TAKE EVERYTHING YOU know about the ideal derby skate set up and turn it on its head. That is the overarching theme I got from an in-depth conversation with Kristin and Bryan Van Overschelde, owners of Sk8 Ratz skate shop in Loveland, Colorado.
While that may seem like an oversimplification, (I see you gear nerds) many of the modifications needed for park skating are the exact opposite of what one might look for in a pair of flat track derby skates. Putting together the best skate set-up is about balance so each component should be tested and approved. Unfortunately, there are no universal brands or combos that work for everyone; you just have to try each component out to get the best fit for you.
The four components to tackle when creating your best skate park skate include toe-stops, trucks, wheels and slider blocks.
Size for toe stops is key, and smaller is better. When navigating bowls, a shorter- stem toe stop is going to allow for more manuverability. Shorter stems will still allow you to stop, grip, and turn, but they are less likely to get caught up or trip you since they have a lower-profile. Due to the fact that you are not skating on a flat surface you might also notice that shorter, smaller toe stops get the job done.
Good news: Trucks for your park skates already exist and might be as close as your local skateboard shop. In fact, Bryan VanOvershelde points out that modern skateboards were based on roller skating tech from the 50’s then modified for use on streets and vertical surfaces. So, let’s reverse engineer this: Think of putting together your park skate as if you were putting together a tiny skateboard—well—two tiny skateboards.
Skateboard trucks offer a wider axle as well as a deeper distance between the tip of the kingpin and the sole of the boot. This helps to accommodate the slide block and wheels as well as making sure there are no friction points between the boot, slider, wheels, plate and kingpin.
When purchasing wheels for your skate park gear, you are looking for a smaller wheel with beveled edges. A smaller wheel allows you to have more control over your speed and lets your natural momentum drive your pace. Work with gravity, don’t fight it. The variety of hardness ranges from “marshmallow,” to “an old bag of peeps,” so please understand when I say that this is where you have to put some effort into trying out different wheels. If you are super lucky, your league or your local shop may have a lending library. If you don’t have that option, look for someone of your basic size and ask them what they use.
Hey, more good news. We’re not in the most beta of beta testing anymore! While you still see some innovation coming from manufacturers, there are a few solid slide blocks that you can pick up that have proven to be reliable and, dare I say it, sick?
The favorite is a slide block that can be attached to the king pins of a skate and is pretty easy to mount. They come in several sizes so skaters with all kinds of feet can work on their slides and stalls. The blocks have a rugged, waxy plastic that is pretty great for sliding and won’t crumble like cheese. When asked about the derby/park skating relationship, the VanOversheldes report that park skating is growing outside of roller derby circles. Park skaters are finding their own in bowls and open, public spaces. As park skating grows momentum, the gear manufacturers are listening. Keep your eyes open for new developments in slide block design as well as an even larger variety of tasty wheels.
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