Many of the roller skaters you see on TikTok prefer fluidly cruising down the street to the tune of popular songs. Mary Smith, on the other hand, prefers taking a slightly more adrenaline-pumping route. A Washington-based freestyle roller skater and yoga teacher who goes by the nickname Kid Ace, Smith nails some seriously impressive tricks at skateparks around town while laced up in her bright-red quad skates, and it's truly wild to watch.
Smith has been hooked on roller skating for 12 years now, initially mastering the art of roller derby before getting into tricks like grinds, aerials, grabs, flyouts, and yes, even full-on flips. "Since you don't see roller skaters at the skatepark every day, when one rolls up, I think it can be kind of a mystery as to what they are going to do," Smith told me via email. "When I do a backflip on my skates, I think it inspires people to know that there are lots of wheely options out there and the possibilities for getting creative with movement is endless."
Of course, Smith didn't just wake up one day and magically land a backflip right off the bat — she first enrolled in acrobatic classes to re-learn a back handspring before eventually slipping on her skates to attempt the motion on a ramp. She relies on this approach when conquering any new trick: master the basic movement while not wearing skates first, and then hit the ramps to give it a real go. The process may sound easy when it's boiled down like that, but whew, does it take time, patience, and guts (and kneepads help, too).
Needless to say, staying fit and strong is crucial for Smith in her trick-nailing endeavors. The 35-year-old personal trainer's current routine involves practicing yoga three times per week, doing two strength-training workouts per week (featuring TRX, dumbbells, and resistance bands), and skating whenever she can, weather permitting. As for targeting her core specifically, Smith relies on V-ups, plank variations, handstands, and any exercise done from hanging on a bar. Meanwhile, back bends and superman holds help stretch and strengthen her back muscles.
In addition to practicing yoga solo at home, she also teaches it through her Yoga For Skaters classes, which she's been offering online via Zoom every week since the pandemic hit. She created these Vinyasa-based classes with roller skaters in mind as a way to "contribute to and support" the community she's been apart of for more than a decade. "We build physical strength that targets the areas of the body that skaters use the most like the core, the low back, the glutes, and the outer hips as well as those areas that sometimes get overlooked with skating like the upper back, neck, and shoulders," she said, describing the usual Yoga For Skaters curriculum. These days, her classes typically draw a core group of 10-15 attendees who tune in week after week. "It is so beautiful to see that kind of commitment, especially at a time when motivation and commitment is very challenging to muster," she said.
"I dream about tricks and then skate 'til I know how to do them."
Her advice for newbies to the roller skating scene? "Take it in stride, be patient with yourself, and enjoy the learning process. The beauty of roller skating like this is that there are no levels. I dream about tricks and then skate 'til I know how to do them. Roller skating is an exercise in following your dreams and following your heart and enjoying the twists and turns of that journey." For Smith, that journey has brought a whole new meaning and purpose to her life. "Finding this activity that is physical, creative, inspired, and inspiring has made every aspect of my life better. It makes me feel free and it makes me feel happy, but most of all, it makes me feel like myself."
To see Smith in her element, check out some of her most badass roller skating videos ahead, and prepare to "ooh" and "ahh" at every single one.