The act of inline skating was invented far years ahead of the art of aggressive skating. The first known invention of an inline skate was John Joseph Merlin of Belgium whom invented a pair of skates in 1760. Merlin, a musical instrument maker and mechanical inventor, made a pair of skates with a single line of small metal wheels that he used as a publicity stunt for promotion of his museum. That is the invention of the initial roll and we have definitely grown since then, as great as it is to know the history it’s time to get into the aggressive realm of things and see how this came to be from Merlin’s initial invention.
It was not until the late 80’s when people started taking to the streets and attempting tricks while wearing inline skates. This early adaption of aggressive skating was given the slang name of free skating and involved anything from jumping curbs to doing powerslides. While the term inline skating was better known at the time for it’s recreational background there were more and more free skaters popping up and taking on the personality of other action sports into the inline skating spotlight. To step into the next level of the sport we will see how skaters were using their imagination to initiate a new aspect and action in aggressive skating.
There are many speculations to who actually ground first on a pair of inline skates and is a debate that may never get fully resolved. Grinding made its debut in 1990 and was originally credited to aggressive skate legend Chris Edwards although it has been argued that pioneer Jess Dyrenforth actually introduced Chris to grinding. Either way in the early 90’s grinding with inline skates was taking aggressive skating to the next level and making it more mainstream where more exposure could result in more people aggressive skating.
The First Skates
The first attempt to alter skates in order to make them function better at grinding among other tricks was done also in the early 90’s and was done by Jess Dyenforth. Jess who was from the bicycle and BMX world had experience with grinding and did not take him long to take his skates and try different ideas to make them more functional in his new activity. Jess started by taking the third wheel out of each skate’s frame and this offered an area on each skate to grind the metal pipe at his local skate park. After trying this several times there were some flaws that needed to be addressed, there was no center point to balance on and the soft wheels would grip the pipe if they hit it at all. Jess went back to work and would soon have his new project revealed, mounting 8 skateboard wheels to the bottom of his Rollerblade TRS’ skates, Jess was able to grind the metal pipe with no issue. the wheels great for grinding did not however work well for skating and Jess would ultimately use two different skates. Getting the exposure of Jess’ grinding skates at demo’s would spark the next piece of our puzzle.
Specific Wheels and Anti Rocker Wheels
As aggressive skating grew in 1992 companies started offering products for this new breed of extreme skaters. Specific wheels were offered for the first time by companies like Hyper, Cozmo and Kryptonics. These wheels were smaller in diameter, harder in durometer and much flatter than recreational type wheels. Skaters would use these wheels on their stock frames and although it helped in other aspects of the sport unfortunately it did not help grinding. The turning point in grinding with aggressive skates came also in 1992 when Anti Rocker wheels were brought to light. An anti rocker wheels set up is known as having two smaller wheels in the center of the frame with bigger wheels on the outside to make them more skateable. These middle wheels did not touch but did help guide and center grinds for skaters and made it possible to skate more objects. There is speculation as to who started the anti rocker movement but the best theory is that skating legend Arlo Eisenberg was the first to take skateboard wheels and center them in his frames and put regular wheels on the outer. The anti rocker movement would put grinding into everyone’s trick bag and again grow skating even more.
With the popularity of grinding growing immensely and having it now be much more feasible there were other issues that would arise. The frames being used in this time between 1992 and 1993 were recreational based frames whose intention was not to be ground on with as much pressure as was being presented. These frames would crack and disintegrate within weeks of use. To aid this from happening many skaters started putting metal bolt wrenches to the inside of their frames. These tool set ups inspired the first ever grindplate which was produced by Senate and was simply a metal piece to uphold abrasion on the frame.
It was not until 1993 when companies took note of the growing trend of aggressive skating as a possible outlet for production and sale revenue. Many companies were hesitant to make a true aggressive skate and designs were often off par to what was actually needed for the sport. Companies could not grasp making anti rocker wheels, a wheel that was not meant to be rolled on. Many wheels were produced that were harder in durometer and smaller in diameter but many were still 52-57mm and were not small enough to get the job done. It was not until the earlier mentioned Arlo Eisenberg with Brooke Howard-Smith, Mark Heineken, Aaron Spohn and Brian Konoske formed the company Senate and mass produced anti rocker wheels. These wheels flew off the shelves and many companies followed to start making aggressive skating products available and mainstream.
In 1995 another revelation occurred that had many different companies in the aggressive market making new skates with this feature added. The split frame system was introduced which is the space in between the two middle wheels in modern day skates giving you a surface to grind with. This system quickly became so popular that it is simply referred to as an aggressive skate frame and all skate companies use this form of frame currently. This pretty much shaped the basics for the aggressive skate although it is always progressing, this was the blueprint.
ASA and X-Games
In 1994 the Aggressive Skaters Association was formed as an organization to govern rules for competitions and events and also to set standards for the equipment used. Aggressive skating now had an outlet to showcase the skill and ability of its athletes and skaters through sanctioned contests.
The X-Games accepted aggressive skating in 1995 which made it even more possible for skaters and skate companies to receive exposure. There were two categories in the aggressive skating field, which was vertical ramp and street course. X-Games helped populate the sport with many fresh faces over the years but aggressive skating was unfortunately removed in 2005 due to decreased popularity.
Currently aggressive skating has fallen off the mainstream but still holds a heavy following through underground contests and overall camaraderie between skaters. Skating has and will always hold a certain artistic expression and feeling for those whom truly understand it. For all those who are out there ripping skate sessions with friends and pushing the boundaries to the next level, we commend you for carrying the torch that lights the continued life of the sk8