As I shuffled out of Annenberg Hall one afternoon, I glanced past the row of parked cars on the street at a sight that came and went so quickly my jaw hit the ground.
A dashing young man swiveled his hips forward and backward, arms extended for balance. His long-sleeved shirt flapped in the wind. He stood sideways, as if on a snowboard, and each foot made smooth ‘S’ curves, propelling him forward. Each foot stood freely on two tiny separate platforms, each with only two wheels, in line like Rollerblades.
How he didn’t face-plant or fall into a gruesome split was beyond me.
He zipped toward the Bell Tower, and then he was gone.
I hadn’t imagined it. Fellow students reported seeing the same young man weaving through crowds on Temple’s campus.
Alex Frigoletto, a junior marketing major, was witness to the scene.
“I saw him go by and I thought, ‘What is on his feet, and how is he not running into people?’” she said.
My mystery man was riding a pair of Freeline Skates. If a skateboard birthed a lovechild after having steamy affairs with a snowboard, a surfboard and a pair of in-line skates, its name would be Freeline Skates.
And you definitely wouldn’t be able to tell who the Daddy is.
Freeline Skates are kind of like one tiny skateboard for each foot. Riders’ feet are not strapped in. Gravity and constant motion keep the rider balanced.
Mobility on these things seems utterly impossible to see them at work is awe-inspiring.
“I think they’re stupid,” said Brian Boyle, a junior advertising major.
Boyle rode a skateboard for years before he discovered the greater efficiency of a bike. He compares Freeline Skates to skateboards, and neither suffices.
“[Skateboards] are such an inefficient way to get around,” he said. “They’re so slow.”
First, the mystery skater zoomed by so quickly I swear I felt a breeze. Second, the skates were tiny. You could easily shove them into a bookbag right next to your textbooks. If that’s not efficient, then I don’t know what is.
Freeline Skates were born in California in 2002. According to BusinessWeek magazine, 20,000 pairs were sold in 2007. But Freeline Skates has taken its time rolling to the East Coast.
Nelly, an employee at Nocturnal Skateshop off South Street, has never heard of Freeline Skates. As I eagerly tried to explain the concept, he and a few lingering employees met my excitement with cold shoulders, cracking themselves up when one muttered “Fruitline” under his breath.
“I’m not into it,” Nelly dismissed.
The skate shop’s reaction was so hostile that I felt a little silly for even asking about the skates. But why should I? It’s a skate shop. They should know about these things, even if it’s only to dissuade a customer from buying anything but a skateboard.
And what’s so unappealing about them? It’s about time there was a new addition to extreme sporting. I’m not saying we have to forget about the old, but why not make room for the new stuff, too?
I don’t care what Nelly thinks. Freeline Skates look awesome. It takes a skilled athlete to use them.
Although my gracelessness will prevent me from purchasing a pair, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. So hop on the approaching bandwagon, even if you’re a dedicated boarder.
There’s no reason to hate on the West Coast wheels.
Leah Mafrica can be reached at email@example.com.