Alice Lean, 11, on the thrill of freestyle skating.

Alice Lean, 11, on the thrill of freestyle skating.

My workout: ‘I was freestyle slalom skating before I even knew it was a sport’ 

On my fifth birthday, my dad bought me a pair of inline skates. I loved them. For a few years, all I did was skate around, but after a while that got boring, so he got me some cones. I’d dance through them at the local park. I really enjoyed it, so we looked it up and found YouTube videos of people slalom skating, doing all these different tricks. It was so exciting that this thing I’d been doing actually existed as a sport.

My dad discovered a community of slalom skaters in Hyde Park, London, about an hour and a half from our home in Gravesend, and took me there one summer. I was really nervous. There were all these people in their late teens and mid-20s. They were skating along to music and their style was amazing. Everyone was so nice to me, treating me as an equal and teaching me tricks. They’ve become my friends.

There are different categories of freestyle slalom skating, but all of them involve moving your legs through a line of equally spaced cones, usually 80cm apart. In speed competitions, you take a run-up, then skate through the cone line as fast as you can on one leg, which can be scary. My favourite category is “classic”, where you do two-minute routines of tricks, dancing through the cones to music, and judges choose a winner based on the variety and execution of your tricks.

I love developing new tricks. You don’t just use your feet; you have to use your waist to twist and your arms to keep you balanced. The hardest are the toe tricks where you skate on one wheel.

In 2015, I was practising on rough ground and tripped over a big stone. I fell forwards and stuck my arms out to protect my face. I fractured both my wrists. I had to wear casts for six weeks, which made writing really difficult at school. My teacher said not to skate so much, but I didn’t listen. Within a few days I returned to training, wearing my pretty casts. Slaloming with music, with my friends, is so much fun. Skating is my life.

My weekend workout
How often do you skate? Three times a week.
Favourite music to skate to? Dubstep.
Proudest achievement? I won the first competition that I entered.

Five ways to get started

  • You can buy specialist slalom skates whose middle two wheels are lower than the outer two, making them more manoeuvrable, but as a beginner you can use any pair of normal inline skates, or even quads (roller skates).
  • Top skaters tend to wear safety gear only when learning new tricks, as bulky pads can be restrictive during competitions. But for beginners it’s highly recommended to wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and most importantly wrist guards.
  • As long as you’ve got skates, cones and pads, you can learn to slalom on any flat, smooth surface. Other skaters will be happy to teach you tricks and there are also hundreds of useful videos on YouTube.
  • A basic trick is the Snake. As you approach the cone line, guide one skate directly in front of the other. Use your front foot to steer you through the cones, but place more of your weight on your back foot. Keep your arms out and your knees slightly bent.
  • The UK Freestyle Skaters Facebook group is a good starting point to find your nearest skating community.