For the 81st daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Robbie Pitts. Robbie is a 33-year-old Australian inline skater, artist, designer, fashion icon, filmmaker and model living in Los Angeles, California but as of COVID-19 is currently back in Melbourne.

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

A couple of weeks after the stay-at-home orders went into place in Los Angeles, I decided fly back to my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Just before I was scheduled to fly out of L.A., the Australian Government issued a notice stating that all returning international passengers would be required to undergo a government-funded 14 day self-isolation period—The quarantining would take place in a hotel room provided by one of many hotels at the first port of entry. After arriving into Sydney, I ended up being transported to the Hyatt Regency where I spent the duration of my quarantine period. Eventually I made it back to Melbourne, which is where I am currently staying. Victoria, the state which Melbourne is the capital of, is doing really well as the overall case numbers and deaths are extremely low. The restrictions have begun to be periodically reduced and it is very comforting knowing the statistics are where they are, given we are now able to socialise and perform group exercise activities like inline skating again.

Were you skating in Los Angeles during the stay-at-home order? Are you skating now?

When I was still in Los Angeles, I chose to respect the stay-at-home orders and just skated up and down my driveway by myself. I usually do this anyway—just dancing and skating flat ground. Since arriving back in Melbourne, I have mainly been skating a big lap of my neighbourhood as a way to get some exercise and be out of the house. However just after the first lot of restrictions were reduced, I went out street skating with a group of my oldest and closest friends (Gav Drumm and Jarrod Thackeray being amongst the group.) Inline skating is now allowed to be practiced as a form of exercise in a group of 10 people max, so we all felt it was safe to be out together—we still maintained social distancing.

What else are you doing to occupy your time?

In between spending time with my family, which consists of eating delicious food, having chats and watching TV series together, I have been working on finalising a project which is very close to my heart.

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?

COVID-19 greatly affected my normal everyday life. In Los Angeles, in between skating and modeling, I managed a small independent bookstore called POP-HOP. COVID-19 forced the business to temporarily close the retail space which meant my position was no longer operational. Weighing up all of the options for an uncertain future, I decided it made most sense to temporarily return to Melbourne to be with my family until it was safe to return to the USA in a Post-COVID-19 affected time.

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

I honestly feel all of my own personal concerns are so trivial to the greater ones of the world. As far as COVID-19 goes, there is the obvious concern for the safety of everyone, globally as a whole. Making sure things are safe for societies to return to a functioning position again, where the economies can bounce back, and people once again have a chance to redefine their personal sense of “stability and normality”. The presence of COVID-19 has been able to highlight incredible social and political faults whilst also (sadly) deflect attention from many of the global environmental and humanitarian concerns which have been unfolding over the past number of years. Additionally, despite all of the societal restrictions and isolation we have had to endure as a result of COVID-19, it has been incredibly inspiring and motivating to see the uprising and collective revolt against Police brutality and the authorities that continue to suppress and fail members of the Black community. Too long have Black people been victims of murder, oppression and exploitation, and the systems of power that allow for the nature of these crimes to continue needs to be dismantled, rebuilt and those responsible for the injustices need to be held accountable. Personally I’m trying to do the best that I can for myself, my family and all the people in the world who I love dearly. It’s a trying time for humanity but I believe lots of positive and necessary change will birth from this year’s hardships.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

If your area is allowing public exercise and inline skating is one of those sub-activities, you should go for a skate! It’s healthy, fun and regardless of whether you’re already an active skater, a returning skater, or a new skater, you can and should enjoy the benefits of skating—particularly in these times of hardship. Just always remember to be respectful of those around you; do what is legally required—whether that be socially distancing yourself or wearing a mask; and of course, enjoy yourself out there! 🙂

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All photographs by María José Govea.


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