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FEATURE: How one nonprofit is building a community on wheels 

GET OUTSIDE - SUMMER/FALL 2022

Between bread baking, binging Tiger King, learning TikTok dances, and Googling “How to cut my own hair”—two years of lockdown has led us all to some pretty inventive ways to pass the time. Yet arguably, there’s no more nostalgic hobby than the resurgence of roller skating.

San Luis Obispo County didn’t miss the memo, and skating events and pop-ups have burst onto the scene, giving both veteran and newbie skaters a community where they can practice, teach, and share their love of life on wheels. One group leading the charge to create safe and inclusive spaces for roller skating is The SLORoll Community Initiative, a local nonprofit organization. Its mission is to “uplift our community through creativity, roller culture, and physical activity. We aim to provide safe and inclusive spaces for all members of the Central Coast to thrive.”

Get Outside sat down with one of SLORoll’s founders and the owner of Doomsday Sk8 School to find out more about what they have planned for our area and beyond.

Dottie (who asked to go by her skate name for this article) is no stranger to life on eight wheels. She’s participated in roller derby in the past, but what really calls to her is the vibe of rink skating.

“Rink culture is music; it is very culturally open and involves more than just roller skating—it’s also about what it brings to people mentally,” she said.

How SLORoll came about is a familiar tale for many who quarantined.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE CRAIG
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE CRAIG

“It was just some friends trying to stay sane during lockdown,” Dottie quipped with a smile.

What started with a Bluetooth speaker in a driveway blossomed into a nonprofit organization hosting countywide events each month that provide a safe space for skaters. They are working toward a larger goal of creating dedicated spaces in the area that honor the culture and community surrounding the sport.

“Skating is deeply rooted within Black culture,” Dottie explained. “It has been a safe space where that culture could thrive—through storytelling, through music. Hip-hop and rap got its beginnings in roller rinks. Radio DJs and other venues would refuse to let them perform or play that type of music.”

SLORoll is rooted in honoring the cultural history as well as providing education to the community, but this nonprofit’s goals don’t end anywhere close to there.

The organization was created to bridge the gap between the LA and Bay Area skate scenes. Once SLORoll began hosting pop-up skate events, “One thing became clear quickly, and that is the lack of available, safe skating spaces in our area,” Dottie said. “We haven’t had a rink open north of Santa Maria since Flippo’s closed over 20 years ago, and a lot of times places that are designated for skating cater more towards skateboarding. They aren’t always welcoming or safe for roller skaters.”

With that in mind, The SLORoll Community Initiative became a nonprofit in July 2021. Dottie and her fellow board members—Cavin Stokes, Rosalind Montgomery, and Christina Soto—along with supporters aim to raise money and find investors for a multi-purpose community building. With inclusivity and versatility in mind, the space would be open not just for roller skating and rink sports, but art classes, private lessons, adaptive sports, and community events.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE CRAIG
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE CRAIG

This type of facility can help to provide opportunity and services to the less advantaged as well as the disabled community in our area. By providing both indoor and outdoor multi-use courts that allow for unique situations and adaptations, Dottie sees this as a space for all to be able to fully enjoy, including those without the means to afford a hefty membership fee.

“We want to lower the barrier for parents and others who want to provide kids with access to these activities but can’t afford it. We would do that by offering a sliding fee scale,” she said.

The moment that Dottie starts speaking about this project, it’s apparent that her heart and soul are in it deep, and her loyalty lies with the community and in creating a lasting legacy of inclusion and excellence within it.

SLORoll is going strong with their monthly pop-ups, and CAV (aka—“DJ Brotha C”) of Connect the Coast provides the music that gets everyone grooving. These events are donation-based fundraisers, and currently funds being raised go toward resurfacing and renovating Paulding Middle School’s hockey rink in Arroyo Grande. Following a generous donation of 132 pairs of Impala skates, SLORoll can now offer rentals at their public and private events. With pop-ups shifting locations all over the Central Coast, there’s always something coming soon to a town near you.

In addition to The SLORoll, Dottie also runs her private company Doomsday Sk8 School. Looking to build a confident and safe skating community, she offers group and private skate lessons, trail skating, kids and parent classes, as well as roller dance lessons and more. For more information on private lessons and other offerings from Doomsday Sk8 School, find it on Instagram @doomsdayskate.

Whether you’re brand new to the sport, have a pair of old skates begging to be dusted off in the back of the closet, or consider yourself a roller king or queen, there is no better excuse to sweat to some sweet tunes than building community and helping to create a safe and inclusive space for everyone on the Central Coast. So, lace up and get out there—and don’t forget that protective gear!

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