- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. - The children and young adults who were trying in-line skating during its heyday are entering their 40s and 50s today. And officials at Rollerblade want to remind those aging boomers that in-line skating isn’t just for teens and isn’t just for fun — it’s good exercise, too.

Just ask Rollerblade founder Scott Olson. Now 46, Mr. Olson, who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Waconia, says he gave up in-line skating for seven or eight years to concentrate on other projects.

That changed a year ago after a local TV station asked him to lace up.

“I finally dug up an old pair at my house and skated around for them for about 10 minutes, but boy, I was going through a whole lot of hurt,” he said. “I decided maybe I should start doing this again more often.”

As Rollerblade marks it 25th year, company officials are hoping an emphasis on fitness will help it expand beyond its core customer base of young people.

“People in their 40s and 50s are now willing to use [in-line skating] as a fitness activity because they are comfortable with it,” said Jeremy Stonier, vice president and general manager of the company based in the Trenton suburb of Hamilton Township.

The company is sponsoring in-line skating marathons, school programs and free skating lessons to promote its claim that the activity burns as many calories as running or cycling, but with less impact and shock to joints.

Mr. Stonier said 2004 was the company’s most profitable year since 1998 and that it is on track for a 10 percent sales increase in 2005. Rollerblade says its emphasis on physical fitness is designed to reverse a decline in the sport’s popularity since the late 1990s.

The activity reached its peak in 1998, when 32 million Americans older than 6 said they had tried in-line skating at least once during the year, but the novelty then started to fade. By 2004, only 17.3 million had tried the activity, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

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