Lorne Milne's Blade Blog
Vancouver Diary: David Hallam Rolled into Vancouver, Canada & Found it a Paradise for Skaters…
Written by David Hallam, As printed in Britain’s INLINE SKATERMAG
Read about David’s trip (from the U.K.) to inline skate British Columbia, Canada & his Vancouver inline skate lessons (with one of the world’s top inline skate instructors Lorne Milne)
Wednesday 9th September 10:30pm:
I arrive in Vancouver to help out at an International conference for lawyers (somebody has to). I’ve got my skates in my bag & a heap of information downloaded from the Internet about skating in Vancouver.
Monday 14th September 7:00 pm:
My first chance to get out of the conference center & get some exercise. End up cycling round Stanley Park with a group of girls from work. Am completely blown away by the scenery – views of the harbour all around, mountains in the distance, sea planes droning overhead, the sun setting over ships out at sea. All unforgettable.
Lots of skaters in the park. The cycleway even has little paintings of skaters on it. I resolve to get my skates out at the first opportunity.
Tuesday 15th September 2:00pm:
The first opportunity comes sooner than expected in the form of an afternoon off. Carry my skates down a lethal descent outside the hotel & take the coastal path to Stanley Park. The scenery is still mind-boggling. Stretches of the skate path are lovely & smooth – it feels more like flying than skating.
I go past Lion’s Gate Bridge than turn around & start coming back – which is when I discover something very interesting. That’s the wrong way: says a passing skater. I’m bemused – what can that mean? Another skate mumbles “Wrong way” to me. I notice the skater symbols have little arrows attached to them. Eventually a nice lady in a white lycra bodysuit explains it more clearly. “F***! You’re going to the wrong way! Jesus!”
Get this, there’s a one-way system for bikes & skaters around Stanley Park. If you go the wrong way people shout at you. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for safety rules, but the Canadians seem to have a knack of taking things one step further than anyone else would. (There’s also a 15 km/hr speed limit in parts of the park & skaters have booked for breaking it – but don’t get me talking about Canadian regulations).
Wednesday 16th September:
Wet weather kicks in & kills off skating activity.
Thursday 17th September 7:00pm:
I take a taxi over Sunset Beach to check out the skating action there. I find a roller hockey rink & a lovely stretch of skate path but hardly any skaters – it’s still too wet for them.
Saturday 19th September 11:00am:
Conference is over for another year & I’ve got some free time to devote to skating. First move is a trawl round Vancouver sports shops. Accessories are really cheap – I buy myself some new wheels for about a quarter of the price I’d pay in England. There’s also a big range of skates available – much bigger than I’ve seen in any shop back home. Assorted cheap skates on offer, but when I get down to model-for-model comparisons, the price differences aren’t really big enough to justify lugging another set of skates home.
Round Stanley Park with another group of girls from work (hey, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it). This time the girls are on bikes & I’m on my skates. We set a comfortable pace & I have no difficulty keeping u with them – more importantly, I don’t fall over & make a complete prat of myself either.
We meet lots of skaters going the ‘wrong way’. I fell (a) annoyed that nobody obeys these perfectly sensible safety rules: (b) filled with a certain smug satisfaction that at least I’m going the right way. Darkness falls as we finish our circuit of the Park – I end up skating blind along a path I can barely see. Good job it’s so smooth.
Sunday 20th September 10:11 am:
I meet up with Sue who’s keen to try skating in Vancouver. She syas she’s an old hand but a look of uncertainty crosses her face as she fumbes with her boot straps.
“Are you sure you’ve one this before?’’”I ask.
We start off at a gentle pace. Sue’s a bit wobbly at first but much better than I was to start with. I take it really easy & let get ahead of me – forgetting, until too late, about the steep descent waiting around one particular corner. Sue disappears from view with a cry of “ Help!” that starts quietly & gets a lot louder as she picks up speed. I catch up with her near the bottom. With the help of iron nerve & duff bearings on their rental skates, she has managed to stay upright. I’m mightily impressed. Sue is just glad to be alive.
We get our pictures taken next to the statue of Lord Stanley then head back via a bridge ramp that takes my breath away. I’m just congratulating myself on getting down in one piece when I’m overtaken by a guy on blades pushing a baby jobber. Skater, jogger & baby passenger much be touching 30 mph. The baby is sitting bolt upright, wide eyes fixed on the road ahead. I wonder if the mother knows?
Buy a carry strap & walk around Vancouver with my skates slung over my shoulder – feel like a complete skating dude.
Monday 21st September (a whole day of skating) 10:30am:
Start off badly with a decision to skate from Burrard Skytrain station down to the coast. An onslaught of steep descents, cars, awkward pedestrian & rough surfaces assault me in rapid succession. My skating skills will be up to the challenge one day, but not just yet. I arrive at the costal path with my nerves shredded & my right knee stiff from braking.
Set out on my big ‘skate’. The map shows a cycleway running round the coastline of the entire city – as soon as I saw it I knew I was going to skate it. I’m stiff at first but I soon loosen up & overtake a few bikes. After Stanley Park, the cycleway heads east past Sunset Beach, Yaletown & the BC Place Stadium. The path is lovely & smooth here (slightly downhill) & I fly along it almost too quickly to enjoy it. At the glittering sphere of ‘Science World’ the path runs West again towards Granville Island & Vanier Park.
There’s lots of building work going on around here & I repeatedly get diver4ted away from the coast & onto back roads. I’m never alone though. The route is well used by cyclists, joggers & other skaters, so there’s always somebody around to point or lead me in the right direction.
The path turns into gravel & I ask some old ladies if they know a smoother route. They all know about the incompatibility of skates & stones without me having to explain. The level of skating awareness over here is amazingly high – right across the age range as there’s more than a few grey-haired skaters around Vancouver.
Mission accomplished! I get to the end of the cycle way in a leisurely 4 hours & 10 minutes. Tired but happy, I trundle back to Granville Island & browse around the shops & market stalls. After a restorative frozen yoghurt, I catch a ferry back across False Creek & watch a roller hockey game at Sunset Beach.
Grab myself a sandwich at a seafront café where I can sit outside with my skates on. Other skaters whiz along the promenade in front of me or sit & gossip at the bar next door. The term ‘Skaters’ Paradise’ is much over-used, but as I sit there I begin to think that Vancouver must come close.
Meet up with skating tutor extraordinaire & all-round excellent person, Lorne Milne. Lorne is an IISA (International Inline Skating Association) instructor is deeply involved in promoting skating as a safe sport in Vancouver. He’s currently campaigning to get a new skate park built in the city. Lorne immediately show me all sorts of stuff I didn’t even know I was supposed to be doing. Two hours of drills, techniques& cone practice fly by & I skate home with my brain buzzing with new thoughts & ideas about skating.
Tuesday 22nd September 12:00am:
My last day in Vancouver. After a lazy morning sun-bathing I am stirred into action by a phone call from Lorne who can fit me in for a lesson in the evening. I pack up my gear & head into town.
I warm up for my evening lessons with a final skate around Stanley Park – this is one route I’ll never get tired of. My legs are stiff from yesterday’s exertions & it takes a long time to loosen up. I practice some of my new skills as I go along – upper body stable, legs pushing off to the side rather than behind.
Skating Lesson – Lorne gets me doing 2–wheel tricks & I amaze myself by actually managing some of them. We also get through street skills, spins, grabs, advanced stroking & as many other techniques as Lorne can think of for me to practise when I get back to England.
Lorne invites me along for a Chinese meal with his buddies Mike, Bob & Pete. All are skaters & are heavily into outdoor pursuits in general – skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, Vancouver experience. Lorne tells me about the endless skating opportunities available down in the US & about the routes I’ve not yet tried right here in Vancouver – Seymour Demonstration Forest & the path that follows the Skytrain line. “So when do you think you’ll be coming back to Vancouver?’ he asks as he pours a pot of green leaf tea.
I drain my cup & smile “I’ll be back!”
Sideline: Lorne Milne: