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Morning Spew

All Wheels Are Welcome at Wednesday Night Skate

"It's just fun to skate around."

9:58 AM EDT on August 3, 2023

(Hell Gate)

It was nearing midnight last night, but there were still dozens of rollerbladers at the southern end of Union Square. Some skaters weaved through cones that had been set on the ground, but most sat down and rested, tired from the route the group had skated earlier. According to Wednesday Night Skate's Instagram, between April and October, the skaters meet weekly at Union Square at 8 p.m., skate a 12-mile journey that sometimes takes them to the outer boroughs, and then return to the park at around 10 p.m. 

But late last night, some skaters still had a lot of energy. They were setting up a makeshift obstacle using nearby traffic cones and a plastic pole—a kind of limbo stick about two-and-a-half feet off the ground that you could either jump over, or dramatically bend backwards and skate under, and then some smaller cones that you could weave through after clearing the bar.

Some nearby buskers with a soundsystem freestyled over hip hop beats and offered a pre-rolled joint to the first person who could successfully clear both sets of obstacles. 

Skaters started taking it on, almost all of them unsuccessfully. One particularly intense wipe-out prompted the freestylers to offer their first aid kit ("There is a doctor in the house!" they said to the beat), but the skater insisted she was fine. Like moshers at a hardcore show, people rushed to pick up the fallen. Those who watched clutched tallboys hidden in paper bags. 

I walked up to a couple people, most of whom wanted to rest or skate, not talk to a journalist. One guy in a neon yellow tank top clutched a Modelo and reset the green mini-cones, hastily confirming that they meet every Wednesday night, and telling me to Google it. "You could come with a bicycle," he said. "All wheels are welcome, all people are welcome." He returned to his task. 

A couple dashed across 14th Street in their blades, narrowly missing getting hit by an M14 bus. I caught up to them in the checkout line at Duane Reade, where they were gulping on Gatorades, blue for her, yellow for him. The woman was the one who had the particularly intense wipe-out earlier. They were the most friendly people I talked to, telling me they've met a lot of interesting people coming to Wednesday Night Skate, and that this week was particularly big because of the Big Apple Roll skating festival that's coming up this weekend. 

Another kid I went up to didn't want to talk as much, they were just sitting on a ledge at the park. They told me, quietly: "It's just fun to skate around."

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