Venice beach is bringing roller skating back

Don't listen to the haters, go and buy those skates... 

The Venice Beach boardwalk is one of the most famous tourist destinations in America, in fact it ranks in the 'Top 10 America’s Most Visited Destinations.' If you've made a trip down to the famous Venice boardwalk, then I completely understand your confusion. How does a reeking boardwalk filled with stores selling crap and bums asking for money sit amongst beauties like Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon? Because it’s a place for people to come and be judgement free. Where else in America can you find that kind of freedom? Take a walk down the boardwalk, open your mind up a little and enjoy watching the most bizarre people in America congregate and work in harmony. The boardwalks eccentric artists and weed shops are a part of the DNA that makes up the grit and charm. Any place where people can escape their own frame of mind for a second or an hour is truly special. 

Because of the proximity to the boardwalk to the shop I spend a lot of time wondering it. Either for a surf between meetings or to grab a quick coffee. I discover something new every time I wonder, but it wasn’t until a few weeks back that I discovered the Roller Skating Syndicate. Roller Skating Syndicate takes over a section of the skate park and anything other than roller skates are not welcomed. While watching one day I noticed large, muscular macho men roller skating with petite girls and older women. It was a place where all walks of life came to hang out, listen to music, express themselves and decompress before they went back to regular life on Monday morning. 

Last weekend my bizz partner Gav strolled down to the Board Walk to snap a few pics. While he was shooting I decided to approach one of the roller skaters. I must admit, out of fear of getting yelled at or told to stop bothering them I went up and talked to the most approachable looking person of them all, a young guy from Canada that didn’t really look like he belonged in that scene. He was good looking, well spoken and dressed well.  His name, Samol Hawk and he came all the way from Calgary, Alberta to see the roller skating scene in Venice Beach and participate in a roller skating convention. To my surprise there’s conventions for this 8 wheeled expressive sport. I decided to ask Sam a few questions and record our conversation:

GA: So what brings you to Venice Beach? 

Sam: A roller Skating convention actually, my girlfriend is really into it and we wanted to come to California to check it out. We have a small community of roller skaters in Calgary, Alberta and we only have a roller rink so we sorta felt the passion and wanted to come to Venice to feel the vibes. 
[Sam’s beautiful girlfriend wore a pair of customized chuck tailor roller skates that Sam made for her.] 

GA: Describe the Venice Beach roller skating scene?

Sam: It’s well rooted actually with all the older veterans and they seem to have a lot of love for what they’re doing out here and it spills over onto the new comers and I think that’s why people get so addicted to it. 

GA: Is there a hierarchy in the circle or amongst the skaters?

Sam: From what I can tell, yes. There looks like there is and I’ve only really touched the surface of what’s going on but there’s a sorta hierarchy of old school guys and I’m sure there’s a few younger guys that mix it up but I think they’re more at the roller rinks. It looks like the new people learn a lot from the older guys. Learning roller skating is a pretty visual exercise; you kind of copy and learn how to twist. 

GA: So there’s different styles of roller skating?

Sam: Absolutely, yes. Back in Calgary there’s a speed skating club which really trickles down to roller skating, they do a lot of trains and synchronization mixed in with flow. 

GA: And the style that happens in Venice? 

Sam: This is more of a jam, dance like a club with a dance floor that’s how this is. This is why we came and what we wanted to see because we don’t see that in Canada as much. This is the core and it feels like this is where it all started for roller skating. Venice is the roller skating mecca I’d say. 

GA: What’s your favorite thing about Venice?

Sam: The weather and the people. The people watching is amazing. No judgement at all. I’ve never seen anything like it. Coming here there’s no friction between the roller skating and skateboarding. Mutual respect for people I think. It’s like a process just getting through all the people. 

GA: Where’s your next roller skating destination? 

Sam: San Diego has a good scene I hear, New York too. Then Europe has a full scene. It seems like there’s a bit of a roller skating resurgence going on around the world and people are getting back into it, old and young. This is a hobby that I’d like to do for the rest of my life and take what I’ve learnt here back to Canada.

All photos by Gavin Dogan