Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lucky, cushy skates

Way back in the day, when I was in sports store skates, I would visit the skate shop for Stitch and see women my age buying very nice skates. They were nice enough, but I had to wonder what it was like to wear very fancy skates.

I had made an appointment to get fitted for custom boots. Multiple problems were forcing the issue, which I'll go into later. But I needed new skates. Which was scary, because it was going to be drawn out, expensive, and painful. Breaking in new skates, plus mounting the blades for my wonky feet is, well, terrible. Plus, I was thinking of changing brands, which would mean a new blade, which would in essence, double the price. Husband was unhappy with all this, plus the microwave broke the night before, so I was feeling very guilty about depriving the family of a microwave for my ice crack habit.

So I marched into skate shop, Jacksons in hand as a comparison point, and settled in. My tech put me in a pair of super cushy Riedells for a size and width reference, and I hesitated but asked the model in some hope I could afford them. He said they were a step above the model that was at the upper limit of my price range. If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

So we talked about the Riedell 910 or Jackson Premiere, my two main options. We talked about custom widths, but first starting with a stock width before chancing a custom order that might not work. New skates seemed miles away. I mentioned the blade issue, saying I loved my current blades and didn't want to go back to a 7' rocker. Yes, Reidells would mean the rocker of doom. I sighed.

"Wait..." skate tech said suddenly. "I have these SP Teri's. Used, but not very. Do you want to try them on?"
"Couldn't hurt." I said hopefully.

They were just as cushy as the cushy cush Riedells, narrow heel and wide ball. They fit. "How much?" I asked, figuring I wasn't spending money by asking questions.

He told me the price, less than the deposit I had been prepared to pay. "I'll take them!"

I had brought along the Jacksons for no real reason, but they got left at the shop so my favorite skate tech could pull the blades off and put them on my slightly used SP Teri's. I got to keep my blades. So, I went out to celebrate with a nice lunch, having saved up for new skates, but only needing a fraction of the money. Better, if they do work out, I can put my Jacksons on consignment. The shop assures me they will sell fast and high, being in a popular size. Between the gift money from the holidays I'd never touched plus the money from the Jacksons, the SP Teri's would be practically free.

I took my new (to me) skates to the rink to check the blade mount and skate in them. Coach happened to be there, and was thrilled. "You got lucky! Those are nice skates!" I apologized for rushing into the purchase without consulting him, but he was just happy I got such a great buy. He checked them all over, and took moments from his lesson with two small children to ask, "How do they feel?" And "Are you doing okay?" He came over after the lesson and gave me directions; lots of dips, shoot the duck, swizzles and lunges. Break them in.

These skates have not been broken in, so I am dealing with the painful break in period. But if they're like my Jacksons, they'll feel fine in about a week. I went from the "oh god I can't skate" feeling to doing half flips and tap toes in about an hour. Yes, my feet hurt like hell, but the cushy cush support in my ankles made back edges feel safe as a hammock. I wanted to skate fast, wanted to try everything just to see the difference in feel, which was amazing. I was off my toepicks, scraping a lot less. There's so much cush, I can barely tie them!

As I sat there in the skate shop, in my mismatched trouser socks and taped up Jacksons at my side, I noted the woman beside me getting her starter skates on for the first time. The PVC sole gave it away. We started chatting. She was Alpha level, but wanted something better. I agreed, outside edges require supportive skates. I told her about my experience with PVC soles and why I'd moved on to the leather and cork soles of Jackson Competitors. She noted the cushcush Riedells, the ones I would have smuggled out the door, "I would imagine you know all about this."

Not really. What I do know is largely from trial and error, plus a little luck. The SP Teri's were pure luck, perhaps the Skate Fortunes smiling on me after such a rough time during Winter Ice Show and keeping on a smile during The Switch. My SP Teri's might well be my reward for not killing anyone. I do know that I'm setting aside some of the money saved up for new skates, so I can upgrade my blade in the fall or winter. An 8' rocker, of course! If a fancy skate like these feels nice, I would imagine a fancy blade will feel great as well.

So, what's it like to buy fancy skates? Frightening. Worse than going to the mechanic, because you have no real notion of how much it's going to cost you. But much like going to the mechanic, once the work is done, your car runs great and you want to drive it around for no real reason.  I read somewhere that fancy skates won't make you a fancy skater, but cheap skates can hold you back. So, while I likely have too much skate for my level right now, I don't care. I love my new fancy, cushy cush skates!

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