The Best Places for Roller Skating in San Francisco: An Interview with a Local Expert
By Greg Roensch
Aimee Stevland is a San Francisco-based graphic designer by day—and a roller-skating superhero by night.
When she isn’t creating cool designs for some of the world’s biggest entertainment brands, Aimee can often be found rolling with soul at the Church of 8 Wheels, where she’s a certified roller skating instructor and occasional DJ.
I talked to Aimee to learn more about her interest in skating and to get her spin (pun intended) on the best places to skate in the San Francisco Bay Area.
How did you get involved in skating?
I started skating about ten years ago. It came to me during a time in my life when I had a serious hand injury that forced me to take time off from my work as a graphic designer.
As a career artist, it was important for me to find a fun form of exercise that was also a creative outlet.
One thing I loved from the start is that roller skating is a wonderful social activity. It brings people together from all walks of life, races, faiths, and parts of the world.
I’ve been blessed to form many friendships through skating that go beyond the rink.
I know you’re a huge music fan. Can you talk about the connection between music and skating?
If you go to any rink or skate park, you’ll notice how important music is to skating. Really, music and skating go hand in hand. And it’s not just any music.
Adult skaters usually skate to rhythm & blues (and hip hop) because the music has a great groove. R&B is one of my favorite genres, so the music hooked me from the start.
You might not know it, but skating is partially responsible for the creation of hip hop. In fact, if it weren’t for some savvy and courageous African-American pioneers, we’d all be skating to organ music. No offense to those who like organ music!
If you want to learn more about the connection between skating and hip hop, I recommend watching United Skates. It’s a wonderful documentary that provides insight into the vibrant roller skating community. And if you look very, very closely during the portion of the film shot in Redwood City, you might even see me!
What are your go-to skating spots in San Francisco?
One of the best things about skating is that you can lace up your skates and go just about anywhere, but I usually skate at two unique locations in SF. The first is the Skatin’ Place in Golden Gate Park, and the second is the Church of 8 Wheels.
Every Sunday, from about noon to sundown, the Skatin’ Place features great music and skaters strutting their stuff. We typically throw in a few dance numbers and even have an audience participation dance.
It’s a lot of fun and a great way to get your vitamin D and nourish the soul. Best of all, it’s totally free! All you need is a pair of skates. If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent some in the little shop across from the park entrance on Fulton Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues).
As for the Church of 8 Wheels, it’s an amazing venue that we’re lucky to have, especially given the crazy real estate market in San Francisco. The church is too small to be a conventional rink, but the original wood floor and stained-glass windows make it a one-of-a-kind experience. As we like to say, it’s the perfect place to get some “rolligion!”
I should say a word about David Miles, Jr. (a/k/a The GodFather of Sk8). David heads up both the Skatin’ Place and the Church of 8 Wheels. For nearly 40 years, he’s been a trailblazing ambassador for roller skating in the community. He and his wife Rose are responsible for creating these and other great skating opportunities for the city.
Can you recommend other skating spots in the Bay Area?
Sure, I’d say check out The Golden Skate in San Ramon. They host Adult Night on Wednesday nights. This is where you’ll see some of the very best skaters in the Bay Area, including many of the skaters I first learned from.
It was originally intended to remain open only through the 2018 holiday season, but it was such a success they kept it open for all of 2019. And hopefully, it’ll keep going in 2020 and beyond!
If you’re willing to make the drive to Citrus Heights (about two hours north of San Francisco), you should check out Sunrise Rollerland. Sunrise is home to one of the largest and most beautiful wooden floors in the country.
Once a month, from 11 PM to 3 AM, it’s home to an adult skate jam held by the “2Raw” skate club. This is where you’ll see the best of the best adult skaters in the area, with music provided by nationally recognized skate DJs.
Bringing it back to San Francisco, I’ll also mention a new event that started recently at the Hunter’s Point Shoreline Park. I had a chance to check out the park recently and it has great areas for skating.
It has a large flat surface, as well as paths and trails for those who want to explore a bit. I’m looking forward to more skating at this location.
What would you say to anyone who’s never skated before?
If you’re interested in skating but feel a bit nervous, the best thing you can do is take a lesson. Based on my experience, most people get rolling in less than an hour.
If you’re in or around San Francisco, come on down to the Church of 8 Wheels for a group or private lesson. Please check out Roll With Soul website for more information!
Greg Roensch owns and operates Six String Communications, a one-man editorial service business. When he’s not writing and editing for work, Greg writes short stories, composes quirky pop songs, and likes to travel.