Why the San Diego Roller Skating Scene is Here to Stay Outside
If you’ve ever wondered about the San Diego roller skating community, feel free to outside. You will find glimpses of them on the boardwalk, where skaters stroll along Mission Beach with a speaker in hand. Or on outdoor rinks like Derby United HQ in Encanto, or Sunset View Park in Chula Vista. You’ll even find them at Liberty Station and, defying the posted rules, at Balboa Park, making a makeshift ice rink with any piece of concrete they can find.
The point is, location isn’t that important when it comes to skating, it’s more about the people, the music, and the energy. In short, he must pass the vibe check.
No one knows this better than Nili Goldfarb, better known as “Isabelle Ringer,” a competitive roller derby skater and owner of the Derby United team. Almost accidentally, Ringer created a unique place for San Diego skaters. A place where pros give lessons, DJs mix house music and turn vinyl, and newbies are invited to lace up for the first time and groove alongside the “OGs”.
“There’s this old culture of how things are done at the rink,” Ringer says. “We take part of that and we mix it up to become another moment.”
Ringer and Derby United, previously known as the San Diego Derby Dolls, spent most of their years training in a downtown warehouse. As prices continued to climb, Ringer set out to find a new location. At the time, the Encanto site was nothing more than an empty dirt plot nestled between construction sites and industrial complexes. But she had a vision: there was room for two outdoor rinks, more space for people to come and watch competitions, ample parking, and the ability to occasionally host open skates for the community outside the world. roller derby. They innovated in fall 2019, and in March 2020, they were putting the finishing touches on the space. Six days after their smooth opening, the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect. So things had to move.
“By the time outdoor recreation reopened last summer, there were so many people who turned to roller skating and were starting from scratch,” Ringer says. “We thought, ‘Hey, we know how to teach people to skate,’ so we started offering very small group classes to teach the basics. “
Classes quickly registered, so she started running open sessions for people to reserve a spot for free skating, which allowed her to build a reputation among the regulars. She even reached out to local DJs who were looking for places to play after cancellations and closings put them out of work. What was supposed to be an occasional event in the pre-COVID era has become the lifeblood of his business and the San Diego skating community.
At the same time, rollerblading started to become a trend on TikTok and Instagram. Many quickly referred to this as a “boom” brought on by the pandemic, much like the cycling boom that cleaned up bike shops across the country. But Ringer thinks that rejects the long history of skate culture.
“Roller skating hasn’t been invented or even reinvented right now,” she says. learn these different styles. I understand some people will say, “I learned it all on Instagram,” and that might be true, but the people you’ve seen on Instagram learned these moves from someone who came before them. You might not have learned it from a person of color, but someone did. “
Express yourself on wheels
While the pandemic definitely gave it a boost (and gave people at home more time to scroll down Instagram), the roller skating scene was already gaining momentum, especially in San Diego. Ringer attributes a few key factors: brands like Moxi, who were among the first to popularize brightly colored skates, and longtime skaters deeply connected to the culture who were eager to elevate and share their knowledge with newcomers. arrivals.
“People saw these Moxi skaters and really skillful skaters like Derrick Pernell,” she says. “You start to visualize yourself in these skates, you know? You just want to be a part of it.
Pernell, who is on active duty in the Navy and stationed in San Diego, grew up in Atlanta. He says roller skating is just a way of life there, something everyone does as they grow up. He fell in love with it almost immediately, skating until he joined the military, and continues to do so between deployments.
“It quickly became a happy place for me,” he says. “I could skate without asking anyone. I could skate without disturbing anyone. I can do it and just be me. I like that aspect of it.
Pernell embraced this new wave of interest in roller skating by offering private and group lessons and teaching at Derby United. His classes end quickly, often with diligent students who started with him as beginners. People admire him, even try to imitate his style. But he says everything he learned was influenced by the OMs of the rink.
“Before roller skating took to social media all over the place, it was this underground thing you just had to know about. These are the people who taught me what I know.
In San Diego, Jerry Beck is one of those OGs, although when asked about it he laughs and says he has no idea how it went. Beck was born in Pittsburgh and grew up as a “rink rat” before moving to San Diego and spending time at the old Sweetwater Rink in National City.
What Beck finds so addicting about rollerblading is the freedom that comes with it. “I love music and I love to dance. You really get lost in that combination, ”he says. “Every time I go out to skate it’s like the first time.”
He has passed on his knowledge throughout his career, teaching everyone from beginners to seasoned skaters who come from across the country. And he says that’s what makes teaching so rewarding: Each skater is going to do things a little differently depending on where they’re from.
“I can watch a skater’s movement and know exactly where it’s coming from,” says Beck. “An Atlanta skater, like Pernell, will move differently than a California skater.”
Pernell says Atlanta skating means high energy with lots of rhythmic stomping in large groups, while Beck says California skating is smoother and slower, where skaters glide across the floor.
“Everyone here does the Downtown. It’s a popular stopover on the west coast, ”says Beck. “But this is also the case in other states. And it will be different in everyone depending on the style, or which influences styles in this area. It’s part of the magic of skating, he says. In a way, every skater is like a melting pot of movements and styles that have influenced them. And when they teach or take someone else’s course, they continue this long line of history.
Pernell says that’s especially true in San Diego: “It’s so refreshing here. The community and the energy here are so different.
And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Now that people are taking the time to learn about the culture behind roller skating, he sees it enduring for the long haul. Isabelle Ringer says that once she can operate Derby United headquarters as a roller derby facility, she will continue to offer classes and open skate sessions: “There are a lot of people who find what they are looking for. here, and I’m not going. to remove that.
He is now part of the community. An outlet for San Diego skaters, whether it’s their first lacing or their hundredth, to move with each other, learn about the culture and, as Jerry Beck says, “enjoy the freedom to express yourself.” on wheels ”.