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How to Skate on Wooden Planks

How to safely skate on the type of wooden planks bridges and boardwalks are made of, that have spaces your inline skates can get wedged inside. The Disney Inline Marathon has a section of wood planks that are slippery when wet and tricky for beginners when dry.

Why Wooden Planks Can Be Dangerous
Inline skates are much better than quad roller skates at handling cracks in the road that run across a skater's path. I have rolled across railroad ties many times in my inline skates, with no problem at all. It's the cracks running in the same direction you are skating that you need to worry about. Two of the most frequently encountered cracks of this type are (1) the crack that runs down the center of many city sidewalks, and (2) wooden planks on a bridge or a boardwalk. If your skate wheels get lodged in those cracks, you can be immediately thrown to the ground without any warning. Wooden planks can be especially tricky to skate on because the spaces between the planks are often wider than a skate wheel.

wooden planks

On a surface like the one above, try to avoid skating on the 4 center boards, and especially keep your skates away away from the spaces between those boards. Skating on the horizontal planks on either side of those 4 boards should require no special techniques other than (perhaps) pushing slightly harder than you would on very smooth asphalt, but if you skate on the four planks in the middle you need to be very careful to avoid getting your inline skate wheels stuck between the planks.

Three Safe Ways to Skate on Wooden Planks
When you skate on wooden planks, you need to use a skating stride that will not allow your skate wheels to become lodged in the cracks between the planks. Here three different ways to accomplish this:

  1. Skate with your toes pointed out to the sides, so your skates will move diagonally across the planks. The idea is to make sure your skates are never parallel to the planks of the skating surface. I call this striding method the "duck skate" and it's the same technique I use to avoid sliding backwards when I'm skating up a steep hill.

  2. Another method I have used on a wooden bridge is centering each of my skates on one of the planks, and propel myself forward by grabbing the side rail of the bridge and pulling myself along, without moving my feet at all (not the most efficient method, but it works).

  3. My person favorite method is to keep my skates together, but skate across the planks first to the left, and then to the right, "slaloming" diagonally, back and forth across the planks, so my skate wheels can never get lodged between the boards. This method works very well as long as your wheels are never parallel to the planks, even when you reverse your slalom skating direction. (I usually reverse direction by doing a little pivot-hop, leaving my toes on the ground and pivoting quickly with my heels up).
None of these methods is difficult. The hardest part is remembering to use one of them whenever you are skating on a surface that has large cracks running in the same direction you are skating.

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