Updated: Feb 23
by Mel Blackwood @roller_girl_gang
Hiya! It’s Mel from Roller Girl Gang here. Roller Girl Gang is based in Leeds, UK. We have a pro shop, offering a carefully curated choice of roller skates and accessories, (including tricky-to-get products this side of the Atlantic) as well as run events and classes.
I’m also the Skate Love team member who has been liaising with the amazing masterclass and workshop teachers all heading to Skate Love BCN.
Ahead of the festival, I’ve been able to catch up with some of them.
Meet Wendell (left) and Sebeey.
These are very talented newer skaters on the scene, but we know it's the hours of practise you put into learning your craft that makes you the skater you are. (Not how long you've owned your skate for!) Your wheels are simply the way you express yourself, and Wendell and Sebeey have a lot to say! We haven't met before, and it was great to have a chance to chat ahead of the festival.
I love the energy exchange between two partners, because it really doesn't exist outside the space that you create. It really doesn't. You can't practise partner skating per se, without a partner. And if you only practise with one partner, it will feel different with another person. And I think that's a really great thing. It's almost as if you are creating something that didn't exist before.
Our Skate Love chat happened over Zoom, so I apologise for any inconsistency in sound or video quality. Everyone is busy in the run up to the festival, and I'm glad we were able to co-ordinate time zones!
Mel: Hi everybody, I'm joined today by Wendell and Sebeey. Hi guys. (waves)
And I'm here to find out a little bit more about their skate workshop and their skate history, right before we land in Skate Love Barcelona next month!
First up, just in case people don't know you, please would you introduce yourself?
Wendell: Hey, I name is Wendell Phipps and I am a roller skater. I currently live in Los Angeles, but I actually grew up in the capital of the United States, near Washington, DC. I have been skating for three years now, actually three years this month. what got me into skating? I actually bought roller skates before I really got into skating, when I was living over on the East Coast. But on August 10th 2019 I got invited to skate on Venice Beach. I got invited to a skate party out there in 2019 that changed my life. I walked up to the party and saw artistry and musicianship that I'd never seen before. That really opened my eyes up to the possibility of being a roller skater that did more than go around in circles on the rink. And from there its been a long, wonderful and magical journey of creativity. Meeting wonderful people, having great experiences, making fond memories of falling on the ground, many many, many times. But hopefully now a little bit less.
Amazing! Actually living the dream. Thank you Wendell.
Sebeey: And my name is Sebeey Chi. A roller skater as well. I started roller skating in Los Angeles in 2020. My birthday is March 18 2020. Quarantine hit March 16 in LA, so there was virtually nothing I could do for my birthday. LA was a ghost town and I wanted to gift myself something.
and give myself something to do, that I could do by myself. I didn't need people around me. Roller skating seemed to be the thing. Coincidentally, I went to a rink, a popular rink in LA - World on Wheels - and just in some rentals. That was where the seed was planted. Just to see people in their element. I was just in rental skates, so I really wasn't doing much but that was where I could see people in their vibe, in their element. It's just funny that the pandemic really just pushed me into it. In my mind I was thinking I would get skates in maybe a year, much further down the line, but the pandemic just pushed that day closer, into fruition . That's how it started for me and it's just been a transformative experience. Skating on Venice Beach, I found a community. Really it'[s the first community outside of sports in school that I've been a part of.
Yeah it's been great. An amazing journey. I've travelled, connected with so many amazing communities. It's just continuing to give me more and more as I continue to skate so it's definitely a lifestyle at this point.
M:It's such an amazing story, and I think your journey Sebeey, is so identifiable with so many skaters who will be attending Skate Love this year. who started skating in 2020 and were just inspired by doing something for themselves and connecting with people and meeting people. It is just amazing how far those 8 wheels can take you.
S: Across the world!
M: It's just incredible.
So we have what we consider a big skate party in Barcelona, in my experience it's one of the biggest in Europe, but I have never been to skate parties in the US and I have absolutely no idea how they compare. What is your experience of larger skate events, can you tell us anything about how long they last for or how many people attend? Anything like that?
W: You want to go Sebeey?
S: I will go first because I know my opinion is a little different than yours. I have actually never been to an American skate party. Skate Love is and recently, I went to Roll On London a month ago. I'm more of an international skater than an American skater. so my opinion is still in the works between the two. From the international parties I've been to, it's a lot of what I am used to. Like the outdoor vibe, coming from Venice Beach, and just skating by the water, being outdoors and the energy that comes with that. From not going to a skate party in American I could just tell that these skate parties are a little bit different, just because the skate parties I have been to internationally have been outdoors. Not as rink heavy in Europe than America, so they rely on the outdoors more, which means I am in my element. That was hoe I was Skating when I first started was outdoors, at the beach just going end to end. My opinion about skate parties is still getting there. Right now I am more of an international skater.
M: But still a great time!
S:Yes a great time overall
M:Let's hand over to Wendell.
W: So I have been to a few of the skate parties in the US and it is a different vibe. Still a great time as you say. There are a dozen skate parties that you would call National parties thats how they refer to them in the US. There is the Independence Roll, right before Skate Love there is a really big party. It's in Atlanta, it lasts for 6 days! It's called Skate-a-thon. It's basically all day, all night, either roller skating or meet-and-greet, or cookout, Bar B Q, something like that. It lasts for pretty much the whole week and people from all over the nation show up to that party. It is packed. people show up to represent their city. That's one of the main things that is different
about a US party compared to an international party. My experience of Skate Love is about coming together to have a great time, connecting with people across the world to share a love of skating. That's there too with the American party, but what I have also noticed is that when you show up to a national party, you show up as a representative of your state. It is important to put your best foot forward. Sometimes it leads to a really competitive energy that I enjoy, not everybody does, but I enjoy. I love to watch more experienced skaters. As a newer skater I love to see people who inspire me. There are a lot of people I follow just on the social media who I never get to meet, but I get that chance when I show up to the party and they're on the next level all the time. Especially when they come to a party, because they want to represent their city. They want to do battles with other skaters from across the country, and do their best and represent their own skill set. That's one of the bigger things. So its kind of like is kind of like the competition that we run on the main day at the festival. That energy is there kinda all the time.
It's really cool to witness. It's really cool to see people trying to step up and one-up each other. I really like that energy and one of these days I plan to participate when I get on that level.
M: Wow, that sounds like a really different kind of style. It's so interesting that people can take skating in all of the different ways and there is definitely room for all those different ways. It's such a big community worldwide, wow it's amazing!
I love, as well, that you go to the big skate parties to be inspired and learn from other people. That's definitely been my experience, the first time I went to Skate Love, it blew my mind. I was expecting to have to stop roller skating when I got to 40, because I thought it was for kids, I'm too old, no-one does this anymore and then here are al these adults, dancing on their roller skates.
And I'm thinking, Oh I can just keep going! It's such an amazing community to find, particularly as an adult, it's so liberating.
I think that leads us nicely into the masterclass you are going to be teaching this year. We are super excited for that. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are going to be delivering this year at SLB?
S: Yeah, yeah. We are going to be delivering a partner skating masterclass this year. Partner skating is something that Wendell and myself have found a deeper love for as we have gone along in our skate journey, because of how freeing and unique, I would say, the vibe is. Literally from person to person. I will partner skate with one person and that is one thing, I'll partner skate with the next person and that's a whole completely different thing. Just tat you guys have to create this energy. That you have to create this movement that comes together seamlessly is the fun of it all for me. When it comes to teaching that, I love it so much, I enjoy the process of it so much. It's one of the few things that I have come along on my skate journey that I want to teach. The way we deliver it, and I have had people ask me to teach them, is very digestible from my experience. We just heard enough and thought let's do something here and it is something we are very excited to showcase this year at Barcelona.
M: I love that you talk about the energy, between the two people. So, if someone is booked onto your masterclass without partner, will that be a problem for them?
W: I would say no. First of all, because both Sebeey and I will be there and we are not just going to stick to ourselves the whole time, we are going to be around other people as part of the class.
I think it is ideal if you come as a partner, because that automatically guarantees that you have someone to skate with but we are definitely not going to turn anyone away!
And we encourage people to skate with different partners as well. Not getting too comfortable
with one person, and to catch different vibes from different people.
Yes, we will be rotating partners, so whether you don't or do some with a partner, you are going to be skating with several people during the course of the class. That is the energy you see with partner skating, at least in the United States. I could skate for two songs with Sebeey and the next time we come to skate we could both be with different partners, it looks like a different thing altogether.
M: That's really col! I like the sounds of that class a lot. It sounds like you have some great tips to pass on to people and that you are going to be constantly nudging people out of their comfort zone. A place for growth.
W: That's the point though. Success is out of the comfort zone. I'm really excited to teach the class because, I love the energy exchange between two partners, because it really doesn't exist outside the space that you create. It really doesn't. You can't practise partner skating per se without a partner. And if you only practise with one partner, it will feel different with another person. And I think that's a really great thing. It's almost as if you are creating something that didn't exist before.
M: That's a really magical thing. So it's less about the choreography, and more about the feeling and energy you create with another person?
W: I would definitely agree with that. There is choreography that can hep you with the fundamentals and help you learn. I know I learned choreography in my first year of skating. And we are going to have some choreography during our class, but I would agree that it's more about the flow that the two of you can create, rather and a specific move, or certain timing. It's more about the two of you being together and moving together.
S: It's the chemistry you create. We try to stay away from predictability.
M: Oooh that sounds interesting!
S: I try to describe it to people as your feet are making love to the music and you're just going with that. Don't try to predict or anticipate the next move, just go with the flow.
M: Just release yourself and enjoy the moment. You've made that sound so accessible as well.
W:When I see teachers that take people from 'I can't do this', to 'maybe I can', that's where the magic can really start to happen. If you can get someone to try something they are really not comfortable with. I understand. People who take this masterclass maybe have never partner skated before and it might be making them a little bit nervous. But we just want to dispel that because you can do it. If roller skating has taught me one thing, it's that it can be done. It doesn't matter. I've seen, at these parties, people of all shapes, sizes, colours, skill sets, ablebodiedness - it's incredible what roller skaters can do nowadays, in fact throughout al the history of roller skating. I just want to make sure that no one is afraid to take the class because they think they can't do it. That's not what it is about. We are going to find something you can do that's for sure.
S: And honestly, the basis of the way we are going to teach this class, I have taught people who didn't even have the full fundamentals of just skating in general, but the core fundamentals of how we teach partner skating is very digestible I would say. If someone is not fully confident in their skillset as a skater, I would say it's not necessarily needed for partner skating. It's more a vibe, and what you create with another person.
M: I am excited to see the magic happen for sure! Not long now!
W: Is it 20 days or something?
M: Yeah the countdown is happening rapidly! I'm almost slightly worried to look because I still have quite a list of things to do before we are ready, but it's coming!
So just to finish off, do you have one top tip for anyone who is travelling to Skate Love this year, based on your experience of travelling and roller skating?
S: Okay a top tip! I will keep it simple and say don't get lost in the sauce. Feed yourself, hydrate yourself. because last year, we definitely got lost in the Skate Love sauce, for hours, day in, day out. Knowing our bodies were depleted at the end of each day and still doing nothing about it to prepare. So just prepare for your body to go through hell because the vibes are high, so you are going to be doing a lot. Just come prepared to take care of your body first and foremost, because you are not going to enjoy your weekend if you are not feeling right.
M: That is an excellent tip!
W: I agree with going with the flow and take care of yourself. Gallons upon gallons of water. Gallons upon gallons of water. I would say make friends with someone who knows the area or at least get their advice on public transportation, because that's something we ran into last year. Like Sebeey said, the vibes are high, you don't want to stop skating, and you blink twice and all of a sudden it's 4am and you don't know how to get home.
Actually, funny story. Last year, I stayed out after all my room mates from the residence for the festival. They all went to sleep and I ended up on the street with no way to get in. I had to find a hotel, and stay in a hotel for the night. It was, it was.. yes! [laughter]
M: This is a funny story?
W: It's funny to me now! I wasn't ever in danger, I was safe, it was just a little awkward, because I didn't know what to do. So I guess another tip - make sure you can get into your Air BnB or your hotel if you're going to be out late.
S: And I would say another thing too is taking advantage from the amount of different people you will come across and just doing what you will with that. Soaking it up. You will see so many different people from around the world. Skate Love last year started a whole travel bug within me. I don't think I've stopped travelling, intermittently, since September last year. It all started with Barcelona. I've just been tapping into people all over the world and having a community that is just LA or another random city in America, I could really go across the pond nowadays and interact and mingle with people that I never would have met if it wasn't for these 8 wheels. Take advantage of that for sure.
M: That's a really great tip! Thank you for all of the wisdom. It's not long now, and I appreciate you joining me today. We are going to share this with everybody, get everybody really excited and I will see you in the sunshine.
S: Barcelona Sun, it was a pleasure
W: Yes, yes
M: Thank you for joining me, and I will see you there. Bye!
Join me for more Skate Love chat as I catch up with some of the other teachers before the festival. #excited!