We meet the Peg City Rollers at a puddle-pocked court on Burnell St. Everyone’s decked out in Good Will Exercise Gear that’s been generously cropped and shredded. Destruction in the name of flair. Like the coolest counsellors at camp.
Charlotte Cook-Dowsett dons a pair of massive dangly earrings with rainbow letters that read L.O.V.E. I tell her I like them, and she assures me she has a change of earrings for later on.
The rest of the rollers arrive in waves, each rocking their new merch and a pair of brightly-coloured roller skates.
The vibrant group takes off, skating freely around the rink, zigzagging through Red Bull cans placed around the lot like pylons.
They look like pros. Like they were born skating. But really, all levels of experience are at play here. In fact, founder Genie Nizigiyimana, who skates with electrifying grace and confidence, only bought her first pair of skates in October 2020.
“I was scrolling through Instagram and saw Oumi Janta. She looked phenomenal, and I wanted to be part of that.”
As a true extrovert, Genie wanted other folks to join her in the fun.
The first Peg City Rollers meet-up happened in May 2021, with only about 10 people in attendance.
Jill, who helped establish the group alongside Genie, has been skating since she was a kid. When the pandemic hit, this childhood pastime became a major part of her day-to-day.
“Roller skating has been my number one way to get through this pandemic and isolation. I even skated in my house when it was wintertime and I couldn’t go out.”
For Jill, roller skating is a way to feel in control, even in a world that feels anything but.
“And it’s just an amazing way to make adult friends, which is really challenging. I can’t believe how many different people I’ve met through roller skating.”
Patty, who joined in July 2021, didn’t expect to make friends so quickly when she showed up for her first Sunday lesson.
“I had just gone through some major life changes with a separation and a move, so I felt super isolated,” Patty shares. “Having this group was a lifeline.”
Golda Ferrer joined the same month Patty did. She had a pair of skates from a Halloween costume she wore back in 2018, but she didn’t actually dig them out of the closet with the intention of joining the Rollers. She had some new chairs at her salon and she needed the extra height.
The roller skates gave her a boost and she was able to shimmy around the chair just fine, but when it came to actually skating, she decided to join the Peg City Rollers for guidance.
“I just showed up and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Golda’s nixed the sleeves from her black Good Will Exercise Club tee. A custom look that compliments her beaded earrings and lavender wrist guards. Our casual little exercise line has her stylish blessing.
“Movement is everything,” she says. “It’s nice that there’s a brand out there that isn’t geared towards a fitness goal per se, or reps or miles-per-second. I think every day’s a personal best as long as you’re having fun.”
Then, Golda removes her own skates and wrist guards for me to wear. Another person offers me kneepads. I’m enveloped by wholehearted encouragement, and, before I know it, I’m on wheels.
I wish I could say I moved like Bambi on ice, but that’s too generous. Picture a body in rigor mortis.
Jill grabs my hand and shows me how to skate little “bubbles” around the perimeter of the court. I feel vulnerable, rheumatic, and…elated.
“The number one misconception is that rollerblades are better for skating outside than roller skates,” Jill tells me. “But you can totally skate anywhere. This is my third year skating outside and I skate on shitty, cracked concrete, gravel—everything. It’s all about confidence. Just keep working on it, you can skate like you’re in California, no problem.”
All I hear: You’re in California. No problems.
Wanna join the Peg City Rollers?
DM them on Instagram, or just follow along with their feed posts for all the meet-up details!