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Wild Ride

In-Line Skaters Are Taking to Mountain Slopes, All-Terrain Trails in Search of More Thrills

May 28, 1999|MELANIE NEFF | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you like risks, stretching the limits and testing your body's capacity for pain, here's a sport for you.

Off-road in-line skating.

Imagine racing down a mountain trail, usually only tackled by mountain bikes and hiking boots. Rocks, bumps, holes, tree roots, streams, every imaginable obstacle, are thrills to the all-terrain skater. Every bump--another trick. Every hill--another jump. A group of trees--a ready-made slalom course.

This isn't a sport for the casual Sunday skater and it's just starting to be discovered.

"This is not for beginners; it's for adrenaline junkies," said Heather Lacayo, 10-time national women's in-line skate racing champion from Huntington Beach. "This is for people willing to do something different, to push the limits and do the extreme."

So extreme that Rollerblade is hoping its Blade Cross rough-terrain riding competitions will increase interest in the sport and one day be included in the X Games.

Mountain biking on skates is the best way to describe it. Sheer-faced rock at gut-wrenching angles, grassy knolls bisected by streams and tree-covered mountain areas that were once unreachable are now accessible on skates.

Getting to that new territory isn't always easy, and that makes for a great workout, since hiking is usually the only way to get to the top of the mountain.

"You definitely have to be athletic to do it," said Lacayo, who works for Rollerblade. "It is physically demanding and your body takes a beating."

Falling down is inevitable. Even the best do it all the time.

"I took a tumble and my two friends started teasing me and told me I better start using ski poles for balance," Lacayo said. "But only sissies use ski poles."

Ski poles or not, safety equipment is a must. Helmet, gloves, elbow and kneepads should be as much a part of the sport as the skates themselves.

And know the territory before you strap on your skates. El Moro Canyon in Crystal Cove State Park, Aliso and Wood Canyons in Laguna Niguel, Whiting Ranch in Trabuco Canyon and Santiago Truck Trial in Santiago Canyon are wilderness parks that allow all-terrain skating. Many local ski areas are beginning to welcome in-line skaters during the summer.

"Downhill skating is the best. You can take the ski lifts up and skate down the same hills skiers use in the winter," Lacayo said. "At some point when this sport takes off, I can see there not being enough trails for everyone and all the different activities. But, that just means we will have to pound out more trails."

There are several types of all-terrain skates on the market, ranging from $300 and up.

Lacayo, who usually races on the street, is planning to compete in all-terrain events in the future.

"It's a load of fun," she said. "Now, instead of just skating around the city, you can get out into the wilderness and experience nature. And it is always something different."

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