IRENE CHING was a former Team Withigirl and writer. The Withitgirls and Irene checked in via Facetime for some reminiscing and what has evolved since 2000.
You were a pioneer of hardcore women rollerskaters; what has it been like to watch that scene/community progress? Then vs. now.
It’s been terrific experiencing rollerskating’s journey over the decades. I’ve seen more and more girls and women participating and enjoying this thing we do. I love that more parents are skating with their kids now. It’s such a precious time to share with your kids… to grow and learn with them. Rollerskaters today will skateboard, snowboard, surf, ice skate, and inline, alongside other cross-over sports. So much easier to attain now, with all the great equipment, skateparks everywhere, and social media at your fingertips. The size of the community keeps growing, and we can connect worldwide in seconds. More girls are rolling at the skateparks today, no matter what their choice of ride is.
How has rollerskating evolved for you through different parts of your life? Has it stayed consistently great?
The majority of my skate life was limited to weekends… “weekend warrior” is the term I used. Adult life and responsibilities, ya know! Some of the best years were skating with my son… road trips to find ramps with him and our friends. Skating is the best medicine for your troubles, where you can get away and out of your headspace. I’m blessed to have it in my life! Aside from injuries, it’s always great… sometimes, you gotta pay to play. It’s still just as fun and freeing as the first time… gliding and sliding around. My mom used to spray wax the furniture with lemon Pledge every Sunday morning. You’d find me sliding across the linoleum in my socks from the residue the spray left behind! She didn’t find it amusing, though, LOL.
Favorite part of rollerskating when you first started vs now?
I started on steel-wheeled, clamp-on rollerskates. Then, it was the challenge of mastering these skates. You were the chit in my hood if you could skate backwards in them. I was so stoked when they poured new handball courts, cuz the cement was the best surface to skate on. I learned to go backwards there.
The challenge never fades… that is what keeps the love for skating burning so strong. And, then there’s the thrill and risk factor for added entertainment. Would it be as fun, if fear and pain weren’t involved? I think not. I love the versatility of skating, being a city dweller… I can skate everywhere and take it all in, as I cruise.
Thoughts/comments on the whole new pandemic rollerskating scene?
Cool parts: more space, fewer crowds, empty streets and sidewalks, less trash/hazards, time to reflect and do stuff, and to care for the family.
What sucks: I miss all the hugging and hang times with humans, wearing masks, too much screen time, lack of social gatherings, closed skateparks, and traveling.
Inspiring young skaters you’d like to shout out/highlight?
Camila Gutierrez. She is 10 years old; she has just one season of skating, she loves the big drop-ins. One day I try to teach her how to buy things on eBay and picked up the cheaper skates. We start from that day. Now, she dreams of the Moxi jackboot in pineapple.
She really loves Pier 62 skatepark!
See photos at this Instagram account
Sparks_skates. She is 7. She got her first skates for Christmas when she was 5. We watched some park skating videos and learned that some skaters were trying to skate every day for a year. She decided she wanted to try, and we supported her. That’s how skating started in our house. Now, she seems to love trying it all... skateboarding, longboarding, snowboarding... she says it’s all “makes her feel like she is flying”. ❤️
5 Quick Questions with Irene Ching
From the Withitgirl Archive published in 2001: Story by Joe Stillwater
withitgirl: Where was your favorite place to rollerskate when you were a kid?
Ching: Growing up in the projects, the smoothest piece of asphalt was the handball courts and the delivery truck's downhill loading dock. Later on, the hills in Central Park.
withitgirl: Is there anything that people assume about rollerskating that pisses you off?
Ching: That I should be riding inline skates, as if I've never tried them and that I am ignorant as to how great they are. Some of the disadvantages of inlines are that they break and wear quickly (replacement parts are hard to get) and they don't have any suspension. Skating side stance (heel to heel) on inlines, you will tend to slide out when carving. Inlines are fast and stable, especially on street because of their longer wheelbase. But rollerskating is a different kind of fun - you should try it.
withitgirl: Where do you get your skates/do you have your skates custom-made/do you customize your own skates?
Ching: For this type of skating, you have to build your own. Over the years, narrow plastic trucks were replaced with 3-4" wide skateboard trucks from the 1970s. Comfy and durable boots, 2 sets of skateboard wheels, modified grind bars, and toe guards. Done.
withitgirl: Do you have a special vitamin/mineral/chemically enhanced diet for superior performance?
Ching: Yep, I take a Flintstones vitamin every now and then. I try to stay with fish, veggies, and grains . . . mostly.
withitgirl: What was the first thing you thought of/ate when you woke up this morning?
Ching: Making a cappuccino and skating this weekend.
ABOUT THE ROLLER SKATES
Boot: Riedell Carrera Sport 106
Trucks: ACS 580
Wheels: Ricta Naturals 60mm Rune
Bearings: Powell Reds
Toe Guards: K2
Grind Bars: Chicago 5
RESOURCES FOR BUILDING YOUR OWN SKATES:
How to build a vertical rollerskate
Additional Photo/Video Credits
First Video: Delaware Water Gap Video, 2008
Joe Stillwater was a writer, video producer, and integral team member of the original withitgirl.
Alanna Edmondson is our phenomenal dedicated intern who helped compile the update.
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