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.
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.
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.
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?
Cohen, Anthony. ‘Introduction’ The Symbolic Construction of Community. Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2001, p.14
'Aggressive inline skating'
viewed 27 May, 2010.
‘Define Community at Dictionary.com’
'Inline Skating - History of the Sport'
viewed 27 May, 2010.
‘What is Community’