Outdoor retro fun: Meet the roller skaters who took to the streets during the pandemic

From baking bread to sewing and indoor gardening, the pandemic inspired a lot of trends. One of them was particularly widespread in South Florida: roller skating. It was the perfect cure for anxiety: outdoors and socially distanced. On TikTok and Instagram, skaters posted their newest tricks and twirls.

Although the 305 hasn’t been regarded as a skating destination in the past, it certainly is now, with skaters showing off their hot wheels down South Beach, at the Lot 11 Skatepark, South Pointe Park, and other meet-ups.

One Miami skater, 24-year-old Isabella Bobadilla, says that a huge draw is the community. “I’ve never met so many people from different backgrounds, with different ages, occupations and races,” she says. “All of my skate friends are so different as people, but when we’re out there skating, it doesn’t matter, we’re all just dancing and having fun.”

Long-time local Bobadilla began skating in November 2018 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She was in the middle of a breakup when a friend suggested they go skate at a nearby rink. Bobadilla had skated a few times, but strapping on skates at this period in her life was different. “I freaking loved it,” she says. ”Once someone teaches you how to do a trick and you can actually do it, you’re like, ‘Wow I didn’t think I could do that!’ It’s not like you’re just skating in a circle anymore.”

After graduation and honed in on “jam skating,” she moved back to Miami and skated with friends at beach boardwalks, tennis courts, basketball courts.

“Miami’s skating community has really blown up in the past year,” Bobadilla says. “And one thing that I’ve noticed about our skate community — and heard from my friends who visit — is that we’re very inviting and nonjudgmental.”

Laura Perez, who goes by “LP,” is a 27-year-old skater from Kendall who’s been skating since around October 2019.

“I didn’t really have a lot of friends before I started skating,” LP says. “Most of the people I’ve met in the community are very kind and supportive.” LP, who is known as @shrimpfriedpapi on her skate-dedicated Instagram account, is the primary organizer of “Rink Night,” a weekly skate meet-up that takes place at different outdoor rinks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. ‘BORED AND UNEMPLOYED’

The first rink night LP can remember organizing was in September of 2020. Indoor rinks and skate parks were still closed, as were bars and nightclubs.

“We were all just bored and unemployed,” LP laughs. “We had an idea to go to Central Park in Plantation and once we did it, we were like, ‘Oh my god, we should do this every weekend.” Recent rink nights have also been held at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale and are usually announced via her Instagram.

Sometimes the nights are themed with skaters showing up dressed the part; think the early 2000s, Gay Pride, perreo (a Spanish term for grinding which is associated with reggaeton) and more. Skaters are often called by their Instagram or TikTok handles, which end up being their skate names — for better or worse.

“It’s so social media-based that people mostly know each other by their social media handles,” LP explains. “I’ll get called ‘Shrimp’ or sometimes people will call me ‘Papi’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh that’s weird!’”

For Bobadilla, this means that she has people calling her by her skate Instagram name as well, @pendejaonwheels. In Spanish, pendeja is most commonly used in a derogatory sense to call someone a “dumbass” but it can be used in a joking way among friends or family.

“I’m 100 percent fine with it,” she laughs. “A lot of the time a skate name is not something you choose.” Bobadilla, who is Peruvian and Colombian, has amassed over 16K followers on her skate Instagram account.

“On my page, I like to show that anytime I show a new move, it took me days of falling and hurting myself for it to look nice,” she says.

All of the falling has since paid off — she’s become a brand ambassador for Moonlight Roller and has shot promotion videos for Moxy South Beach and Miami Design District. She was even in a commercial for Jennifer Lopez’s fall Coach collection. Bobadilla has a full-time job while also managing her skate page and securing acting gigs — she’s currently starring as the lead in a local film production.

“I know people that their full-time job is skating,” she says. “I have no expectations, but if these wheels can pay my bills, I’m not complaining.”

Jedidia Henderson (who is known as J-Rock on his skate IG page @rocs_world) is a 35-year-old skater whose full-time job is as a skating instructor and filming tutorials. He’s originally from Stockton, Calif., comes from a family of skaters and has been skating since he was two years old.

“Some people say I was born on skates,” Henderson chuckles. Henderson and his siblings were so talented at skating that they would participate in competitions and talent shows. He even developed his own unique skating style that he calls “illusion style.” Jedidia Henderson on his skates.

He used to teach casually for years but starting in August of this year, decided to pursue it full time. He has steadily built a clientele of both in-person and virtual beginner skaters and hopes to rent his own classroom by January to host his skating classes.

“I consider myself a guru at teaching. I can pretty much break down whatever you need to know,” Henderson says. Henderson is considered an “OG skater” since he has been skating since the late ‘80s. Although most skaters who began skating during the pandemic were newbies, he says that other OGs like himself picked it back up. “Suddenly [you see these videos of skaters on TikTok and] you’re like, ‘Wow that looks fun, I remember when I used to skate.’

It became a trend on the app, but a fun trend, and no matter your age, you’re going to want to challenge yourself to do that,” Henderson says.

Henderson, LP and Bobadilla all expressed a passion for teaching others what they know and spreading their love of skating to those who may have never tried it before. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

“That’s always been one of the more fun parts to me. I like being able to show someone how to do something and just passing down the knowledge,” LP says. “Or even simply being able to introduce people [to skating] and saying, ‘Hey look, this is a great, beautiful thing to do!’” To find out more about skate meet-ups, send a message to @shrimpfriedpapi on Instagram.

This story originally appeared in The Miami Herald.


Aaliyah Pasols was born in Hoboken, NJ but raised here in South Florida. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in sociology while also working as a freelance writer for Miami New Times. After graduation, she hopes to move back up north to pursue her NYC dreams, which include writing about culture, music, and nightlife.