Practice Makes Progress with @gwenythskates
Like so many of us stuck at home searching for hobbies to fill our time, Gwenyth Portillo Wightman stumbled (literally) into a new pandemic practice. For the past year, Gwenyth has bared all on @gwenythskates— showing us the flawless spins, the impressive jumps and the falls of her new skating obsession. Rolling into the scene with some good tunes, a Good to Go Seamless Set and a "practice makes progress" attitude, we were so excited to chat with Gwenyth about how she takes the lessons she learns on wheels and applies them in any scenario. Meet Gwenyth.
Gwenyth rolling in the Good to Go Seamless Set in Cinnamon
Hi Gwenyth, tell us a bit about yourself!
Hey there! I’m 24 and currently based out of Arizona. I’m excited to be moving to the East Coast in the fall to begin a PhD program in computer science. Beyond skating, I’m a big fan of solo dance parties in my room, long bike rides at the beach, discovering new music, and eating at every vegan restaurant I can find.
Why roller skating? How’d you get into it?
Like many new roller skaters, I’m a “pandemic roller” and got into skating last spring. Before then, my experience with skating had consisted primarily of falling very hard on my tailbone at a roller rink in seventh grade.
Then, one random afternoon in April 2020, my mom told me that one of our relatives had started skating. She asked me if I wanted to give it a try too. In that moment, all I could think of was that one time I hurt my butt at the rink— but suddenly I found myself dreaming of gliding down the neighbourhood streets on skates. I’m so grateful for the chain of events that led me to roller skating!
Do you have any tips for getting out of your comfort zone?
One of my favorite Youtube creators, Evelyn from the Internets, once said, “Don’t be afraid to be seen trying.” I now think of this phrase whenever I’m nervous about going out of my comfort zone...which is often because my comfort zone is tiny!
Both in skating and other areas of life, I can sometimes be afraid of what others will think if they see me trying something and making a mistake. But if I let that fear run my life, I would never do anything new!
Something that helps me get out of my comfort zone when skating is throwing on some good music— it really helps me relax and stop overthinking. I also highly recommend skating with a friend so that you can feed off each other’s good energy and try new things together!
Top 5 songs to skate to right now?
This is a hard question! My skate music changes all the time, and I love so many songs. Here are a few that I’ve been feeling lately:
6’s to 9’s - Day Wave Remix by Big Wild and Rationale: This is skating-through-the-neighborhood-at-sunset music. The combination of this song and the warm golden light while I fly down the street is just heaven!
Jeannie Becomes A Mom by Caroline Rose: This song is so groovy, and it always brings my mood up and gives me the confidence to try skate tricks that scare me.
Watch Me by The Pom-Poms: I love the beat of this song— there’s something about it that makes me feel bold and empowered. It’s definitely a perfect song for rhythm skating.
Mango by yung cxreal, Grant Landis, and Annelisa Franklin: Off skates or on skates, I can’t resist doing a little dance to this song. It screams summer and sunshine to me.
No Better by Raveena: My dream is to skate to this song (and all of Raveena’s music, honestly) at a skating rink. It would be so perfect for a nice, slow partner skate under the disco lights.
Your skating videos are all about progress. How do you take the “practice makes perfect” method into your life outside of skating too?
I like to think of it as “practice makes progress” because the goal of perfection can be so daunting. I’ve occasionally been hesitant to try new things because I’m intimidated by my desire to do a perfect job.
In terms of my computer science research and studies, I come from a demographic that is underrepresented in this field. Knowing that, I put extra pressure on myself to succeed, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, if I can’t do it perfectly, why even try?”
But instead of getting hung up on perfection, I try to just give my research projects my best shot and then make little improvements, day by day. By putting in work every day, I refine my ideas until I finally find a solution to whatever research question I’m working on.
The same could be said for learning any roller skating skill. Every time you practice, you make a little more progress. It’s really the consistent practice that gets you to your goal— which, for me, is simply to be better than I was the day before.
What are you proudest of?
It might seem cliché to say, but I’m proudest of my general progress in rollerskating. When I first got my skates, I could barely stand up on them!
I’m naturally a very uncoordinated person, and it takes me a very long time to learn new moves. Sometimes I get discouraged with how long it’s taking me to learn something. But when I look back at old videos of myself skating, I can see how far I’ve come. My 180 jumps used to be so hesitant, but now they’re so easy. My waltz jumps get higher every week, and my spins are very gradually getting more stable.
It’s only in retrospect that I can see this progress though. It’s hard to see how much I improve day to day, especially when progress isn’t linear— there are times I plateau or even regress. Every once in a while, I can’t even spin!
I have to remind myself to be patient, to keep showing up and trying. I might not realize it in the moment, but things are always falling into place.