The wind is blowing, and there's a nip in the air. A bit too cold for an oceanside hike, but the kids still need a place to vent their energy.

The solution? Think roller-skating.

"One of the things we do that's fun for the kids is called a flea hop to Top 40 music," said Lisa Camarillo, assistant manager of Skating Plus in Ventura. "They skate around and do a jump and a skip, like dance steps. As far as the kids are concerned, it's the thing to do."

Contrary to its Roller Derby image, roller-skating at the rink is not as aggressive as some people think it is, rink owners say. They will also tell you that on top of being a social sport, skating is good exercise.

"This is great fun for the kids," said R.F. Miller, owner of Roller Gardens in Oxnard. "We keep them interested and moving."

On Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Miller said, kids at the Roller Gardens get a chance to play games such as the hokeypokey on wheels andto try their luck rolling under the limbo stick.

Skating Plus finds a new approach to holding kids' interest. "We do a bucket-of-money drop," Camarillo said. "We put money around on the floor, blow a whistle and then they have a certain amount of time to collect it." Parents are not encouraged to participate.

So what if your child--or you, for that matter--has never been on skates before? Not to fear. Lessons are available.

Camarillo, whose daughter began taking lessons at age 2, said roller-skating isn't difficult to learn, but the rate of mastery varies from person to person.

"A 5-year-old could learn well in two weeks, or a 10-year-old in six weeks. It isn't so much a matter of age," she said, "as much as it is coordination."

Roller-skating isn't expensive--the price of admission ranges from $2.75 to $3.75 without skate rental. But one thing to keep in mind is that, if your child likes it, there could be trouble down the road.

"Last year we qualified seven children for the national championships," Miller said.

"If the kids get the bug and are competitive," he added, "just their skates cost $500."

Where to go: Skating Plus, 1728 Mesa Verde Ave. in Ventura, 656-2120; Skate Palace, 451 W. Hueneme Road in Oxnard, 488-6444; Roller Gardens, 2731 Buckaroo Ave. in Oxnard, 642-5380.

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