December 14, 1990

Bay Area's Skaters Let The Good Times Roll
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INLINES ARE IN!!!  Eddy Matzger of Berkeley races his pop, Paul, at Golden Gate Park

By Lynda Seaver The Tribune

Holy roller derby! Skating is making something of a comeback.

The emphasis is on the something, for if you were to talk to anyone of the thousands of skaters freewheelin' throughout Golden Gate Park, they'd tell you rollerskating has never really died.

"It's just been out of the limelight," said David Miles, president of the San Francisco-based Outdoor Rollerskating Association of America.

Every Sunday, Miles, who coordinates much of the organized skating in California, heads out to the park, where several very large blocks are opened to skaters only.

There you will find them taking leisurely strolls, break dancing or engaged in blinding slaloms, gravity defying acrobatics or pickup games of street hockey. It's a close-knit group (practically everyone is on a first-name basis) attracting many skaters from the Eastbay. Now Miles is ready to branch out. Along with a contingent calling itself the Lakeside Rollers, Miles will make Lake Merritt something of a skating mecca.

It's going to take ,a long time,"he conceded of the Oakland assault. "The paths needs some major repaving and someone has to come up with the money."

Of course, Miles has yet to approach the various city officials with any real proposal. Still, he hopes to drum up support this Sunday when the Outdoor Rollerskating Association holds its Kryptonic Christmas Classic, a skating exhibition and competition that will take place all day at John F. Kennedy Drive at Sixth Avenue in San Francisco.

The exhibition, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature speed skating, dancing exhibitions, barrel jumping and aerial acrobatics. Admission is free.

'Miles and his skate team - they perform at various fairs and, festivals - will put out the message that "skating is the recreation for the '90s, a sport that is beneficial physically and mentally. "It's not something that should be limited to childhood," he added. "The people who have the attitude that this is something childish are the people who are working too hard."

Miles, in his 30s, has been a part of the Golden Gate skate scene since the early 1980s, when the park first allotted a special section just for skaters. He says he lobbied City and park officials to come upwith $180,000 to build a special skating area on Kennedy Drive.

On a good Sunday, we get up to 4,000 skaters during the day" said Miles, who works for the city's parks and recreation department. To keep things rolling, Miles oversees several safety patrols including a troop of Explorer Scouts - and offers free lessons every Sunday at 11 a.m. He and. his charges dispense all sorts of advice as well as the occasional bandage.

Rollerskating, the province of disco parlors and beach boardwalks during the '70s, is enjoying something of a third coming. The urethane wheel that replaced the metal wheel lead to the '70s fad, and now in-line skates are attracting the attention. These skates feature a single line of fast-moving wheels down the middle of a ski-type boot.

Think of an ice skate on wheels. Miles says the in-line skates provide more speed - you can skate up to 25 mph on a flat surface - less friction, and make for "more graceful moves."

Yet the new skates .have a braking system that is awkward when compared to older skates. Whereas conventional skates' toe brakes enabled quick stops on the proverbial dime, in-lines have a heel brake that must be dragged along.

The in-lines are also expensive, averaging between $80. and $350. In contrast, conventional skates can be purchased for under $100.

For those who don't want to fork over the cash, there are always rentals, available through moble shops and small storefronts such as Skates on Haight - surrounding the park." In-lines and conventional skates can be rented for a few dollars by the hour, or for daily rates in the $10 range.

For more information on joining the Outdoor Rollerskating Association or skating on Sundays, call 864-5819