To celebrate the launch of our new high-impact sports bra, Catalyst, we’re sharing the stories of inspiring athletes and what motivated them to get where they are.
It’s not everyday you hear a successful person tell you that their story starts with giving up. But for Karli Craig, roller skating was not something that came naturally to her. The challenge of something new combined with the support from the cool, friendly skate community inspired this Chicago roller skater to push herself to keep learning and improving her skill. Today, she gets to travel the world to skate and she and her best friend own their own roller skating business.
Karli’s Instagram, compiled with videos of skate tricks, shots of crazy poses, and a rhapsody of colours and lights, had us totally captivated. So, we spoke to her find out how she got started in such a unique sport and what it’s like to be on a roller skating team.
This is such a cool sport! How did you get started in roller skating?
My roller skating journey goes back to when I was in high school. Most of my friends were skateboarders so I’d follow them around to all the skate parks, but I sucked at skateboarding. I bought a $40 pair of roller skates from a sports store. The skates absolutely sucked, and I sucked. I did not know how to roller skate. I gave it up because it was discouraging that I was so bad.
When I was 17, a group of girls from the Windy City Rollers [a local roller derby league] came into my work and dropped off their flyer. All the girls had tattoos and cool hair and they just looked so badass to me. So I found a local roller derby league and decided to try out, even though I still didn’t really know how to skate. I went to the roller rink every day for two weeks straight trying to teach myself. I tried out, and they took me in.
When I got decent enough and I wanted to be more competitive, I transferred to a team that competes nationally, so I could challenge myself more. Somewhere in my first season with them, I decided to try roller skating at the skate park again because it seemed fun, and I still had friends who [skateboarded]. I tried it and I loved it—and still sucked—so I had to work really hard at it. I went to the skate park all the time and just started putting my focus on skate park and street skating more than roller derby, and eventually my love for that totally took over. It was so challenging that I was like, “I cannot give this up, I need to get better.”
What’s the roller skating community like?
The community’s awesome. Instagram has helped a lot because we can share each other’s videos and give each other advice and how-to videos and show people how to set up their skates and all that stuff. I’ve traveled all around the country. And when I went to Europe a couple years ago, we were able to stay with people that we didn’t even know but have met through Instagram. It’s such a unique thing to have the privilege to do, to be able to travel and have some place to stay in every state just because of this roller skating community.
So that’s been the biggest grateful moment for me: every time I travel, I can’t believe I have this many people out there that are willing to take in a stranger and show me around and host me. And everybody is so awesome. That’s the really cool part about our community.
What’s it like being a woman at the skatepark?
When you go to a skate park, no matter where you are, the majority of people there are men. Not only are you going to be looked at because you’re one of the only girls at the skate park, but you’re also on roller skates, which is not a very common thing to see. We do get a lot of attention.
90% of the time [at the skate park], people are really supportive and they think what we do is cool. But there is that handful of people. They would say “Why don’t you skateboard?” or “Women don’t belong at the skatepark.” I’ve probably gotten more negativity through social media than in-person. On Instagram or Facebook, people feel more confident to make negative remarks because they’re hiding behind something. But you just have to keep doing what you love to do and ignore those people.
Do you skate full-time?
I’m a massage therapist, but it’s growing right now to the point where [this could be my full-time job], where a few years ago it wasn’t. My best friend, Katie, and I also own a company called Chicago Roller Talent and we do events. So if people want ambience or entertainment or hostesses, and they want something different, they’ll hire us on roller skates. It’s a lot of fun, because it’s not like work.
And what if somebody wants to try roller skating for themselves?
I think something that is very unique about the roller skating community is that it’s all ages, all genders. It’s so inclusive. All the time I get comments from people saying, “Oh that looks awesome; I wish I could do that,” or “I’m too old to do this,” or “I have no balance or coordination to do that.”
I just want people to know it’s not like that at all.
I know people who started in their 40s; I know people who started when they were twelve. Anybody can do it if they really want to and if they really put in the time. And don’t be discouraged, because everybody starts someplace and a lot of us started from a place of no skill whatsoever. Don’t look at it as an age restriction or a skill restriction because, when I started, I had absolutely no skill.
All photos via Karli's Instagram, @rollergoolie.