Hello Hello, Stephen @Whataspoon here to dive deep into inline skating competitions to help you understand what types of competitions exist and what you may experience if you attend one.
Understanding Different Types of Inline Skating Competitions
There are many different types of inline skating competitions. The bigger and more popular ones would include marathons, slalom, jump and slide competitions plus aggressive skatepark events. The size of an event will depend on who is organising it. Competitions could be in a small community sports hall/skatepark or they could be in huge sports facilities, world class skateparks or even on the streets of big cities. Let's have a look to see what types of competitions are on the menu for each discipline.
Types of speed skating are long-track speed skating, short-track speed skating, marathon speed skating and rollercross.
These events can be huge with the Berlin Marathon, for example, hosting around 6000 skaters. Not all of these skaters are competing with most of them just attending the marathon for fun but at the front of the pack you will have world champion speed skaters pushing to beat the fastest time to skate 26 miles. A popular skating set up for this would be a lightweight speed skate with 3x125mm wheels.
Long-Track Speed Skating and Short-Track Speed Skating
There are also shorter races that you can attend that focus on high speed skating like short sprints or laps of a racetrack. These events are where you will find lots of skaters in skin tight suits with aerodynamic helmets. The usual choice of skates would be something low cut with larger wheels so the skaters can achieve the high speeds needed to reach the finish faster than their opponents. You may usually find most of these speed skaters using 4x110mm or 4x100mm wheels.
Another form of racing would be Rollercross, which is very similar to Redbull's Crushed Ice events where the skaters race across a skatepark style obstacle course which would cause them to need more supportive skates with higher ankle support. 4x90mm wheels seem to be a popular choice for this discipline.
There are so many different types of tricks you can do on inline skates. This has resulted in a few different disciplines becoming a thing over the years in the tricks department.
Now for my area of expertise. Aggressive skating can be done on street obstacles or in skateparks. The most common of the two would be skatepark as it is much easier to organise than a street competition on random obstacles in the city. Some of these events would be organised and run by local skaters in the area and some may be organised as part of a bigger organisation like the FISE Series for example.
FISE hosts events for Skateboarding, BMX and Inline Skating throughout Europe and Asia with large crowds and TV coverage making it one of the most watched competitions out there. We also have the amazing Winterclash competition that happens in the Netherlands every February which is probably the biggest independent competition in the sport.
Aggressive events will have most people on smaller wheels and aggressive skates with grind capabilities. Something like 4x60mm or 2x60mm with anti rockers in the middle. These usually involve heats of around 5 riders using the park at the same time doing their best tricks in front of the judges who will score them on difficulty and creativity. There would then be a final in a similar format including the best performers from the heats. There will usually also be a best trick competition happening throughout the whole event where the judges will decide what the best trick performed that day was.
Slides, Slalom and Jumps
These competitions tend to be in the same venues at the same time. In a hall or outside on some nice smooth flat ground you can find slalom and speed slalom alongside slides and jumps spread out across the hall or area with judges watching on.
The Slalom events involve the contestants performing a pre planned routine to some music through cones that involves some freestyle dance plus some technical skills. Another form of Slalom would be the Speed Slalom event which entails skating as fast as possible towards a cone line and then weaving in and out of the cones on one foot as quickly as possible without knocking them over. In both examples you would get points deducted for knocking cones over. Slalom is usually performed in short wheel base skates with either 4x80mm or maybe something like 90,80,80,90 on a short frame and tight carbon skates.
Slides involve skating towards a sliding matt and performing the longest and hardest slides possible as judges score each slide. Slides can be performed on all 8 wheels but you will receive a better score for performing a difficult slide on 1 or 2 wheels. The matt is designed to help you slide further than you would on a normal sports hall floor. A popular setup for slides would be 4x80mm but some sliders will remove the middle wheels for less friction on the matt.
Jumps are slightly different as you do not need judges. The aim is to jump over the bar as it rises each round. The last rider standing takes the win as they would have jumped over the highest height. If you knock the bar over then your jump will not count. The bar will be raised and measured after each round. Most competitions will let you have 3 attempts on each height. If you fail to jump the height then you are out. Just like slides, some jumpers will remove the middle wheels on their skates but this time it is so that they have less weight to carry up with them in the air. a popular setup would be 2x80 on tight carbon skates.
Most competitions will give cash prizes to the professionals competing in the form of a large cheque. The prize money is pretty low for most competitions as it can be very hard for the organisers to find the money in our small industry. The money can come from ticket sales or it can be donated by sponsors. Physical prizes, provided by the competition’s sponsors, will be given to the amateurs and kids who win any of the events. This is usually skating equipment or vouchers for skate shops and more.
Training for Your First Inline Skating Competition
When preparing for your first event it would be a good idea to train in the exact way you will perform at the competition. Consistency is key at any competition so make sure you repeat the movements you will perform on the day on repeat for a few months or weeks leading up to the event. For example, if you are training for a marathon then it would be a good idea to skate a few marathons or at least half marathons on the streets leading up to the main one. If you are training for a skatepark competition then make sure you are landing a number of tricks consistently that you can use on the day of the event. If you know that you can definitely perform the movements or cover the distance before the event then you will have a better chance of performing well when you get there.
What to Expect at Your First Competition
If you have never been to a large skating event before then you will most likely feel pretty nervous when you hear the noise and see all the commotion. The best way to combat this is to get in there straight away and familiarise yourself with the order of events, the course or the obstacles and to get as good a warm up as you can. This will give you the best possible chance to perform well when you need to. The worst mistake I made at my first Winterclash competition was not warming up as I saw so many skaters using the park and I was a little intimidated by everyone else. Now that I've done many competitions I know what to expect and have now realised that no one cares how I do. I just need to remember that I am there to enjoy myself and to get involved in something beautiful. I am not there to impress anyone but myself. Also remember not to set the bar too high. If this is your first competition and you are competing against people that have competed many times before then it is very unlikely that you will win. You can use this first event to get an idea of how things work so you will be much more ready to perform better in the next one.
My favourite thing about Inline Skating competitions is the incredible atmosphere that comes with them. In my experience, in the aggressive world of events and at the Berlin Marathon, I could clearly see that the people competing against each other were cheering each other on with the most amazing sportsmanship. Most people come out of these events smiling no matter how well they perform as they are just such a good time. This is a huge contrast to my younger days playing football where other players from both teams would get super frustrated if they were not winning the game. I could never understand this as in my view I was there to play a game which should be fun. This ultimately drove me away from these team sports to then start competing in skating events where everyone was always motivating and congratulating each other.
I hope this guide will help you prepare for your first competition. Enjoy yourself and maybe I'll see you there.