Published Thursday, August 3, 2006

Oakland Tribune (including Alameda Times-Star edition), The Daily Review, The Argus, and the Tri-Valley Herald (including the Tracy edition and the San Ramon Valley Herald)

TheGodFatherIBA.jpg (1731693 bytes)

AT THE WHEEL: David Miles, known as the Godfather of Bay Area roller skating, does everything he can to promote the sport, including DJing and serving as president of the California Outdoor Skating Association. (RON LEWIS

wpe3EF.jpg (15346 bytes)

David Miles tries to keep Bay Area skating scene hoppin'

'By Christina Troup, ANG STAFF WRITER

NICKNAMES like the "Godfather" just don't get handed out, you know. Earning such a title usually involves guns, bloodshed and, on occasion, a severed horse head. But (thankfully) that wasn't the case for David Miles, the "Godfather" of the Bay Area's roller skating scene.

GodFatherBurningMan.jpg (39824 bytes) As it turns out, the moniker was inspired by one of Miles' signature costumes. Known for his outrageous roller disco garb, San Francisco's resident skate czar was dressed to the nines as Don King at the desert art festival Burning Man a few years back where he was christened the Don Vito on wheels.

"When I was at Burning Man people would say, 'Hey, there goes Don King!' This one guy, though, he was like 'Nah, that's the "Godfather,"' and the nickname just stuck," he says.

Miles hasn't made anyone sleep with the fishes, but that doesn't mean his patriarchal status isn't well-deserved.

Let's just say the self-described "hardest working man in skating" truly is. His full-time gig is, essentially, being the Bay Area's ambassador of roller skating. Between teaching skating lessons on Saturdays in Golden Gate Park, Miles serves as president of the California Outdoor Roller Skating Association and has produced more than 200 skating events such as Friday Night Skates (think Critical Mass on roller skates at a global level — they're even held in Paris, France); Burning Man's Black Rock Roller Disco; and San Mateo's annual Crystal Springs Inline Marathon.

But wait, there's more.

The 50-year-old's recent weight loss of about 60 pounds has inspired him to promote health and fitness to the masses via the campaign, "Healthy Saturdays," which aims to expand the closure of portions of Golden Gate Park to motorists to include Saturdays in addition to Sundays, so folks can enjoy the park free from the hustle and bustle of cars on a second day a week.

So, just how did a bricklayer from Missouri become the Bay Area's undisputed king on wheels? It started in 1979 when Miles hopped on a Greyhound bus en route to San Francisco where his motherlived. After wandering the city for a few days, the 23-year-old ventured into Golden Gate Park and discovered something "totally out-of-sight."

"I had skated before, but never outdoors. I just thought it was the coolest thing and, I swear, the very next day I bought myself a pair of skates and I got swept up in the skating cyclone and the rest is history," he says.

This "skating cyclone" essentially led to him meeting his wife, Rose, whom he remembers impressing with the move called the "Coffin," better known as, "where you end up, if you mess up." The move involves scrunching down into a squat close to the ground, turning your torso to the side and swinging a leg around forward so it sticks straight out.


"Any girl who doesn't like that, well, she's got issues," he says.

The two skaters, who passed on their roller DNA and now have three champion skaters of their own, met back in the heyday of skating, which Miles recalls as a time when thousands of people on wheels frequented Golden Gate Park.

Although predominantly an outdoor skater, one of Miles' current projects is breathing life into lackluster indoor skating scenes like the one at the Redwood Rink in Redwood City, which has been experiencing a decline in attendance, as have most other rinks.

Although he does say roller skating is on an upswing due in part to exposure from the Coca-Cola commercial with Venice Beach skaters, movies like "Roll Bounce" and Jessica Simpson's music video for "A Public Affair."

"You'll find that there have been waves to skating. I think there's like a 10-year cycle — another generation discovers it and another remembers it," he says.

Randy Vanbuskirk, 6, of Redwood City is definitely part of that new-school crowd. The tiny roller has been hooked on skating for the past three months, and every Friday and Saturday night you can catch him busting moves to Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz' "Snap Ya Fingers" with his pals at the Redwood Rink.

"I like skating because of the music. I like the songs that David plays. I also like being with my friends," says Vansbuskirk, who Miles says is on his way to becoming a champion skater.

The skating guru, speaking and performing DJ duties at a recent Saturday night skate in Redwood City, says what ultimately makes roller disco successful is a good DJ and the right mix of music. Although he's partial to old-school jams from George Clinton and Rick James, he does infuse new tunes from the likes of Beyonce and Dem Franchize Boyz. He says it does get hard at times to stay atop who's who in the Top 40 crowd because of the short life span of artists.

However, he's hopeful that he'll be able to draw a crowd to the Redwood City rink by not only creating just the right mix of music for both new and old schoolers, but by also holding events like this Saturday's Black Rock Roller Disco, the last in a series of fundraisers aiming to bring Golden Gate Park's skating scene to Burning Man.

"The thing about skating is it accepts everyone. The toughest of the tough, the meanest of the mean ain't nothing if you can't skate. You just push them down, knock them over, no problem," jokes Miles, "But really, skating is so positive and anyone can do it. I love that this is my life, I just don't see why everyone isn't out rolling around, clapping their hands and getting down on their skates."

-David Miles hosts the Black Rock Roller Disco Redwood City Roller Jam from 8:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Redwood Rink, 1303 Main St., Redwood City. Admission is $10 for people in play garb or costume; $15 no costume; $5 for skate rental. Call (650) 369-5558 or visit

You can e-mail Christina Troup at

Learn to skate

Learn to get rollin' with group or private skate lessons from David Miles on Saturdays at Golden Gate Park. The 90-minute course teaches proper skating form, balance, stopping, turning and how to traverse hills. Lessons are given at Sixth Avenue and Kennedy Drive in San Francisco. The group rate is $25 without skates; $35 with skates provided. Private lessons are $50 without skates; $60 with skates provided. Call (415) 752-1967 or e-mail

Where to roll

- Antioch: Roller Haven, W. 10th St. and Fairgrounds Park. Call (925) 779-0204 or visit

- Milpitas: Cal Skate of Milpitas, 980 Los Coches St. Call (408) 946-1363 or visit

- Redwood City: Redwood Roller Rink, 1303 Main St. Call (650) 369-5558 or visit

- San Ramon: The Golden Skate, 2701 Hooper Drive. Call (925) 820-2525 or visit


Hit Counter