For the 74th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Freddy White. Freddy is a 36-year-old inline skater, homeless by choice and constantly hopping borders, currently experiencing lockdown at his Mom’s house in the small rural town of Vierzon in central France. He is a freelance writer and translator, producer (Cayenne , Mind Your Step), TV announcer (FISE World Series and other events) and contributing editor for different media outlets.

Catania, Sicily / February 2020 / Photo: Bobi Spassov

What steps did France take to battle COVID-19 and how are things there now?

France went into an official lockdown on March 16th. In addition to shutting down most businesses, the main restrictions involved a strict “stay at home” policy; besides visiting health professionals or shopping for essential items, you could only leave the house for one hour every day, staying within a one-kilometer radius and not meeting up with anyone either. You had to fill out some official paperwork every time, with your address, reason for being outside, time and signature. And obviously, you’d have to wear a mask in public spaces and respect social distancing guidelines.

That may not sound like much, but when your main occupation involves being outside on skates all day, wandering aimlessly for hours (as you may remember from our walks in Brussels), or simply traveling from one place to another, one country to the next, that obviously forces you to make some small adjustments to your routine…

Thankfully, as of May 11th the one-hour time limit has been lifted and most outdoor activities are now “legal” again. No more paperwork to fill! However, only groups of no more than ten people are allowed, and you still can’t travel further than 100 km. This means that for the time being, I’m still stuck here, though I’m fortunate enough to spend that time in the comfort of my family house.

The irony is I already self-isolated after I came back from Sicily at the end of February, so I got to enjoy a two weeks bonus ahah!

Were you skating during the COVID-19 lockdown?

I did not skate at all for over two months, unfortunately.

When was the last time you skated before the lockdown?

My last session before the lockdown was in Lyon, where I spent a couple of days upon returning from the Roces trip in Sicily. I had the chance to skate the infamous spot of Foch, which was the first time in quite some years. It was nice and sunny, I did a couple of tricks and hung out with old friends, and it all brought me back to my teenage years!

AO Fish / Lyon, France / February 2020 / Photo: Clément Barbaza

Are you skating now?

Since last week, I’ve had several sessions by myself at the town’s tiny skatepark, which is fun as long as you give yourself a little time to find some inspiration and ideas for new moves between each session… It’s really small and limited, but can be really fun nonetheless!

Are you doing any cross training?

I only call it that when Nils kicks me out of bed at 6:30 am to go run in the woods!

Usually, I play basketball when I can, run and ride my bike when I’m here, and walk as much as possible, everywhere, to the point people think I may have a problem. During the lockdown, I was limited to an hour run in the morning, then I’d try and cheat a little, and go back out for a walk with my Mom in the afternoon.

To keep the machine going, I try to stretch, do some core strength routines, and practice yoga whenever possible. Eat well, sleep good. Meditate and breathe. The important stuff, whether there’s a lockdown in place or not.

What other activities did you do to occupy your time?

Here I did lots of reading (what better time for something like Tolstoï’s monumental War and Peace), listened to a lot of music, fed my mind with art and photographs, watched some great movies, and finally got into Breaking Bad. As a personal challenge, I tried to keep track of it all and kept a lockdown journal of sorts in my Instagram stories.

On the practical side, I helped clean up the basement, which is partly filled with all the boxes I’ve stored over the last decade of wandering around, and which I try to downsize every time I’m here. I spent some time organizing my collection of blade media, which was also when the homies over at La Roulette started releasing their Hall Of Fame of French bladers, so I helped with all the archives and visual material; fun stuff, go check that out! Oh, and I picked up Spanish lessons again, and also did a one week water fast earlier this month.

CDMX, Mexico / November 2019 / Photo: Dominik Wagner

How has COVID-19 affected your everyday life?

I had several trips to Asia planned in March and April, and then a lot of events over the summer which obviously, got canceled one after the other. Thankfully, I had decided against flying to the US to attend the Pow-wow in Florida, just before things really went to shit, so I did end up cutting my losses there.

On a personal level, it didn’t changed much for my work routine and actually brought me more time to get it all done, but from the day the lockdown started until we were finally allowed to get back outside again, I hit a serious slump and my creative energy just died. I was putting a lot of stuff in, but barely anything was coming out, there simply was no motivation… Not being able to move freely, I guess I got a little trapped in my own mind. Which is a good reminder of how much I need rollerblading to keep things balanced and stay healthy, inside and out!

Anyway, the moment the main restrictions were lifted, it all came pouring out. I was only sleeping four hours a night at first, waking up fully refreshed and throwing notes on paper right away. I’ve been writing non-stop since last week, so I guess this weird period allowed me to recharge somehow. All that material I fed myself with will come out in due time and surprising forms, I guess!

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

As a freelancer, fewer events and competitions means fewer plane tickets and less money in my pocket. Thankfully, I’ve had some translation work coming in, and should have a little more than usual throughout the year, so that will help navigate these treacherous waters.

Until things pick up again, I do hope intra-European borders re-open sooner than later, as I would like to take an extensive bus trip and visit all my friends in Lille, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, and keep going through Katowice, Vilnius and Riga before flying to either Sofia or Athens… Ahah well, I can always hope, at least that seems more likely than flying to Canada or the US any time soon unfortunately!

When it comes down to my selfish self, I haven’t got much of a reason to be truly concerned as my well-being is quite easy (and cheap) to maintain. As for the world we live in, however, I’m not so optimistic we’ll see any positive evolution of our economic and political systems. If you’re familiar with Naomi Klein‘s work, you’ll know what I mean. If not, you might consider it a precious heads up.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

With so many countries keeping their borders closed, and millions trapped inside their homes, this period is a good reminder of how precious freedom of movement truly is, and how fortunate those of us who get to experience what remains the privilege of a minority. Building walls around your home, or your country in general, doesn’t actually keep others out: it’s just a prison you’re building for yourself. May everyone move freely one day!


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