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HomeAdventureAdventure Michigan™Detroit Style Skating at Roller Skate Detroit

Detroit Style Skating at Roller Skate Detroit

Photos by Daniel “Keebler” McKay

Keith Walker’s first experience skating was at the age of five, when he fell in love with the sights and sounds of a roller rink at Wheels Skating on Eight Mile; but his fondest memories start at age 10, when his mom, Millicent, signed him up for lessons at Detroit Roller Wheels on Schoolcraft Road. 

Fast forward to 2024, and Walker is now the owner and instructor of Roller Skate Detroit, an adults-only rollerskating “speakeasy” (as Walker describes it) located on Eight Mile in Ferndale. 

Roller Skate Detroit is housed in an unassuming industrial building along Eight Mile. You wouldn’t know it’s there unless, well, you know it’s there. It’s the embodiment of a modern-day speakeasy: discreet, hidden, and cozy, with dim lighting. And when the disco lights come on and the onsite DJ starts to spin (Ethereal was spinning on our evening of fun and adventure), the atmosphere comes alive. 

Walker’s speakeasy skating rink is rooted in the history of Detroit style skating and was inspired by the isolation the pandemic brought about. He wanted to create a 21+ space where adults could “gather, exercise, and connect through roller skating.”

So with just two thousand dollars in his pocket and a vision, that’s exactly what he did. 

The road to the current location was a humble one. Walker rented a rink in Ferndale for a one hour Saturday session. It quickly sold out, so he added two more hours. From there, interest continued to grow and, as Walker likes to describe it, “it set the stage for a history still in the making.”  

A Dance Born from the Street: Detroit Style Skating

What exactly is Detroit style skating? It’s far beyond a shoot the duck on a Saturday afternoon that a lot of us grew up doing in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Detroit style encapsulates the essence of Detroit’s musical history. It’s a rhythmic dance on wheels that combines smooth footwork, intricate spins and graceful glides and is synchronized effortlessly with the beats of Motown soul, funk, R&B and hip-hop. 

As Keith describes it, “Roller skating served as a refuge during the civil rights movement, providing solace and unity. In the ‘70s it played a pivotal role in nurturing the birth of hip-hop with legendary artists like Salt-N-Pepa, 2 Live Crew, and N.W.A., giving some of their first performances on skating rink floors.”

Legendary Michigan rinks, such as RollerCade and Rolladium, provided a space where self-expression transformed skating into a profound cultural celebration that resonated with the soul of Detroit. Skills were passed down through the generations. The subtle variances in Detroit style reflect the rink where a skater learned and lend proof to the belief that styles were passed down, rather than acquired through structured instruction. 

It is this knowledge that has helped shape the culture and atmosphere of Roller Skate Detroit. “It’s not just a skating haven; it’s a movement that embraces the casual skater with the everyday experience,” said Walker. “We host skating events to introduce the activity to people who might not otherwise try it.”

Walker also said that past challenges to stay ahead of skating trends have been replaced by the influence of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Skaters are now exposed to various styles from around the world with the smash of a button, and they now have the ability to blend various styles to create their own unique style. Roller skating is no longer confined to the influence of one style based on a local rink. It’s now an interstylistic, transformative journey. 

How NOT to Die on Skates in Seven Minutes

It had been a minute since we’d dusted off and laced up our roller skates — about eight years since. Therefore, our adventure on skates lasted a whole seven minutes. Walker took us through the motions on how not to die in seven minutes on roller skates. He demonstrated how to stop without face planting – drag your non-dominant foot and don’t lean into your momentum – and how to fall without hurting yourself by landing on your backside. The lesson was both fun and inspirational. Check out our social media channels for our video. We plan on coming back for a full eight week session on Detroit style skating. Come on down and join us!

Are You Interested in Dusting off Your Skates and Tying Up Those Laces? Roller Skate Detroit operates on the core values of fun, fitness and community. In small training sessions, the team makes a point to remember everyone’s names, fostering a judgment-free zone where all are welcome. Whether adorned in full protective gear or none at all, skaters find support and encouragement as they embark on their individual roller-skating journeys. Scan the QR Code and join Keith Walker and friends on a new adventure and love where you live!

Tamara Graham
Tamara Graham
With an adventurous spirit and a burning desire to make the world work for all of us, Tamara encourages others to embrace self-love, compassion, empathy, understanding, and an ever important sense of humor. With over 30 years of diverse marketing experience, including a decade in publishing, she brings a fresh and innovative perspective to the industry. Her concept revolves around experiential magazines that captivate both online and in print. Tamara's visionary project, LIVE. LOVE. LOCAL. MICHIGAN™, unveils the wonders of our breathtaking home state, igniting love and admiration among Michiganders for where they live. By fostering this deep connection, she inspires a genuine appreciation and love for where we live!
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