Friday, January 13, 2012

In the beginning there was a very rusty geezer...

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.


  1. So glad you are back, when I returned to skating after being off for almost 15 years I was pleasantly surprised to discover how quickly everything came back. I'm now 51 and finally starting to land a double jump or two. Don't worry about the 14 year-olds, give them time and you might find some of them will become your biggest fans :)


  2. Thanks Lori! No worries with the youngin's--several of them recognize me and smile now. Tonight I was able to get one of my forward inside Mohawks to work and no doubt with a bit of effort the other side will be back as well. Small steps. Now if only the new skates I've ordered would arrive--the rental skates are eating my ankles alive even with bunga pads!


  3. I started as student too...there was an ice rink near my campus and they had group lessons for adults once a week...I got hooked, had to stop because I moved to another town with no ice rink in order to finish my masters degree in english literature and celtic studies. I skated on ponds once in a while with store-bought skates, but 3 years ago i lived in Toronto for 4 months and the first think I did was going to another ice skating group on the rink there to refresh the few things I'd learned...I returned back to Germany to Essen in the Ruhr basin area and yes, I selected my flat also that there was a rink nearby. I joined an adult group immediately there, joined a club too and bought new skates (Jackson with Ultima Aspire blades) this August at a good shop in Düsseldorf. At the moment we train for a skate show.....I have been skating 2 or 3 times a week for 2 years now. I still go skating on the pond with my old skates just for fun and impress people who walk by last february when it was really freezing;-)) Right now I had a nose surgery and arent allowed to skate or do sports for 10 days (Yuk, yuk) I brows around to find nice blogs of adult skaters just like you and Lori. I dream of going to Oberstdorf to the workshop next year, now that I have good skates....I also want to take the Freiläufer test (something like your alpha test) next spring. For that I have to learn backwards crossovers though! I also love figures....I just like them;-) dont ask me why - they make my skating better when I practise them.

    1. A.G.--You're a very thorough reader to go all the way to the beginning of my blog! It sounds like we are at about the same skill level. I too working on half rotation jumps like the Waltz jump, half-flip, ballet jump and also the simple two-foot spin. You can look at the requirements for the ISI tests here:

      The ISI test levels are similar but not exactly the same as the ones given by the US Figure Skating Association.

      Interestingly, my boots are also Jacksons; the Freestyle model with Ultima "Mirage" blades--not the best quality but plenty good enough for a guy like me! In my University days I had Riedell Gold Star boots and Coronation Ace blades.

      In addition to Lori's blog I recommend Babbette's "The ice doesn't care" blogspot. She gives many useful tips mixed in with stories of her coaching sessions. I have a link to her blog at the right side of mine. There are several other figure skating blogs and I'll send you the URLs for those when I have a minute. Right now I'm in the middle of replacing the cold water valve for our bathtub!

      Get well soon!


    2. Here is a list of the skating blogs which I follow in addition to Lori's. Apology in advance if this is redundant info:

      The last two blogs are Terri Levine's. She is a high level ice dancer who had to undergo surgery on both hips. She doesn't post very often but her accumulated posts are very compiling to read. The first blog documents her skating and the second one her road to recovery which is still a work in progress. Terri is back skating but not yet competing. She judges ice dance competitions and is one of the moderators of the yahoo ice dance group IDOL (ice dancers on-line).

      These blogs should give you plenty to read while you're off ice!