Zoom December 2010
Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Words: Michael Isenbek Photo: Stephen Lang
Ice-skating: There are those who can glide gracefully over the ice forwards and backwards and can execute startling feats of athleticism. Others stumble for a few feet and fall over. And it has been that way for a long time. Scholars have surmised that the Finns (the namesake of Finland) were the first to fashion and use ice skates about 5,000 years ago—creating the very first human-powered mode of transportation. Skates were used as energy-savers during long hunts in freezing temperatures over the area’s many lakes. Leg bones of horse, ox or deer were used for the blade, secured to the feet with leather straps. Metal blades did appear in ancient times, but bone skates were far more widespread for a vast number of years. It was the advent of iron blades that sparked ice-skating’s explosion in popularity that continues into the modern day—the creation of an unknown Scottish blacksmith in 1592. The ice skate eventually divided into 5 different designs, most have a hollow in the middle of the blade, creating 2 ideally parallel blade surfaces. The radius of the curve varies between sports and skaters. They are, in no particular order: The figure skate, stiff leather boot and a serrated edge at the front of the blade called a “toe pick,” which assists the figure skater with jump maneuvers. The hockey skate, with a molded plastic/leather/ballistic nylon boot. The bandy skate, “bandy” is a European soccer/hockey amalgam, a leather boot, often not covering the ankles, long blades for faster speeds. Racing (or speed) skates, no hollow, just a flat bottom and long blade, increasing speed potential. And touring skates, no hollow, long, flat blades that can connect to regular winter boots or cross-country ski boots for long-distance skating on natural ice.