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rocking rollers

While the past year has left many bereft of fun, a growing number of Londoners have been giddily getting their eight-wheeled groove on.
Leonie Cooper reports on how we’ve fallen head over heels for roller skating

You’ve probably seen them in your local park, a flash of brightly coloured protective gear whizzing past as you take your daily stroll. Or maybe you’ve heard the trundle of wheels, followed by a joyful whoop as they master a new trick, or a yelp of ignominy as they crash to the ground. They are the capital’s new breed of roller skaters and they’re swiftly multiplying.

As a form of social distancing-compliant outdoor exercise, London’s lockdown love affair with skating has seen all kinds of people getting their skates on, from Taskmaster comedian Lou Sanders to I Am Not Your Baby Mother author Candice Brathwaite. Sanders has set up a TikTok account —
@louskatersanders — to document her roller journey, featuring attempted handstands in underground Lidl car parks while on wheels and sessions on the graffiti-covered skate ramps of north London. ‘It’s the most fun I’ve ever had and I used to do mandy quite a bit,’ joked the presenter on Instagram.

TikTok has more than played its part in the current roller skating boom, with glamorous global influencers such as LA-based actress Ana Coto and fellow Californian Coco Franklin sharing scenic and skilful videos, in which they gracefully sail past palm trees and sunsets in hot pants, inspiring equal amounts of respect and cold, hard jealousy.

Candice Braithwaite

Even Lana Del Rey is getting in on the action, with her recent ‘White Dress’ video, which finds the singer somewhere on a desert highway, weaving elegantly across the deserted road on wheels. However, Del Rey’s fractured arm proves that even superstars aren’t immune to the occasional dangers of the sport — she’s seen wearing a tasteful sling on her arm as well as a dainty vintage smock in parts of the Joshua Tree-shot clip.

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ROLL WITH IT
Where to get your skate on

Hyde Park

A haven for skaters since the 1970s, in Hyde Park — and next door’s Kensington Gardens — skaters are allowed free rein on cycle paths, Serpentine Road and The Broad Walk. Learners can get up to speed in a sweet spot by the Albert Memorial.

Queen Elizabeth
Olympic Park

Built around the 2012 Olympics site, east London’s proudly urban QE Park features endless smooth concrete pathways and tracks, perfect for beginners getting to grips with their wheels as well as practised pros. The views of the London Stadium are awesome, too.

Roller Nation

This May, Bruce Grove’s dedicated skate spot will reopen its doors. Look out for special DJ sessions from the World Unknown underground party crew as well as VIP bashes — it’s where electro-pop artist Georgia held her album launch last year.

St James’s Park

Add some regal grandeur to your ride and hit up St James’s Park, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace. The long and straight shot that is The Mall is perfect for picking up some speed, using the North Horse Ride cycle track.

Any local skate park

Skate parks aren’t just for floppy-fringed skateboarders. If you want to incorporate ramps and tricks into your ride then there are plenty of skate bowls across the city to have a go on, from Clissold Park to Clapham Common.