In-line skates keep 'kids' of all ages rolling right along in Ocean City

AT THE BEACH

July 10, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Ocean City -- It's easier than ice skating, faster than roller skating and more fun than aerobics with Cher.

It's in-line skating -- the coolest thing on wheels this summer on Ocean City's streets, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

"You just see a slew of moms and pops and the kids skating here," says Peck Miller, owner of Sailing Etc., a surf store that rents and sells the skates. "It doesn't matter if you're 6 or you're 60, it's something everyone can do."

For the unfamiliar, in-line skates look like ski boots and provide the same type of ankle support. They contain a single line of narrow wheels that act like a blade.

While the sport has been popular on the West Coast and at ski resorts for some time, in-line skating has become hot in Ocean City only this summer.

"I think I saw one person Roller-blading last summer," says Maxine Striby, a receptionist at the Ocean City recreation complex off 125th Street, a popular spot for in-line skaters. "This summer you see them going around the softball fields constantly."

Recently, 13-year-old Nick Fogelsonger could be seen skating on a sidewalk along the Coastal Highway, bound for a breakfast of hash browns and orange juice at McDonald's.

"It's a fun activity to do," says Nick, an eighth-grader from Silver Spring, as he took off his skates to enter the restaurant. "It's good exercise and it keeps you in shape."

Richard Hillyer, a Salisbury physical therapist, points out the cardiovascular benefits of in-line skating.

"It has the same benefit as ice skating," he says. "It's comparable to the benefits of any prolonged rhythmic sport. It's like cycling -- if you go a good distance, there's good benefits."

He recommends the curious consult a doctor before taking up the sport as exercise.

Abetting the sport's popularity in the resort, some say, is the lack of restrictions. In-line skaters are even allowed on the boardwalk from sunrise until 10 a.m.

"You pretty much have the ability to Roller-blade anywhere," says Alan Brown, manager of Sundancer, a surf shop that also sells the skates. "It's not like skateboarding."

Skateboarders are restricted to a park off St. Louis Avenue. Town officials say there have been no complaints about the in-line skaters.

Sales of the skates at Sundancer and Sailing Etc. have been brisk. A pair of in-line skates costs from $69 to $330.

"We're doing really well with them," Mr. Brown says. "They're really taking off. It's seems like every pair you sell, the customer comes back with two friends who are interested."

Kim Whitehead, 24, a recreation specialist who skates, says the sport is becoming so popular the town may consider offering an organized program for interested beach-goers.

"I think it's kind of a beach sport," she says. "People are more apt to Roller-blade at the beach for some reason."

Theresa Dragunas and her family were among the vacationers on wheels for the first time this summer.

"When I first put them on, gliding along was fine," says Mrs. Dragunas, who along with her husband and 18-year-old son skated at an evening clinic sponsored by Sailing Etc. this week.

'Stopping is the hardest thing," adds Mrs. Dragunas, a tax administrator from Jarrettsville. "I feel like I have two cement blocks on my feet."

Mr. Miller says in-line skating is easy to learn. What's difficult for most people is getting over the anxiety of "can I or can't I do it." Still, he notes, "You can get as radical or as tame as you want."

That's the perspective of Adam Prince a Catonsville landscaper. His first time on in-line skates, the 20-year-old was sweeping around other skaters like he was hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.

"It's so easy, it's like ice skating and skiing," says Mr. Prince, a former hockey player. "I want to get to jump eventually."

Matthew Scarpelli, 8, took up in-line skating when his family arrived at the beach a few weeks ago.

"It's been great for Matthew's self-esteem," says his mother, Susan. "It's just wonderful. He'll be the first one on his block with a pair of Roller-blades. He's anxious to get back home and show them off."

Home is in Cumberland. But for now, Michael is content to skate along the jogging path at Ocean City's Northside Park, off 125th Street.

As for his mother, who put on her first skates Tuesday at the age of 38, "I think I'll stick to roller-skating. These things are burning my feet."

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