Lately, roller skating has seen something of a renaissance — a renaissance we've been waiting for since we outgrew our last pair of Fisher Price kiddie skates.
Finally it's cool for adults to skate again! With that in mind, here's where we're wheeling (and falling) all over town.
Note: throughout this article we've referred to roller skating, which usually means using quad skates (roller blading generally refers to inline skates) but unless otherwise stated, we mean both skating and blading. Quad skates tend to be used by beginners, as balancing is easier.
Skate parks in London for roller skating
Skate parks in London are plentiful, but generally they're the domain of skateboarders. With their smooth surfaces and gentle slopes, they're ideal spots for roller skaters to practise their moves too — though note that not all skateboarding obstacles are suitable for roller skates, and from our experience, you're best sticking to slopes and ramps. If you're not yet confident, visit at a quieter time.
We won't go into them all, but skateboard retail brand Slam City has this very helpful map of skate parks in London, as does SkateLDN.com. Generally, skate parks in local parks are your best option, as they're free and don't tend to get too busy.
Note that some skate venues, including House of Vans in Waterloo, are strictly skateboard-only and do not allow roller skaters or bladers, and others, such as Skaterham, only allow inline skates rather than quads, so check the rules of your chosen venue before setting off.
No skate park near you? Any smooth pavement should do the trick, the more recently resurfaced, the better. Just make sure there aren't loose stones which will trip you up, or holes and dips which your wheels may get stuck in. And of course, be aware of pedestrians, cars, dogs, children and anything else you may collide with.
Roller skating meet-ups and clubs in London
So you've had a go at roller skating, you've mastered the basics and your confidence is up... but none of your friends are interested. No problem — there are places in London where you can meet fellow skaters and practise your new skills.
London Friday Night Skate and Sunday Stroll
The long-running London Friday Night Skate is just that — an organised skate through London on a Friday night. Meet at Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner just before 8pm to join in with the marshalled, two-hour skate. The route varies each week, and you'll need to be a competent skater, able to keep up.
The same people run the Sunday Stroll, a more relaxed, slower-paced group skate, leaving from Serpentine Road in Hyde Park at 2pm each Sunday. Both events are weather-dependent so check on Facebook or Twitter whether it's going ahead. Both are free to take part in.
Easy Saturday Skate
Similarly, the Easy Saturday Skate is a social meet-up, involving two laps of Battersea Park, though they're a bit more relaxed about your abilities. Meet at 10.30am by the Pagoda to take part — it's free.
Wheels & Wheelchairs
We suggest you're really confident in your skating abilities before attempting to take part in Wheels & Wheelchairs, a social and accessible event which sees skaters paired up with wheelchair uses to push them around Battersea Park. It takes place in conjunction with the Easy Saturday Skate each week, with special skates (such as a Halloween event) scheduled throughout the year.
On Wednesday evenings in the summer months, London Skate takes to the capital's streets. It's another free one, and takes a pre-determined route around the capital at an intermediate pace, lasting a couple of hours.
Roller Thursday at BaxSixty6
Though it's predominantly skateboards at BaySixty6 skate park, a covered area underneath the Westway in Westbourne Park, Thursday night is Roller Thursday. Only members can visit the skate park, plus you'll need to book a slot (£7) and it's not open to beginners. Quads and blades are both welcome, and the skate park is covered (though open-sided) so no need to worry about rain.
London Speed Skaters
Once you're a bit more advanced, and if you fancy a challenge, consider joining London Speed Skaters. Their focus is on fitness and speed skating, and they accept both skaters who want to compete, and those who just want to train, with sessions in Tatem Park, Richmond Park and Hyde Park. Their website hasn't been updated for a while, so Facebook is the best way to keep track of their latest news.
Roller skating rinks and discos in London
Honestly, if you're anything like us, nothing fills your heart with joy like the thought of a roller disco. Cheesy tunes, neon skates and a disco ball — what's not to love?
Well, it's back to earth with a bump when we tell you that, to the best of our knowledge (and believe us, we've looked) there is a solitary one (1) permanent roller disco available to the good people of London. And you'll find it in Tottenham:
Roller Nation, Bruce Grove, Tottenham
Previously held in Vauxhall, Roller Nation relocated to Bruce Grove a few years ago, where it's settled into its new, purpose-built home. Different days are different events — for example, Thursday evening is Soul Skate night, Saturday afternoon is a family session... and Saturday night is good old-fashioned roller disco night.
You'll need to book tickets in advance, and you can either bring your own skates, or borrow them on arrival — the all-important wrist, elbow and knee pads can also be borrowed. In addition to the disco, the venue has a bar and a diner area. Now, where did we put our leg warmers?
Roller skating shops in London
Once again, roller skating is the sidelined cousin. While there are skateboarding shops aplenty across town, London's more frugal with roller skating and blading shops. These days, many sports shops sell skates online, but if you're after advice, you're best going to a specialist shop. Again, these exist online — SkateHut is a popular one, and Rookie Skates is a decent brand for beginners (we're not just saying that because they're pretty... but they are pretty).
But if you want the good old-fashioned experience of going into a shop, chatting to an expert, trying on some skates and taking them home then and there, these are your options:
Double Threat Skates, King's Cross
These guys are all about the skates, and nothing but the skates, offering quad skates from various brands, specialist roller derby skates, vegan skates, and all the protective gear and skate parts you could need. They've also got a second hand section, ideal if you're starting out on a budget. Note that fittings at Double Threat Skates are by appointment only, so do book ahead.
Slick Willie's, South Kensington
We like to think that Slick Willy is the land-dwelling brother of surf shack entrepreneur Fat Willy. He's not, but this shop's been going since the 1970s, so he knows a thing or two. Slick Willie's sells both inline skates and roller (quad) skates for adults and kids, along with scooters and skateboards. Parts such as wheels, bearings and brakes are also available — though best not messed with unless you really know what you're doing — and Slick Willie's sells the all-important skate protection in the form of helmets, elbow and knees pads and wrist guards.
London Skate Centre, Bayswater
When they say skates, they mean skates — both ice skates and roller blades are covered at London Skate Centre. They focus on the K2 and FR brands, as well as offering specialist roller derby skates, pads, helmets, protective gear, and bags for your skates.
Skate Attack, Turnpike Lane
If it's got wheels (or blades) they probably sell it at Skate Attack, which offers roller skates (both quad and inline), roller derby skates, ice skates, ice hockey skates, skateboards, scooters... anyway, if it's roller skates and blades we're talking about, they've put together this handy buying guide. They also offer helmets, protective pads, and all the gear you might need to build your own custom skates.
Roller skating lessons in London
If your skating could use a bit of work, why not book some roller skating lessons? These are some of your options in London:
- London Skate Crew: Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are the main locations of London Skate Crew's roller skating lessons — choose from group, private or kids' lessons. Quad and inline skaters are welcome, and London Skate Crew also offer online lessons, where an expert watches your technique over video and offers feedback. Dance/jam skating is also an option.
- Roll Happy: Indoor roller skating classes for adults at venues across London (Haggerston, Islington, Holloway, Brixton, Stockwell, Hackney) are Roll Happy's speciality. You choose whether you want to book an individual class or a longer course, and they cater for complete beginners as well as improvers — though do note, they only offer group lessons, no one-to-one sessions. Artistic and dance skate courses are also offered, if you're confident enough and want to show off a bit. It's quad skates only, no inline skates.
- Isle of Skating: Adult and child quad skaters are catered for at Isle of Skating who offer lessons for all levels at locations including Hackney, Walthamstow, Tottenham and Southwark. They also specialise in roller dance. Bring your own skates.
- London Skate Life: This is a community of skaters in London, which also offers classes, though be warned that the structure of lesson levels and timetables is somewhat complicated. Private lessons are offered as an alternative. They focus on inline skates rather than quads.
- Zebra Skate: This south London based company teaches kids to inline skate through private lessons of five-day skate camps in school holidays. Locations include Battersea Scouts Centre, Clapham Common and near the Albert Memorial in Kensington. You can hire skates and protection equipment from them for an extra £15 per session. Skateboarding lessons also available.
Roller skating inspiration
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We have to admit, we’re a little addicted to the Instagram channel of London skater Mick Berry, aka @mickyb12. He weaves through London with the best of them, ducking, twisting and dodging obstacles on his trusty quads, often skating backwards, showing off the city's landmarks to his 90k+ followers as he goes. Impressive at he is, don't try this at home — or if you must, at least wear a helmet (Mick has addressed this previously on his Instagram, saying "I want to be safe too but also comfortable. For some reason I wouldn't feel safe wearing a helmet😬.")
@skateeverywhereproject is a great Instagram account to follow, as they offer simple diagrams explaining the basics of roller skating, such as different moves and equipment.
Roller Derby in London
If you've done all of the above and still want more skating, consider joining a roller derby team. We met the London Roller Girls back in 2019 to find out a bit more about the sport:
Got any other tips for roller skating in London? Slide on into the comments below.