For the 6th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Arnav “Sonic” Shah. Sonic is a 33-year-old multidiscipline inline skater, SkateIA instructor and software engineer from New York, New York. He has developed a passion for most disciplines of inline skating including slalom, aggressive, urban, ultra distance and marathon.


What is the current situation with COVID-19 in New York City?

NYC is currently and unsurprisingly the center of the pandemic, especially in Queens where I live. We’re permitted to be outside, and as of this writing enforcement only applies if you’re in a large group. In Queens there’s still plenty of people out and about, though I suppose much less than usual. The one time I ventured into Manhattan, it was way empty. I expected it to feel extremely surreal but it didn’t so much. Maybe it’s because the art of skating streets is already such a surreal experience, and the fact that the ultra quiet streets were not all that different than all the Manhattan skating I’ve done in the middle of the night – except this time it was 8pm.

Are you still skating?

As a multidisciplinary skater, I can always find some way to enjoy time on wheels. So I’m still skating, but instead of urban skating nearly every day (usually commuting places) and doing slalom on occasion, it’s more the other way around. I’ve been having plenty of slalom sessions with my girlfriend at Flushing Meadows Corona Park while urban skating only for the infrequent occasions we need to run an errand and aren’t driving there. I may consider skating more streets again, especially since they’re pretty empty, on my own or with my girlfriend. But to be honest I hardly do urban skating on my own for the sake of it, and why not take this opportunity to do something different?

A little time on skates goes a long way to “brush” away some world woes.
What safety precautions are you taking while skating?

For slalom, we drive to the park, which is among the largest in the city, and we set up in a relatively isolated location and don’t go near anyone else. For urban skating, I do wear a mask if going beyond my local quiet neighborhood or into business establishments, and being extra vigilant on the streets as drivers have gotten crazy with these empty roads (perhaps a bigger safety threat than the virus). Either way, I try to avoid touching anything or going near others, and wash up thoroughly upon arriving home.

What would make you stop skating?

If the city does a full lockdown on going outdoors or there’s crazier safety risks, that would do it. However, even in the unlikely event that that does happen, I’d consider doing some small area slalom somewhere within my home. 

Are you doing any cross training? 

Now’s basically a good time to catch up on the “recovery” aspect of training that I’ve been neglecting for years ;-). It takes me a while to form new habits, so I’m still working on introducing new physical activity habits into my routine, whether it’s going for a jog, doing some pushups and pullups throughout the day, or taking virtual fitness classes. Given that my biggest event of the year, 24 Hours at Le Mans, was just pushed to 2021, I don’t even have to worry about training, so it’s ok to relax a bit for once in my life.

Parker Bugg challenged me to some pistol squats so I thought a jumping variation (inspired by Eddy Matzger) would be fun way to take it up a notch or two.

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time? 

I’ve actually been crazy busy and understand that I’m very privileged to be in such a position. My main software engineering work’s client, a nonprofit, still has resources and is now directing efforts towards COVID-19 related initiatives, so I’ve been spending a lot of hours working. I’m also doing other software projects to help people in the space of teaching and learning physical arts like skating. This includes personal projects as well as projects with Skate Instructors Association (SkateIA). It’s also been a good time to catch up on home related projects, so I’ve been painting my house (fun colors of course).

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life? 

I definitely miss skate commuting as it’s a bedrock to my life, along with all my skating related travels. And of course seeing all my friends in the skating community. But as noted I’m still working (albeit 100% remote instead of the usual 33% remote) and it’s been great to have the space to tackle some neglected projects. And to be honest, it’s nice to have a break from all the hustle and bustle forced onto me. But in some sense, things don’t feel particularly bad, as I’ve done a lot to be more a go-with-the-flow type of person. And as an introvert, the social peace is welcome.

What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?

For the near term I’m of course a bit on edge about potential health disasters that could affect myself and loved ones. Looking further out, I have concerns about what our world will look like following this whole situation. We’re at the largest inflection point we’ll see in society in our lifetimes and many social issues like income inequality and community well-being are now at the forefront. Will we as a society fight and revolt to ensure that they get the priority they deserve now that the veil of bullshit has been pulled off it all? Or will it be business as usual with the situation far worse because those who already have it hard got hit hardest?

How has the NYC skate community adapted to the pandemic?

We’ve called off all group skates. A handful of us are still out skating but more or less all by ourselves. The Wednesday Night Skate NYC season opener would have been this week, so I thought it’d be symbolic to don my staff shirt, skate to the meetup spot, and then leave from there right at the premiere time, all by myself.

What advice would you give for skaters?

Given that we skaters are a creative and playful bunch and there’s so many ways to express ourselves on wheels, opening your mind can get you having fun on skates no matter nearly anything. I see lots of aggressive skaters building their own grind boxes. And I see lots of skaters of all disciplines working on new moves and disciplines and training methods. Meanwhile, our team at SkateIA has been hard to work to bring more learning resources online. For example, the new Skills Challenge program (www.skateia.org/challenge) is totally worth checking out and there’s more to come! Either way, now more than ever is it important to go with the flow, and if group of human beings is a master of finding the flow, it’s skaters.

Rekil, a move I learned a while back and need to shake the rust off of.

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