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  From the San Francisco Chronicle "Outdoors" section Aug. 10, 1992
D,Tif,MelChronicle.jpg (153944 bytes)
 David Miles patrols and promotes Bay Area's in-line scene             BY GLEN MARTIN  
         CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
The paving of America may instill angst and outrage among wilderness advocates, but all that concrete has a natural constituency with rollerskaters. And San Francisco, with its widely varied terrain, offers skaters an arena for their sport that is matched in few places in the country. The city teems with skaters, as anyone who has walked in and around Golden Gate Park on a weekend knows. It's been that way for 15 years, though the scene has changed radically since its early days.
David Miles, the head of the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol, recalls the genesis of San Francisco's romance with rollerskates,

"The late '70s were the Disco Years," says Miles, a 36-year-old native of Kansas City who moved to San Francisco in 1979 to escape the rigors of Midwestern winters. "People were heavily into dance routines, and everything was done on sta~dard quad skates, of course. But in-line skates have changed everything.

 Dcoffin.JPG (66380 bytes)               David Miles performs "The Coffin"
"Skating has shifted from a kind of choreography to a hard-core, aerobic, competitive sport. In the '7Os, there were probably three times as many people skatmg in the park than now, but the focus has changed - it's about conditioning and competition now. Back then, it was all style."

In many ways, Miles is the godfather of Bay Area skating. He is not, by his own admission, the best skater around, although his skill is at an unimpeachably high level - he enjoys a local reputation for his ability to execute "The Coffin," an extremely difficult maneuver that involves stretching out parallel to the ground over one skate.

Yet his interest lies more with promoting skating in all its diverse modes than winning competitions.

"Skating is my life," says Miles, who lives adjacent to the park. "I skate almost every day. But my biggest charge comes from helping the sport expand more than winning events."

Miles is an original member of the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol, which was founded 13 years ago by Peter Ashe. Four months after the patrol was organized, Ash bowed out as director and Miles was elected in his place. He's headed the organization ever since.

"We're not cops," says Miles of the parol. "Mainly we provide assistance to peopIe who are lost or in trouble, but we do try to enforce safety rules and skating boundaries. In the late '7Os and early '8Os, there was a lot of tension between skaters and pedestrians. The patrol helps keep the peace."

Yet the patrol does more than provide advice to disoriented park visitors and chide roller-bladers for unsafe skating. Miles recalls a number of incidents in which patrol members aided police, most notably a 1983 shooting that left a woman dead and a man paralyzed.

"We were standing on the bridge at 8th Avenue when we heard the gunshots," ;ays Miles. "And we took off immediately. Skate Patrollers aided the victims, and others shadowed the gunman, trying to keep him sight. They were able to give the police a good description, which helped in his capture. It was definitely scary, but I think the patrol performed very well."

The skate patrol is restricted to 18 members and the bylaws are accordingly strict. Members must be CPR certified, submit to a six-week probationary period and never miss an assigned patrol. They must also put duty before schmoozing.

"A lot of people aren't temperamentally suited for it," says Miles. "Some people skate because they want to meet other people, and they have plenty of opportunity for that in the park. But the purpose of the patrol is to skate and provide whatever help is needed, not make dates."

In addition to ramrodding the skate patrol, Miles gives lessons on skating and serves as a regional representative for Kryptonics Wheels. He also heads the Outdoor Rollerskating Association of America, which he founded. The Association sponsors various competitions and skating events throughout the state, including annual tours to Los Angeles.

"I've skated to L.A. four times," says Miles of the invitation-only events. "We're going again in November. It's always an adventure - the first time we did it, we got stuck on a dirt road that went for miles. Skates and dirt just don't go well together."

Skating is a family affair for Miles. His wife, Rose, doesn't skate, but his two daughters - Melanie, 7, and Tiffany, 4-are accomplished in-line skate veterans. Melanie, especially, skates with remarkable aplomb and grace. She won the San Francisco Outdoor Championships freestyle competition for her age group earlier in the year, and was the subject of a feature broadcast on CNN.

"I have mixed feelings about that," laughs Miles, as he watches Melanie pirouette in front of an admiring crowd near 6th Avenue. "She's a great skater, and I love the confidence it's given her - but ever since CNN, she's been incredibly aware of her looks, and picky about her hairstyle and clothes. I don't really want her to be so self-aware at so young an age."

Skating is undergoing some convulsive changes at the moment, and Miles is not altogether happy with everything he sees.

Trends in the Sport

"Most of what's happening is very encouraging," he says. "Like the tremendous interest in roller hockey, for example -it's even an exhibition sport at the Olympics this year.

"But one of my main problems is that quad skaters are feeling intimidated by inline skaters. It's almost considered laughable to use quad skates - and actually, I prefer them, since they're better suited for tricks and stunts."

People, says Miles, should feel free to use whatever skates they want, and to skate in the manner that best suits them.

"I'd hate to see it defined completely in terms of competition," he observes. "Competition is important, because it upgrades skill levels and focuses more attention on the sport. But individual enjoyment is really the bottom line. Just skating through Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon - I can't think of anything better. To me, that's what skating is all about."

 

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