Friday, July 15, 2011

The Fallon Heffernan Column source: wheelsceneuk

Just read up this great personal account from the one and only named above...

pleasantly enjoyed it... a must read in my opinion and it gives you an idea of what our sport/culture was like... the journey that every OG skater and those still young today had endured but enough of me.. READ and hope you get somthing from this...

from the perspective of a true rollerblader and a inspiration well deserving of any positive support.. ;)


It was a strange feeling going to my home skatepark for the first time in years today. It jogged memories of many first times that I had blading during my session. I remembered the very first time I saw someone on inline skates at the skatepark that my father frequently took my older brother to called Kona. Some kid amazed me while doing head high 360s out of the cement bowl and my attention immediately deviated from my brother and other skateboarders to the bladers. At my request, my father bought me a pair of skates and I remember putting them on for the first time almost 17 years ago. As I strapped on a pair of size one black and purple Veriflex skates, I felt like my feet found their new home. Shortly after rolling around on the concrete hills, I knew that I had found something that would stick with me for a lifetime. Up until that moment I had never experienced something that could give me, an eight-year-old child, so much freedom and self-expression. More importantly, I had never had so much fun in my life.

Blading escalated to become a major part of my life fast. The only things I really did were eat, sleep, go to school, blade with my friends and talk about blading. Everything I did and wanted to do revolved around putting my skates on and having fun with my friends on the ramps. The thoughts of competing or making a living doing my favourite thing in the world never even crossed my mind. I didn’t know about competitions, the X-Games or who was who in the industry. I didn’t know Fabiola Da Silva from a John Smith. I had no idols besides the local rippers who I bladed with every day. We skated for 12 hours straight sometimes and still begged our parents for five more minutes when they showed up to drive us home. When those five minutes were up, we pleaded for five more. We would teach each other tricks, play S-K-A-T-E and chase each other around the skatepark playing games of tag with up to 30 kids. I had become a member of a community of friends who all shared the same passion. Not one of us had a goal in blading outside of what trick we wanted to learn next.

A few years went by of blading my heart out with my friends like this before recognising that there were other opportunities for skilled aggressive in-line skaters out there. By the time I reached 12 years old, I had learned to 540 jump boxes and do technical grinds on coping. I was merely trying to hang with the boys around town. A local pro by the name of Tyler Shields noticed that my skill level was as good as the best women in the world at the time. He approached my father to tell him about the NISS events and the ASA Amateur Tour, while encouraging him to enter me into their competitions. So my dad did his research and threw me into an ASA Amateur qualifier in 1998 in Clearwater, Florida. Unfortunately, I was late for the competition because my dad worked late hours the night before and had to drive for four hours immediately after, causing us to barely miss the contest. A guy named Jason Hines was running the event and told us that I could skate for a few minutes on the street course and vert ramp in front of the judges to determine whether or not I was good enough to move onto the Amateur Finals in Las Vegas. After I did a few topsouls, spins and wall-rides, they invited me to the Championships. I was ecstatic. Competitions were going to change the direction and purpose of my skating life for a long time to come.

After winning the Amateur Championships in 1998 and 1999, Azikiwee Anderson approached me after the awards ceremony, extending an invitation to join Fabiola Da Silva, Kelly Mathews, Dawn Everett and other top females from all over the world to compete on the ASA Pro Tour. I eagerly accepted at the ripe age of 13. Right around the same time Jenna Downing, Martina Svobodova and Deborah West also were invited onto the ASA Pro Tour. We were all under 16-years-old. We had no idea what we were getting into. However, we were all very excited about it.

After my first ASA Pro Contest in Kentucky, the K2 team asked me to join their pro team. I was joining Franky Morales, Kelly Mathews, Pat Lennon, Louie Zamora and some other skaters known for their massive stunts and heavy partying. I was flown out all over the world to compete and party with 16 to 25-year-olds. I was barely a teenager and suddenly exposed to drinking, sex and drugs while trying to compete at a professional level and make it through high school all at the same time. I was making great money and seeing the world doing what I loved. As young ASA Pros, we did not live the typical lifestyle of most children. Skating became my job. I primarily practiced hard to win medals, earn big cheques and represent my sponsors well on TV. Blading was a high paying job that came with a good amount of fame for several years but this didn’t last forever – neither did the money.

Most of us realise that the blading industry has suffered a great decline. The mainstream sponsors aren’t there anymore, the X-Games no longer invites in-line skaters and we no longer have the ASA Pro Tour. The majority of our top bladers have had to face the humbling transition of getting a regular job outside of skating. Some are fortunate enough to have jobs working within the industry, but I have found that most of us are working in bars, restaurants and offices. We are all doing what we can to support ourselves, our families and our passion for rollerblading.

I find myself frustratingly serving drinks to cocky fraternity boys and wealthy businessmen thinking about the “good old days” when I survived from blading alone. At the same time, I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to keep a roof over my head and eat three meals a day. However, it isn’t always easy to be snapped at for another shot of Patron or yelled at about cold food, knowing that there was a time not long ago when I made three times the money at one competition as I do in a month working the job I hold now.

But then the clock strikes midnight and I head down to the basement at work to punch out. I leave the bar with just enough cash to save a little for the next Winterclash or Chaz Sands Invitational. The next morning, I wake up just to buckle on my USD Carbon skates for a session in San Francisco. I’ve found that everyone I skate with now is just blading for the love of it. None of us are doing it to be cool or make money anymore. I wouldn’t change a thing about the history of rollerblading. I also embrace every experience, opportunity, and friend that has come my way solely because of being a rollerblader. They have all taught me so much about life and the world, while shaping the 25 years young human being that I am today. But there is something really refreshing about blading while the industry is in the less-than-lucrative state that it is in now. Every time I put on my skates now, I have a great time. Rollerblading has once again become something I do for one reason alone, the reason I started blading to begin with… fun.

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