Naomi Grigg’s skating years – Part 12 by Naomi Grigg

Suicide? You do what kind of skates? Yes, suicide skates. They started during the summer season because the marshals of the two weekly street skates wanted to be able to go out and let rip, without having to worry about being responsible for hundreds of other skaters. It started out being a very small group of about ten skaters who communicated via a yahoo group called ‘skate club’ (yes, a fight club reference). The idea was that we would keep them secret so that nobody would come on them who we would have to worry about – so that we could jump a red light, looking after ourselves, and know that no-one else would blindly follow. It was very much an ‘everyone for themselves’ thing, where testosterone ruled and if you were too slow to keep with the group, you’d get the tube, or skate, back to the pub and we’d see you there. There were plenty of skater’s egos being justified by how fast we went on those skates.

So, Monday nights became skate club night, and they slowly grew and of course became more public as skaters lost interest and skaters entered the group. A few skates in, we were back at the pub after a particularly fast and near-miss filled night, and it got nicknamed the suicide skate as you were sure to die of exhaustion if a car didn’t break you first.

We never really thought much about what we were doing other than how much fun we were having – the rush of playing with traffic, and speeding down steep roads that we’d never do if not being fueled by the pack was a dream. Every time we went out we all knew we’d be attempting something more fast fun and dangerous than the last time. We rarely knew where we were headed; it used to be that we would just follow whoever was in front, though usually it was someone like Sparky who knew the streets of London like the back of his hand.

What we didn’t see happening, in our constant striving to earn respect by being at the front, was our textbook training as speed skaters. Weekly training of multiple sprint intervals, where every push had to be as loaded as possible in order to keep up and overtake, the pushing through the pain barrier with every sprint so that you didn’t face the shame of not being part of the ‘elite’ on the skate. It was basically a race every week with a prize far greater than cash – ego points and respect of your fellow skaters. The others may deny it (I doubt it) but it was certainly the case for me. I’d always hated being considered ‘a really good skater for a girl’ and wanted to be quite simply ‘a really good skater’ and I didn’t want my gender to be part of the issue. So I pushed really, really hard on those skates.


Back to part 11

To part 13…


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