(Susan Behrends Valenzuela for WSN) (Susan Behrends Valenzuela)
(Susan Behrends Valenzuela for WSN)

Susan Behrends Valenzuela

Central Park skating is back in full swing this spring

A WSN photographer takes a spin around Central Park’s Skate Circle for its opening weekend.

April 15, 2023

Last weekend, Central Park hosted its first skate circles of the season, complete with a DJ and dozens of skaters and spectators. As an admittedly novice roller skater who took up the hobby mid-pandemic, I’ve struggled to find skate-friendly spots in the city. The closest to campus, besides our wildly overcrowded quad, is the skateboarder-dominated Tompkins Square Park Skate Park. Occasionally, I venture to the West Side, only to get yelled at by enraged cyclists on the Hudson River Waterfront Greenway. In search of a more welcoming place to skate, I came across the Central Park Dance Skaters Association — a historic group that has called the Dead Road of Central Park their rink since 1978.

While roller skating has been a mainstay of Central Park for almost a century, the Central Park Dance Skaters Association initially formed in the late ’90s to resist the city’s insistence on making the park skate-free. Today, skaters and park-goers alike gather at Skate Circle on sunny weekends from April to October.

A person wearing a navy blue hoodie and dark blue pants roller skates backward in Central Park. He is surrounded by other rollerskaters and park crowds in the background on a sunny day.

The circle opens at 2:45 pm. A few early skaters, the DJ, and the Central Park Dance Skaters Association crew set up, as curious park-goers wandered up to the perimeter.

Two people, one wearing a gray tracksuit and the other wearing a black sweater with black jeans, roller skate facing each other. Other skaters are in the background in front of some trees and Central Park greenery.

As the afternoon went on, more and more skaters came to dance. Some of them seemed to know each other and partnered up to dance, while others chose to glide solo.

A person with long gray hair wears sunglasses, a navy blue jacket and blue jeans while roller skating in Central Park on a sunny day.
A person with white hair wears an all-black outfit and sunglasses while roller blading in Central Park. Other skaters are in the background.

Aside from the fact that I almost never saw anyone stumble or fall, what truly struck me was the diversity in ages of those participating — millennials, baby boomers and even a few young children. Only teenagers and young adults seemed to be missing. In many cases, helmets were absent too, but the older crowd seemed to grove along safely and smoothly.

A person wearing a purple skeleton mask, long-haired wig and a skeleton outfit roller skates while flipping their hair and posing in Central Park on a sunny day.
A person wearing a silver, sequined outfit and a bright pink curly wig roller skates while striking a pose in Central Park. Other skaters are in the background on a sunny day.

The head-to-toe protective gear characteristic of this sport is a rare sight here. Many of the skaters were instead decked out in unique costumes and props.

A person wearing an all-red sweatsuit with "Ricky Superstar" printed on the front spins a basketball on top of an American flag while throwing another ball in the air. The person is doing this while wearing inline skates.

One of the skaters that gleaned the most attention was Ricky Superstar, a basketball-spinning inline skater from Harlem. He was one of the first to arrive at the start of the day and was still spinning several hours later.

A person wearing sunglasses, a blue sweater, multi-colored quilted pants, inline skates, and wrist guards, balances two water bottles on their head in Central Park.

Even as just another person watching from the sidelines, it was clear to me that this bunch of skaters knew how to have a great time. This skater had two bottles on their head and eight wheels under their feet.

A group of people roller skate in Central Park, the person in the front wears a black top, rolled up pants, and red skates. The skaters in the back wear jeans, t-shirts and black skates.

At the end of the day, everyone was still dancing and showing off their best moves — especially the Central Park Dance Skaters Association staff, who were easily identifiable by their yellow and green tees.

If you’re looking for a seasoned group of skaters that welcomes beginners of all ages, or even if just want to watch, head to Skate Circle this weekend. Visit the group’s website for the skate schedule, to learn more about the park’s skating history, and to learn how you can help this weekend tradition endure for years to come.

Contact Susan Behrends Valenzuela at [email protected].

Developed for web by Kevin Wu.

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