By Steve Larios
Skate bags ready for boarding
You've trained and tapered. You've registered for your race. You've signed up for NROC and made all the necessary travel arrangements.
Finally, you're at the airport. But there's still one thing standing between you and your race: the security checkpoint with its TSA screeners determined to prevent attacks by terrorists wielding Bont skates and Twincam bearings.
It can be a tricky passage. Screeners sometimes don't know what to make of modern inline skate equipment, although they usually figure it out in the end.
But to ease your passage through the checkpoint — and to ensure that you and your skate gear arrive at the starting line together — follow these rules:
Rule 1: Don't part with your skates
Never ever check your skates as luggage. If you want to see them again, keep them with you always. This, however, condemns you to taking them through TSA security as carry-on articles.
Rule 2: Out your bearings
Since I always pack everything I need for a race into my carry-on skate bag, I find that certain things set the screeners into search mode. Bearings – especially bearings in tubes – must look like pipe bombs to the TSA. Take them out of your bag and run them through in a separate tray. They still get a going over, but screeners won't take your bag apart in the process.
Rule 3: Don't bury your skate tool
Skate tools are the other big terrorist threat, apparently. A TSA agent in Minneapolis told me to always take my skate tool out of my bag and run it through with the bearings. When I tried this, in Canada, security confiscated my tool. They didn’t take the spare I had packed in the bag – so now I keep my tools in the outside pocket of the bag. Unseen, they seem to get through security just fine.
Rule 4: Bag it
I pack everything in clear plastic zip baggies: skinsuit and rain wheels in gallon bags, gels and electronics (GPS) in quart bags. When the security people decide to look through your skate bag, they can identify items easily, and you have a simple re-pack.
Many smaller regional jets and "puddle jumpers" have limited bin space in the cabin. You will have to gate-check your carry-on skate bag at the door of the plane. When this happens, refer to Rule No. 1: remove your skates and take them with you in the cabin. ... There is always room for your skates.
Rule 5: Don't get impatient
Be pleasant, reasonable, and a good ambassador for your sport. Most security people and flight attendants will mark you as a trouble maker if you pitch a fit. Remain calm if you are singled out for a search.
Do not touch your bag once the security agent takes it, but offer advice as to where things are located within the bag. Try to be helpful.
Smile. I’ve had many bag searches turn into information sessions about inline racing and skates.
Remember, airport screeners are just trying to do their job. And you're just trying to get to the starting line on time.
March 26, 2010
Steve Larios knows something about skates on planes. Last year, he traveled to more than a dozen races in the United States and Canada on his way to winning NROC's pro grand vet division. Larios is owner of Asphalt Beach, a skate shop he opened in Nashville, TN, in 2001. He is also the leader of the Asphalt Beach/ K2 Pro speedskating team and the founding member of Team Roadrash. He has been a skate instructor since the 1990s, first with the IISA, then with USSG and finally with Skate IA.
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