From Rentals to Riedel’s: A Guide to Entering the World of Figure Skating


As the 2014 Olympics unravel, the effects of the most popular–and perhaps most captivating–sport is evident: the lines at public skating locations are at an all-time long. This event inspires many people to go skating with their friends and family and some, to pursue figure skating, either recreationally or competitively.

The transition from the occasional public skater to the weekly skater is one that should not be taken lightly. The difficulties faced by those entering a field that consists of tight-knit friendships that have blossomed for years are not small. But, there are some things that a beginner can do to ensure that they enter the universe of figure skating.

Buying the first pair of skates 

This is perhaps one of those most strenuous parts of beginning to skate seriously. It takes a while to understand the way that figure skates work and to determine which are good and which are not the right ones.

The first mistake a rookie can make is buying the perfect pair of skates that are just ‘lightly used.’ This terminology should not be taken lightly. It’s always better to buy new skates because skates are built to mold to the owner’s feet. It hurts to break in skates because they are being molded to provide the user optimum comfort and support.

However, skates used for less than one month are actually ‘lightly used’ and shouldn’t be an issue for the skater to break in. Buying used skates online is risky because there is a chance that the skates were used longer than the seller claimed them to be.

When buying skates, it is important to buy skates that correlate with the skater’s level of skating. An amateur skater shouldn’t purchase a $600 dollar pair of skates because they will be too stiff to master the basics.

The first pair of skates should have support at the ankles. It should be difficult to bend the boot at the ankles, but not impossible to bend. Skates with this amount of support should last a skater through their first 6 months of skating. After which the skater is likely to need new skates, depending on their level of skating and whether they choose to pursue recreational or competitive skating.

Sizing is also important. Local skate shops usually have professionals that can measure one’s foot length and width. Keep in mind that sizing differs by brands.

There isn’t any one brand that is best for beginner skates, but something that costs anywhere from $100-$160 dollars and meets the above support criteria, should work for a starting skater.

A major difference between rental skates and figure skates is in the blades. The toe pick is much larger and more defined in figure skates than in rental skates. Beginners have difficulty with this at first, but they get used to it quickly. The toe pick on a beginner’s first skates shouldn’t be too big because they will interfere with learning how to do forward and backwards crossovers, which is the foundation of figure skating.

Booking the first lesson

The best thing a beginner can do is start off with group lessons at their local rink. The United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) has created a curriculum called the Basic Skills program that is excellent for beginners. It’s an affordable program that teaches all the basics.

If the skater prefers private lessons, they can contact their local arena’s figure skating club. Private lessons can cost $40 or more per half-hour session, depending on the rink. The figure skating club can direct the skater to a coach that will answer any questions the skater and their family may have.

A misconception about skating is that only young people can learn how to figure skate. There are programs for adults that want to begin figure skating, such as USFSA’s Adult Skating program.

On-Ice Practice

A beginner skater should go to their rink and practice outside of their lessons. The more effective practice the skater gets, the quicker they will see improvements in their skill level.

A successful practice session consists of setting a specific goal and accomplishing it, or having a plan to accomplish it. The skater’s instructor should tell them what to practice outside of lessons.

A common mistake amateur skaters make is attempting to teach themselves skills through YouTube videos. Figure skating is a dangerous sport and learning how to do, for example, a Chinese spiral by watching a YouTube video can result in serious injury.

The best advice for the skater that cannot afford lessons is to ask other skaters to help them. Experienced skaters usually don’t mind lending a hand to an aspiring figure skater.

Off-Ice Practice

Figure skating is a demanding sport that requires a certain level of athleticism. Skaters should attend their local gym weekly to work on their endurance, flexibility, and strength–all crucial for a successful skating career.

Some arenas offer off-ice training programs that target figure skating skills. Some skaters also choose to take a ballet or dance class to improve their posture, flexibility and endurance.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Seeing other, more advanced, skaters may discourage beginners at first, but it is important to remember that no one just woke up and mastered a triple axel.

The best advice is to stick to the sport, and, with the right amount of practice and dedication, one should see growth in their skills as a skater.

If you have any questions about beginning to figure skate, please leave them in the comment section below and I promise I will answer them!


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