Those of you who’ve had the pleasure of shopping at Neon Skates in person have possibly witnessed Delicate Plower hiding all of the more expensive skates and plates from bright-eyed, eager beginners with the good fortune (punny, right?) of being able to shell out all of the monies on their first pair of skates. Plower is often heard saying, “I’m the world’s worst salesperson. Don’t give this shop more money than you need to.”
Uh…clearly the notion of capitalism escapes poor Plower. Except that she’s right. (As usual.) Bonnie Thunders would still be Bonnie Thunders in a pair of Riedell R3s because bitch is simply awesome at what she does. And if you don’t know who she is, please right this massive wrong before reading any further.
Money does not equal skill
All you need to get started in roller derby are skates that fit YOUR feet, protective gear that stays put, and wheels suited for the surface you’re learning on. Buying top-of-the line skates before you know how to skate will not result in a sudden ability to do MOAR BETTER; they may in fact do the opposite.
Skates that fit
More expensive skates and plates are designed to meet particular needs: some skaters discover they prefer more ankle support, while some wish their skate boots were bowling shoes. Some people need responsive plates to compensate for heavier feet, while some bouncy players need a little more resistance from their plates. When you don’t know what your skating style is, a high end skate may end up crippling you.
Focus on getting the right size and don’t worry about the stock plate (meaning the plate that just comes with the skate). There’s a lot of lore out there about heavier skaters destroying nylon plates, but years of direct experience have shown that to be untrue. Once you’ve learned how to roller skate, you will recognize where you’d like more flexibility, where you’d like more stability, where you’re limited, and where you’d like to set limits. Then, spending more will result in equipment that will complement your growth.
Where cutting corners can be harmful
We all have different bodies that require different support. If you’re managing a tight budget, less expensive skates are not your problem, the gear is the issue. NEVER SKIMP ON GEAR.
No matter where you’re skating, you’re not allowed to your first practice without having some kind of insurance. It’s a full contact sport, which carries a certain risk. Any ol’ pads from Canadian Tire will maybe get you through the first few practices, but not much further.
A few words of advice: gear should fit snuggly. If it’s a bit loose, it’s going to stretch and flop everywhere. Knee pads need to have some solid padding in them; a plastic cap with Velcro IS NOT SUFFICIENT. Your knees are precious and if you’d like to spring out of bed in your sixties, protect your knees. If you’re buying online, we’ve included size charts. If you find yourself in between sizes, go down, not up because everything stretches. The bottom line: the heavier you are, the more protection you need around your knees. We can swap bits and pieces around in fresh meat packages, so don’t be afraid to ask. Substitutions are encouraged!
Aside from your knees, which actually take a lot of abuse, you need to consider your head. The helmet isn’t like knee pads, it’s not something that’s repeatedly being tested, but it’s always there, looking after you. The helmet’s a safety net and your head is super important so get a CERTIFIED HELMET. No shells with flimsy padding. It’s one thing to have achy joints, it’s quite another to like…die.
Fun helmet fact: standard-sized helmets are all the same size, it’s actually the thickness of the padding inside that changes the fit. Don’t size down with a helmet. Heads swell when they work out and the last thing you want is a vice on your temples. Another fun fact: S-One helmet liners are cheap! If you’re between sizes, you can mix and match liners to get that perfect fit.
It’s a daunting process, but getting to a skate shop may not be something you can do. If you have any questions about fit and suitability, just shoot us an email. (Like you, we are also a bit afraid of the phone…) We have experience with all shapes, sizes, and genders.