Vancouver’s Rollerblade Revolution

Inline skating, that hallmark trend of the 1990s, is making a comeback in a big way.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages to the emerging influence of the 1990s on pop culture. On the plus side, we can drop our ironic fascination with ‘80s fashion. On the minus side, boy bands are back in a big way.

But before you bust out an 8-ball jacket and pop a Pepsi Clear, there’s a much less embarrassing way to pay homage to the decade of Pokémon and PlayStation.

Just over a decade ago, inline skating proved so popular that on any given sunny day, the Seawall was overwhelmed with both rocketing pros and stumbling beginners. The bike rental shops that line Denman Street at West Georgia used to hire out as many pairs of Rollerblades as they did tandem bicycles. And then, suddenly, inline skating lost its mojo, overtaken by hoards of hipsters on longboards and fixed-gear bikes.

Now blading is back in a big way and Leon Basin is leading the charge. The former Israeli blading champion from 1996 to 2000 and the 2001 Canadian National title-holder is also the owner of Canada’s largest online inline skating store, Shop-Task. It’s Basin’s personal mission to make blading cool again, and, thanks to a completed Seawall that crosses the divide between the West and East Sides of Vancouver, a new network of bike lanes and that old ‘90s nostalgia, his work is rolling along smoothly.

“Rollerblading is my life, my passion, my work, my friends, my everything,” Basin says while marshaling the group of wheeled warriors that has gathered for the free refresher course he offers every Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Sunset Beach roller hockey rink. A Certified Level 1 Instructor, he teaches everything from the bare basics (how best to fall), all the way up to advanced jumps and aerials, before rounding everyone up for the 7 p.m. SeaRoll around the 10 km perimeter of Stanley Park.

Even if you never master a reverse 540 or the subtle skills of the slalom, inline skating has always been one of the best low-impact cardio workouts around. What has changed are the skates themselves.

“Ten years ago, there was pretty much just one type of blade,” Basin says. Today there are as many types of skates as there are ways to use them, from aggressive skates that can pull off any trick a skateboard can to off-road behemoths that look like miniature Humvees. “Wheels are bigger which means you get more speed and control,” he says. “And more fun.”

Basin’s free weekly class takes place every Sunday at the Sunset Beach roller rink at 5 p.m. The weekly Sunday Searoll departs from English Bay at 7 p.m.

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