Crowd photo: Ray Mendez
During the day, on the cleanly paved and cemented streets of the financial district—so oddly devoid of trash, doggie remains, and even cockroaches—you see the men and women of Wall street, with their six figure salaries and business suits. As trains, cabs, and ferries get filled to capacity by these rush hour commuters, a change takes place; cleaning crews and tipsy Staten Island girls begin to shuffle in for their evening affairs. Another group also makes its way in; slowly but surely, attracted by the pristine marble decor of the office buildings and the authentic grime of the Brooklyn Banks and Chinatown skate parks, the inline skaters emerge.
Group photo: Angelo Ferrer
Although many people have never seen it, an underground scene of inline skating comes to life every night in the Wall Street area with a language of fist bumps, handshakes, and fist-bump-handshake-hugs. They have an aura of mutual respect that cuts across lines of race, gender, class and religion. These inline skaters come from all five boroughs to participate in an underground community held together by nothing else but rollerblading. This is not the skating of the early 1990s, with its Disneyesque, squeaky-clean reputation, dominated by young professionals and children. This is a new culture of inline skating, most commonly known as rollin’, that takes pride in its underground status, style, and attitude. It has a more urban appeal than earlier rollerblading did, having more in common with the skateboarder community of the 1970s than the short-shorts-and-matching-headbands rollerblading yuppies of the early 1990s.
Group photo by: Angelo Ferrer
The earliest roots of inline skating share some of the rebellious qualities of today’s rollin’ movement, but it soon caught the attention of big companies looking to cash in on a new fad. Companies like Salomon, Oxygen, and Rollerblade helped make it a $725 million-a-year industry by the mid 1990s. Extreme Games, an alternative sport competition later renamed the X Games by ESPN, started in 1995 and featured rollerblading prominently. As skateboarding became increasingly popular, however, interest in rollerblading plummeted. By 2006, rollerblading was removed from the games. Of Salomon, Oxygen, and Rollerblade—the three biggest manufacturers of skates—Rollerblade is the only one left producing skates in the aggressive category.
Victor Callender photo by: Angelo Ferrer
Victor Callendar, 34, has been there from the beginning. “I would go out with my friends in the morning and skate all around the city, sometimes sleeping in Union Square, to wake up and do it all over again,” Callender said. Today, he is one of the legends of the sport, producing, funding, and hosting events like Last Man Standing, a free-for-all skating competition for pros, amateurs, and “groms” (those new to the sport) at the Brooklyn Banks skate park. He also organizes Let’s Roll NY, a weekly skate meet where the rollin’ community gets together and skates a predefined route, like from Brooklyn Banks to the marble ledges of Water and Wall Streets, and on to Battery Park.
Victor Callender photo by: Angelo Ferrer
Callendar, today a marketing director, was also in the movie Rollerball, and performed on skates for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, earning $1,000-a-week for two-minute performances. When asked if things were better in the early 1990s or now, he said he was struck by the intermingling of skaters from different boroughs. In the early days, he said, skaters tended to stick in groups dominated by what borough they were from. He also said—though the subject is controversial among skaters—that rollin’ needed to become mainstream once again if it is to survive.
Victor Callender – Royale. Photo: Angelo Ferrer
At a Lets Roll NY event, Callender was teaching a kid how to grind handrails, hyping him up for the stunt at hand. “He landed it, and the next week I pulled a police barricade over some steps, [and the younger skaters] said, ‘Vic, you’re too old for that,’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about? You think I started yesterday? I’m gonna do this.’ And the same little kid from earlier came and said, ‘Are you really gonna do that?’” He went for it.
Article by Aulistar Mark. Photos by Angelo Ferrer.