In the 1990s when Julie Beskangy was 13, her mom would drive her from Madison Heights to Skate World of Troy to go roller skating.
There, she met fellow skater Alf Beskangy. They dated on and off, married last year, and they still skate together Sunday nights at Skate World’s adult open skate.
Roller skating is that kind of activity. Many involved in the activity started doing it as a young kid, and return to it for the nostalgia, as well as the exercise.
“We come every week for a reason. It’s good energy, you’re exercising with your friends, it’s awesome,” said Beskangy, who was taking a break from skating to chat with friends as skaters whizzed by, grooving to Stevie Wonder’s “My Eyes Don’t Cry No More.”
A recent “Old School Skate and Reunion” event organized by the rink Sunday brought out a crowd that was at least twice as big as a typical Sunday. In spite of the hot turnout, though, Beskangy says she doesn’t think roller skating is making a comeback or anything.
“I feel like it’s not popular — that’s why we love it. It’s different.”
“It’s unique,” adds Alf. “You kind of trick yourself into exercising because you’re skating the whole time. It’s a big social thing because you have regular people that are here every week.”
Skate World general manager Darlene Searles, who has worked there for nearly 40 years, says skaters can burn up to 600 calories an hour if you skate nonstop.
“We don’t get the crowds we used it back in the disco (era),” she said. Of the rink’s vibe, though, she said “everything is pretty much the same as it used to be.”
Those renting skates still lace up the same brown boots with orange wheels and join those who bring their own onto the oval rink, which is below not one, but nine disco balls.
Experienced folks of all ages and backgrounds glide along to the music, incorporating dance moves into their skating. Others still cling to the rink’s sides or to other skaters.
Some things have changed, though. Back in the 1980s, when the “Footloose” soundtrack topped the charts, the DJ didn’t have to remind skaters to keep their cell phones in their pockets, lest they selfie themselves into the wall.
On teen nights — 7:30-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. — the music is more updated and includes modern pop, rock and hip-hop songs, but on adult open skate (Wednesday and Sunday nights) the DJ knows people are looking for nostalgia, and sticks with dance classics from all the way back to the 1970s.
Kimberly Leplow of Macomb Township was hoping to hear the song “Freak-A-Zoid” by Midnight Star after lacing up her skates.
“I grew up skating and grew up dancing and I love music,” said Leplow, who said she’d skate more if she wasn’t so busy with her three teenage kids, who were all with her Sunday night. “They’re all skating ... I just love it. For me it was always about having fun because I’d come disco night, ladies night and the teen night. It’s not really about fitness, even though it should be because it’s great for your body.”
Because it’s good exercise, alcohol-free, relatively inexpensive and family-friendly — aside from some of the lyrics of the songs, possibly — visiting a skating rink is pretty wholesome.
So much so, that God’s World Superstore Christian book store hosts a monthly “Gospel SuperSkate” at Northland Roller Rink the first Monday of each month.
“It’s a fun, family environment, uplifting your spirits,” said Delano Anderson of God’s World. “It’s open to all ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds. It’s just something that’s been part of the community and something that we’ve been doing for 20 plus years.”
The next Gospel SuperSkate is 7-10 p.m. Feb. 5. Anderson said the house DJs spins Gospel music and on a good month up to 300 people may attend.
It’s also a way for local churches to raise money. Stop into God’s World and they’ll sell a church representative tickets for $2.50 each; they can be resold for a higher amount to raise funds for your church. Individuals can also buy tickets at the door for $6.
Most, if not all roller rinks have a variety of skates available for rental, making this a low-cost activity to try without investing in any equipment.
And who knows, you may end up meeting your future spouse.
Where to roller skate locally
Northland Roller Rink
Throwback pricing night, adults-only, family-friendly and matinee skates, plus monthly Gospel SuperSkate
22311 W. 8 Mile, Detroit. (313) 535-1666 or northlandrink.com
Longstanding rink hosts special themed events, adult skate, and skating lessons
2130 S. Schaefer, Detroit. (313) 736-0832 or @rollercade on Instagram
Detroit Roller Wheels
Skating classes, discount nights, Gospel night and adults-only nights
16611 Schoolcraft, Detroit. (313) 837-7680 or detroitrollerwheel.com
Open skating on Tuesday nights and all day Saturday, plus Sunday night adult skate
5201 Alter, Detroit. (313) 882-5911 or royalskateland.com
Lessons, open skates, and themed events
36635 Plymouth, Livonia. (734) 421-3540 or riversidearena.com
Open skate, teen nights, theme nights, pizza
37550 Cherry Hill, Westland. (734) 326-2800 or skatelandwestmi.com
Lessons, adult night with organ music, themed nights (Star Wars Skate is Jan. 27)
8611 Ronda, Canton. (734) 459-6400 or skatinstation2.com
Lincoln Park Skating Center
Admission just 50 cents Monday nights; My Little Pony skate noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday
1419 Southfield, Lincoln Park. (313) 381-7465 or lincolnparkskating.com
Skate World of Troy
Lessons, adults-only open skate, teen nights and themed nights
2825 E. Maple, Troy. (248) 689-4100 or skateworldoftroy.com
BonaVenture Family Skating Center
High-capacity facility with open skating and other activities
24505 Halsted, Farmington Hills. (248) 476-2200 or metroskating.com
Rolladium Family Fun Center
Roller rink, plus ropes course, arcade and snack bar
4475 Highland, Waterford Township. (248) 674-3949 or rolladiumfamilyfuncenter.com
The Great Skate
Lessons for kids and adults, open skate for different age groups
29100 Hayes, Roseville. (586) 777-4300 or greatskateonline.com
The New Rink
Bounce house, open skate, theme nights (Star Wars Skate is Saturday)
50625 Van Dyke, Shelby Township. (586) 731-5006 or thenewrink.com
All rinks are available for birthdays and private parties