The geezer is me and my name is George. As a kid growing up in rural Pennsylvania my ice skating experience was limited to pond skating on a cheap pair of department store hockey skates. Like the other kids I got along without the slightest hint of instruction. If anyone had asked me if I was an alpha, beta, gamma or delta test level skater I wouldn't have had the faintest notion of what they were talking about. So, point number 1: this isn't a blog about a promising youth skater, diverted from the true path of skating greatness only to return as a wistful adult. No, this is the account of a guy who didn't start with formal lessons until his mid twenties, an age when many competitive skaters are "retiring". Further, after hoisting himself up to a middling level on the recreational skating food chain this latecomer to the skating scene walked away for the better part of 35 years.
So, let us begin at the more formalized beginning. After being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1975 I picked up the pieces of my interrupted college education and started working on a Master's Degree at the University of Delaware. Now as a kid I have to admit that I was never much of an athlete. Team sports bored me and about the only competitive sport that I was interested in was racing small sailing dinghies and even at that I was a mid pack competitor. I started racing Moth Boats because my father pushed me and after getting past the initial scary beginner's learning curve I actually discovered that I liked it and I'm still racing those little boats to this day. Those interested can read about Moth Boats, little British Cars and my miscellaneous wanderings up and down the eastern seaboard on my other blog: here.
But I digress. As a University student, like all students, I had to pay a "student activity fee". In the past that was just wasted money from my perspective. As a returning student with limited amusement funds I was determined to get my money's worth and so scoured the University activity list for something, anything that might give me a break from monotony of studying for the next test. In doing so I discovered the UDEL Ice Arena. My fellow student skaters and I were spoiled--our student activity fees gave us daily access to uncrowded ice and we skated every day at lunch. I was soon hooked and before I quite knew what was happening I found myself directed to the pro shop at the Skating Club of Wilmington where I bought my first set of halfway decent skates: Riedell Gold Star boots and Coronation Ace blades. By taking lessons and practicing daily I quickly moved up the skill brackets and was close to testing at the first level of free style. However that was to be my high water mark for about that same time I had to prepare for my thesis defense and then, after successfully completing my MS, I moved down to Maryland in 1981 to start on a PhD in genetics. The University of Maryland didn't have an ice rink and I didn't have time even if the University indeed had had one. I got on with my degree research and didn't think too deeply about my rapidly eroding skating skills. I gave away my skates. A career, marriage and family pretty much accounted for the next 35 years and even though there is an indoor ice rink in the town where we live I just never gave it much thought.
That all changed this past Thanksgiving when my wife's brother and his family, which contains two young nieces, came to visit us for the holiday. The day after the traditional gut stuffing dinner the young lassies were chock full of energy and bouncing off the walls. I reluctantly agreed to take them ice skating in an attempt to burn off some of that. Looking back, this trip to the rink turned out to be more important for me than them--the two girls are basically wall huggers (although I hope to change that) and they look at ice skating as just another diversion. For me, however, this trip back on the ice was both appalling and electrifying. I was simultaneously appalled by how much I'd forgotten and electrified by the sensation of the semi-graceful gliding that I some how still retained from my long ago days at UDEL. On the way out I paused by the bulletin board and picked up a brochure detailing group lessons. The next group was starting in a few days. For reasons I still can't explain, I couldn't resist.
So here I am, just past my 65th birthday attempting to pick up where I left off. Will this be yet another aging skater blog laced with rants about crowded public sessions filled with pimply-faced boyz on hockey skates zooming around the rink well above their skill levels? Or, perhaps rants about free style sessions filled with 14 year old pony-tailed terrors in frilly skirts who's attitudes quite often seem to be "Well, brittle old man, if you can't stand the pace then get off the ice"? Na, it'll be about ME, not them! They just come with the territory and for the most part I can already skate around 'em. No, this will be a journal which allows me to record my personal learning curve back to the ranks of being a creditable skater. My goal is to claw my way back to the point where I can explore ice dance. Stick around. We're at the ground floor. It can only get better from here.