Veterans of Vert - Jay Cloetens
Jay Cloetens has been skating since the early '70s and is the maverick behind the RollerCon Skatepark tour which has now been rolling for over ten years! If you're planning on coming out to ANY of the late-night park skates, you'll get a chance to see this veteran of quad skates in action.
How did you first get into roller-skating
I first got into roller-skating in the early 1970s when I was about 4 or 5 years old. Just going to the local roller rink in Detroit where I grew up. At first, I was a wall-hugger, but soon, I was rolling. I remember teaching myself to skate backward when I was about 10 for the sole purpose of being able to skate "Couples" with the pretty girls. I wasn't going to be a chump holding hands and skating parallel to the lady, and I wanted to skate properly!
Tell us about your first drop-in
My first drop-in is probably my favorite roller skate story, and anybody who knows me has no doubt already heard it.
I helped a good friend build a mini ramp in his backyard in St. Pete, Florida, in the early '90s. It was an era most of you couldn't imagine. No internet, no cell phones, no X Games, the horror! Once this ramp was completed, I sat around and watched my buddy and his friend's skateboard. I drank beers and enjoyed the entertainment for about two months without EVER considering trying it myself. Until one day, a buddy, Larry showed up with his rollerbladers, and I watched them skate it. Larry's friends were all starting at the bottom of the ramp pumping. At some point in my semi-drunken teasing, I said something about them starting at the bottom, and how I had an old pair of speed skates in my closet, even though I hadn't skated in at least four years, and somehow I bet I could drop-in on that ramp I'd helped build. [For those who care the ramp was 6 foot tall, 12 foot wide & a 9-foot transition with 4 foot of 1 side having a 7-foot tall 'extension']. The guys all put up $20 each that I couldn't do it. I didn't own a single protective pad or a helmet, but I'd learned watching boarders skate that ramp for those two months, 9/10 people psyched themselves out of dropping in. As I drove home to get my skates, I just kept telling myself, "Just do it!" over and over again. If I was going to fail, I was going to do so immediately, not stand there and almost do it 20 times like so many people I'd seen. I got back on my skates, walked up the stairs to the top of the ramp, and laced up. I stood up, rolled slowly to the edge of the coping, placed my right one over the coping and simultaneously two things happened: I fell in love with roller-skating all over again, and I made $60.
How did the RC Skatepark Tour come about
The RollerCon Skatepark Tour came about after I met Trish & Ivanna in early 2006 shortly after they'd had their 1st RollerCon in 2005. Trish & Ivanna owned a skate shop here in Vegas & that's how we initially met. They wanted to go skatepark and wanted some pointers which I was only too happy to provide. After our first session, they told me about RollerCon and asked if I would be interested in teaching derby girls from all over skatepark basics. I was THRILLED at the idea of MORE Vertical Roller Skaters and agreed instantly. The original plan was for me to teach classes just like any other coach in the hotel area, but after watching a video of my great friend Duke Rennie and I skating together the insurance people said "whatever it is those 2 guys are doing on their roller skates is NOT insurable".... just like that I thought that dream was dead. But being the AWESOME human beings, they are Trish & Ivanna said I could still do it, do it off-site. I've been hosting skaters, from around the globe, for five nights annually at the most excellent skateparks Vegas has to offer since the summer of 2006. And I've met some of the most exceptional people and made a lot of friends during this last decade.
What excites you the most about today's skate scene
That there is a Vertical Roller Skate scene again. I can go to the skatepark and sometimes instead of the usual "what kind of blades are those" questions I've got for years; sometimes I hear "hey, my sister rides quads in the parks" or "I've seen someone else ripping on those before."
We are back! Well, some of us didn't leave.
What is your favorite trick
My favorite vertical roller skating move would have to be without a doubt an Elgerial as performed by the Master Duke Rennie. So smooth yet so tricky most people can't even appreciate what they see when he pulls one. My favorite trick that I can perform would be a simple backside grind. Everybody loves an invert (spectators), but for pure feel, its the BS Grind for me all day long. But I like to invert too, who doesn't'!
What are your hopes for the future of roller skating
I hope the sport continues to grow. That someday we are as common in the parks as a skateboard or at least as common as a scooter. On a personal note, I hope that I can continue to skate well into my Golden Years. Just with more pads.
Wise words for the beginners
My best suggestion for newbies wanting to hit the parks would be PADS, PADS, PADS! I am a firm believer in them, as my gray-ass would not still be skating today if it weren't for quality knee pads and always wearing them. Anything you think you want to drop-in on, I advise you Knee slide into from the top first. Learn the fall. Bail from the top once, then commit to making it happen on the drop-in. And, if it doesn't, that's what the kneepads are for.
I want to personally thank EVERYBODY who has made the trek to Vegas in JULY in the 120F heat to come skate with me. And, as ALWAYS, the Skatepark tour is FREE, OPEN TO ALL & just a Damn good time!
<3 Skunkape Jay!