Eagle Rock Sk8 Chix!, a Facebook group intended to unite female roller skaters in NELA, has brought together a diverse group of women of all ages. During an isolating year of COVID-19, this group of skaters has been able to exercise while staying socially distanced, creating a strong sense of community.
April Kibbe, also known as “Ape Sk8,” is a long-time Eagle Rock resident who started the Eagle Rock Sk8 ChiX! group on Facebook in November 2020. When the group was first created, it had only a few members and little growth, according to Kibbe. Kibbe said the group, centered in Eagle Rock, has grown rapidly in recent weeks and is even expanding beyond NELA with new members in Apple Valley and Arizona.
Maria Diaz Goodman, a member of the Eagle Rock Sk8 Chix!, said she got connected with the group during a time when she needed community.
“When I asked the universe, ‘What do I need?’ I saw something sparkly with a cape rolling around. It was April Kibbe,” Diaz Goodman said.
The group on Facebook is an inclusive female space for skaters to come together to skate, talk and support one another. Group members include a nurse, designers, teachers, musicians, students and even a neighborhood council candidate.
“We don’t just skate, we collaborate,” Kibbe said.
Group members network with one another and discuss how the group can support the greater NELA community Kibbe said. According to Kibbe, the group has organized donation drives for unhoused neighbors and, most recently, collected easter baskets for cancer patients.
“I like that it’s just an all-women’s group right now. It’s a safe space for the little ones, and even the teen girls to come and have some safe, outdoor fun. The other older women are coaching and mentoring the younger ones,” Diaz Goodman said. “It’s just a very pro-female, safe, healthy, kind of fun for any young lady to come out.”
Kibbe said she found that skating with a group made the activity more enjoyable, which is how she got the idea of forming the group to get her friends skating.
“When I started skating again, it was lonely and it was fun to skate with someone else,” Kibbe said.
The Facebook group also allows opportunities for members to find partners to skate with, instead of having to go out alone.
“I formed this group because I thought about the safety of women skating,” Kibbe said. “We are vulnerable because we’re on roller skates, we could fall and could get hurt. Somebody can come up and things can happen.”
Part of the collective experience is achieved through the matching group shirts members wear while skating. The logo of the group, inspired by Kibbe’s love of emojis, is an eagle, a rock, roller skates, a skateboard and a baby chick.
“I use emojis a lot, so I thought that was it. That is our logo. That is our brand. It is friendly to all ages. Open to all ages. It is inviting,” Kibbe said.
Coincie Kibbe, known as the “Holy Roller,” is April’s mother-in-law. According to Coincie, in her 45 years of residing in Eagle Rock, she has not seen communal organizing quite like this.
“While I’m out there I could do my waist exercises or a little bit of walking. I can pretend that I’m on roller skates, and still enjoy the camaraderie and the positivity,” Coincie said.
One of the group members, Flor Chaidez, a candidate for the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council’s Social Justice Director, joined the group with her teenage daughter. Chaidez said they skate as a bonding activity.
“It is a COVID-friendly way to get some exercise in. We don’t get close to each other, our masks are on, and we’re outdoors,” Chaidez said.
Along with the physical benefits of skating, the group has provided members with a source of support during these difficult times in isolation, according to Kibbe.
“It’s a great networking platform. It keeps us close, connected, and we’re in a group, we’re safer. We take care of each other and look out for each other,” Kibbe said. “We’re not just beautiful skaters, we have real lives, real stories. If there is a way to collaborate to help one of our sisters we do because we all need help here and there.”
It is already difficult to find places to roller skate and as LA starts to ease COVID-19 related restrictions, some members, like Chaidez, said they are even more worried about finding places to skate, especially as people begin to crowd the pathways and make use of other recently empty public spaces.
“Everywhere you go, there are signs that say ‘No roller skating,’ but a lot of people want to roller skate,” Chaidez said.
As the basketball courts have been closed due to the pandemic, the group has been able to utilize that space to skate. However, once the courts open back up, they will have to find a new space since the sport takes priority on the court.
“I hope that somehow we can get some kind of real estate for us to have some space to skate,” Coincie said. “Hopefully somebody will either get in touch with the councilmen or we could have some kind of real estate so that we can promote this.”
Despite the potential challenge that looms ahead, the group is hopeful they will find new ways to continue to skate, Chaidez said. In the meantime, members continue to spread their positive energy within the group and to others they meet.
“Everyone’s just so happy and peaceful, we need that. It’s like a magnetic force, you automatically start talking and it’s just such a friendly community,” Kibbe said. “You can’t have a bad day when you’re skating.”