I adore hearing people’s skating stories so I thought it would be appropriate for me to share my own for my first post on Adults Skate Too. I’m always excited when I meet someone at one of my rinks (anyone else find rinks to be very friendly places where people are always up for a chat?) who is over the age of twenty-one and recently started skating. One of the first questions I ask someone when I meet them is, what made you start skating? and it’s wonderful to hear their wide range of stories. Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than seeing a seventy year old practicing their salchow. So this is the story of how a girl from London with no athletic ability or inclination suddenly found herself completely and utterly addicted to figure skating.
It was 2015 and I was studying abroad in Paris when I discovered that you could ice skate on the Eiffel Tower at Christmastime (and I actually mean on, not under – they built a rink on the first floor). I’d never been up the Eiffel Tower (I don’t really like lifts), but I couldn’t think of anything that sounded more magical than ice skating on Paris’ most famous structure so I booked to go with a couple of friends. I remember thinking when we got there that this was possibly one of the worst ideas I’d ever had – I was terrified at the thought of stepping onto such a slippery surface. I’d just conquered my fear of lifts (not really, I still avoid them as much as possible) and now I was going to have to step onto ice where I would surely have no stability – are you joking? No way. But then I stepped onto the ice…
…and fell down straight away.
I got up again though and that’s what matters, isn’t it?
I must have fallen down over thirty times during the next couple of hours that we spent skating around. My friends held my hands and pulled me around. My jeans were soaked and my bottom would be sore in the morning. I didn’t care because I was completely in love. I don’t know if it was the feeling of the crisp air blowing my hair back as I skated around or if it was looking up to see the Eiffel Tower’s lights twinkling or if it was a combination of the two, but ice skating on the Eiffel Tower was magical and I loved the feeling of moving across the smooth surface. Maybe it was because I was 57 metres high, the rooftops of my favourite city below me, but I truly did feel like I was flying. By the time we got off, I had felt confident to waddle (you certainly couldn’t call it skating) around the rink by myself, crashing into the boards every now and then. Suddenly, all I could think about was ice skating. My friend and I went home and watched Ice Princess and I wondered when I could next go skating.
I went skating three more times on the Eiffel Tower before they closed and each time I went, I became a little more confident so that I did actually glide and move around with a little bit of speed. I was addicted to the feeling of ice skating even then, but it wasn’t until the following Christmas and I was back living in London that I decided I wanted to skate forever.
I went to the outdoor rinks that popped up around London and when they closed I felt bereft so I started drop-in classes at a rink not too far from my house in January 2017 and then began private lessons in April when I realised this was not a hobby I was going to say goodbye to anytime soon because every single time I got off the ice all I could think about was when I could skate next. Somehow I found myself learning to skate backwards, learning a waltz jump, a spin – things I never thought I would ever do.
Since then, the longest I’ve gone without skating was a painful three weeks (I’m joking, I was in Copenhagen so it was great fun, but I did really miss skating). Then in September, I decided to move to Dublin for my masters degree, but Ireland doesn’t have an ice rink. I’m not joking – not a single rink in the country. I was horrified – I couldn’t imagine not skating for a year.
Ireland doesn’t have an ice rink, but Northern Ireland does.
So once a week I would wake up early, do a three hour trip to the ice rink in Belfast, skate all day and then do a three hour trip back to Dublin. My friends laughed at me for going back to the UK and doing such a long journey just to skate, but it was worth it. I enjoy figure skating so much that a trek to Belfast is worth it (although I am excited to move home soon and not to have to do such a long journey). I don’t think there’s anything else in the world I’d wake up so early for!
I often tease my parents, saying how cross I am with them for not putting me on the ice when I was a child so that I could be landing a triple flip by now, but I’m glad they didn’t so skating was something I could find myself. I think one of the reasons skating is so special to me is because it is mine alone: I have worked hard to be able to skate and I like that I pay for my lessons, my ice time and my skates. I find it extremely rewarding to look back on the videos I have from my time on the Eiffel Tower and compare them to my videos now because I’m still surprised at how far I’ve come in my skating. I can actually throw myself into the air and land on a knife – wow! I truly never thought I’d be able to spin (especially given the months I spent struggling to find out which part of the blade I was meant to be spinning on) so the fact that I did the British Adult Nationals (and came 6th!) this year still surprises me.
Figure skating makes me very happy. While it can be an frustrating sport, full of ups and downs, tears and annoyances, it is exhilarating and exciting, rewarding and satisfying (landing a jump is such a great sound, am I right?). If I’m having a bad day, watching some of my favourite skaters’ programmes on YouTube will brighten it. It’s calming: as soon as I see a sheet of ice, I feel comfortable and I love the concentration skating requires; it clears my mind and for the next couple of hours (or entire day), I don’t need to worry about anything else except the different between a 3-turn and a bracket or whether my lutz is (fingers crossed) on an outside edge. Stepping onto the ice feels so natural now – more so than walking and I cannot imagine my life without skating. It reminds me that there’s no harm in trying to do what I think I can’t: I never believed I could even skate backwards with speed when I started to learn, let alone jump. Now when I think I can’t do something, I tell myself I learnt to figure skate so I may as well give it a try. It reminds me that determination and hard work ends well: there were times when I thought I would never not land my loop on two feet or even do a forward inside 3 turn. Figure skating has taught me a lot about life and about myself. I often wonder if I would have fallen in love with skating had I not first skated on the Eiffel Tower and I like to think I would have done because I’d be missing out on something wonderful otherwise. As it is, I get to say that I learnt to skate on the Eiffel Tower which is a pretty special thing to be able so say.
IG – @evangelineskates