Fearless: Youth movement bringing roller skating back to Salt Lake City

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SANDY, Utah (ABC4) – The tattoos on her knuckles spell out “FEARLESS,” and if you were to watch Caitlyn Renshaw on her roller skates, you would say the ink is fitting; she is quite confident on eight wheels.

Occasionally, she is on just four tiny wheels as she whips through the roller rink at Classic Fun Center in Sandy, shooting the duck (crouching down and holding one leg in the air), spinning to skate backward to forward and back, and executing a mohawk (moving with heels together and toes pointed out) that would make hockey star Sidney Crosby blush.

The most amazing thing about Renshaw’s skills is that at around this time last year, she could barely move across a parking lot on her skates.

“I started skating during quarantine when I didn’t have a job. I would do hair for a living and the salons were shut down. I like to be active and I would rock climb, but the gym was closed and so I was like, I need a new hobby, so I started skating,” she tells ABC4 as she steps away from the roller rink.

Renshaw began documenting her skating growth when she learned to master her blue and pink skates on Instagram under the handle @slcskatebabes. Since then, the account has grown to a following of over 3,700 and has become a hub of event dates and information for the growing roller skating scene in the SLC area.

On Monday, @slcskatebabes hosted a Daddy’s Night meetup at the rink near 9000 S. in Sandy, with dozens in attendance. With an incredibly vast range of skaters spanning all races, genders, and abilities there was even one participant making laps while being pushed in his wheelchair it is hard to imagine a more diverse group of young adults meeting anywhere in the state.

Participants at SLC Skate Babes’ Daddy Night make laps around the rink.

“I’m honestly just shocked that it turned into anything, because our first few meetups, it was just like us and then a few friends that would come on like bikes and skateboards and we were skating in a parking lot in the Avenues,” Renshaw explains. “I’m surprised about how big it is and how many people it’s reached and the diversity of people.”

Married couple Jesse and Carlin Miner came to the event together and agree the local skating scene has evolved into a tight-knit community. Jesse claims she is more into skating than her husband, but this time around, it was his idea to head to the rink together.

“It’s kind of like active people-watching for me. It’s just a really fun environment to be in, seeing everybody express themselves doing something, just real chill and fine and groovy. And I don’t come very often, but I had a good time,” Carlin says.

Most of the time, Jesse either attends a skating event by herself or meets up with friends. Either way, she always feels at home surrounded by others in the skating scene.

“The nice part is, like, I can come to a lot of these things and not feel anxious at all because it’s a really, really forgiving group that’s just incredibly kind,” she explains.

Standing out as one of the few members of the group not in the millennial or Gen-Z age range, Eric Lowry, a longtime roller skater, states he was “stoked” to see such a large gathering of young folks ripping up the rink as songs such as “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson and “Lollipop” by Lil’ Wayne blared in the background.

“I roller skate twice a week. I’ve never seen any of these people. But I love skate culture, I’m so excited for any kind of thing. We need an infusion, we need fresh people to get excited in this sport so whatever’s happened in here, I love it” he gushes.

A couplenjoys making their way around the rink at Classic Fun Center on Monday night.

Lowry, who also grew up playing hockey (the author notes he also played hockey and found using traditional roller skates at the event to be surprisingly difficult) has fond memories of skating at places such as the 49th Street Galleria and Hollywood Connection, which have long since closed. Keeping the area’s last remaining roller rink alive is a priority for him and he is hopeful the youth movement can provide an additional boost.

“Every time I walk in the door, I pay because I don’t want these guys to go out of business because I don’t know where I’m going to go if this place closes,” he says.

While it may be intimidating to join Renshaw and her group at a skate event, she encourages anyone who wishes to join in the fun. She remarks several families have shown up to skate together at the group’s meet-ups at local parks and tennis courts. The key to getting better at skating, she says, is to be OK with falling, a lot.

“I just say, get comfortable falling or learn how to fall because there’s definitely a way to do it where, you know, you don’t want to fall right on your elbow hurt yourself,” she explains. “You’re not just going to skate and never fall, or if you are, you’re not necessarily progressing and learning how to like do more.”

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