a vehicle for female empowerment.
That’s where Smith and Croysdill come from.
They’re veteran skaters with the Terminal City Rollergirls, a flat-track women’s roller derby league that formed in Vancouver in 2006 and calls the Poirier Forum its training home in the winter months — in summer, they move dry curling rings for competitive matches.
Smith, whose roller derby persona is Booty Quake, said the expansive polished concrete floor of the Poirier Forum is the perfect surface for the soft, polyurethane wheels of contemporary roller skates. It’s also a rare find in the Lower Mainland, since the old Stardust roller rink in Surrey was closed last summer to make way for redevelopment of the property into a condo tower.
Smith said she and Croysdill had been casting about for a way to bring the transformative power of their roller derby experience to the masses when a serendipitous opportunity presented itself; a stockpile of skates had been discovered in the basement of a Hope community centre and the town was selling them for a good price. The women bought the lot, then spent more money fixing up the skates with new wheels and trucks.
They also acquired the panel truck and had it outfitted with racks to hold the skates and other associated equipment.
Smith said they had everything for a rolling roller rink but the rink itself.
Since last May, they’ve been based at Beaumont Studios in east Vancouver, conducting weekly classes and workshops amidst the artists’ studios and gallery at the multifunctional venue. They also offer a fitness workout on roller skates at a yoga studio.
Smith said social media is a driving force in reviving interest in the sport, especially in the suburbs. The skates, with their colourful wheels and neon laces, “look really cool and fresh,” she said, perfect photo fodder for Likes and Shares on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. They also provide a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints and a lot of fun.
“It’s got this natural groove to it,” Smith said. “You get that cool roll and bounce, you get the wind in your hair. It’s like you’re flying.”
At their first session at the Forum last Sunday, Smith said participants ranged from a mother-daughter duo to teens to hipsters and middle-aged skaters.
“People are just smiling,” Smith said. “There’s a feeling of freedom.”
• For more information about upcoming rollerskating sessions at the Poirier Forum, and elsewhere, go to www.rollaskateclub.com.