Saturday, March 29, 2014

Things Skaters Know

Skaters are sort of their own unique breed. Even living in New England, where EVERYONE has a pair of skates in their basement and makes at least one trek to the public skating session a winter, we're misunderstood. But to be honest, we are pretty confusing. Most people don't expect us, the pretty things in dresses with theatrical choreography, to also be muscular, bruised, and sore. Those that don't skate don't understand how mentally and physically tough you must be to skate.

Today's the close of a pretty good skating week. Going in, I was very pessimistic about it because they switched to the spring schedule, which means you get less time for more money, and often have to drive to lots of different rinks to get enough time. But I planned it out, and some how got to skate an extra hour than I usually get in a week. I also went and got my blades sharpened  yesterday. I had questions about my boot, as I've suspected it's been collapsing for a little while now, and sure enough, it's dying. Soon I'll have to buy a new pair, but these gave me two years, which is a pretty good run. AND he punched out the side of my current skate while I was there, so now I can skate without pain. :)

Anyway, with all these thoughts of skating lately, I was considering all the things that skaters know. And being me, I set out to make a list of all the surprising things skaters do, realize, and love. Figure Skaters: what do you think? Did I miss anything?

From never owning gloves that DON'T have holes, to just how addicted we are, there are certain things that only skaters know.

1.) Everyone has 'ugly skater feet'. With all the pounding, can you really expect anything less? When I bought my skates two years ago, I was a B width. Now, I'm a C width. Jumping has flattened my feet, not to mention my feet are weird and bumpy. But it's battle scars, and we're always proud of battle scars.

2.) Everything. Takes. So. Long. If we had to vote for hardest sport, I would definitely say figure skating, simply because it takes so stinkin' long to do anything. Pass a moves in the field test? MINIMUM five months. Perfect a routine? Who knows. Land an axel? Geez, how long have I been trying? Two years? Skating is frustrating because of the time it takes to get anywhere near good, and that is why so many people give up on it.

3.) Having a good sharpener is the next most important thing to having a good coach. Obviously, coaches take you far and push you and cheer for you. But a sharpener? They answer every question. They know everything about your skate just from looking at it. Yes, you will probably have to drive to find a good one. But they're worth it.

4.) No matter what you're parents told you, you will drive, and you will drive a lot. Mum always told me that I wouldn't drive until I was 18, because of how crazy other drivers are. But, I got my license at 16, and drove myself to the rink the day after I got it. Parents jump at the opportunity to NOT have to live at the rink anymore, and skaters love that they can (possibly) pick up more ice time. Win win.

5.) We have to show up everyday, because anything can happen in a day. You can land a new jump in one day. Something can 'click' in one day. You can restore faith in yourself in one day. Yes, it takes forever. But someday, there will be one day. We step on the ice with the hope that today, will be the day.

6.) Our version of 'not flexible' is different than everyone else's. We're used to continuous stretching, and we're used to seeing splits and 135's. We say we're not flexible, because we see so much flexibility.

7.) Peanut butter is your very best friend. I eat it every day, sometimes twice a day. Doesn't everybody?

8.) Sometimes, you'll just plateau for two months. Then you'll get worse for two weeks. And then you'll vastly improve all at once. Often, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how we improve. Back to number 5, it's why showing up is so important. If we only skated when we were in the mood, we'd never improve. Anything can happen in a practice.

9.) Skaters need only one moment to re-commit to the sportRe-commitment to skating is a recurring theme on this blog, not because I ever actually consider quitting skating, but because it's so frustrating. We may be in a rut, feel small, and feel depressed and untalented, but give us one day, one gleam, one happy moment just to stroke and skate and smell the ice, and we will swear we'll never leave. One good practice, one good jump, one good chat with our coach, erases all the bad before it.

10.) Shows are always looked forward to, no exceptions. It could be the smallest show in the world,  with two people in the audience, and we wouldn't care. It's a SHOW.

11.) Everyone has been asked if they're going to the Olympics. And, everyone hates it. I mean, seriously. How do we say: "Uh, no, we're not. Not that good. Did you not notice all the single jumps?" in an intelligent way? It's just a bothersome question. WE ARE NOT ALL OLYMPIANS.

12.) We obsess over professional skaters like it's our job. You all remember my total fangirl moment over Ryan Bradley, right? We love skaters. (Almost) every one. And we'll read every scrap of interview, facebook post, or whatever else we can get. The best part? So many skaters are great about staying real, staying humble, and letting us know that they're human. And that makes their journeys, and joys, and successes all the more precious to us.

13.) There will be at least one person who you've known from the beginning. In my club, there are two girls my age, Caroline and Victoria, and we've skated together since we were 3 and 4. We've not always been the best of friends (but lately we've been super close), but we've always been there. We know when we fall. When we compete. Heck, we even know when the other got their blades sharpened last. The bond between skaters who start together is special. You're the only one that's seen every up and down, and you've both outlasted all the other wobbly three year-olds that started that day. You'll never forget that.

14.) That being said, skating is lonely. Skating's deeply personal, and therefore often kept private. Our doubts spring from worrying something's taking us longer than everyone else, that we're behind, or simply not as good as the girl who laces up next to us. While the loneliness isn't ideal, it makes for strong people. We're forced to learn how to be independent, how to thrive on it, and how to appreciate the connections we do have.

15.) We don't have sleepovers. If I had a dollar for everytime I said, "Sorry, can't, I have skating...", then I would NEVER have to say "Daddy, do you have a $20 for my coach..?" ever again.

16.) You will never have gloves WITHOUT holes in them. It's the skater's curse.

17.) We're all, quite simply, addicted. I've never met a skater who had stuck with it for a long time, and not been absolutely addicted to the sport. We have to be, otherwise, we'd simply be crazy. Our sport is hard, and frustrating, and still the most beautiful thing. We cherish it, and obsess over it, and never stop thinking about it. We would never dream of quitting, because what could life possibly be without skating? What would we do all day? Is their life without skating?

There, friends, is what we skaters know. But what did I leave out?


  1. Sounds like the music student's life :-P

    Aside from the feet!