There’s no question roller skating has exploded in Toronto and throughout the GTA and while roller skating never really went out of style, its popularity skyrocketed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as people stuck at home, looking for something active to do outdoors, saw their social media feeds swell with joyful videos of trail skaters and roller dancers.
Brampton’s Jared “Rollerouge” Kerr only began roller skating in May 2020. But after sharing videos of his progress on social media, Kerr now has more than 41,000 followers on TikTok and another 22,400 followers on Instagram.
“I found my dad’s old roller skates in the garage, put ’em on, put the headphones on. Just skating in the street and I was like, I like how this makes me feel,” said Kerr.
When Renelle Collins wanted to find some people to go roller-skating with in the early part of 2020, she said she started the Facebook group “Roller Skate Toronto.” The group has grown to nearly 3,000 from just a handful of members.
“I love the freedom that it gives you…it’s so freeing to just be rolling along and the wind is blowing in your hair,” said Collins.
On any given evening, you’ll find roller dancer Keegan Shim at College Park, an outdoor roller skating hot spot in Toronto.
“Roller skates were just flying off the shelf but with people buying roller skates, they need a place to skate,” said Shim.
With indoor and outdoor rinks closed due to pandemic restrictions, the smooth College Park trail made it a go-to for newbies, families and experienced skaters who will often come together to create roller dance routines in front of an appreciative audience.
Forty-year roller skating veteran Michael Kassapian told Global News he travels the GTA to mix up his roller skating experiences and he pointed out wherever he goes, there’s always a good mix of skaters from all ages and backgrounds.
“There’s no judgments and that’s what we need more of in this city. I think that’s why roller skating is also growing because there is no limitation on who can be a part of it. Everybody is welcome,” said Kassapian.
Further proof of roller skating’s rise is the “Retro Rolla” pop-up at The Bentway. When owner and operator Henry O’Brien couldn’t find a place to rent roller skates in Toronto, he said he decided to create one. The rental service provides roller skates, knee pads and wrist guards for an hour or more at a time and the last two weeks have sold out.
The City of Toronto is also rolling with roller skating’s popularity. An announcement on Thursday outlined nine locations across the city that will offer outdoor drop-in sessions.