I can hear the crashing of the rollers on the ramps even from afar. Punk music is blaring from a boombox, colourful graffiti is everywhere, cheers go up now and then, echoing under the Rhine bridge, and a rather unusual picture presents itself to my eyes: A number of girls in brightly coloured outfits with striped socks and knee pads and helmets dash past me. They meet here at the Apollo Skatepark in Düsseldorf on Wednesdays to race through the ramps together on roller skates.
Roller skates are celebrating a major comeback right now: Jam skating, roller derby, and simple trips on skates around the neighbourhood are more popular than ever. Many cities see the founding of teams, roller discos are organised once more, and roller skates were even sold out everywhere for a while during the pandemic. Many movements and groups have existed for much longer, however. Community in Bowls has been committed to getting roller skaters into the skate parks’ ramps and bowls since 2012.
It all started out under the name of “Chicks in Bowls” in New Zealand, in an attempt of changing the dynamics in the ramps, which were rather male-dominated at the time. It took a great effort for women and girls to mingle with the boys on roller skates. “Skating in the park can be very intimidating because only one person at a time is allowed to skate in a bowl and the “cool skateboarders” are all waiting their turn and watching. It takes a bit of courage to do that,” explains Ingo from Skatepark Northbrigade (https://www.northbrigade.de/) in Cologne, where a Girls Only session is offered once a month for precisely this reason.
The CIB movement is organised in individual “chapters” around the world. Every city has its own small community. “I’m so grateful to have found this community so quickly,” Ant, who recently moved to Düsseldorf from Newcastle and immediately connected with the local CIB chapter via Instagram, tells me. “And she’s improved so quickly!” agrees Alex, who organises this chapter.
Even though the CIB movement started under a different name, they want to be more inclusive for good reason now. “We want gender diverse, non-binary, women, men, kids, older skaters, every size, every ethnicity, every shape, and all that’s in between, to know they are invited and encouraged to be a part of this community,” founder Lady Trample has put on her website (https://cibcrew.com/). The two CIB chapters in Cologne and Düsseldorf reflect this as well. “The important thing is to create a safe space for everyone,” Boo from CIB Cologne tells me. For example, they want to make sure that everyone dares ask the allegedly “stupid” questions on equipment or tricks without receiving a derisive comment in return.
Men are welcome at the CIB Düsseldorf as well, and the group also meets up with some skateboarders. Still, female roller skaters are dominating the skate park at the Apollo Theater this Wednesday. I feel the mutual support among the girls as they leave me astonished with their apparently fearless runs through the halfpipe. They cheer and encourage each other and try out tricks together.
Even though roller skating may seem to be a rather hedonistic sport at first glance, the park skaters put a distinctly feminist political spin on it. It’s about making space, not being intimidated, supporting each other within a community, and improving the atmosphere in skateparks for everyone.
CIB Cologne on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cib_cologne/
CIB Düsseldorf on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cib_duesseldorf/
CIB Ruhrgebiet on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cib_ruhrpott/