A few weeks back Josip here at Be-Mag asked a few of us to share some thoughts on what we think 2017 will bring for rollerblading.
Typical of myself, I couldn’t say much other than, “I think it will be pretty similar to last year, BUT, what I’d like to see is…” and then gave him a bit of a list of my own personal wishes and hopes for rollerblading for the coming year. (Editorial note from Josip: I actually asked Frank to write a checklist of blade trip organization essentials because of his involvement in the Colorado Road Trip. He did a great job, continue reading).
A couple of things I mentioned in that list were that I’d like to see a weekly grind box session in every scene (I have an article forthcoming on this topic, how to build one, how to make it sturdy, light, reasonably movable, etc.). Another thing I mentioned is that I’d like to see more events tend toward tours and demos, rather than contests.
There are any number of contests in the world, most of which are held within only a few hours drive or plane ride from where most of the rollerbladers left in the world live. We don’t need more contests, we need more demos and tours. The guys still running worthy contests aren’t going anywhere, and we can depend on them to keep doing the hard work of sorting out “who’s who” in rollerblading. But in general, I think demos garner us better exposure to non-bladers (and are more fun and less hassle to organize) and tours, in many ways, can be one of the important substrates that help glue the rollerblading community together–not necessarily locally, but regionally nationally, or beyond.
In the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I thought I’d offer some advice on how to get a gang of bladers around to go off someplace and do a thing.
First off, have you considered a camping trip? Most of us are dudes, and most of us like camping–even the ladies among us. We like shitting in the woods and we like the perception of roughing it–even if, like me, you bring a generator and an espresso machine on camping trips to make sure everybody gets to start off the day with a nice cafe latte. In most parts of the world, you can camp for little or no money, and all you need is a bit of gear and the will to do it. Cheap makes camping a very good option for a blade trip, and you might be surprised at how much people are willing to endure if they feel like the trip will be worthwhile.
So with that, I advise the following:
1. Sit down and make a good, thorough plan for everything that is going to need to happen. Plan the trip far enough out that people can adjust their work schedules to attend. Make a Facebook group and get down all the details that you can. If you’re camping, include GPS coordinates or a Google Pin showing the exact location of the campsite(s). Otherwise, give as detailed instructions on how to get from place to place as is humanly possible. Also, invite everybody you think will be a good addition to your group. People may show up from very far away–so be sure to reach out.
2. Anticipate the unexpected. Plan for it to be colder or hotter than you’d ideally like it to be. Plan for lots of people to be unprepared for those differences. If you’re able to bring extra stuff, be sure to bring it. Also, no matter where you live, it’s going to rain. Count on that. Always count on rain.
3. Always have backup spots. If you’re skating somewhere, make sure you have backup spots for everything. If you’re camping, make sure have nearby alternatives if your campgrounds get spontaneously overrun.
4. Have a serious plan for trash collection. Drunk rollerbladers generate a TON of trash, make sure you have an appropriate plan to collect all that shit so that you don’t leave a huge mess wherever you go. On that note, consider getting a roof rack for your car (if you have a car) just to haul bags of trash out from wherever you go. When people see rollerbladers not leaving a disaster in their wake, they remember rollerbladers more fondly.
5. Ask for help. Get a crew of lieutenants around and ask for their ideas and what commitments they can make. Ask what extra stuff they can bring and what things they can be in charge of. Realistically, you want to farm out all the cool things to your lieutenants and take on the shitty jobs yourself. (on the Luke Bender’s Colorado Road Trip last year, for instance, I was in charge of building and maintaining an outdoor toilet, and dealing with all the pooh at the end of the week). That’s just how it goes sometimes.
6. Pool your resources. One of the most important things you can do is to be open and make sure that you give everyone who wants to go the opportunity to. Ask your Facebook group who has extra room in their tent, who has an extra sleeping bag, or who has an extra spot in their car. Most of the time, things can be made to work if everybody offers to help out.
7. Make sure the women-folk feel safe. This is no small thing. If guys are bringing their wives or lady friends along, make sure they’re in good shape all the time. If you have bladies in your group, do the same for them.
8. Plan for your phone not to be able to save you. Depending on where you are, your phone might not work, or you may not have power to charge it. Be sure that everything is set to go without mobile phone service. 9 times of out 10, it will fail you. Count on that.
9. Make sure everybody on your trip knows who to talk to if they have a problem. 90% of problems on a tour or skate trip can be solved just by asking the right person. If somebody gets stuck with too much trash, they need to know who to speak to so the problem can get solved. You have to be approachable and make sure people trust that they can come to you–or else they won’t, and then you might REALLY have a problem.
10. Don’t let any one person take on too much responsibility. If somebody you’re counting on falls through, don’t let that ruin the whole thing. This is basically the same as #3 above, but for people instead of places.
11. Always bring water and toilet paper. You can go pretty far in life with just water and toilet paper, so don’t neglect it. Everybody needs water, everybody needs toilet paper. Both will earn you an instant best friend for life when you can deliver for a friend in need. Nothing is more earnest than the look in someone’s eyes when you stumble upon them in the woods with their bare ass hanging out and they ask, with sudden and childish optimism, “Hey man, you got any TP?”
12. Be a leader. If you’re organizing a thing, everybody is going to treat you like you’re in charge. Don’t be afraid to make tough calls. People will moan about it, but most likely, they’ll eventually fall in line with the group. A quick speech at the beginning and end of the event to set expectations is best. And then thanking everybody for helping out is part of your responsibility, too (always, always, ALWAYS thank people by name–don’t ever say “you know who you are”). Plan on it, do it well, everybody will remember that you said some words.
13. Drag somebody along who can make an edit. People will relish their clip and watch it over and over reminiscing until the next thing. It’s good to embrace that.
14. Be a boy scout. Bring a fucking first aid kit. Somebody is gonna get fucked up. Make sure you have a decent kit to help somebody out when they get broke off. Medical tape, sterile pads and alcohol can go a long way in most cases. Be sure to bring plenty. If you’ve got the money, buy a legit first aid kit. If you don’t, ask one of your lieutenants to buy one.
15. Finally, once the thing is over with, send out dozens of emails thanking everyone who helped out–no matter how small their contribution. A little personal thanks goes a long way toward making people feel good about the contributions they made, and it will help them feel motivated to help you out again next year.
15B. Oh, and whatever it is that you just did, do it every year from now on until you just can’t. Rollerblading will be better for it. You’re doing the Lord’s work, my friend.
If you have questions or thoughts beyond those mentioned here, please feel free to get at me. Also, don’t be afraid to speak to anybody you know who’s done something similar. Rollerblading is small enough that just about anybody will help you out if you’re trying to get a thing around. We’re definitely good at that part.