As glamorous as contemporary skating competitions are, the history of skating has also been something to behold, so much so that many have asked, “When did roller skating become popular?”
Even though it sounds crazy, roller skating was first thought of at a party. John Joseph Merlin, a Belgian inventor, decided to display his new wheeled shoes in 1735.
As a result, he skated into the party and straightaway collided with a mirror. Given the fame of roller skating, it’s a small price to pay. Later in 1819, Mr. Petitbled got a patent for the roller skate design. At that time, skates were straight and only had three wheels.
Aside from that, it was hard to turn. Then James Leonard Plimpton made a roller skate with four wheels that let a person move quickly and turn quickly. In 1900, restaurants that served food on skate-wearing bevies made skating very popular.
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When was roller skating popular in the past?
Things were not the same in the ’80s. Teenagers and kids didn’t have phones then. There were no social media platforms for them to post selfies on, YouTube or Netflix to keep them entertained. Interestingly, despite these, when was roller skating famous is not as far as you think. People skate with their families and loved ones.
New York became a place filled with numerous roller rinks, such that Saturday night became a ritual for these venues. There were primarily two groups of people at the roller rinks. The first group comprises people having fun on the rink while the crowd cheers for them.
The second group was holding on to the railings for dear life. Nevertheless, everyone was addicted. It was a ritual that took place every Saturday night. The 1980s were different from now, but it was just as embarrassing to fall while roller skating then as it is now.
In-line skates appeared in the 1990s. Rollerblades were already common. These are just as cool as roller skates, if not cooler. Nevertheless, roller skating is important today, even though most people thought it wouldn’t be. People are going to links and parks with their families and friends to skate more and more.
The roller disco era
Roller skating was an everyday recreational activity in the U.S. before roller rinks were widely shut down. Between the 1930s and 1950s, called the “Golden Age” of roller skating, and the 1970s and 1980s, called the “Roller Disco” era, roller skating was very popular.
Most blogs that discuss roller skating’s history do so through personal accounts. Michelle Trent recalled when she and the elders talked about their earlier roller-skating days while writing about her experience working with seniors. The blogger became interested in the sport’s history and discovered that as the Great Depression started to end in the late 1930s, roller skating grew in popularity. The Golden Age of roller skating officially began at this point.
During the Roller Disco era, which lasted from the 1970s to the 1980s, roller skating became very popular for no apparent reason. This made former President Ronald Reagan establish March as National Roller Skating Month in 1983.
During the 1960s civil rights struggle, roller skating even began to be seen as a culturally significant sport for black people.
When Ledger Smith rode his skates for 10 days from Chicago to the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver an “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, the recreational activity eventually became prominent with the struggle for civil rights. As a sign of protest, the semi-professional roller skater went around with a sign that said “Freedom.”
Roller skating is still being used as a form of protest to voice outrage about current racial injustices more than 50 years later. In 2020, many skaters got together for a skate demonstration to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
How popular is roller skating these days?
The Northridge Skateland roller skating rink closed in 2020 and became a shelter for homeless people. Unfortunately, even though this made things better for one group, it made things worse for another.
Like Skateland, several other roller rinks have closed in the United States. One of the most prevalent roller rinks in the Bay Area, Golden Skate in San Francisco, California, closed in the spring of 2022.
You can keep track of all the closed roller rinks worldwide with the website Dead Rinks. Mark Falso made the website in 2018 to keep track of roller venues that are no longer open. Falso says many rinks have closed today, likely because businesses had to close down due to the COVID-19 global epidemic.
Nationwide, the number of roller rinks has decreased, making the activity less popular. According to Statista, the number of roller skaters in the U.S. dropped from 19.8 million in 2006 to 11.5 million in 2017. In particular, the Great Recession of 2008 made it worse.
If you have wondered why roller skating is not an Olympic sport, you can find out here.
Roller skating popularity from searches in google from 2004
In the following graph, you can see the popularity of roller skating and the number of searches for the term “roller skating” on Google by month from 2004 up until now.
*The graph statistics are provided by Google Trends.
Although some think the COVID-19 epidemic was terrible for businesses, skating may have resurged. Roller skating is becoming increasingly popular among people, as seen by rising equipment purchases, increased Google searches for the skates, and the popularity of roller skating TikToks.
In this article, we covered the question of when was roller skating popular; we have discussed how popular roller skating was in the past and how popular they are these days.
Stay tuned for more information and guides about roller skating!