March 12, 2006 Since man invented the wheel, the promise of personal transport has been within reach for anyone with a vivid imagination and a healthy dose of engenuity. Ice skaters wishing to skate all year round made the first recorded wheeled shoes around 300 years ago, and the first patent for a roller skate was issued in France in 1819. The roller skate achieved mass popularity across Europe and the United States a century ago, with hundreds of skating rinks attracting the young-at-heart. But the availability of advanced plastics in the sixties really opened up the realms of personal transport as successive waves of roller skating, inline skating (the invention of the RollerBlade and skateboarding captured the imagination of the youth of the day, creating sub-cultures, efficient personal transport and extreme athletes capable of performing tricks that seemingly defy Newtonian physics. With advanced materials now readily available for the fabrication of even the wildest ideas, new concepts for skating on tarmac keep coming and the latest such promising technology is Freeline Skates – one tiny, aluminium body, two-wheeled skateboard for each foot, ridden with a sideways stance like a skateboard and capable of being powered on the flat or even uphill by a body twisting motion.
The skates are beautifully designed and it’s little wonder that the first major batch has been swallowed by a public that clearly is looking for that something different.
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The guys at Freeline impressed us with their straightforward way of doing business. Inventor and co-founder Ryan Farrelly was most concerned that we might give the impression in this article that the skates were readily available.
“In an effort to ensure full disclosure I want you to know that due to a large demand the Freeline Skates are on back order until April 18 (2006) at which time our production capacity will have increased by a factor of ten.”
Our take is that tiny independent skateboards will fuel a whole new craze, that the US$129 price will need to go up to support the infrastructure as the business grows (not through greed, but through the simple economics of growing a business) and that Ryan, Jason Galoob and the guys at Freeline will find that their new ten times production capacity will be outstripped by the demand as public awareness grows and translates into demand for the Freelines, which offer individuality in more ways that one.
Why are we so bullish – just go check the stats. Inline skating started around 25 years ago. Throughout the nineties it grew in popularity and regularly ranked among America's 20 most popular sports, recreation and fitness activities surveyed by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), peaking in 1998 with 27 million active, regular participants.
We suspect those production volumes will be upgraded many times in coming years.
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