That’s Just How We Roll

Two writers explore Dartmouth’s culture of rollerblading — and try out the activity for themselves.

by Allison Burg and Annabel Everett | 5/25/22 5:25am

5-24-22-rollerblading-emilliden
by Emil Liden / The Dartmouth

Even on our fairly small campus, Dartmouth students seem to utilize every alternate means of transportation — regardless of the season. In winter, that meant cross country skis, and now that the weather is warming, we’re taking out our skateboards, bikes and, of course, rollerblades. When the sun is shining, rarely a day passes when we don’t see someone blading, and we had to ask ourselves: Why is rollerblading such a staple across campus?

We — Annabel and Ally — had to investigate this phenomenon for ourselves. 

I — Ally — have been harboring some curiosity for the blading lifestyle for quite some time; after an Amazon purchase and a trip to Hinman earlier this term, I secured my blades. For legal reasons, if my mom asks, I also obtained knee pads and wrist guards at this time. Having only rollerbladed a few times indoors, I was extremely unprepared for 1) hills, 2) uneven roads and 3) my inability to brake. Long story short, always listen to your mom. I may currently have some bruises, but alas, I will persist, as there is truly no better feeling than skating down Tuck Drive with friends, even after purposefully falling to stop yourself. 

Unlike Ally, I — Annabel — had never had any particular interest in blading — that is, up until last Tuesday, when my bike was brutally snatched outside of Collis (it is a black Specialized Hard Rock — please keep an eye out). Once I was without wheels for the foreseeable future, I began to reconsider my stance on Dartmouth’s current transportation craze. Blading has its own unique allure — it sits somewhere between the cool-kid cliche of skateboarding and the traditionalism of biking. So, I made the $50 investment into my own pair of roller blades and joined the ever-growing community of bladers at Dartmouth.

As we began skating, we tended to err on the side of caution, using our new wheels for recreation rather than attempting to use them for transportation. We didn’t think we would look very cool by aggressively falling in the middle of Novack, although we do admit that a sling has the potential to be sick. When we were actually on the bumpy pavement and in the cool air, we found that it was most important who you blade alongside. Second most important was that fun game called “Let’s try not to get hit by a car.” 

On any given Friday afternoon at Occom, you’ll find Dartmouth’s bladers in their natural habitat, gliding around the pond in droves. We spoke to several fellow bladers, and everyone we interviewed this past week only had good things to say about the activity. Madeleine Shaw ’25, a member of the Dartmouth Figure Skating Club who we caught blading with her team, said she was happy to be skating with her teammates again, even as some struggled to learn the different style of skating that rollerblading requires.

“The rink is closed right now, so we’re all just having a good time pretending to be on the ice again,” Shaw said, joking that rollerblading was their off-season training.

Emma Staiger ’22 also got her blades with socialization in mind. She began her blading journey in 2020, during quarantine. 

“[I have] friends that have rollerblades, so it was a cool activity that we could all do together,” Staiger said.

Nonetheless, although she primarily uses her rollerblades for recreation, Staiger has discovered that her rollerblades are “pretty speedy to get around.”

Unsurprisingly — as we are the College in the woods — many students also choose to rollerblade to get outside. 

“It’s just so nice out…  I feel like Dartmouth is so nature-y, everyone’s always outdoors,” Shaw said. “And when [students] are not at the river, I feel like being on skates is a good chance to go outside.”

Staiger added how, in addition to being a fun way to get outside, campus is also “really easy to get around on with roller blades,” as the terrain is mostly flat and paved. Recreational blader Katherine Takoudes ’24 echoed this sentiment.

“The roads are very safe to blade on, the sidewalks are overall not super crowded and we have a great loop right around Occom,” she said.

Takoudes sees the sport as “a very integral part of Dartmouth culture,” adding that she was once approached by an alum while on her blades. “He came up to me, and he was like, ‘Oh my god, is this still a thing around here? ... I used to do 10 to 12 laps around Occom once a week.’”

Shaw agreed that there is a distinct blading culture on campus, since she said that she is “always sees people roller skating around.” 

Staiger seconded this opinion, saying that rollerblading “is becoming more and more popular.”

Rollerblading’s accessibility is also a boon for Takoudes, who noted that the sport is enjoyable even when you’re not “super good.” 

There, admittedly, is danger that accompanies blading. When we inquired about her worst blading injury, Takoudes promptly pulled up the edge of her shorts to reveal a mass of white bandages on the back of her thigh concealing a large patch of road burn. But no pain, no gain … right? 

Not everyone worries about the perils of blading, however; Staiger said that she “is not really afraid of falling.” 

While we can’t quite yet call ourselves experts, or say that we are unafraid of breaking 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 post-Green Key, feel free to join us sometime this week around Occom. Buckle those blades tight! The Dartmouth blading community welcomes you with open arms.

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