Roller skates, are shoes or bindings that fit onto shoes that are worn to enable the wearer to roll along on wheels.
The precursor to roller-skating— ice-skating—is vastly older and can be dated as far back as 1800 BC. Archaeologists found evidence that people in Scandinavia fashioned ice skates from animal bones, pioneering the oldest human powered means of transport.
The invention of roller skates has been traditionally credited to a Belgian, Joseph Merlin, in the 1760s, although there are many reports of wheels attached to ice skates and shoes in the early years of that century. Early models were derived from the ice skate and typically had an “in-line” arrangement of wheels (the wheels formed a single straight line along the bottom of the skate).
In 1818, in Berlin, roller skates made a more graceful entrance into society, with the premier of the German ballet Der Maler oder die Wintervergn Ugungen (The Artist or Winter Pleasures). The ballet called for ice-skating but because it was impossible at that time to produce ice on a stage, roller skates substituted.
In the 1840s, Meyerbeer’s opera Le prophète featured a scene in which performers used roller-skates to simulate ice-skating on a frozen lake set on stage. This exposure had an impact on audiences and lead to the rise of roller skating as a new and popular activity throughout the Continent. As ice skaters subsequently developed the art of figure skating, roller skaters wanted the ability to turn in their skates in a similar fashion.
The first practical roller skate was designed in 1863 by James Plimpton of Medford, Massachusetts, who broke from the in-line construction and used two parallel pairs of wheels, one set near the heel of the boot and the other near the front. He attached the wheel pairs to the boot using springy carriages known as trucks. This construction was first known as the “rocking” skate because it allowed the skater to easily shift on the skates in order to smoothly navigate turns and perform other maneuvers. Thereafter the first great recreational roller-skating craze swept the United States and western Europe, where rinks were built in both small towns and large cities.
In 1908, Madison Square Gardens in New York became a skating rink. Hundreds of rink openings in the United States and Europe followed. The sport was becoming very popular and various versions of the roller skating developed: recreational skating on indoor and outdoor rinks, polo skating, ballroom roller dancing and competitive speed skating.
After the Great Depression and World War II, roller-skating entered a “golden age” in the United States, where it became the biggest participation sport. At its peak, there were some 5,000 rinks and 18 million skaters. Fans flocked to watch Roller Derby: In the late 1940s full-contact matches began to be televised every week.
Roller skating popularity exploded during the disco era but tapered off in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the mid 1990s roller hockey, played with a ball rather than a puck, became so popular that it even made an appearance in the Olympics in 1992. The National Sporting Goods Association statistics showed, from a 1999 study, that 2.5 million people played roller hockey. Roller skating was considered for the 2012 Summer Olympics but has never become an Olympic event. Other roller skating sports include jam skating and roller derby.
The Roller Skating Association’s web page offers some health benefits of roller skating. Some of the benefits they list include:
• Providing a complete aerobic workout
• Burning 330 calories per hour while skating 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h) for a 143-pound person or 600 calories while skating 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).
• A study from the University of Massachusetts found that in-line skating causes less than 50% of the impact shock to joints compared to running.
• Roller skating is equivalent to jogging in terms of health benefits
• The American Heart Association recommends roller skating as an aerobic fitness sport.
During the 2020 pandemic, roller-skating made a big comeback, as people looked for safe ways to have fun during quarantine.
The largest roller skating lesson is 545 people, achieved by Shivganga Roller Skating Club (India) in Karnataka, India, on 10 November 2018.
The fastest marathon on roller skates is 2 hr 17 min 53 sec, and was achieved by Steven Ruppel (USA) in Wausau, Wisconsin, USA, on 24 August 2019.
The longest forwards jump on roller skates is 6.18 m (20 ft 3.36 in) and was achieved by Jeff “Speed Dealer” Dupont (USA) at the Willamalane Centre for Sports, Springfield, Oregon, on 12 February 2012.
The longest conga line on roller skates consists of 308 people, and was achieved by Shivganga Roller Skating Club (India) in Belgavi, India, on 1 November 2019.
The largest rollerskate sentence is made of 1,039 rollerskates and was achieved by Ramkumar Sarangapani (India), in Karnataka, India on 29 May 2022.
The largest roller skating dance routine is 270 participants, achieved by Shivganga Roller Skating Club (India) in Belgaum, Karnataka, India, on 19 November 2015.
The most burpees on roller skates in one minute is 33 and was achieved by Tinuke Oyediran (UK) in London, UK, on 17 March 2021.