Walking is great and running is grand, but Juneau residents have a strong desire to glide — through the air, across snow or ice, or even the plain old ground. Roller skating has been making a comeback in Juneau and a group of enthusiastic locals want to make it more accessible. Welcome to Skate City.
This Sunday afternoon, don’t worry about the cold weather gear, just dust off your quad skates or roller blades and head to Centennial Hall, where you can get the skating rink experience, up to and including the disco ball.
The folks behind Taku RollerSports have been doing their best to bring skating to the masses, with classes available for adults and youth, and the Sunday open skate at Centennial Hall, dubbed Skate City.
Skate City is an open skate event offered Sunday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.
“We have a DJ, mirrored ball, play games and, basically, it’s the old fashioned skating rink for an afternoon,” Kelly “Midgimoto” Moore said.
“I remember a place opening up over at the Mendenhall Mall called “Skateland” in the late ‘70s. From the moment I stepped into the place, I felt this overwhelming desire to skate as a young teenager,” said skater Charlene Flood, who has been skating since. “After being away from Juneau 30 years, I finally came home and in the back of my mind there were things I looked for that were no more. The old bridge was gone, Nibus has moved, and Skateland was no more.”
This Sunday afternoon’s Skate City will be the third of its kind, and Moore said organizers have seen a 25 percent increase in participation since the first event, and she hopes to see a lot more people in attendance.
“It’s a great family bargain,” Moore said. Adults, ages 11 and up, are $10 each and kids, ages 3-10, are $5. Kids 2 and under are free and non-skating adults are free. “This was set up so that parents could come and enjoy the time watching their kids.”
For those who might be a bit wobbly on skates, Moore, and other skating coaches and instructors are always on hand to help.
“We at TRSC want you. We are accepting of anybody who wants to try skating out. We are hoping to grow and eventually offer once a month co-ed scrimmages, junior roller derby and as always, fun skates. We are here for the community of Juneau,” Shonda “Money Honey” Belknap said.
If you can’t bring your own, there is a very limited amount of skates available for loan, but they go quickly. This Sunday afternoon, Taku RollerSports will host 2n1 Skate Shoppe, who will be selling skates and gear. 2n1 Skate Shoppe is a a full-service roller derby gear and service shop based in Anchorage, and is owned and operated by roller girls.
Practice makes perfect with Taku RollerSports.
Moore has been skating regularly since her youth.
“I have been skating most of my life. My parents taught me how to skate when I was about 6 years old. They each stood on the end of a hallway in our home and pushed me back and forth,” Moore said. “My parents were teens in the ‘50s and skating was a big part of the dating culture. They taught me to skate. and I’ve taught my children. In fact, I taught my husband as well.”
Belknap first learned as a child, but didn’t get on skates again until 2010 when she got involved with Juneau Rollergirls.
Both Moore and Belknap were coaches with Juneau Rollergirls before forming Taku RollerSports.
Moore teaches adult skating classes Thursday evenings at the JACC, open to women and men, ages 17 and up. She’s in the process of getting certified as a Derby Lite Instructor.
“We have brand new skaters to roller derby veterans,” Moore said, “No matter what kind of skater you are, we have a place for you.”
Belknap and Julie “Empending Doom” Peters work with the kids’ camp, Sundays at noon at Marie Drake Gymnasium, organized through Community Schools. This class is available for youth ages 7 to 17. Heather “Edith Bumpher” Gilchrest, the third founder of the group, helps with both the youth and adult classes.
“Due to being on disability and having hearing loss, I found these lovely ladies working with me and allowing me to set my pace,” Flood said. “I must admit, this is the one sport that is not hard on my body. It allows you to move and not hurt your joints.”
The founders and coaches get a lot of enjoyment out of teaching.
What Belknap enjoys most about her role in Taku RollerSports is clear: “When I see the ‘light’ of accomplishment in a skater’s eyes. It makes me so happy that I can share my love of roller skating with anybody willing to strap on wheels and not be afraid to look or feel silly.”
A league of their own
Founders of Taku RollerSports Moore, Belknap and Gilchrest skated with Juneau Rollergirls initially, but after parting ways, decided there was more they wanted to do.
“We took a few months’ break from skating and all things roller derby. During that period, I realized that I wasn’t ready to hang up my skates and I still believed that I had more to offer the sport of roller derby and roller skating in general,” Belknap said. “We knew what aspects of competitive roller derby hadn’t worked for us, so we simplified our organization by making it a low key, recreational skating environment where ... skaters could just show up and skate.”
“Our mission is to get all of Juneau skating, kids and men as well as women,” Moore said.
While the founders are excited for all things skating, it is still a love of roller derby that inspires them.
“I started roller derby in 2006 with the Salt City Derby Girls. When I relocated to Juneau, I joined the Juneau Rollergirls. I was fortunate to skate with them for a year or so and became a coach, which I loved,” Moore said.
Taku RollerSports will form a recreational roller derby league starting in January. It will be a co-ed league and open to ages 18 and up. It’s not meant to rival Juneau Rollergirls, which is a competitive Women’s Flat Track Derby Association apprentice league, accepting women ages 21 and up and skating competitively locally and beyond. The recreational league will make roller derby available to more participants.
The goal is to have monthly scrimmages along with the other skating opportunities.
Requirements, Moore said, are to attend one practice per week and to pass safety assessments.
More details will be available in the future.
Skating means a lot more to participants than just a healthy athletic activity.
“Skating is a lot of fun. It is also a fantastic exercise,”Moore said, but added, “Skating with Taku RollerSports is about community and bringing us together to enjoy this awesome sport.”
“Just being around these skaters makes me so happy,” Belknap said.
For many adults, making friends can be tough, but activities like skating bring people together with shared interests.
“The friendships and sharing good times are the best,” Moore said.
“It really has a way of bringing a group together with fun,” Flood said.
Skate for self
In addition to the communal aspects, participants of Taku RollerSports have very personal reasons for skating. They find that the sport empowers and builds confidence.
Flood said she really discovered herself skating.
“It was like my own signature of me,” Flood said.
Belknap, who got involved with roller derby off-wheels, has a lot to say about the positive effects of skating. She said she doesn’t go a day without at least thinking about skating now and, since starting, she has lost 20 pounds.
“I feel the healthiest, strongest and most confident on skates,” Belknap said. “Every time I put on my skates, I know that I’m in my happy place. I’m taking the time to feed my soul and body.”
She is sure it can do great things for anyone interested in getting involved.
Said Belknap: “Skating with TRSC once a week is guaranteed to boost confidence.”
For more information on Taku RollerSports, their lessons and sessions, visit facebook.com/TakuRollerSportsClub