California is in a ‘new era of roller-skating.’ Here’s where to roll into the party
There are few trendy L.A. scenes you can show up to as a lonesome outsider, then leave with at least one new friend — if not a whole built-in community to call home. But that’s exactly what happened as I rolled through dozens of local roller skaters’ favorite spots across Los Angeles County.
Yet the city’s roller-skating scene also seems stuck in a purgatory of sorts, as communities struggle to find safe spaces to do what they love amid constant pandemic-related changes.
Caught between a boom of social media virality during a bust of the city’s most iconic indoor rinks, skating in L.A. at times feels defined by the clash of two distinct cultures. Longtime local skaters raised in the traditions of L.A.’s legendary roller-dance scene mourn the loss of its historic locales like World on Wheels, which permanently closed in 2021. Meanwhile, an ever-growing wave of new outdoor skaters now flocks to L.A.’s palm tree-lined boardwalks, boosting burgeoning online skating communities as well as their own social media profiles.
“It hurts me to say but indoor rinks are going to be obsolete. Just history,” laments Raquel “Roxy” Young, a third-generation skater turned community organizer fighting to preserve that culture.
Even before the pandemic, she saw the writing on the wall, sensing the efforts to reopen World on Wheels would die alongside her cousin, rapper Nipsey Hussle. Now, she carries the hometown hero’s spirit by organizing free monthly outdoor skate parties for her displaced community. Anyone is welcome. But Young condemns the newbie “TikTok skaters,” who gained followings by learning from OG L.A. skaters yet fail to give back as their culture struggles to survive.
“We’re out here on the front lines trying to save the rinks you started from,” Young says. “This is our lifeline. So what can you do to help us, to use your influence to be on our team, and keep this safe haven for us?”
Yet the other side of that cultural divide is no monolith, either. Some of L.A.’s online roller-skating scene is clout chasing a trend, while others see social media as a vehicle for building their own communal niches.
Jennifer Yonda began the L.A. Skate Hunnies Instagram out of a desire to simply meet other girls who shared her passion for rollouts. Though the pandemic made outdoor skating one of the few safe ways to socialize, doing it alone still came with the potential for injury, harassment and violence.
“I like to call it a ‘third place’ for people. You have work, you have home, then your third place can be a Skate Hunnies meetup,” Yonda says.
Many L.A.-based outdoor skaters share that goal of holding space for other marginalized folks. Skate parks and the larger skate sports scene can be overwhelmingly white, straight and male-dominated, with an aggressive culture that makes many feel unwelcome.
It’s part of why “we accept you” is the tagline for Tony McCoy’s DTLA_Sk8_Cru. McCoy quickly became a formative leader in L.A.’s inclusive outdoor skate scene after a year of organizing a beloved weekly meetup outside the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Yet like so many skate crew events that benefited from the relaxation of official rules in public and private spaces during the early days of the pandemic, it was recently shut down after the museum fully reopened.
Less than a month later, though, McCoy collaborated with groups like the Skate Hunnies for a Pride-themed Father’s Day Sk8palooza. It also honored the four-year anniversary of his son’s suicide, after a struggle to accept his own sexuality. The day of radical joy embodied the ideals McCoy built into his skate community, of “love, acceptance of others and yourself — and taking care of each other.”
It’s no wonder so many Los Angeles Pride events collaborated with their neighborhoods’ own roller groups.
Ironically, though, even the trendy outdoor scene finds itself displaced in L.A. now. During the first year and a half of the pandemic, public park officials hoped to discourage large gatherings by removing equipment like nets from basketball courts. Few could stop the growing number of roller skaters from commandeering such ideal empty courts and vacant parking lots for themselves, though — until city recreational facilities officially reopened. Today, arguments over who gets to use such spaces often end with skaters getting kicked to the curb.
“It’s an entire new era of roller-skating,” said Passion Jackson of Lover Girl Skate Club, an L.A. native who teaches aerobics routines at events. Far from stopping, though, it’s only forcing organizers to get more creative.
After Shayna “Pigeon” Meikle, longtime owner of Long Beach’s favorite roller-skate shop, heard about a skater getting hit by a car in a parking lot, she knew she had to help fix the mounting problem.
“The amount of skaters increased but the amount of places to safely skate decreased,” Meikle says. While her pop-up rink provided a popular option for nearly a year, it too will soon shut down due to a resuming development project that was put on pause during the pandemic.
Though Meikle dreams of establishing a permanent home for Long Beach skaters, others wrestle for use of public space in other cities across Los Angeles County. Kim Manning, a professional artistic skater, influencer and teacher, also questions why officials across the county don’t work to accommodate roller skaters at public tennis, pickleball or basketball courts. Instead, local programs prioritize funding temporary and low-quality pop-up rinks, like the slippery sports court used for Visit WeHo’s Summer on Sunset. (I have appeared in some of Manning’s skate videos.)
Where to go in Los Angeles when you need a pool to cool off? Hotels with day passes.
Parks and city council officials in Los Angeles, Inglewood and West Hollywood did not respond to requests for comment.
Government resources in the L.A. area fund countless free skate parks as well as pickleball, basketball and tennis courts. “Yet we can only have one single skate plaza that the people had to pay to fix themselves?” she asks, referring to the community-funded Venice Beach Dance Skate Plaza restoration.
Still, where there’s a skater, there’s a way. Participating in today’s on-the-go L.A. roller scene can feel a bit like stormchasing. But it’s full of folks wanting to make a home of it alongside you.
Mar Vista Roller Hockey Rink
Venice Beach Roller Skate Dance Plaza and Skatepark
Marvin Braude Bike Trail
Cost: $10-$18, $6 skate rentals
Pigeon’s Roller Rink
Newport Beach Blacktop
Fountain Valley Skate Center
Cost: $12-$18, $7 skate rental
Los Angeles River Bike Path
Los Angeles State Historic Park
L.A. Kings Burbank Sports Center
Cost: $15-$25 events, $7 skate nights, $5 skate rentals
CicLAvia Open Street events
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