Venice Beach – Peace, Love and Roller Skates

Posted on September 14, 2011 by

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Our recent USA trip was all about RollerCon – heading to Vegas to learn derby things that would see us returning epically brilliant!  Because we’d have our skates with us anyway we decided to make our whole holiday about Roller Skating.  I desperately wanted to visit Venice Beach, the birth place of outdoor summer roller skating.

In my mind, visiting Venice Beach was going to be a step back in time to the 60’s and 70’s in the era of peace, love and roller skates!  An interactive film set crossed between scenes of the modern Californication series and 1965’s version of Gidget played by Sally Fields overlaid with a musical background of the Doors, the Kooks, the Ramones and the Beach Boys.

Something like this:

It has been a lifelong fantasy of mine to join this beach skating culture wearing one of  the favoured uniforms of the day – a bikini and roller skates.  Surely the only protection needed in such an idyllic skate environment would be sunblock, right?! 

A bikini clad Venice Beach roll

While there was a myriad of other wheeled transport like roller blades, bicycles and segways we were pretty much the only ones on quads which I found both surprising and disappointing.

However, on one afternoon skate I met a tanned, shirtless man named “Mark” who introduced himself as, along with his brother Jeff, the founders of “Cheapskates” – the first skate rental in Venice Beach in approximately 1977 which initially operated from the back of a van.

Perhaps it looked similar to this 1992 version?

Mark and I skated together along the popular strip, weaving our way through throngs of hippies, pot smokers, tourists, dogs, musicians, stalls and beggars as he recounted skate memories from his youth and the birth of Venice Beach roller skating.  He told me of how he and his brother used the rubbery skateboard wheels to attach to derby skates so they could be used for outdoor skating!

At the time I had no idea how much of his story was true but I so badly wanted to believe in the romantic nostalgia that so closely matched my fantasy.  Upon researching a little further I was stoked to find that not only was Mark a lovely guy with awesome stories but a completely honest one!!  My fantasy remains intact!

Regrettably I never got a photo of Mark or his last name but believe it could be Rosenberg?  Mark, if you read this please contact me via derbywannabes@gmail.com!

Here’s a vintage photo I dug up of Cheapskates, click the photo to visit the source.

Venice Beach circa 1979 (Photo courtesy of The Selvedgeyard)

I rolled along the beach track trying to avoid the numerous “sand pits” on the path which would be most hazardous to an unpadded skater! I rolled through the throngs of weirdos and freaks agiley dodging and weaving like a jammer in training.  I stopped to peruse and try the merchandise and, rather than be evicted due to being on skates, I was offered a chair to try on the shorts I found!!

I stopped to watch the acrobatics on the beach, the craziness in the skate park and the brawn of Muscle Beach.

I have now not only have visited my fantasy of yesterday’s Venice but have indelibly imprinted myself into that fantasy and completed another one of those items I have on my bucket list.  In spite of Venice Beach being nothing like my imagination had built it to be, I loved it for all that it is and all that I imagine it may have been.

If you want to see more of the original Venice Beach Rollers and catch tiny glimpse of my new friend Mark, visit here, a trailer made by fellow Australian, Kate Hickey for her documentary in the making, “Roller Dreams”.

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Posted in: LimboLand