Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't. Push. Me. Cuz. I. Skate. With. My. ”Edges”

You probably know that the more you skate, the better you derby. It should go without saying, skating is the single most important skill in becoming a proficient roller derby player. There are many skills roller derby players need to learn to become successful... athletics, gear adjustment and maintenance, keeping a positive attitude, social, teamwork both on and off the track, the list goes on.

Lots of skaters don't know of ”edges”, or have barely heard of them, or don't know how to apply the concept. Most skaters though, apply principles of skate edges intuitively through body mechanics.

Knowing about your skate edges probably isn't necessary, but knowing how to use them is vital. Skate edges are a foundation of maneuvering and footwork, and understanding them can deepen your understanding of roller derby techniques. Furthermore, knowing how edges work can aid a skater in adding improvisation to those techniques.

Simply explained, each skate has inside and outside edges (or left and right) and are used to turn. The inside wheels on skates represent the inside edges, and the outside wheels represent the outside edges. We primarily use our inside edges when turning by applying our weight and leaning on that edge. Often times we use the outside edge of our other skate to support our stability and give ourselves more control of maneuvers.

Here it is explained again, but a bit more straightforward in explanation. For ease of explaining and understanding, the direction of skating is forward.

When turning left a skater will primarily use the inside edge of their right skate and secondarily the outside edge of their left skate.

Read that a few times ;)

I think of them as left our right edges for simplicity. Left edges to turn left, right edges to turn right.

When turning, a skater leans in the direction they are turning to engage the suspension of their skates and their skate edges. By suspension, I mean skate trucks. If you don't know what those are, I strongly suggest learning about your skates.

Here's a diagram of Skate Anatomy...

and a video on How To Adjust Your Trucks...

Quad skate suspension allows us to turn simply by leaning skates (more specifically truck plates) under weight... As the truck plate leans both front and rear trucks rotate and cause us to change trajectory (turn). It's rather intuitive to lean into a turn to counter-balance the centrifugal force and the refined beauty of a quad skate's turning mechanism (truck plates/suspension) translates that intuitive leaning into the ability to turn. Truck plate design and geometry differ to allow more or less turning to lean ratio. Check out my review of DA45 Trucks.

I recently participated in a edging drill ran by B Stang of San Diego Roller Derby, where the skaters were to maneuver through cones using only our inside edges. We were instructed to not depend on our inside leg to turn so that we would not use our outside edges. At most, we could let the front wheels of our inside skate contact the floor. I admit, I was skeptical of the practicality and application of the exercise even though I've seen many a hockey player maneuver in this way. But as I became comfortable with the drill I realized that my balance improved and my technique tightened up. I understood better the body mechanics of how to use my inside edges. Bottom line, it made me a better skater. Thanks B Stang!

Working on your edges alone may not make you a great skater, but it's fundamental importance will reveal itself throughout your derby career. If you grasp the concept of edges and take it upon yourself to work on them, I suggest you learn to use your edges while skating backwards as well. To see great skating fundamentals watch some hockey players. They're great on their edges skating forward and backward. I can see in most roller derby players that working on fundamental skating skills is often overshadowed by derby specific techniques. Having coached myself, it's difficult to prioritize skating skills when there's so many derby techniques and strategies to work on. You may not know it, but I just dropped a jewel for those that want a competitive ”edge”.


  1. Great article that gives a brief intro to edges and a drill to practice them. Thanks!

  2. Would it be possible to post a video of the weaving with inside edges only drill? I understand the words, but I'm having trouble visualizing how to make my feet do the deed.

    Thanks for the info on edges!