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Photo by Delightography

A Guide to Roller Skating in Ottawa

By Gloria Song on June 16, 2022

The first time I tried on roller skates was in 2010, when I signed up for the introductory course held by one of the local roller derby leagues. Roller derby skaters seemed so cool to me: In a world that has historically wanted women to be ladylike and polite, I loved watching these women wearing loud makeup and colourful leggings making space for themselves, knocking each other over violently on the track, all while wearing roller skates. I didn’t end up finishing the course because life got busy, but I returned to my roller derby crush years later in 2018, while also taking up park skating, and have essentially not taken my skates off ever since.

During the pandemic, there’s been an explosion of roller skating activity in Ottawa. Although the pandemic restrictions put a pause on roller derby, roller skating (also known as quad skating—different from rollerblading/inline skating) has turned out to be a perfect pandemic pastime: You can do it outside, by yourself or with friends, and the combination of fresh air and fun physical activity serves as a much-needed mental health boost during these uncertain times. No wonder so many Ottawa residents have bought themselves a pair of roller skates in the past two years.

Now that the weather is warm, people are itching to find more opportunities to skate, and Apt613 has you covered with this handy guide to roller-skating in Ottawa!

Photo: Gloria Song.

Note: It is highly recommended that you wear protective gear while you skate. It will not only protect you from certain injuries, but will also make you feel safer about trying something new and potentially falling. I usually wear a helmet, knee pads, wrist guards, elbow pads, and even padded shorts.

So, where can you get roller skates? Unfortunately, Neon Skates, Ottawa’s only roller skating store, closed down early in the pandemic, a sad loss for the roller skating community. But you can order roller skates and supplies online from several roller skating stores across Canada, including Low Life (Montreal), Nitro Skates (Toronto), Coffin Skate (Halifax), Retro Roller (London), and Roller Girl (Vancouver). I also like to buy my wheels and bearings from local skateboarding stores like Birling.

Where can you roller skate, and who can you skate with? This depends on what kind of roller skating you’re into.

Roller Dancing

Are you new to roller skating and are looking for a safe place to practice? Are you interested in roller dancing? While Ottawa does not have a permanent roller rink (but could definitely use one!), Ottawa has several roller skating opportunities with flat smooth floors:

  • The Rink of Dreams at City Hall and the basketball court/ice skating rink at Lansdowne are perfect outdoor spots for getting your groove on when it is not winter.
  • The City of Ottawa currently provides several roller skating/rollerblading drop-in sessions across the city. Bring your skates!
  • Lois Kemp Arena, Blackburn Hamlet, Mondays from 6-8pm (information here)
  • The Horticulture Building at Lansdowne, Tuesdays from 6-8:15pm (info here)
  • The Jim Tubman Chevrolet Rink (see schedule for times here)
  • The community group Ottawa Quad Rollerskating Club hosts weekly roller skating sessions year-round where you can see some of the city’s best roller dancers showing off their moves to upbeat music while featuring a beginners’ section for new skaters to practice the basics. This group offers roller skate rentals.
  • The local roller derby leagues also occasionally host roller dance parties as part of their fundraising. Ottawa Roller Derby is hosting a roller dance party this Friday, June 17, and is offering roller skating rentals.

Photo: Ottawa Quad Rollerskating Club.

Trail Skating

We are lucky that Ottawa has so many paved bike paths with scenic views that are perfect for rolling out! Note that although these paths may be paved, the surfaces can be rougher, with some debris, and may have some slopes, so you’ll want to have outdoor wheels and be comfortable with braking and falling safely. You’ll also want to be respectful of other people using these paths, including cyclists, runners and skateboarders—share the path, and let people know when you’re passing them! Some of my favourite trail skating routes include:

  • The Rideau Canal, along Queen Elizabeth Drive: This is a particularly fun route when the road is closed to vehicle traffic on weekends during the summer!
  • Ottawa River Parkway: Again, this is especially fun on the NCC Weekend Bikedays when the parkway is closed to vehicle traffic.
  • O-Train Line 1 (LRT Confederation line): There is a smooth paved bike path that runs along the LRT line from the University of Ottawa to Tremblay Station.

Roller Derby

Roller derby is a contact sport played on quad skates. The rise of modern flat-track roller derby helped revive roller skating globally during the 2000s, and roller derby’s inclusive, feminist, trans, queer, and body-positive ethos has had a strong influence on the roller-skating community at large. Ottawa has two roller derby leagues: Ottawa Roller Derby and Ottawa Valley Roller Derby. Both accept skaters of all genders and offer introductory courses. Ottawa Valley Roller Derby also runs a junior roller derby program for skaters aged 9-17.

Photo: Delightography.

Park Skating/Aggressive Skating at the Skatepark

Park skating, also known as aggressive skating, involves shredding at the skatepark on roller skates while working on various tricks such as stalls, grinds, slides, and even flips! CIB Ottawa is the local chapter of the international CIB community of park skaters and represents an informal network of roller skaters that love hanging out at the skatepark.

Park skating requires more advanced skating skills, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re comfortable on skates—especially with falling safely—before you try going down ramps. You’ll also want to practice good skatepark etiquette: Take turns, be courteous, and don’t snake the other riders, including those on skateboards and scooters! My favourite skateparks in Ottawa include:

  • Legacy Skatepark: Meridian Place, Centrepointe
  • Innovation Skatepark: Richcraft Recreation Complex, 4101 Innovation Drive, Kanata
  • Charlie Bowins Skatepark: McNabb Recreation Centre, 435 Bronson Ave, Centretown
  • Treehouse Mike Skatepark, 51 Berrigan Drive Barrhaven
  • SK8 Extreme Park, Bob Macquarrie Recreation Complex, 1460 Youville Drive, Orleans
  • The Yard, 265 City Centre Ave – Ottawa’s only indoor skatepark

Photo: Trevor Pritchard.

Where are your favourite places to skate?

A CIB Ottawa skater has started working on a map to visually display roller skating spots in Ottawa. Check it out here.