Rick and Joan Stiebel during skating class at SEAPARC Leisure Complex arena.

Helmets off to SEAPARC staff

A couple learns to ice skate at rec centre with a lot of encouragement and fun

  • Wed Dec 9th, 2015 6:00pm
  • Sports

By Rick Stiebel

Learning to skate at the tender age of 62 certainly has its ups and downs. On the plus side it’s rewarding and gratifying to learn a new skill that develops balance, muscle memory and other athletic components that leave you feeling exhilarated, whether you’re moving backwards or forwards.

On the down side, watching six-year-old future NHLers and Ice Capades stars fly around the ice performing feats you can’t even dream of doing can be a little daunting, if not downright disheartening.

My wife decided that we should take lessons a couple of years ago, and I reluctantly tagged along, clutching the boards in terror the first two times we ventured onto the ice.

After a few sessions, however, we began to look forward to our Sunday morning lessons, determined to master cross overs, transitions and stopping without skidding into the boards

There were a few significant bumps, bruises along the way, including in Joan’s case a wrist she broke in five places when she was skating backwards and fell awkwardly into the unforgiving boards.

Once her cast came off and she was cleared to return to the ice, however, she was back on her skates, this time with her wrists adorned with guards.

When I got accidentally levelled at full speed by someone twice my size, I’ll admit there was a moment that caused some sober second thought as I watched my blades hurtle toward the ceiling while my helmet slammed onto the ice with a sound that echoed throughout the arena. I had a disc replaced in my neck 25 years ago and I currently have the cervical stability of a house crumbling from the attic down.

The staff at SEAPARC were absolutely amazing in both instances, immediately providing professional first aid, care and comfort. I was back on the ice the following week, albeit a little tentatively, but buoyed by the knowledge that I could take a licking and keep on ticking.

We’ve had at least five different instructors during the seven week sessions we take three times a year while the ice is in place, and they are an amazing crew, each with their own skill sets and areas of emphasis. They range in age from just out of high school to old enough to relate to my taste in music, and share a passion for teaching toddlers and grandparents that makes every session rewarding on many levels. Their patience and enthusiasm, especially watching them work with the wee ones, is truly inspiring.

Now that I’m semi-retired, I take advantage of the public skate Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and feel so much better with each session, although the jury’s still out on whether I will ever develop an appreciation for hip hop while doing laps that have stretched from 30 to 60 minutes at a time.

Although I have resigned myself to the fact that I may not master the backwards crossover in the near future and my transitions still need work, skating has added a layer to my life that has improved me mentally, physically and spiritually. I don’t think it would have been possible without the staff at SEAPARC, so to all of you, including the friendly folks at the front desk, thanks from the bottom of my blades.

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Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident.