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Spinning Wheels : Roller Skates Coming Back Into Vogue

October 18, 1990|JUDY D. SALA

The wheels John Yewusiak, 57, and Rick DeBord, 30, move on are not attached to boards, bikes or even sails, but to good old-fashioned shoes. They are among a growing number of people in North County who have rediscovered a sport that enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s and '50s: roller skating.

Roller skaters and roller bladers of all ages are increasingly turning up on North County's streets, sidewalks, parking lots, roller rinks and skateboard parks.

Roller blades, which began to show up here a few years ago, differ from traditional skates in that the four wheels are mounted in a line down the center of the skate shoe, instead of in pairs at the front and back. While roller skates seem to be an offshoot of ice skating, roller blades emulate ice hockey.

DeBord, 30, an Oceanside sailor originally from Michigan, prefers roller blading to roller skating, but says the benefits are about the same. "I played ice hockey all the time when I lived in Michigan, and I really missed it," he said. "Last Christmas, my wife gave me a pair of roller blades. They're a lot like ice skates; built more for speed than roller skates are."

DeBord skates on streets and in parking lots--sidewalks and bicycle lanes are too slow for his tastes.

Yewusiak, 57, of Bonsall believes that anybody, any age can enjoy skating. "You don't have to be real fit to skate, skating will make you physically fit," he said.

"At first, eight, nine years ago, I wasn't very strong when I skated, but the more I did it, the stronger I got and now I can easily do 25 to 30 miles per day, day in and day out," John said.

In fact, his 13-year-old son, Zem, has trouble keeping up with him now. "Zem likes to skate on roller blades, and they're fast, really fast, and I like derby-style roller skates. But he can't beat me, not even when he rides his ten-speed bike and I skate."

Yewusiak never goes anywhere without his skates.

When you skate "you see things you don't see in a car or on a bike, or when you're running. And you meet people. People are very friendly to skaters, they stop and take the time to talk with you."

Just the same, skaters are not welcome everywhere.

"I've skated all over--Colorado, all over San Diego County, and throughout the Soviet Union," Yewusiak said. "The only place I've ever had trouble was in Oceanside on the Strand. I got a ticket for skating there one Monday morning. It cost me $109 to find out you can't skate on the Strand."

Yewusiak would like to get a group of North County skaters together to skate socially and even competitively. He says he'd like to see Carlsbad to Oceanside skating races, street hockey teams, and senior citizen groups skating for health and the joy of it.

While a number of skaters--including Yewusiak and DeBord--prefer to skate outdoors, others have gravitated to skating rinks.

In North County, there are long-established rinks in Escondido and Oceanside. Both have weathered several stages of the sport's popularity.

"Once upon a time, roller skating was one of the most popular activities around here," said John Middlecauf, owner of the Oceanside Roller Rink. "In 1950, my wife and I opened this rink and it was always busy at first. We had amateur boxing and wrestling matches on Friday nights, and the rest of the time we had roller skating. We had lots of Marines skating then too, but now it's mostly kids. When the good outdoor skates were invented in the '70s, business in roller rinks kind of dropped off. But we're starting to see people come back to skating: families, teens, kids."

Bill Tobin is manager of the Up's N Down's Roller Rink in Escondido "We opened in this location in 1950 and for a while business wasn't as good as when we first opened. But the last year to year-and-a-half we've seen more and more people skating again, especially the elementary school age kids, who make up about 60% of our skaters."

Tobin says he doesn't know if the recent increase in the number of skaters is attributed to the population growth in North County, or if people are getting bored with jogging and bicycling and are turning to skating.

Some skate parks, built originally for skate boarders, also allow roller and blade skating.

John McGill of the Carlsbad Skate Park, says they are seeing more roller skaters than one or two years ago. "We used to have mostly skate boarders, but now we have about 20 to 30 roller skaters and roller bladers every day," McGill says. "Our skaters are mostly in their teens, but we have a few adult and elementary-age skaters also."

Skates suitable for beginners can be rented at rinks or purchased at stores such as Target or Toys R Us. Advanced skaters are more likely to find what they need at specialty stores, such as Rock Socks in Escondido or Chicks Sporting Goods in Oceanside.

For roller blades, expect to pay anywhere from $180 to $275 for a good pair. Roller skates are a bit less, ranging from $80 or $90 up to $500 for the deluxe model.

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