The past, present and future of CJ Wellsmore – from ski slopes to the streets of Bangkok
CJ Wellsmore has been shredding for over two decades and is a three-time world champion. Returning to this year’s FISE World Series after recovering from multiple injuries, he is currently 3rd overall in the World Skate Roller Freestyle Park World Cup.
We get the low-down from him on how a change of scene got him into blading, and what it’s like to be one of the most seasoned pros on the circuit.
How did you get into rollerblading?
My Dad used to own a ski shop in the Snowy Mountains of Australia. I skied in the Winter X Games and was the youngest competitor when I was 11. I transferred from skiing to rollerblading back in 1996 when we moved into the city and me and my brother were given rollerblades. We just pretended to be skiing on blades down hills before we started riding at a communal skate park!
How easy was it to transfer from skiing to rollerblading?
There are many parallels between rollerblading and skiing, so the transfer was quick and easy. Freestyle skiing actually comes from blading – even the names of the tricks are the same. Skiers don’t always recognise this and I try to push them to try rollerblading. If you want to become a better skier, blade in the summertime and ride on all the mega ramps. It’s exactly the same.
How did you end up becoming a pro?
It wasn’t really a goal of mine. Initially, it was all about having fun with friends and being part of a community. Then contests and pros from around the world started coming to town; seeing what was possible on skates from a young age made me think, “I want to get good at this." I wanted to do what they were doing: flipping and spinning around, showing the endless possibilities of what you can do with your body.
Who did you look up to when you started blading?
Back in the day there were so many Australian pros and there was a strong scene there. Someone who stood out was Matt Solano – he was like the god of rollerblading! He’s 45 now but can still skate around the course like it was yesterday.
How’s the roller scene in Australia now?
It’s really taken a turn for the worse. Rollerblading has got quite a bit of flak from pop culture with skateboarding and surfing taking over – they're huge in Australia. I’ve moved away because the scene is so poor and not many people do it any more. I used to work for a skate shop out there called Skater HQ, going to schools and teaching inline skating – sometimes 30 students at a time. My move to Bangkok was to pursue freestyle skating, where more students are increasingly motivated and interested and wanting to learn tricks.
Do you think there is a good balance of styles on the current roller scene?
I love where it is right now – in such a good place with great riders from all over the world. It’s not just the big flips. I watch the competitions back and love all the new and different styles. It's fantastic to see riders like Roman Abrate and Julien Cudot doing all those big moves, Joe Atkinson doing those great lines, and other riders bringing their own flow to the scene. It makes me want to skate harder.
You’ve been on the scene for a while – do you see yourself as an advisor to others riders on the circuit?
A lot of the kids in France just want to do flips and we chat about my style and how I do certain tricks. There is no right way to skate. Generally people seem more confident doing flips than grinds, but it’s nice to show that you can do whatever you want and give them the guidance to do that.
What does the future hold for you? Will you still be working within the sport?
I’ve been skating for about 22 years now – I don’t even know! My passion for the sport is as strong as it has ever been. I’ll keep pushing to keep the sport alive and sharing the knowledge I have. I just want to bring rollerblading to the masses and get kids trying it out, motivating them to be more active and outdoors, rather than lazy and staring at a computer. I love how FISE is getting kids to witness rollerblading and how it's being shown to the masses – I’m really grateful to be part of it and watch the sport grow. It’s undeniably cool!
What advice would you give to young riders?
A lot of kids these days – if they can’t do something straight away, they’ll lose motivation and move on to something they can do immediately. This isn’t how it should be. Anything worth doing takes a little practice and soon you’ll rake in the benefits. It might take a few months to get moving properly on skates, but a little more patience and persistence could open up so many doors for you and you’ll start to see the benefits.
Be sure to follow CJ on his travels around the world and get a feel of the roller lifestyle on his Facebook and Instagram pages.
Copyright : Cj Wellsmore