Veterans of Vert - Lisa Suggitt
Lisa Suggitt is a passionate rollerskater who's been charging on rollerskates for well over 30 years. Lisa runs the RollerGirl.ca Skate Shop in Vancouver. She started the shop because she couldn't find anyone who sold the products and services she needed to stay in her sport of choice, so she began repairing, modifying and making skates first for herself - then for her friends. We're excited to share some of Lisa's story with you!
At what age did you first lace-up?
I started roller skating when I was 4 or 5 years old. I don’t actually remember learning to roller skate, it’s just something that I have always known how to do. Some of my earliest memories are of the Stardust Roller Rink in Surrey. It was the early 1980’s and I remember skating to Madonna, Cindy Lauper, doing the Chicken Dance, skating backward, eating snow cones and having so much fun!
How did you get introduced to park skating?
When I was in my late teens, I learned to skateboard on my neighbors 8 foot half pipe. I actually learned to skateboard in the ramp before anything else. I used to get nearly to the top of that ramp by pumping fakie before I could really skate on flat ground. A few years later I had my skateboard stolen and was left without any wheels.
Luckily I found a pair of Micron roller skates at a garage sale not too long after that. They were bright electric blue with holographic stars on them, in my size, and in their brand-new condition in their box. The original price tag was dated from the year I was born. It was destiny calling and those roller skates changed my life. They got me back into roller skating, which led to aggressive skating, starting RollerGirl.ca, and playing roller derby. I actually nearly didn’t buy them. I was pretty broke at the time and they were $20. I walked away from the garage sale without the skates, but my boyfriend went back for them! It’s crazy sometimes how the littlest decision can change your life, in this case for the better.
My boyfriend skateboarded a lot back then and would often go to skateparks. I had never heard of anyone skating parks on roller skates, but I figured it was worth a try. So I did. I kind of made it up as I went along and copied moves that skateboarders were doing, adapting them to roller skates. Dropping in, stalls, airs, grabs, etc. Learning to drop in was terrifying because I had never seen anyone else do it. I learned to roll in first, then I figured out how to jump in using a stopper to push off of. The first time I stalled was out of panic. I had just gotten a surprising amount of speed dropping in and ended up at the coping. I just reacted and somehow stalled successfully.
I was hooked right away, it was the most fun I had ever had. I loved the same things that drew me to skating as a child: the speed, the freedom, the excitement, but it was even better because of the transition.
I spent a lot of my early days at China Creek, Vancouver’s oldest (and most ghetto) skatepark. There’s no coping anywhere there, nothing to hook up on, so it was great to learn to work the transition, roll in, get air, etc. My first stalls were in the T-Cup, which in retrospect I think is actually sketchier because it doesn’t have any coping. Hastings Bowl was built in the early 2000s and soon became my favorite skate park. It still is one of my all-time favorite places to skate. So many corners, so much speed!
What was the skate scene when you first entered it?
Back when I started, the aggressive roller skating scene locally was non-existent, and internationally was next to non-existent. I went online in search of anyone else who used their roller skates at the skatepark and found only a handful of skaters over a number of countries that were still active. I actually originally started RollerGirl.ca as a way of documenting the sport. We profiled these skaters, telling their stories and showing their tricks.
In those early years, I skated almost exclusively with skateboarders. It was way before roller derby hit Vancouver, and I only knew a handful of other roller skaters in town. None of them were interested in the skateparks. Once RollerGirl.ca got rolling I started to meet skaters from all over the world and got to meet a few of them in person here while they visited Vancouver.
"Spend more time practicing what you can’t do than what you can do."
Who are your biggest inspirations?
The biggest influence on my skating has to be Daniel Knopf, a vert roller skater from Germany, who had moved to Vancouver temporarily. Daniel would only skate ramps that were 10 feet or higher! Before meeting Daniel I hadn’t skated regularly with other roller skaters, while Daniel had skated with a lot of the old school European skaters. He had a lot of tricks and techniques that were totally new to me. We skated together weekly at the infamous RDS skatepark in Richmond BC for a few years. They had a 14’ vert ramp, which was terrifying. Daniel cleaned up my skating technique and made me a much stronger skater. He had been skating since the aggressive roller skating heyday of the ’80s and was still shredding it. He was a great coach, he taught me to do hand plants on that ramp. Other skaters that influenced me were Irene Ching, Brian Wainwright, and Duke Rennie. Their skating inspired me to try new tricks and push myself to be better.
I love how the sport has taken off. These days there are so many amazing park skaters reinventing the sport and pushing all the boundaries. At the moment, Bomba Hache is my hero, I love her aggressive style. It is so easy to be inspired by all the talented skaters taking this sport to the next level.
How important to you that more girls get into the park scene?
I think it is important to get girls into the park scene simply because they have been absent for so many years. Girls always seemed to be on the sidelines of so many aggressive sports. Not anymore! These days there is a huge increase in the number of girls, of all disciplines, who skate the parks. It is our time to shred.
What's the best piece of advice you can give anyone looking to get set up??
Work with a skate shop that has a lot of experience with park skating setups. Just like any roller skate set up, there isn’t one skate that is right for everyone. Work with someone who can customize your skates for your specific needs.
What's the best thing that park skating has done to your life?
Park skating is so much fun, I am happy that it was a part of my life for the pure pleasure of getting to skate that discipline. It’s also thanks to park skating that I run RollerGirl.ca. This company has been an excellent adventure. It started off as a way to profile aggressive roller skaters, it ended up being the biggest roller skate shop in Canada, and we’re celebrating our 15th year in business this year (2018)!
Skate safe and respect the park, or it will kick your butt. Take it easy, stay in control, push your limits as you develop skills, wear your gear and be smart. I have seen my share of terrible injuries at the skate park, it’s too often caused by people skating beyond their skills.
Please wear a helmet. I know it isn’t super cool, but dying isn’t cool either. I am confident that I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for my helmet. I had a bad bail while I was doing my warm-up run. I wasn’t doing anything difficult or new, I transferred over the spine at Hastings and didn’t quite have enough speed. When I landed on the backside of the spine, my weight was back and the skates flew out from under me. I pivoted hard and fast to my tailbone, elbows, and head. I went down hard. I broke my tailbone, I bruised and battered my elbows and I cracked my helmet right up the back. It took a half-hour before I started to be coherent after the fall. I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. It took me almost two years to recover from that concussion.
I stopped skating at the parks for some years.
Instead, I directed my skating energies more toward roller derby. I was playing for the Terminal City All-Stars and we were working really hard to make our little team competitive. It was only after I retired from roller derby a couple of years ago that I got back into the skateparks. It was like coming home.
I can’t believe I ever stopped.
- Lisa Suggitt
Also, check out this super informative document sharing tips for beginner park skaters: