Though self-confessed adrenaline junky Laura Huntley arrived in Dubai to look for work, she was keen to ensure she kept up her favourite pastime: aggressive rollerblading.
By Laura’s own admission, Dubai’s rollerblading community is considerably smaller than that of BMXing and skateboarding. ‘I was lucky,’ she admits. ‘My friend who lives here is also a rollerblader and introduced me to the scene.’ The lack of current interest in the sport isn’t surprising, though, once you consider the torrid few years blading has endured.
In 2005, rollerblading was axed from the X-Games – an increasingly high-profile, not to mention commercially lucrative event. This exclusion starved the sport of exposure, and the inudstry soon began to crumble thereafter.
However, Laura maintains that rollerblading is far from dead. Despite not being as high profile as its more mainstream, board-bound cousin, rollerblading still commands a respectable international following, with a number of international events being held regularly worldwide.
As far as the local scene is concerned, Laura has been encouraged by the fresh faces that have joined the Dubai rollerblading scene since her arrival. She believes that, if anything, the relatively small size of the blading community here makes it far more accessible to newcomers. ‘It’s like being in one big family,’ she enthuses. ‘You’re always welcomed and accepted by people who share a common interest.’
Newcomers to the sport will be further encouraged to learn that once they’ve mastered the basics, the rest comes easily. Laura says she never fails to be surprised by just how quickly the young Emirati rollerbladers are developing: ‘It takes them a few months to learn tricks that took me years to get the hang of.’
So how come people are suddenly getting better, quicker? Laura thinks this is largely to do with the sport coming of age. She says that when she first started, rollerbladers didn’t really know their limitations – what they could and couldn’t do. Today, however, kids have the luxury of more source material – for example, watching tricks and moves on YouTube. Before, bladers would just make it up as they went along; now they have a platform on which they can build. If anything, the rapid evolution of the sport makes its exclusion from the X-Games all the more galling.
But Laura remains optimistic. If global rollerblading can grow and develop as it has here in Dubai, then surely it’s only a matter of time before the sport once again graces the X-Games.