Veterans of Vert - Dave Roen
We first came across Dave when we saw his pictures start to pop up with the local gals who cruise the Venice skatepark. It's hard to miss a veteran skater. Something about the ease of flow and laidback nature always gives them away. Soon after spotting Dave, Trample has the pleasure of crossing paths with him at a local meet-up she hosted in Los Angeles and was stoked with the opportunity to hear his story. It's now our pleasure to share it with you!
Image: Dave Roen, Half Hoho (1987). Marcus’ Ramp Upland, CA
How did you get introduced to rollerskating?
In the mid 70’s roller skating was popping up everywhere. By 1977 it seemed like every kid on the block had a pair of skates and at 6 years old I was an active skater. We would skate all around the neighborhood every day after school and would go to the roller rink at least once a week. I loved it.
What drew you to 'aggressive' roller skating?
By the late ’70s skateboards were becoming very popular and kids in the neighborhood were building small quarter pipes. The neighborhood skateboarders would line up to take a turn. One day an older kid was riding the quarter pipe with roller skates. I remember walking up to him and saying “hey! I didn’t know you could ride ramps with roller skates!” and he said “of course you can!” and he took his run and popped a little baby air. I went straight home that very moment and put on my skates and started to skate the quarter pipe too. I loved it immediately. This was around 1978/79 and skate parks had been popping up all over. By 1980 when I was 9 years old I finally convinced my parents to let me skate at a skatepark with my brother and other neighborhood friends. I started to skate at Lakewood skatepark. I have such memories of this park. It had 2 clover bowls of varying size that I basically lived in and the snake runs there was the best I’ve ever skated. There was a little Baby Bowl with the famous Monster Bowl right next to it. At this time there was a good amount of roller skaters skating at the park. Many of the skaters were around my age but there were several older and more advanced roller skaters at Lakewood and I recall Duke Rennie and Fred Blood being among the best of them. One night Fred Blood taught me how to pump transition and talked me into rolling into the Monster Bowl which I had been terrified of prior to his coaxing
"Learning to step out of your comfort zone is one of the many things I have always loved about skating"
What was the skate scene like in the '80s?
After Paramount skatepark closed I remember being very distraught that I couldn’t continue to practice skating and for 2 years I didn’t skate. I wasn’t alone and skaters began to take matters into their own hands by building half-pipes in backyards. In 1986 one of our friends had a big backyard and permission from his mom to build a ramp and build we did. It was here I began to hone my addiction for catching air - I loved airtime and the feeling that I was flying. I was extremely active from 1986-1988 and during this time ramps got bigger and bigger as skaters reached for higher and higher airs. In the scene of the late 80’s roller skaters were practically gone and I only crossed paths with 2 other roller skaters from 86-88. It felt very lonely at times being the only roller skater at a ramp or at one of the last skateparks. Unfortunately back in the 80’s I never ran into any female aggressive roller skaters. On the skateboard side, there were only 1 or 2 females that I skated with. This has always bothered me and I love that more women are coming into skateparks these days.
Image: Dave Roen, Zen Air (1986). Griff Dog’s Ramp Huntington Beach, CA
Tell us about your first drop-in
I was scared to drop in for a very long time. Ramps kept getting bigger and bigger after I re-started skating in 1986. Looking down at all that vert really intimidated me and I didn’t have any other roller skaters to look to for encouragement. It wasn’t until late 1987 or early 1988 that I finally built up the nerve to do it. And after all that fear it was pretty easy to do! And fun too! Learning to step out of your comfort zone is one of the many things I have always loved about skating.
What are your favorite moves?
Since I didn’t have other roller skaters to skate with during the late 80’s I took my inspiration from skateboard tricks. Often grabbing onto my skates like a skateboarder would for tricks such as method airs, boneless airs, and inverts. I didn’t have proper ramp skates so I didn’t get into grinds or stalls but I loved handstands. My favorite trick was the cannonball air. I could get very high into the air with that one and it felt like my own move since it couldn’t be done on a skateboard.
Why did you stop skating and what drew you back?
By the end of 1988, I had outgrown my boots and decided I wanted to put together a proper pair of ramp skates with wide trucks. I hunted and researched and ultimately was unable to put together the skates I had been dreaming about. By 1989 I went off to college and stopped skating. I deeply mourned the loss of this sport and always felt that I had to get back into it at some point. In 2002 I started to try to build ramp skates again and was able to have a baseplate cut to fit freestyle skateboard trucks onto. From 2003 to 2005 I skated about a dozen times but never fully got back into it.
In 2012 I started hearing about some roller derby skaters from Long Beach skating at parks and soon after I heard about Chicks in Bowls. I was too injured in a car accident at this time to be able to skate but I began to put together a new pair of skates. Finally in 2017 after 5 years of physical rehabilitation, I started to skate at parks again. And even though I injured myself the first time back and couldn’t skate for 8 ½ weeks – that hasn’t stopped me. I love it and I’m back for good!
Dave Roen, Shooting the duck on the tile (1987) Pipeline Skatepark, Combi Bowl, Square Pool, CA.
What excites you the most about today’s skate scene?
The current roller skating scene is amazing to me. I never thought I would see a large number of roller skaters at a skate park ever again. Especially after inline skates came into prominence. At a recent CIB meetup in September, there were approximately 60 roller skaters at the park. I was literally in shock - I couldn’t believe my eyes. It took me back full circle to my first time at Lakewood skatepark when I walked in and saw other roller skaters everywhere. I have such admiration and respect for everyone who has pushed this sport back into life. It means more to me than words can express. The sport is also evolving in incredible ways. With all the new roller skaters coming from very different backgrounds such as derby, gymnastics and dance new tricks and styles are being born every day raising the bar on what is possible on skates.
Words of Wisdom...
Right now I am relearning to skate so the advice I would give someone wanting to start is the same thing I have been saying to myself: be patient and try not to get frustrated if you don’t improve or learn as fast as you would like. Getting good at something takes time and a lot of repetition and dedication. You will most likely get injured at some point but these are important lessons. Pay attention to them and learn from them. And most important - have fun!
- Dave Roen aka Super Dave