Skating Questions

What are the different disciplines of figure skating, and which one should I participate in?

There are five different disciplines of figure skating: men’s singles, ladies singles, pairs skating, ice dance, and synchronized skating. Both men’s and ladies singles consist of jumps, spins, step sequences (various turns organized in a manner that fits the music), and plenty of choreography. Most similar to these two disciplines is pairs skating, which consists of synchronized jumps, throw jumps (where the lady is assisted in the jump by the man), lifts, spins, and step sequences. Ice dance mainly focuses on deep edges/edge quality, twizzles, spins, step sequences, and choreographic step sequences. Skaters may choose to do partnered ice dance, in which all of the aforementioned elements would be done with a partner, or solo ice dance, in which skaters would perform these elements without a partner. Lastly, synchronized skating consists of skating in a team and performing various intersections, circles, wheels, and blocks both touching and not touching other skaters in the team. Beginner skaters should enroll in their rink’s Learn to Skate program if they reside in the US, where coaches teach them the basics of skating through group lessons. This includes stroking, simple turns and spins, and other skating skills all while making it enjoyable for the skaters. Once the skater completes the Learn to Skate program and starts private lessons, singles skating is typically taught first. However, as the skater progresses, other disciplines may also be explored. Personally, I was involved in Learn to Skate for around two years, and then have been a singles skater ever since. But, I am also a synchronized skater and a solo ice dancer, and have been for a few years now. I found that the benefits of participating in multiple disciplines have all improved my skating overall, as singles skating trains my speed and power, ice dance provides me with better edge quality, and synchronized skating builds teamwork and trust among skaters.

How and at what age do I start figure skating?

Figure skating is a sport that anyone can enjoy at any age, whether it be recreational or competitive. Many people start skating from around ages 6-12, and connect through their local rink for group or private lessons. In the US, the Learn to Skate program is offered at a majority of the rinks and teaches typically young skaters the basics of skating. Ice rinks also offer public skating sessions, where friends and family can have fun and skate together using rental skates. Both public skating and Learn to Skate are great ways to get exposed to the sport and let people decide if it is something they want to continue with in one form or another. Many recreational skaters start through these two ways and continue skating when they have the time or want to go. On the other hand, skating competitively usually entails starting at a young age (6-9), skating a consistent schedule ranging from 4-12 hours per week, doing off-ice exercises to help the skater on ice, and, of course, having the motivation for doing so. However, these are not set in stone nor are they the case for all people, as there are many competitive skaters who started when they were older and are still able to retain their competitive spirit through a consistent schedule and discipline.

What should I wear and bring to skating?

To skate, you should dress relatively warmly; long pants/leggings (but not jeans!), a shirt (preferably polyester), gloves, and a jacket or two are most commonly worn. Socks should be long and thin to allow for proper movement and sufficient room within the skates, and long hair should be tied back. Skating clothes should not be bulky so that clothing does not hinder your movement on the ice. While you’re at the rink, you should wear skate guards while off the ice so that your blades don’t get damaged. Bring some water, tissues, and extra gloves in case the ones you’re wearing get uncomfortably wet/cold. However, if there are other items you would like to bring with you out on the ice, you are welcome to as long as they are not too big or pose a discomfort to any other skaters!

When should I buy my first pair of figure skates and which brand should I get?

Buying your first pair of figure skates is always an exciting time, and it’s important to get the right boots and blades. They should be bought from a skate dealer that specializes in figure skates or, if offered, at your local ice rink. It’s typically recommended to buy your first pair after a few months of skating, since rental skates tend to cause blisters and foot aches from excessive wear. There are many skating boot brands, and there definitely isn’t one that fits every person. Popular brands include Jackson, Edea, Riedell, Riesport, and Harlick. Each brand has 5-8 different styles of boots that range in stiffness, weight, size, and design. Many beginner skaters start with Jackson skates, since they are heat-moldable to your feet and have relatively soft options for boots. It’s important to not get too stiff of a boot for a first pair so that you still have enough room to bend your knees/ankles at a comfortable position. Another popular option for beginner skates are Edeas, namely Edea Overtures or Concertos. These, though not moldable, tend to fit skaters’ feet well regardless and are also not too stiff. Another advantage to Edea skates is that the interior is made predominantly from nylon, which allows for the skate to dry up faster and not smell as much as compared to their other skate brand counterparts that are made of leather on the interior. Another popular beginner skate is Riedell. Riedell skates tend to fit a narrower foot best, but still have the same aforementioned qualities of heat molding and a softer stiffness. My first pair of skates were Riedell, but I had to switch to Jacksons and then Riesport before finally sticking with the boots I currently have, Edea Ice Flys. Switching boot brands is not unusual for many skaters, but once they get the brand that fits them best, they stick with it. Picking new skates can be a tedious effort, but it pays off in the end. Happy skate shopping, and I hope you have a great time in your first pair of figure skates!

Why do figure skaters not get dizzy?

The main reason figure skaters don’t get dizzy is because of constant practice and training. To dive in deeper though, our inner ear has an apparatus that controls our sense of surroundings and keeps us standing upright. This apparatus is known as the vestibular system, which also controls the endolymph (a fluid that is responsible for vestibular/sound transmission) and other sensory nerves that detect our movements. When we move or spin in one direction, our eyes involuntarily move in the opposite direction, which stimulates the dizzying effect. So, skaters counteract this through a different eye movement called optokinetic nystagmus, where our eyes move and head stays in place. This certainly decreases the amount of dizziness skaters face after a spin. Skaters also try to maintain a constant speed while spinning as the inner ear detects changes in speeds best.

Contrary to popular opinion, skaters don’t spot while they spin. Spotting is often used by dancers during turns and requires their heads to whip around each rotation to focus on a single location. However, skaters spin too fast to be able to spot. Doing so could result in serious whiplash, and it can actually slow down the spin!


Works Cited:

“Why Don't Figure Skaters Get Dizzy When They Spin?” Scientific American, Scientific American, 1 Nov. 2016, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-don-t-figure-skaters-get-dizzy-when-they-spin/.

TodayShow. “Why Don't Figure Skaters Get Dizzy? (Trick Question. They Do!) .” TODAY.com, 18 Feb. 2014, https://www.today.com/health/why-dont-figure-skaters-get-dizzy-trick-question-they-do-2d12114633.