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In-line Skates Rapidly Becoming Hot New Pastime

By Eddie Grauman

An anxious student zips past you in a blur of humanity. ... A person you've never met suddenly becomes a close friend, whizzing by through a narrow doorway. Both are engaged in the hottest trend at MIT -- in-line skating, more commonly referred to as Rollerblading.

Rollerblades, or "blades," for short, are hybrids of ice skates and traditional roller skates that have taken college campuses, and especially MIT, by storm. Though they have only recently entered the market, they are now becoming enormously popular.

Blades are literally all over the place. Every day, multitudes of students can be seen skating across the river or down Memorial Drive on the way to class. The Infinite Corridor teems with bladers of all skill levels. They careen down the halls, narrowly missing each other and often escaping certain death at the hands of an open door.

Bladers have many explanations for their mode of transportation. First, the skates offer a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B. They are relatively light and are much quicker than walking. Blades are basically theft-free, since they remain on the skater's feet. Third, and most importantly, they offer a number of recreational options.

Aside from simple transportation, blades can be used for "anything from roller hockey to freestyle skating to all-out racing," explained H. L. McLeod '95, who can regularly be seen crossing the Harvard Bridge on skates.

Roller hockey and freestyle skating are two of the more popular blading activities. Roller hockey is quite similar to ice hockey, but is played on an open stretch of pavement and usually involves less contact. Many ice hockey fanatics play during the summer months when ice rinks are closed.

"It's great practice for hockey -- especially when you can't get ice time," said Matt Libby '95.

Freestyle skating involves "tricks requiring highly developed skills," according to McLeod.

Several local hot spots can usually be found brimming with skaters. Two of the most popular are the Boston Common and the Esplanade.

"The Common is a great place for hockey and recreational skating," according to Libby. The Esplanade, on the other hand, is usually home to freestyle skaters and people who skate for the exercise.

"It's a great aerobic workout," says one frequenter of the Esplanade.

Getting started with in-line skating is fairly easy, but not cheap. A pair of blades can cost between $130 and $300, and safety pads will set a new skater back up to $70. Also, the rubber wheels must be replaced every few months, at a cost of $70 to $90. McLeod recommends that beginners go shopping "with someone who knows what he or she is doing" so that they can get a good deal.

The most important consideration for beginners is safety. Bladers can stay safe by following a few simple rules of thumb. Most importantly, some form of padding should be worn at all times. Particularly recommended are wrist guards and knee pads. According to Jason Mondonaro '96, "People should wear their pads more often. That way they can experiment with cool new maneuvers and still be okay."

Another important consideration is the flow of traffic.

"Watch out for traffic around here -- don't get hit," warns one local salesman. It is also generally a good idea not to skate at night or in the rain. "The darkness makes it impossible to see the unevenness of the road and the wetness removes the traction between the wheel and the road," the salesman said.

"As long as people follow safe blading practices, skating can be a lot of fun," says Mondonaro. The popularity of blades indicates that many people agree with him. Rollerblades have quickly become an institution at the Institute.