Big Wheel Blading’s COVID-19 Coverage

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every skater in the world in some way. In this new series, Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19, we will be checking in with various inline skaters from around the globe to see how the pandemic has affected their life. This is only one part of our COVID-19 coverage, which includes editorials, interviews with skaters who are deemed essential workers and an in depth report of what long term affects the pandemic will have on our sport and industry. Also check out the series, Essential Workers, Inline Skaters on the Front Lines of COVID-19, where we talk to inline skaters from around the world who are considered Essential Workers. If you’d like to contribute an editorial piece or have any comments or suggestions you can email

Caleb Smith is a 30-year-old inline skater from Des Moines, Iowa who has recently been added to the Rollerblade Pro Team. Caleb is both an aggressive skater and a long distance skater, recently having completed a nearly 500 mile skate along the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This journey was documented in the short film ULTRA by Bruce James Bales.

What is currently going on with COVID-19 in Des Moines?

They just announced the first cases here a few days ago. Unfortunately all those who tested positive live in a building ten blocks from our house. We aren’t on lockdown yet, but we are anticipating it will happen here soon. 

Are you still skating? If so what precautions are you taking to remain safe?

Yes, I’m skating everyday. Honestly I have only had to change a few things. My partner Bambi and I have been on self-quarantine for the last 10 days. I only leave for groceries and to go skating. The other three women who live in our apartment complex have been smart about self-quarantining as well. When we do leave, we wipe our doorknobs with sanitizing wipes. 

When I go skating I usually wear my full-face helmet, but if not I wear a medical mask. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer on me. What’s nice is, I can leave my house and skate 10 miles without touching a single thing. Providing I keep distance from others, it’s a zero contact form of exercise.

Where are you skating? 

I mostly free skate around downtown and some side neighborhoods. Traffic is the lowest I’ve ever seen in this city. I’ve managed to skate some roads, hills and bridges that were too busy before, which is a pretty cool upside to this situation.

What would make you stop skating?

If we go into lockdown I will stay indoors and skate around my house. I totally respect the seriousness of this crisis and would never do anything to put anyone’s life at risk. 

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time? 

Puzzle making, reading, cooking, writing, more at home workouts than usual. And I finally got our sewing machine working, so I’m making masks for friends and experimenting with making my own clothing.

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life? 

Aside from the overall existential dread that is hanging over me and I think a ton of people, not a whole lot. Except my place of work closed down, and I don’t qualify for unemployment, so that’s a mountain I’m not looking forward to climbing in the time ahead of us.

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

I’m concerned for the people who aren’t as healthy and privileged as myself. Whether or not you choose to accept the reality of what’s going on it doesn’t change that it’s happening. There are poor families, homeless, immunodeficient, and struggling humans all across the board that are hurting far worse then I am. 

I’m super lucky to be able to semi function during this crisis and still be able to do what I love. I’m trying to figure out how to use skating to improve or positively effect the current environment.

Is the skate community in Des Moines self-isolating or are they still getting together and not social distancing?

It seems for the most part my friends are making intelligent choices. A few of us have continued to do small neighborhood skates for our mental health, but we exercise a strict “no touch policy” and we leave 6 ft or more between us. It’s just nice to have a small amount a human interaction in person.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

If you are comfortable enough to be able to choose whether or not you think this crisis is something to be taken seriously then you are in a position of privilege. Take a moment and step back, look around at your fellow human beings. Not everyone has those privileges. So out of respect for the common good of all humanity please attempt to do what you can to positivity impact this situation. 

Here is something for you to watch while in lockdown. Caleb Smith in ULTRA by Bruce James Bales.


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Jan Welch

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