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VALLEY GALLERY

Grinding Excitement

August 27, 1996|JULIE SHEER

One of the country's fastest-growing sports has rolled into the San Fernando Valley with a vengeance. Like it or not, walkers and bicyclists, the inline skaters have arrived.

Whether for fun, fitness or competition, inline rollerskating is becoming one of the Valley's favorite pastimes. Weekend skaters might still head to the beach for the popular South Bay Trail, but the Valley has a great wheelscape of its own--right in Van Nuys. Rollerblade's instructional guide, "Wheel Excitement,"even calls the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area "one of the best beginner trails in Southern California." And next year, a new roller- and ice-skating complex will open in Panorama City.

Speaking of beginners, a few words of advice: lessons, practice, padding and practice. Trails and street skating shouldn't even be attempted until the basics of stopping, turning and falling are mastered.

For the more experienced action seekers on wheels, inline hockey is digging roots in the Valley. The new Juan Bautista de Anza park in Calabasas will have a hockey league and a new roller hockey rink is proposed at Ralph Foy Park in Burbank.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Starting Out

Proper stance makes for more balanced skating and facilitates turning, stopping and falling. Knees should be bent lightly with torso upright but not leaning back.

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Stopping

Heel Stop: Skate with rubber heel pad is scissored forward with knees bent and toe pointed up, gradually increasing pressure into pavement.

T-Stop: With weight on one skate, other skate is rotated 90 degrees, placed behind front skate's heel and dragged along inside edges of wheels.

Snowplow: Toes are angled inward while gently applying pressure to inside edges of wheels.

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Turning

1. With feet parallel, weight is placed on inside edge of right skate.

2. Lean with shoulders and knees into direction of turn.

3. Shifting weight to left skate, bring right skate around.

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Falling

The correct way to fall is forward. Beginner tend to straighten up when losing their balance, falling backwards, which can result in head and tailbone injuries. Learning to let protective padding take the brunt of a fall can lessen serious injuries.

1. Get low: Bend to a crouch, landing on hands and knees.

2. Curl up: Extend arms while falling. Wrist guards are designed to slide on impact.

3. Roll with it: Roll into the fall rather than fighting the desire to keep moving upright.

Branching Out

Once the fundamentals are mastered, some skaters look for more of a challenge. Stunts, speed and competition are a few of the ways.

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Extreme

Extreme or aggressive-style skating uses city streets as its field of play. Streetstyle skaters jump, slide and grind (on special plates on the skates) on such urban landscape as curbs, railings, stairs and walls. Ramps are used for performing aerial stunts. This highly physical form of skating requires more protective gear, including a special helmet that protects the forehead and back of the head.

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Racing

Inline speedskating technique is identical to racing on ice, except that inlines tend to slightly slip on the concrete surface rather than cut into ice. Recreational skaters trying out their speedskating stride prefer long, uncrowded stretches along the beaches of the South Bay Trail between Santa Monica and Redondo.

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Hockey

This fast-growing sport is developing a loyal following in Southern California, particularly in the Valley. Inline hockey leagues for kids and adults are popping up at several Valley locations. In addition to league costs, parents can expect to pend about $200 on special padding and gear, plus skates. Being a good skater isn't the only skill useful to inline hockey players. Inline hockey is fast moving and requires the balance and agility that skiing, snowboarding and surfing provide.

Getting Equipped

Obstacles such as gravel, sand, leaves, wet pavement and collisions can bring down event he best skaters. To prevent scrapes, broken bones and worse, skaters should wear protective gear. Helmets are especially important for beginners, who tend to fall backward. Wrist guards protect fragile wrist bones, which can easily shatter when skaters break falls with their hands.

Helmet: $25 to $35

Clothing: Loose fitting for ease of movement.

Pads: Kits including knee and elbow pads and wrist guards: $45

Skates: Should be purchased at an inline skate store or reputable sporting goods store. Prices range from $100-$300.

(skate types)

Recreational: Shell is hard and/or soft plastic. Boot has foam padding, laces and/or buckles. One skate has standard rubber heel brake or cuff-activated brake arm.

Extreme: Hard plastic shell is higher-cut for ankle support. Grind plate on wheel frame for performing slide stunts. Smaller wheels for quick acceleration and changes in direction.

Racing: Flexible, low-cut boot is light-weight fiberglass support covered with soft leather and padded with neoprene. Uses five larger wheels on a longer frame for a longer, faster, more stable stride.

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