By Eddy Matzger
Eddy's braking video
My first urban descent on inline skates was a bruising series of traverses between parked cars on a city street. Necessity being the mother of invention, I found that small pillows stuffed inside Lycra shorts made excellent hip pads. As I became more proficient on my skates, I could finally lose the pads. That's because I had learned that doing a parallel slalom turn at the last second prevented collisions. Furthermore, I discovered that the act of turning generated enough friction to stop me.
Since then, I've learned to control my speed by connecting these turns in rapid succession, like a slalom skier on moguls. Broad turns are enough to regulate speed on moderate slopes, while stopping requires a series of increasingly sharp jump turns. The less my skates point downhill, and the more my body stays perpendicular to the downhill direction, the more I control my speed.
Here's how I do it:
For maximum stability, I lean back on my rear skate and stagger my stance. My forward skate, although unweighted, acts as a guide for steering. To initiate a turn, I simply begin by scissoring my legs. This will ultimately transfer my weight to the opposite skate, and requires a brief moment of weightlessness as my feet draw even. My hips then lean and rotate as I sink and transfer weight to the inside edge of the other skate. I press on the rear skate until it has carved a full arc, with my lead skate nearly pointing back uphill.
At first, turning was a skill which seemed counter-intuitive, but with practice it became my savior. A good rule of thumb while I was still having to think about it was to remind myself that I had to lead with the same skate as the direction I was turning. In other words, if was turning right, I would lead with my right foot, and vice versa. Another way to look at it was to think to myself "keep my weight on the opposite foot from the direction I'm turning." It came to me eventually.
For maximum stoppage power, I use slalom turns, not snowplow or telemark turns. Above all, I don't want to throw myself off by rotating my shoulders. The steeper the hill, the more this applies. No matter how steep the descent, if you can slalom like a skier, the finish chute will never be a source of anxiety, and you will own every undulatory wave of the paved world.
Eddy Matzger is one of the winningest skaters in the history of inline racing and leader of the popular Eddy Matzger SkateFarm and Roadshows. He makes his home in Floyd, VA, but travels widely, teaching skating around the globe. He learned to slalom on the steep hills of his former training ground, Berkeley, CA. His longtime sponsor is Twincam bearings.
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