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Roller-skating is experiencing a revival in Hawaiʻi — and skaters say it's pure joy

Catherine Cruz
A roller skate pop-up stand at a Kailua market.

This happens to be roller skating month and before October gets away from us, we thought we would share what we discovered about the sport in the islands.

Call it a resurgence, or revival, or new discovery... getting on four wheels again has been a diversion for some — and an obsession for others.

At New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, skaters have enjoyed a pop-up rink at the TWA hotel. The roll-a-rama opened up back in June and it's set to close at the end of this month.

Hawaiʻi Public Radio got wind of a group of 20-somethings from Oʻahu headed to the Big Apple this past summer with roller skates in tow.

HPR caught up with Angela Huber and Rachel Siah in Kaimukī. They admit they dropped serious money on this new habit — and their addiction doesn't seem to show signs of waning. It's been a way to get into music of all kinds and to dance their COVID cares away.

roller skating video - catherine cruz

They said watching other people have fun skating on social media enticed them to start.

"It was really inspiring and seemed really liberating. And it was exactly what I think we both needed in a time of a little bit more restriction," Siah said.

Siah and Huber got their hipster roller time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Siah took it even farther — to Europe.

"I went from New York to Germany, Berlin where it actually has one of the biggest skate communities I've ever seen. It was really special. A large part of the community skates in this old, abandoned airport tarmac where there are roller skaters on quads, on the inlines, bicycles, skateboarders, everyone there kind of skating together and there's music," Siah told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

Melissa Garvey of Roller Skate Oʻahu knows a thing or two about the skating scene. She's from New Jersey and spent many a day wheeling through Manhattan. Garvey never outgrew the sport. HPR caught up with her at a pop-up market in Kailua.

She said she knew she was onto something when she sold out her inventory of skates.

A year ago, Hawaiʻi used to have five skating rinks, attracting inline speed and roller derby skaters. Garvey dreams of opening up a shop and has the pulse on skating across the islands.

Catherine Cruz

"People just meet up and skate in parks. They're all very respectful of each other. We've had a lot of rollouts, very aware of COVID so we always mask up and socially distance. Very family-friendly," Garvey said.

One skater, Leimomi Kekina, is known for being somewhat of a speed demon. She can clock 22 miles an hour on quads, which has won her the admiration of fellow skaters.

She said she stumbled across roller-skating again, as an adult, while looking for something to get her through COVID and the shutdown.

"I can't explain what the addiction is or how we got addicted. But once you get into your groove, it's just — it's unexplainable in that once these skates are on my feet, I feel like I'm 10 years old again, even though I'm 52 and I feel like I'm old as heck," Kekina said. "Every time I put them on, my face just wants to break into a big ol' smile and I can't help it. It's just pure joy. Pure exhilaration."

This segment aired on The Conversation on Oct. 26, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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