The Joy of Skating

I've never known more peace of mind than when I go to the rink and just skate.

As a kid I was a bit of a coward. I was afraid to ride a bike. I was afraid to speak up to people. I was afraid to get hit by a baseball (which is why I preferred being a pitcher). And I was afraid to skate. I delegated my wild side to the pixels and polygons of my SEGA Genesis and my Nintendo 64. I still wish I had been more assertive in my early years but as a shy person it just did not come naturally for me.

Fast forward years later and I sit in law school, getting ready to embark on a career that is not for the faint of heart. It comes with a ton of stress. Most of the time you get used to it, other times it just overwhelms you. But beginning this year I found something that brought me at peace the most: skating. Not the Nintendo games I still play, not the time I spend with my friends in law school, and not the few moments I have with my family. All those things bring me joy and happiness but there are certain moments and times where you need to be doing something physical, something that requires the use of your body and frees up your mind.

My journey to the wonders of skating began late. The unfortunate thing for me was that I and many other South Floridians (especially Latin Americans) did not grow up with skating as a cultural staple. The frozen lakes and abundance of rinks in the north just were non-existent here. The NHL's push south after Wayne Gretzky's trade to Los Angeles in 1988 sparked a mass growth of ice and roller rinks below the Mason-Dixon line. With new rinks you get an opportunity for people to go out and skate. Some people just do it as a fun diversion maybe once or twice with friends. Others, especially kids, grow to love it and learn to master it.

My sister met her, now, husband sometime in 2007. Her husband is an avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan but he is from Arkansas, born and raised, so he was one of the few people in his region who knew what hockey really entailed. They took me to my first NHL game in 2009. It was a December game against Carolina and the Cats won 6-3. It was really a rare spectacle to behold as that Cats team was far from good. But it was there that I saw the speed and skill that those players have.

Over the course of the next 2 years I began to grow some interest in hockey which was greatly sparked by the epic 2010 Winter Olympics. By the summer of 2011 I discovered this site, Litter Box Cats, and labeled myself a Florida Panthers fan. That season was a good one and helped me get the wonderful opportunity to write for this site and develop the logo for this site.

Come 2013 and I found out about a local rink in my hometown of West Palm Beach called Palm Beach IceWorks. I wanted to do what the players on the ice did. I was in my mid-20s but thought this would be fun and exciting. I signed up for skate lessons and proceeded to, painfully, learn the ropes to ice skate. I wanted to someday learn how to play hockey. By the time I began to learn how to stabilize myself i had grown to love the feel of just gliding across the ice. I got some rollerblades soon and began to not let the lack of ice time stop me from getting the sensation of the world gliding under my feet.

I began law school in 2014. My hair grew gray pretty quickly. My eyes grew tired of reading countless amounts of text. Everyday was another feeling of dread as to what my professors wanted to torture me with. At some point I questioned why I subjected myself to such punishment. By the time Finals arrived I was sleep deprived, eating terribly, and exercise was non-existent. I studied for more than a week for my first final exam, focusing on one topic. Thanksgiving dinner was such a blur that I don't remember truly getting to enjoy all the food. By the time the first exam was over I was exhausted and knew that the next exam was only a few days away. But I decided to do something afterward that I had not done since the summer. I headed to the ice rink.

I hauled my carcass to Kendall Ice Arena. It's a ways away and the southernmost rink in the region (maybe in the U.S.). Luckily public skate was running that afternoon and I paid the $10 bucks and rented out the cheap skates (note to future Kendall visitors, buy your own skates). The skates were terrible. But the chill of the ice and sense of gliding across it calmed me. I didn't have a care in the world at that point. My focus was only on skating and nothing else. It might have helped that I had no helmet on and the skates were so bad that I was just trying not to bust my skull but it still felt unbelievably good. I stayed there for about an hour before the kid's learn-to-skate class came in. I left the ice unbelievably relaxed. In the past I would usually ease my nerves either by playing video games, watching TV or eating (no the best combination for a healthy body). But with law school I found that I had no time for either of those things.

The aftermath of my last final exam was a mixture of elation and dread. Elation due to the fact it was over, dread due to the fact that I would not know the results until after the holidays. But I decided that I only wanted to do one thing afterward. Skate. I headed to the rink in Kendall, with my personal skates and helmet this time, and skated to my heart's content. Even more fitting was the Florida Panthers red hoodie I sported during the skate. By that point I found out that Kendall offered adult learn-to-play hockey classes. I signed up and proceeded to get my equipment with the advice of my fellow LBC writers.

I'm currently in my second year of law school and I am handling the pressure more. Now I keep my rollerblades, a stick, and protective gear in my car in case I get the urge to skate. Luckily there's a roller rink out in Tamiami and whenever I feel the need to clear my mind I'll head out there and just skate. I've stayed once for 2 hours. Not a care in the world. I've grown to appreciate more what the NHL players do on the ice now. The simple act of balancing yourself on skates is difficult enough without having to chase a hard rubber disc along with having several other people doing whatever they can to get it away from you.

This experience actually makes me want to encourage people to start their kids skating out young, and to get adults who never have to grow the courage and do it. It's great exercise, it put my NHL fandom in perspective, and it is a lot of fun.

Do you even skate, bro?

Yes, roller and ice24
Yes, ice only8
Yes, roller only3
No, but I hope to6
No, you'll never get me on a pair4