For the 59th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Niko Salaman. Niko is a 22-year-old inline skater and university student living in Bristol, England. He was studying Illustration Animation in London until the lockdown. When all the schools were shutdown he was forced to move back home with his family in Bristol.

Free Skate – photo by Sam Cooper

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

As of writing this, last week England just entered its first stage of relaxing the precautions on our lockdown, meaning that we are now allowed to go out whenever we choose and to meet with friends and family as long as the social distancing rules are maintained; so staying two meters from anyone not of your household and keeping any gatherings of people to small numbers.

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

I’m still skating, more frequently than before to be honest. In terms of precautions, I always have my mask on me but I don’t always use it. I feel it’s unnecessary to wear in open spaces where there isn’t a soul in sight, plus the mask makes breathing very difficult while exercising.

Where have you been going out to skate?

I’ve either been cruising on big wheels, while covering miles in the city of Bristol, or going to my local skate park to practice traditional “grinder blading”. I am lucky enough to have a huge downhill style skatepark at my front door, that has remained open for ‘exercise’ throughout the lockdown. Until going out this last week and shooting photos with Sam Cooper, it has purely been all solo skating ventures for me.

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If you haven’t stopped skating, what would make you stop?

I would stop going outside completely if one of my household family members started to become ill, or if I did. One of the reasons I have been quite lax with myself and the governments ruling’s is because I live in a pretty healthy household. We eat super healthy, my parents aren’t that old and nobody has any underlying health issues, that we are aware of, touchwood! That, alongside the fact that the virus hasn’t taken a heavy toll on Bristol and the hospitals here are operating well with space to spare. On the whole, this has eased my anxiousness on the matter as far as the local situation is concerned. 

Are you doing any cross training? 

As aforementioned, I like to undulate between urban skating and ‘aggressive’ skating. This often depends on what projects I’m working on, or simply what my mood draws me to that day or even what music I’ve been listening to. However, outside of skating, I practice yoga and more general fitness and bodyweight training but with a focus on helping my ability on rollerblades.

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time? 

For me the extra freedom in use of time has been a great blessing, I can now make time to properly focus on the things that I love doing but never could fit into my everyday routine pre-pandemic. Now I’m reading, researching and writing on personal projects, and maintaining my art and design practice in association to the degree I’m studying, all whilst working at a pace that cultivates health for my brain and passions. 

Cross Grab Mono Stall – photo by Sam Cooper

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life? 

As someone who is often frustrated and stressed by the day to day of a 9 to 5 education/work structure, although selfish as it is, it has, again been a great blessing for me. The situation has meant I can organise my weekly routine into a structure that perfectly fits my body’s needs and my personal aspirations in terms of both skating and studying. I should also mention that as a student in the UK who is living at home, it means that I don’t have to worry too much financially, as most universities here have been really helpful during the crisis. That said I am a severely lucky individual in this regard and am aware that this is not the case for millions of other people far and wide.

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

Personally my main focuses are my fitness and studies, nothing much has or will change there for a while. Globally however, my immediate concern for the virus never overtook my concern for deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Nor did it outweigh, in my mind, the strife and poverty that occur everyday in parts of Africa and the Middle East for decades.

For the future, it will be interesting to see the change in the global economic ladder, it seems China is vying to overtake the U.S as the economic global leader and the travel and timing of the virus provides them with a very bouncy springboard to do so. We will all see how that pans out, but to say the least, I am expecting massive changes to everyday life on a global scale within the decade.

Parallel Slide – photo by Sam Cooper

How is your local skate community responding?

Ah! Well! I would say that the UK scene responded tumultuously is an understatement. I can only comment on the ‘aggressive’ skating scene as that’s what I’m a part of, but given the government’s initial rulings of the lockdown that allowed for one form of solitary exercise per day, it became apparent that there were two main camps; To summarise in the briefest of terms, there were those that considered the risk of rollerblading at all, as too great a burden to be weighing down on our National Healthcare System and those that felt that the risk was equal to cycling or running. Needless to say that online wars were waged, shots were fired and photoshop’s presence was eminent on the UK message-boards. I’m glad that appears to have calmed down now and everybody seems to be simply skating but in awareness of the social distancing guidelines.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank Big Wheel Blading for the chance to write this article and for the great content you’ve been producing, I’d also like to thank Sam Cooper for his time, effort, expertise and friendship.

All photography by Sam Cooper.


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