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Wednesday, May 29, 1991

Blade Runners of the 20th Century

SFExaminet52991.jpg (258314 bytes)                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo by John Storey, Examiner
It's a family affair these days David Miles helps his daughter Tiffany, 3, get a feel for the sport in skater heaven, Golden Gate Park

Key to family fun is in line with combo roller/ice skates
By Leslie Goldberg

YES, IT'S TRUE: In-line skates (often called Rollerblades for the company that first manufactured them) are no longer the exclusive domain of skate punks. It was recently reported in Newsweek that Marilyn Quayle, who is definitely not a skate punk, was seen looping down her driveway in a pair of blade skates.

What was once a renegade sport has suddenly become a mainstream pastime, and the skates that look like a cross between ice skates, ski boots and old fashioned roller skates are now sold in just about any store that sells shoes (Nordstrom) as well as any store that sells basketballs (Sears). These places aren't carrying these skates for nothing - Oshman's in San Rafael says that within the last few months, they've had trouble keeping the popular skates in stock.

Skeptics are advised to drive past Skates on Haight on Sunday at about noon and witness a line reminiscent of the opening for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." The Sunday morning sup- .

plicants dressed in shorts, sweats and jeans are simply waiting to rent skates so they can head over to Skate Mecca of the Western World - Golden Gate Park

The line is cretainly shocking, 1 but what is, perhaps, even more astounding, is who is standing in that line. A 50ish physician, a 35 year-old architect, a 32-year-old engineer and many others old enough to know better, waiting anxiously for skates alongside grade schoolers and teenyboppers.

While skating has become more democratic, it does help to have a bank account on par with Marilyn Quayle if you want to take up the sport. The skates cost between $150 and $300. Sometimes the $150 pair just doesn't fit properly and (surprise) the $300 pair slips on easier than a glass slipper on Cinderella. Then there's the cost of protective gear, which can run about $45 unless you also decide to buy a bicycle helmet in addition to the mandatory wrist, knee and elbow guards, then you're talking $200.

Another option is to try to rent skates. Sunday is tough at Skates on Haight, but weekdays are generally no problem. The cost is $7 per hour and that includes protective gear. Pick up your skates and go to Ocean Beach where there is a super bike path, also ideal for skating.

Beginning skaters will certainly want to find a flat place to skate that's far from automobile traffic and any hills. Longtime skaters have a saying: "It's not if you will fall, it's when you will fall." The moral is, wear the wrist guards, the knee guards, the elbow protection. And, the bicycle helmet isn't a bad idea either.

SFExam52991Mel.jpg (39170 bytes)      Melanie Miles, 6, tears up the turf.
Older people take heart: If you ice-skated' as a kid, learning to inline skate will not be difficult. Also if you skate conservatively and avoid hills, you may not fall down. (This writer/skater, who is well past the age of petticoat miniskirts and rap music, did not fall down once on her first time out.) Many skaters say they find the blade skates to be more stable than regular skates.

If you are apprehensive but still want to try in-line skating, a class on how to blade skate is offered through the Learning Annex in San 'Francisco. The price is $21and the class runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on one Saturday a month in Golden Gate Park. For information, call 922-9900.

Like jogging, skating is aerobic and challenges your overall endurance. You also may find your thigh and calf muscles getting tired. San Francisco runner and legendary crack-up Walt Stack says it bout all running and the same applies to skating: "Start out slow and taper off."