Thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, inline skating (a.k.a. rollerblading) has seen a resurgence in popularity not seen since the ‘90s. While skaters getting big air in skateparks, playing roller hockey on neighbourhood streets and cruising down the boardwalk are now commonplace, off-road inline skating is not nearly as well-known—yet easily the most impressive.
With 150mm inflatable tires and durable frames, off-road inline skates allow adventurous adrenaline junkies to traverse down mountain bike trails, hit jumps on BMX courses, roll on large boulders and fallen trees, and discover what’s truly possible on inline skates.
“It was 2010 when I received the first sample pair of frames and wheels, and from that day, I knew it was going to be a whole new direction to take my progression of inline skating. It has always been a goal of mine to simply demonstrate the unseen possibilities of inline skates, and this style of skating seems to provide that exact opportunity,” said Dustin Werbeski, a Canadian from Regina and one of the world’s best off-road inline skaters.
With an extensive career as a professional inline skater, off-road was a natural progression for Werbeski, who has gained notoriety for his mind-blowing tricks, all taking place on the mountains and trails where you would normally find mountain bikers, hikers and other adventurers.
“Fellow hikers and even the bikers are quick to offer me the right of way, just to witness something they’ve never seen before. If they catch up, it’s usually followed by a ton of questions and congratulations that I didn't die,” he said.
While growing in popularity, off-road inline skating is in its infancy and Werbeski is one of a handful of elite skaters leading the charge to define this creative and exhilarating sport.
“I tell everyone who has curiosity, but never experienced it, that it's just like normal rollerblading but in much better surroundings. You can take it easy, and just cruise a relaxing trail, or you can get your adrenaline fix by pushing it off-trail and free-riding on your own. Getting to roll around on tires filled with air, at 100psi, allows you to skate places you never thought were possible,” he says.
With varied terrain and the vast landscapes few other countries can offer, Canada is a dream come true for off-road skaters and offers endless experiences for people looking for new outdoor adventures—and people are taking notice.
Werbeski has travelled the globe as a professional inline skater for a significant portion of his life, and now with his focus on the off-road side of skating, he’s made the most of the country he calls home and continues to hunt for new locations.
“To date, I’ve been able to experience riding some of the most infamous mountain biking trails, the sands of the badlands, the valleys of the grasslands, some of the craziest bike parks for tricks and even a frozen river. Everyone has a dirt trail near them, but not always the smoothest cement, so I hope it opens the doors to rollerblading for a lot more people,” he said.
“I can’t count the number of hours I spend location scouting on Google Earth and Maps. Living pretty much dead centre in Canada, I’m always needing to drive multiple hours to the spots I want to roll around. The best was the North Shore in Vancouver, BC. While being there, I could feel how that place played such an important role in developing mountain biking into what it is today and felt honoured that I could be using it to do the same for my sport. The video I made of my time there has been my most well-received content, with millions of views on different streaming sources, and multiple news articles, and I did a couple of television and radio interviews for it.”
Pavel Grimshtein, owner of Proskaters Place, a Toronto-based shop that carries one of the largest inventories of off-road inline skates and parts anywhere in the world, says, “Off-road skates are gaining in popularity. More and more people like them, especially taking into consideration that lots of people like to spend their time outdoors. They’re ideal for gravel roads, packed dirt, and that’s what people really like—exploring trails while doing their favourite sport.”
Is off-road inline skating for everyone? Not necessarily. Grimshtein says he never gets complaints about the off-road skates, but it will be a steep learning curve for those who haven’t skated before or want to use off-road skates on flat surfaces like asphalt which they simply aren’t designed for.
“For off-road, I would say the vast majority of people getting into the sport are people who skate, are quite advanced in their skills and want to advance to the next level,” said Grimshtein. “We haven’t received any negative reviews about the skates at all. The single reason we see people disappointed in off-road skates is because they don’t understand the application.”
For skaters and adventure-seekers looking for new experiences, off-road inline skating is a blank canvas waiting for people to embrace the sport and make their own mark, just like Werbeski. Dedicated to growing off-road inline skating, Werbeski is focused make a living and travelling the world promoting a sport he loves.
“This year, Powerslide I are producing the first-ever pro endorsed off-road inline skate, allowing me to travel and brand the skates for their release to the world. My skating is slowly but surely getting the attention of other markets and brands, like the Skydio drone company. I have been using one of their drones to document all my progress and allow me to forget about the hassles of shooting and use its artificial intelligence to do all that work, while I focus on the skating, getting effortless yet stunning videos as a result.”
If you’re ready for a new adventure and endless possibilities, grab some off-road inline skates—there’s plenty of room on the mountain.