Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Inspirations

This past Saturday found your diarist on the Jersey shore.  Of course I brought my skates along and as luck would have it, I was able to make the 12:30 to 2:30 pm public session at a rink in Atlantic City.  As is the case at most rinks this time of year, the Flyers Skate Zone was heaving with skaters, mostly either in rentals or hockey skates.  Crowded though it was, one could sneak in useful practice by being patient and being positioned in the right place at the right time.  I worked on single foot spins either in the center circle or just outside of it.  After a couple of wind-ups the kids with EZ-skaters tended to give me a wide berth. 

The population density was high enough that rink management decided to do an ice cut at the halfway point.  I took this pause as an opportunity to retie my boots.  I found a seat in the lobby and was attending to that task when I overheard a conversation between a 12 year old boy and his father.  The boy had on skates and was nagging his dad to rent some and come join him on the ice.  Father: "Na, I'm too old for that stuff.  I don't wanna fall and get hurt."  Boy: "Dad, come-on, you're not that old; I mean like there's this really old man out there.  He's waaaay older than you are and he's doing pirouettes and stuff."

"Pirouettes" indeed.  Sounds terribly balletic when applied to a stiff geezer skater.  Sigh, it always warms my heart to learn that I've been an inspiration for someone!

Which leads me to inspiration Nr 2.  Upon returning home and going through the accumulated newspapers I found the following article in the Washington Post's KidsPost section.  Perhaps you can share it with a young skater or two:

Friday, December 5, 2014


Although I passed Ice Dance level 1 way back when (been so long I'd have to re-read my own blog to remember exactly when) and passed level 2 at the end of September, it took forever for the rink to order the badges.  I finally got 'em this afternoon at the start of a public session.  Better late than never!
Beyond that I can report that after putting slightly over 20 hours on my new boots and blades my single foot spin finally reported for duty this afternoon.  It was drunk and disorderly but at least it showed up.  My new boots are a half size smaller and the new blades are a quarter inch longer than the old equipage so the location of the spin rocker is in a slightly different place alone the blade.  I still haven't jumped in the new boots since the blades are still on the temporary screws; I haven't quite decided whether or not I'm happy with the blade position but I guess I'm growing accustomed to the place (sorry, couldn't resist).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Punching out.

I now have a little under twenty hours in my new boots.  Most of the pressure points associated with new, stiff boots have worked themselves out but there are still a couple areas, namely around the pinky toe of each boot which continue to annoy me.  I asked Mike to punch out those areas.  For those reading this post who are not familiar with the process of "punching out", it's basically a way of removing pressure points in boots by locally stretching the offending area. Figure skate boots have to be stiff and close fitting in order to support the ankle during jump landings and spins.  At the same time, the ankle must be able to bend deeply in order to get and hold the strong edges required by most skating elements.  It's not exactly a mutually exclusive scenario but sometimes it can feel that way. Bottom line: if the boots are eating your feet, you're not a happy skater.

My right boot getting punched out on the outside edge near the toe box.  My pinky toe is much happier now.
Want to see a boot punch in action?  Check out this youtube video:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sometimes Hockey Boyz Have All the Fun.

Don't believe me?  Check out these way Kool rollergards

The rollergard folks say that they're working on a model for figure skates. I'll be checking back!

Still not convinced?    Take a look at these neat-o Skaboots

I could go for a pair of the florescent green ones!
Again, it appears that these are currently off the figure skate radar screen.  Bummer!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Breaking in is so, so very hard to do.

Apologies to Paul Anka for today's post title.  Yesterday was a big day for your old diarist: my new skates were in at Skater's Paradise, so directly after my ice dance lesson it was time to point the bow of the might Volvo station wagon south towards Waldorf.  I arrived just after 1pm to discover my new heat moldable boots were already in the oven.  Mike brought them into the fitting room and warned me to mind the hooks (Hot!) as I put them on.  He laced up the boots to a tension which he liked and told me to enjoy the cooling process while he and Joan attended to other customers.  Every so often he'd come over and feel one of the boots and after 20 minutes or so he had me slip them off.  He then took the boots to the rink snack bar's freezer room where he parked them for 10 minutes to quickly remove the latent heat and lock in the shape which my feet had left inside the boot interiors.

After that, I told him I wanted to take a tracing of the blades before he sharpened them.  This would give me a reference point after future sharpenings.  Each sharpening removes a bit of metal and over time the overall rocker profile as well as the location of the spin rocker part of that overall profile tend to change and flatten out.  And although I plan to return to Skater's Paradise for sharpenings, one can't predict that I'll always live close by or indeed how many more years Mike and Joan will remain in business.  It only takes one bad sharpening to ruin a pair of blades.

My new Ultima Aspire XP blade profile before the 1st sharpening.  Mike humored me.
After the sharpening it was time to go out on the ice to check blade positioning.  I kinda hoped I wouldn't make a total fool of myself--new blades are always a bit spooky at first; your muscle memory has become accustomed to the old blades which over the course of many sharpening have lost a bit of the rocker.  I stepped gingerly onto the ice with the master watching.  I took a few strokes and it felt like I was a raw beginner!  I perimeter stroked a couple laps and as I did the blades started to feel a little better under foot but whoa baby, compared to my old blades the new ones were like the difference between a Ferrari and a pickup truck.  I tried an outside forward three turn (in my "good" direction) and almost bought the farm.  After a few more laps I tried doing some power pulls and felt a lot steadier.  I T-stopped in front of Mike and he said "you were going at a pretty fast clip.  I was hoping you wouldn't have to slam on the brakes."  It was a public session and yepper depper, there were a fair number of ice tourists on the rink.  Funny, it felt like I was crawling--sort of deceptive, like driving a new powerful but quiet car and discovering that you're doing 80 when you thought you were at the speed limit.  Back we went into the shop.  Mike adjusted the blades slightly and put in enough screws to keep things from moving until I have the boots broken in.  As for the boots, they're much stiffer than my old ones even though they're the same model.  Besides being new, boot designs (even within the same model) constantly evolve.  I told Mike I wanted to skate the public session long enough to see if there were any spots in the boots that needed punching out before I left.  He told me that although he could slip me out on the ice for a few minutes for test purposes, if I wanted to skate longer I'd need to buy a pass.  Fair enough.

A little friendly reminder from rink management on the public session wrist band.  Kinda reminds me of the disclaimers at the end of ads for the latest offerings from a pharmaceutical company: "be sure to ask your doctor if death, bodily injury or property damage are right for you..."

Anyway, I got back out on the ice and skated the last 30 minutes of the session.  That was just about the right amount of time for me to gain back most of my forward skills and learn what parts of the boots I needed to have punched out.  It also gave me the opportunity to test whether going down a half-size in boots would eliminate the dreaded heel slippage which has been part and parcel of my old ones practically from the first day.  In the new boots my heels felt locked down even though the laces were only "snug" rather than in "as tight as I can physically make them" mode; and the top hooks were left undone in the interests of ankle bend; and I didn't have bunga pads on (an obligate requirement to take up the slop in the old boots). Whoot! Whoot!  It will probably take a couple weeks to break in the boots and adjust to the new blades but after that, Look Out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A new beginning

With every visit I discover something new.  How I missed this poster during my first visit is a mystery.  Skater's Paradise, it seems, isn't exclusively about figure skating.  The Cunninghams have their share of admirers in the NHL.  Here we see Bobby Orr in full flight.

Back in the 1970s, I was in the Coast Guard, attached to the Cutter Sherman which in those days called Boston her home port.  When the ship was in port I was occasionally lucky enough to see Bobby Orr skate for the Bruins.

But skater's Paradise isn't all about the past.  Here's a brochure for the USFSA Championships which take place this coming January in Greensboro, North Carolina.

This leaflet looks even further into the future.

 So, OK, today I went to my fitting appointment for new boots.  My current boots and blades will be three years old this coming February--which I've been told is an eternity for figure skating boots.  Either that or I'm just hard on my equipment.  Mike suggested that I should stay with Jackson boots since I have wide feet.  Interestingly, after measuring my feet he reduced the boot size from nine and a half to size nine.  We discussed various Jackson models.  I'm currently in the Freestyle model.  Mike recommended that I stay with that since the next boot above the Freestyle model is quite a bit stiffer.  Female skaters have an intermediate stiffness boot within the Jackson line up but males do not.  Mike didn't want to "over boot" me and I told him that he was the doctor, so another pair of Freestyles, abet a half size, smaller it is.

He suggested that I move up to Aspire blades with cross cut toe picks.  This is a step up from my current Mirage blades which have straight cut picks.  Both the Mirage and Aspire feature an 8 foot rocker and have 1/2" radius of hollow so I shouldn't notice a big difference in blade feel.  New generation Freestyle boots come standard with Aspire straight cut picks.  Hopefully the slightly smaller boots will eliminate the heel slop I've dealt with almost from the beginning with my current boots.  The new Freestyles also have much better padding for the tongue of the boots than the previous boots, as well as a rolled and padded collar area around the top of the boots for a bit more comfort when deeply bending the ankle.  The boots and blades should arrive in a week or so.  I'm looking forward to having new, potentially better fitting boots.  I'm hoping the break-in period is swift and not too painful.  It remains to be seen what, if any, difference the cross cut picks will make.  Bottom line is not a lot of change.  The $64,000 question is will the small, incremental changes to slightly smaller (better fitting) boots and slightly more aggressive blades add up to a measurably improved geezer skater?  We shall soon see!