Genesis of outdoors rollerskating
Long distance, the essence of skating
The first sports skate tour would have happened in 1790 : A Swiss skater linked La Haye to Scheveningen with 2-wheel inline skates, probably the Land Skates of Van Lede : 20 km ! A feat for the time as skating without ice was unthinkable back then.
There was no press but mere sheets sold for a modest price by hawkers, which only related a unique event with an illustration.
Thanks to one of those publications in Dutch, the information of that first outdoors skater crossed the centuries and reached us.
That Dutch print, dating from 1790, is the first known iconographic document representing a skater. It is the above-mentioned Swiss who skated from La Haye to Scheveningen in front of several thousands of people.b
A long period of silence
That feat did not aroused copycats and more than 100 years will pass (the end of the 19th Century was marked by a cycling trend) before skaters let themselves be tempted, like bicycle lovers, to skate on road.
Then the bike manufacturers designed road skates. The pioneers were the English with the Ritters road skates, made from 1895 on.
In 1898 in Essex, United Kingdom, a cyclist and a skater on 2-wheel inline road skates travelled 35 miles in one day, i.e. 56 km. That same year, the Parisian newspaper Echo organized races and skate tours open to all in the Bois de Boulogne, which was probably the French ancestor of 'Paris sur Roulettes' (PSR).
United States : the Conquest of the West
After a long interruption, new attempts at long distance outdoors skating made a strong comeback in the 1920's in the United States : in 1927, Mrs. Pfetzing and her daughter Anna went from Kansas City to Peoria, Illinois, skating 215 mile out of the 400 miles separating the two cities. That same year Allegretti did Buffalo-New York, a distance of 800 km in 3 days, and skated 58 hours without break.
Still in 1927 a 13-year-old boy did Philadelphia-Atlantic City, a 100 km distance in 7 hours and 30 minutes.
In 1928, American J. Balazs skated the distance of 14.484 km in 12 weeks, on quads with metal wheels (4.828 km per month, 1.207 km per week, 172,4 km per day in average). A few month laters he reiterated with the 'USA Tour', 32.187 km on those metal-wheeled quads, with a a necklace of spare wheels, then linked the USA to Canada in 1940-1941 on a distance of 40.225 km.
Still in 1928, the Francia Brothers made an attempt at world touring equipped with rudimentary quads with metal wheels.
Always longer, always further
In 1952, Italian Pedrotti went from Milan to Paris with quad skates, doing the whole 860 km all at once in 54 hours and 15 min. In 1967, long distance skater Clinton Shaw skated from Victoria, British Columbia, to St John's : he linked New York to Santa Monica, California, in 2 months and 17 days, i.e. a distance of 4.989 km. Those two records are in the 1977 Guinness Sports Record Book.
End of the first part, the second part from the 80's till today is over here !
LinksBy Serge Rodriguez
Translation: Chloé Seyres
Photos: all rights reserved