Gear freaks The roller-blader

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Also known as: in-line skater (technically the correct term for rollerblading, Rollerblader Inc being a company, but as sure as vacuuming is Hoovering, the brand name looks set to stay); "rec" skater (likes parks); street skater (likes doing stunts off the kerb); hardcore or aggressive skater (likes railings, benches, vertical ramps and spinning in the air); artistic skater (likes spangly outfits and Torvill and Dean); speed skater (likes to skate very, very fast); hockey skater (likes sticks and balls).

Numbers nationally: 400,000 regular in-line skaters.

Magazines: Skatermag; Skater; In-Line; Hockey International (about to be relaunched as In-Line Hockey International); 1st In-Line (about to be launched).

Favourite locations: outside; the Broadwalk in Kensington Gardens, particularly at 4.30pm - the golden blading hour; on cycle tracks in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Road and, on Sundays, South Carriage Drive; along promenades in Brighton, Bournemouth, Dover, Folkestone; on city streets in the middle of the night (around 350 skaters take part in an organised skate through San Francisco every Friday night); Bath Skate Park; at all-night skate raves.

Hazards: skidding on the sand and gravel laid on banned walkways in the royal parks; skate patrols - in New York patrols cruise through parks stopping irresponsible skaters and have direct line with the police; uneven pavements; rubbing shoulders with Kylie Minogue, Adam Faith, the Duchess of Kent, Tiggy Legge-Bourke and other celebrity in-line enthusiasts; twisted, sprained or broken ankles; being fined for speeding (Errol Spence was stopped by police in Liverpool last month for skating at 30mph. The downhill record is 75mph); "whacking the sack" (crushing your testicles on a rail).

The kit: from a skate designed in 1980 as an out-of-season practice boot for ice- hockey players, to a market which in 1994 was worth around $700m (approx pounds 480m), roller-blading is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. So fast, in fact, has the craze boomed, that there is little in the way of clothes specifically for skating. Three hundred thousand pairs of skates may have been bought in Britain last year, but what do the new wheel generation wear on their skates? A pick and mix jumble of cycling, jogging, aerobics, skate-boarding and surfing clothes and accessories. However, this is about to change. Rollerblade and other companies have recently announced a line of "in-line apparel" to be launched next year.

The gear: Rollerblade's Aeroblade skates with air pump, ventilation and adjustable activated break, pounds 220; two pairs of Polisox Tube Socks, pounds 10; Everlast USA Sweat, pounds 84; Trek USA Lycra cycling shorts, pounds 24.95; Animal Beanie hat, pounds 18.

Accessories: Bauer wrist guards, pounds 14, Bauer elbow pads, pounds 10; Bauer Knee pads, pounds 12; Bauer In-Line backpack with skate compartment, pounds 35; Arnet Full Metal Jacket shades, pounds 100.

Optional extras: Lowe Alpine bum bag, pounds 10.95; Nautilus Simuskate Machine which recreates the motion of skating, tones the inner and outer thighs and uses interactive computer graphics to mark progress through various courses, approx pounds 2,500.

Ultimate gadget: Speedtool Sonic Folding In-Line Skate Tool, pounds 12. Used to remove bearings and spacers and ensure the easy rotation of worn wheels.

Ultimate experience: Gliding (the nearest sensation to flying without leaving the ground); winning the Mental Circus competition; Big Air (jumping high in the air).

Bare essentials: hired skates and pads, pounds 10 a day.