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  RecreationRoller Skating
 
street skatersfather and son skating down a streetThe Skating Craze of 1979

So many people took up roller skating in 1979 that it became one of the fastest-growing pasttimes in North America, with some skate makers selling more than 300,000 pairs a month.

The primary reason for the exploding popularity of roller skating was the use of polyurethane for the making of wheels. Fitsy used widely on skateboards, polyurethane wheels made roller skates quieter (than the older metal-wheeled type). They also made roller skates lighter, which in turn allowed for greater maneuverability.

With the new wheels, people moved outdoors for the kind of skating that before could only have been done on the smooth surfaces of rinks. The comfortable ride provided by the wheels also allowed people to skate great distances -- to travel to and from work, to see the sights, or to just get some exercise. A roller skating marathon in Long Beach, California, attracted entrants ranging in age from 6 to 60. The fastest racers covered the 26.2-mile course in just under an hour and a half.

roller skating discofigure skating on roller skatesBecoming popular at about the same time as disco music, it was little surprise that many people began combining the two, and skating rinks with state-of-the-art music systems and dee-jays sprouted up across the country.

Roller skating also found its way into the "legitimate sports world" in 1979, at the Pan American Games. For the first time ever in the Games, skaters competed for medals in racing and dancing events. Skaters and fans were lobbying to have roller races and dancing made part of the Olympic Games.

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This page was last updated on 08/18/2016.

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