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October, 1980


by Michael Arena

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Golden Gate Skate Patrollers en route from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Every weekend, all across the state of California, defenseless streets braced for the attack. It was obvious that no road would be spared. Even tree-lined terraces in quiet residential neighborhoods would not escape the impending assault. The mudslides were just a faded memory and the chance that the old fault line would loosen its grip was only a long shot. Even the belching of a distant volcano posed no threat to these time-worn boulevards. But new vibrations came from an even more irresistable force.

As the cool and rainy months of winter gave way to long sunny afternoons, California unleashed its legions of roller skaters. Thousands of them. All armed with eight gnarly little urethane wheels to torture the unsuspecting highways below. The poor streets, our arteries of transportation. What did they do to deserve this? Well, at least it wasn't an endless convoy of 40-ton semi trucks, or worse yet, an army of joggers pounding the pavement with those waffle-soled sneakers. But why were the usually docile tribes of Lotusland assaulting the concrete and asphalt in a roller blitzkrieg?

It would be easy to conclude that the recent outbreak of skating mania was some sort of mass hysteria or possibly the forerunner of a new roller religion. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Roller skating just naturally brings out the best in people, and the organizers of charity benefits have taken notice. Instead of simply fun-raising, roller skating has become a fund-raising activity for a number of humanitarian and political causes. It is almost impossible to find a benefit bash these days without at least some eight-wheeled participants. From every corner of the political spectrum, organizers have sponsored roller disco contests, sprints, 10k's and marathons to raise money and to provide competitive events for outdoor skaters. The streets and parking lots of California, once mute and mundane, turned into a symphony of urethane and leather.

Perhaps the most unusual and certainly the most grueling event began in Northern California. Twelve members of the Golden Gate Skate Patrol, ten men and two women, started skating in San Francisco. Their objective was to reach Venice Beach. Standing in their way was nearly 500 miles of voiceless highway. It was the largest group of skaters ever to undertake a journey of such distance. Would the skaters achieve their goal or would the silent roads foil the gallant attempt?

The Golden Gate skaters, all fine athletes, have tirelessly donated their time and energy to help organize skate patrols for other parks in the San Francisco Bay area. They have also campaigned on the behalf of skating safety; now the group wanted to call attention to the ever worsening problem of starvation that faces millions of people in the developing countries. With the sponsorship of the World Hunger Project, Sims, Road Skates International and ORSAA, the super marathon trek was dubbed "The Skate to End Hunger." The skaters had the look of a rolling protest march, T-shirts, placards and support vehicles all bearing their message.

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Mother Nature took the side of the streets for the first few days of the trip. Despite the rainy weather, the skaters managed to roll off 135 miles on the first day out of San Francisco. The second day saw the group well into Monterey County, another 106 miles of Highway 1 defeated.

Bobby Collins, a spokesman for the rollers, reported that they were very well received in many of the small towns along the way. The skaters were fed and put up for the night by generous residents of the coastal communities they skated through. Other than a few burned-out bearings, sore ankles and knees, the group encountered few difficulties.

The Hunger Project Team made it all the way to Santa Barbara by the end of the fourth day. The following morning they were joined by a contingent of skaters from Southern California for the final leg of the trip. A combined. party of 35 skaters wheeled out of the peaceful beach city and headed south, All that remained was the last 100 miles of asphalt.

With most of the trip behind them, the now-veteran road racers easily maintained their 13 mile-per-hour avmage speed. The entire group became widely scattered at one point but, miraculously, they all converged just south of Oxnard without breaking stride. The Malibu hills were the last really difficult part of the journey. After that, it was smooth rolling into Venice. The last skater made it in with three hours of daylight left.

The Golden Gate Skate Patrol team's heroic efforts in this selfless endeavor were supported very literally by equally generous and concerned members of the roller skating industry. The skaters were outfitted by Skates on Haight (San Francisco), while Western Skate Sales (Menlo Park) supplied their parts.

Equipment was provided by Kryptonic Wheels, Rector/STX Skatewear, Riedell Boots, Independent Trucks and SKF Bearings. The skaters and the" Hunger Project both wish to thank these companies for their much needed support and the GGSP was unanimous in their approval of the quality and dependability of the products that carried them successfully through a long, hard journey. You can imagine what enormous demands such a rigorous roll would make on your gear!

Having conquered the Coast Highway, the Hunger Project rollers were joined by 250 more skaters for a celebration the following day. The Brentwood 10k, a trifling distance by comparison, drew some top names from the world of outdoor speed skating. It was a prelude to the big one. The Second Annual Long Beach Marathon, a benefit for the Long Beach Community Hospital, took place the following weekend and is the subject of a separate article in this issue of ROLLERSKATING Magazine.

The summer months brought no relief to the streets as the pavement was pummeled at every opportunity. A concentration of skate wheels massed just outside the hallowed halls of the University of Southern California, where Herradura Tequila and Playboy Enterprises co-sponsored a roller dash benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The streets of USC's fraternity row were turned into a roller drag strip for the event. Two-member teams raced 100 yard relays in the single-elimination contest. Top finishers were awarded over $1,000 in prizes. After the festivities were over, the .Kappa Alpha frat hosted a party that will be remembered a lot longer than the lessons of History 1A.

Such indulgences were definitely not a part of the IADARP Roller-Thon held at LA Valley College in Van Nuys. IADARP (Inter-Agency Task Force for Drug Abuse and Related Problems) launched their event as an effort to raise money to combat Drug abuse in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.

KNBC-TV filmed a segment of it's Sunday show at the roll-a-thon where over 300 skaters were entertained by actresses Shirley Jones and Susan Strasberg as well as comedian Marty Ingels. A dazzling skating exhibition by Sal Chavez highlighted the proceedings. While the streets around Valley College took a beating from all the skate wheels, at least with IADARP's help they will be safe from drug-crazed youths of LA.

The Easter Seals Foundation was responsible for an assault on Century City's streets by 200 roller skaters. The 10k contest had skaters' wheeling through the ABC Entertainment Center in West Los Angeles. The course was challenging and well laid-out. The streets did their best to put up a good fight but ultimately it was Variflex's Terry Martin, who is getting to be quite an outdoor racer, easily

outdistancing the field from start to finish first. Money raised by the event was earmarked to provide special services and programs for the handicapped, with a week's vacation or two in Hawaii as the grand prize for the top fund-raiser.

Wheels rolled for a different cause as over 3000 persons gathered for a "Save Our Bay" rally at the Santa Monica Pier. A roller disco contest was staged by LA radio station KHJ and the Save Our Bay Committee, a bipartisan organization headed by Congressman Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) dedicated to stop oil exploration in Santa Monica Bay.