The Melbourne Rollerblading Community


This documentary shows the Melbourne Rollerblading Community. Rollerblading, in this context, also goes by the name Aggressive Rollerblading and Inline Skating. It is not to be confused with recreational rollerblading.


Definition from Rollerblading.com.au:
Aggressive / freestyle inline skating / rollerblading was born in the early 1980s and is a descendant of the 'less aggressive' pastime called rollerskating. Tricks initially resembled those of the more established sport of skateboarding until later in the decade when Rollerblade marketed the first inline skates and organised amateur competitions. In 1995 the Aggressive Skaters Association (ASA) was formed and the inaugural X Games were held in the USA. Australia's domination of the sport commenced immediately as Matt Salerno, then a 16 year old Aussie, won the Gold Medal in the Street competition.


Definition from Wikipedia.org:
Aggressive inline skating is an extreme sport, performed on specially designed inline skates with a focus on tricks, stunts and style. The sport mainly consists of a wide variety of grinds, aerial tricks, slides and other advanced skating maneuvers. Participants often refer to the activity as "rollerblading", "blading" or "rolling". The sport is divided into "vert" (vertical), park, and street skating, referring to the environment in which the activity occurs. Different environments lend themselves to different tricks, thus the distinction.

The dictionary defines community as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. This is aligning to how I interpret the aggressive rollerblading community in Melbourne; they are a group of people who, while coming from different backgrounds and walks of life, share the same interest of aggressive rollerblading.


Grind Shred Roll Part One // What It Is from Nisa Halim on Vimeo.


In his book on the Symbolic Construction of Community, Anthony Cohen states that the community is symbolically constructed, as a system of values, norms, and moral codes which provides a sense of identity within a bounded whole to its members. He states that community implies and creates a boundary between us and them by use of symbolism. There are many types of symbol which mark the boundaries of community – flags, badges, dances. Languages and so on. This is because symbols always carry a range of meaning whose differences can be glossed over.

In the video above, it gives proof to what Cohen means by "symbolism". It shows how these rollerbladers connect with each other by the rollerblades or "boots" on their feet. It is this passion that brings them together and it is also this passion that helps form some kind of a brotherhood among themselves.

The video was taken on a "Rollerbladers Night" at the Riverslide Skate Park. Before coming together, and making that night a success, the organisers would pass around messages to other rollerbladers to meet at the skate park at a certain time. This is what usually happens whenever an event like this is organised. Sometimes they would go together in smaller groups but because that Tuesday night was kind of special, everybody was invited through Facebook and Emesce Rolling Australia. The purpose of coming that night was to bring succession to the signing of a petition so authorities would allow the lights to be switched on at the skate park every Tuesday night for the rollerbladers so that it would be exclusively open for the rollerbladers only. This is so that this community would not have to wait and fight for their turn with others from the skateboarding, scooter and BMX communities respectively. This is also important for safety reasons.

Unfortunately, the tally was not enough so the request for the lights to be switched on on Tuesday nights was not successful. However, the lights at the skate park are kept on until 10pm every Wednesday and Friday nights and, although these rollerbladers have to share with the above mentioned communities, they are still pleased to have the lights on during these days and amidst the fighting for space and turn, they do have other spots that they go to to skate. This just shows how passionate this community is for rollerblading and that even when they could not win exclusive space for themselves, they would not let that tiny obstacle get in the way of them doing the things that they love.



Grind Shred Roll Part 2 // Freedom of Expression from Nisa Halim on Vimeo.


Apart from going to the Riverslide Skate Park for their routine sessions, the rollerbladers also have a number of different spots that they go to. I gathered a group of rollerbladers to go to what they call Lygon Ledges to do an interview.

Around and near the city area, this is the only place where they can skate freely. This is because all the other ledges in the city are capped or studded, preventing these people from skating. The result to this is the feeling of dissatisfaction because they are not given any freedom to express themselves through their passion.There are many spots in the city that they could go to to express themselves but the authorities are stopping them by putting "anti-subculture" obstacles. People coming from outside of this community label the rollerbladers as delinquents, and some might even label them as deviants, because this community is doing something that other communities perceive as going against norm. But listen closely to Huynh's explanation as to how and why they do not label themselves as such.



Grind Shred Roll Part 3 // The Art of Waxing from Nisa Halim on Vimeo.


A possible reason why authorities are trying to stop this community from skating around the city is because of what is being done in the video above. "Waxing" leaves a prominent mark on the infrastructure, destroying the scenery and it is pretty obvious why authorities are trying to stop this activity from happening, aside from letting them do it freely at a skate park.

I would like to hear what other people think about this community. Would you label them as deviant, delinquent or a bunch of people who are just minding their own business while doing what they love most? Personally, I firstly thought that it would be dangerous to get involved in something that might provoke "the bigger people" but after immersing myself in this sport, I now understand how the rollerblading community is not being treated fairly and given a voice of their own.

First, when they do it at a skate park, they do not actually have that freedom of space. Second, when they requested for that freedom, they weren't granted it. And most importantly, it is that struggle to be accepted by society that puts this community at a bad place all the time. Why can't it be accepted like any kind of sport? Why can't they be given that voice and the freedom to express themselves and to share their passion for this sport with other people? Why can't society, and especially the authorities, accept this sport for what it is? If graffiti is accepted as a form of art, albeit with permit, why can't the same freedom of expression be given to the rollerblading community here in Melbourne?


References:

Google Books
Cohen, Anthony. ‘Introduction’ The Symbolic Construction of Community. Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2001, p.14

Internet
'Aggressive inline skating'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggressive_inline_skating
viewed 27 May, 2010.


‘Define Community at Dictionary.com’
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/community
viewed 30 March, 2010.

'Inline Skating - History of the Sport'
http://www.rollerblading.com.au/aggressiveinlineskatinghistory.htm
viewed 27 May, 2010.

‘What is Community’
http://www2.fhs.usyd.edu.au/arow/o/m11/What%20is%20Community.htm
viewed 30 March, 2010.

13 Response to The Melbourne Rollerblading Community

  1. Izza Nabillah says:

    I've read it Ka Nisa! It's a great piece. Why not link it to adventure and risk taking? EHHEHEHEHEHHEHEHEH

  2. Steph says:

    Well done, Nis! I know the work you've put into this and in my opinion, it's really paid off!

    First off, I dont claim to have very much knowledge about skating but with regards to what you've written about symbolism, I've realised that security guards get quite uptight even when they just see people holding rollerblades or skateboards. They dont even have to have them on for the guards to tell them not to get up to any 'funny business'.

  3. Zai says:

    this is a really well written sort of documentation. really well thought of and gives clear arguments.
    impressed with your personal research.
    excellent.

  4. jurinzai says:

    Dear Nisa,

    ITS the best that i have seen so far. From the define "rolling" to the videos.

    If i were to answer the "do you think that your not vandalising by waxing ledge, handrails and skate on em' ?" I'd say, NOT AT ALL. why. Because ledge and handrails are meant to be skate on. why would people design such way in the first place. :)

    Skate park skating is not the same as CITY skating!

  5. nnurulnabilahh says:

    Strong piece of reasoning and justification. Very well accomplished.


    Good job on voicing out your thoughts on this subject Ka Nisa!

  6. First of all let me just say that this documentary is BLOODY FANTASTIC! Well done cuzz, I'm sure you'll be rewarded for all your excellent efforts!

    To be honest, I used to be (yes, now, it's 'used to be') one of those people who generally saw roller-bladers, and skaters as delinquents ruining public property and causing obstructions/disruptions to the masses. But now I realize that these guys are people, with feelings and opinions just like the rest of the world.

    Well, that's just the way of the world isn't it? Everyone is trying to get by and just be themselves, but the differences are so vast and extreme that clashes are just inevitable.

    I don't know what the proper saying should be in this context but, "Go! Ska8tr Boi! Go!" hahahahaha...

    xoxoxo
    Ka Ana

  7. Anonymous says:

    "People coming from outside of this community label the rollerbladers as delinquents, and some might even label them as deviants, because this community is doing something that other communities perceive as going against norm."

    We tend to label what we can't understand. It's only through education ( for example the videos you've posted, your write-up ) that people can change their mindset about these rollerbladers. You've provided sufficient arguments to make me believe that these bladers are a nuisance out of condition and not choice.

    Having said that, if I was an unsuspecting pedestrian walking down a street and an "aggressive" rollberblader collided into me, I'm sure I'd change my sentiments about whether they need the freedom of space.

  8. Farlala says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  9. Farlala says:

    Great job on the documentary, Nisa! Can definitely see the hard work you've poured into this project.

    I like how you introduced the different layers of your argument with the videos; they allowd the readers to take a break from reading yet still reeling them in.

    It's also wonderful to get the bladers' points of view on the difficult situation they're in. But maybe the documentary would've been even stronger and more balanced if you had presented other points of view? Like from the skateboarding community or people on the streets?

    Still, well done! :D

  10. R.I says:

    Although Im not well versed on Rollerblading but the content of this site has definitely caught my attention. It has provided me a better understanding of rollerblading and the issues associated with the sport.

    Personally, I have nothing against this sport. To certain extent I view rollerblading as some sort of performing arts. Here in Brunei, I've seen the rise of rollerbladers over the years. Given the appropriate platform, rollerbladers can explore their passion/talent and respective authorities could turn the sport into another positive outlet for the youth. Hence, I fully support the sentiment that rollerbladers (regardless where they are) should be given the freedom of expression...

  11. First of, well done with your study of research.

    I personally agree that we have overlooked this form of sport and might disregard it as some-what related to gangsterism.Fortunately with your research and discussion towards the topic, it serves as a voice-out and an eye-opener to us. These people should be given space and should be given the freedom to do the sport that they like most. Just as long as there is no involvement of abuse of drugs and excessive alcoholism or most importantly, gangsterism itself.

    You have a very good point of view. Well versed. Well done.

    -Khairy

  12. First of, well done with your study of research.

    I personally agree that we have overlooked this form of sport and might disregard it as some-what related to gangsterism.Fortunately with your research and discussion towards the topic, it serves as a voice-out and an eye-opener to us. These people should be given space and should be given the freedom to do the sport that they like most. Just as long as there is no involvement of abuse of drugs and excessive alcoholism or most importantly, gangsterism itself.

    You have a very good point of view. Well versed. Well done.

    -Khairy

  13. great work , you conveyed your message well and it sucks that melbourne has some of those restrictions, im sure that it ll change soon enough with some community help and persistence.