Dubai Diaries: Make way for Skater Girl

Dubai - Here's what happened when I visited roller-skating haven Roll DXB.


Kirstin Bernabe

Published: Wed 25 Aug 2021, 9:12 AM

There are very few public places where you feel so comfortable you wouldn’t mind embarrassing your introverted self. I found one in Dubai’s Port Rashid — down the rabbit hole of the city’s cool kids and roller-skaters, Roll DXB.


Yes, I know, I’m late to the party as this skating rink has been everywhere on social media since it opened in April this year. Its retro feels, disco balls and neon lights are what TikTok dreams are made of. Imagine vibing through a Macarena remix while you’re gliding and spinning around with friends — ah, what a feeling! And then you remember you have four wheels under each of your feet and you have no idea what to do with them.

I learnt ice skating when I was eight, so I sent out an SOS for my brain to rummage through my muscle memory and find the basics. “It has to be there,” I convinced myself. “You don’t really forget these abilities, do you? Even after 22 years of not skating at all, right?”

As soon as I finished lacing up my boots, I faced the music and stood up. And the first thing I said was: “Where’s the rail?” Good thing I brought my security blanket, aka my husband, who also knew nothing about skating but agreed to roll with me so I wouldn’t feel like I was the only struggling noob on the floor.

But it turned out we weren’t the only ones spending the entire 90-minute session just figuring out how not to topple over. Though some go twisting and turning as if the skates were an extension of their feet, many were there just for fun. Have you ever seen a crowd of people, young and old, enjoying a common struggle? Perhaps only at Roll DXB.

A YouTube tutorial we watched before we left for the rink listed out what we had to do. “Keep your shoulder straight and your chin up. Stretch out your arms with your palms down and drop your weight.” I practised multiple times but when it came to the real deal…nope, it wasn’t that easy.

I broke out in a sweat as I kept trying and trying, just like everyone else around me. My knees trembled as I tried hard to take control of the wheels that were sliding here and there. And then, finally, I remembered my first ice skating lesson: Don’t be afraid to fall. It’s totally okay, especially since the people around won’t hesitate to offer their arm and help you get back up on your wheels.

So, I stopped watching every movement of my feet, relaxed my shoulders, looked ahead, and everything else followed. I glided to the left, to the right and grooved to the disco beat. Too bad by the time I figured it out, the session was already winding down to its last three minutes. And we all know how this goes: I will be back.

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