Can you make a career out of rolling (translation: inline skating)? Yes, and you might even find time for a family too. Our own extreme sports enthusiast (and closet participant!) Ben Murphy managed to track down “New York City’s Secret Weapon,” inline stunt skater Richie Velasquez to find out just how he manages to keep it all together.
Ben Murphy: Tell us about yourself…
Richie Velasquez: I currently reside in Tehachapi, California, although I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am 32 years young and I feel like I am still 18, except for the longer periods of pain associated with what I do. I am a three-time world champion for inline stunt skating and a professional rider for Rollerblade, 50/50, Rollerwarehouse, Rockstar Bearings, and Woodward West. I have been skating for 16 years and look forward to many more.
I have an amazing wife (Pamela Velasquez) who is incredibly supportive with my career and the industry of inline skating. I have 3 kids: a 7 year boy (Johanny) who is well on his way to becoming not only a world champion, but also a comedian/rockstar, and two beautiful identical twin daughters (India and Jaydan). My kids and wife are my life and are what keep me striving to do the best I can in all I do.
BM: Rolling, eh? Most folks are only vaguely acquainted with this growing action sport. Tell us about it.
RV: Inline stunt skating has been around for close to 20 years. I guess I would compare our sport to that of the X-games style of biking or skateboarding. The only difference is that we use our inline skates to perform the tricks you see at these events. Our discipline also revolves around the street style of skating where we utilize obstacles on the streets to perform these stunts.
The level of Inline is unreal. Professionals an this industry really have to work hard to keep their competitive edges on check. Our athletes are known for doing gaps (huge jumps), spins, flips, & and rails.
BM: How did you get involved with rolling in the first place? How did you manage to end up making a living from it?
RV: I grew up in New York City, where a kid’s hobby was trafficking drugs for the local dealer or stealing cars to joy ride. I witnessed too many of my friends go down the wrong path and end up either addicted to narcotics, incarcerated for life, or dead. Skating saved me from all of that. I was able to put my energy and creativeness into what I loved instead of getting into trouble.
I started out on old hockey skates that a friend gave me. After a few months, my brother bought me my first pair of Rollerblade Lightnings, and I was hooked from that point on. I then found myself jumping trash cans and gapping stairs for fun. I remember hearing about a contest going on in the South Street Seaport in Manhattan and decided to check it out. That day, I knew I wanted to excel and compete against the best skaters in the world.
Today I am one of the lucky athletes who is able to do what I love. Along with competing, I run the world’s largest amateur inline circuit for kids (The Amateur Inline League), I am also an Inline director of Woodward (Largest Action sports camp in the world), and I get to travel and perform all over the world.
BM: So, you operate Woodward and also work with Rollberblade… Could you tell us about Woodward’s significance and also where Rollerblade is headed with rolling?
RV: Woodward West has been a great addition to my life. I have been able to train on my skating and focus on affecting a huge part of the demographic by working with amateurs and pros on many levels of training. Woodward West Camp is a great place to send one’s child to learn all skills from basics to advanced levels.
We offer the best training facility with experienced staff to ensure each camper’s week is memorable and enriching. Woodward has been a huge positive driving force in the promotion of Inline skating.
Rollerblade has been around from the beginning of our sport. I have been fortunate enough to work with Rollerblade for almost 8 years now and have witnessed first hand how much this company has given back to the sport of inline stunt skating. Rollerblade is one of the few skate companies who not only focuses on the core market but also educates and creates programs for the younger generation of non-skaters. While educating kids on being drug-free & staying healthy, Rollerblade introduces kids to skating. This provides our youth with an alternative to do drugs and a fun activity that helps promote an active lifestyle to stay healthy and fit.
BM: How does the whole “crazy action sports guy being a family man” thing work out for you? You have three kids, so I’m sure you’re staying pretty busy?!?
RV: Yes, three kids. Three amazing kids. Honestly, I could not do it without my wife. We work as a team to juggle all of our commitments. 2007 was by far, our hardest and busiest year, though. In 2007, I was:
– Directing Woodward West’s Inline program
– Running 17 events for the AIL
– Rollerblade’s Team Manager
– Riding as a professional athlete for Rollerblade
– Traveling around the United States doing school tours & demos
– Organizing the AIL world championship’s event
– Doing Interviews & photo shoots
– Book signings for the book WE SKATE HARDCORE
– Organizing skate clinics
– And… competing
It was just a little too much for me to handle. So this year, I have edited my responsibilities to lessen my load BUT… I can continue to be just as effective as I was in 2007.
BM: You were involved in the startup of the AIL back in 2006. Tell us about the purpose of that, how far it has come, and where it is headed.
RV: In 2005, Cory Miller (a close friend of ours and Professional Stunt Skater), my wife Pam, and I saw the need to create a grass roots program to ensure the longevity of our sport. Cory and I both are proud parents and we know how important it is to provide the same opportunity to our kids.
Our sport has definitely had its ups and downs over the past 10 years and we wanted to help provide a path that could lead to more kids & more skaters throughout the world. What we didn’t know is how fast our project was about to grow.
In 2006, we had 7 events. In 2007, we had 17 qualifier events (12 USA & 5 International stops) with a weekend World Championships event that also entailed a Pro event with a $10,000 1st prize. It was a very big year for us and 2008 is going to be even bigger & better.
Our events cater to all ages & skill level. We have kids as young as 5 years old competing. We also have the best, upcoming amateurs competing for a spot to turn ASA Pro. We are the official circuit that gives young athletes the opportunity to turn into a professional
BM: When it comes to family, what are your favorite things? The challenging things? Any words of advice?
RV: My favorite things are hearing our children laugh and play. Sometimes when I am just to busy or feeling stressed, my kid’s will look at me and smile. Their little faces are reminders for me to stop whatever it is that I am doing to embrace them. Time passes too quickly. I do
not want to ever pass up the time I have to play with them.
My family is my everything. When things get tough for us, we stick together and to over come the everyday challenges of life. I guess if I could pass on anything.. it would be to “always communicate and find different ways to make things work. There will be tough times
but learn from them and look at them as a chance to learn something new.”
ALSO… ALWAYS be a hero and a friend to those around you.
Richie sent us some extra pics to share – you can view them here on TheFatherLife.com Flickr Page.
Ben Murphy is the founder and CEO of The Father Life.
Image By: Cody Lester
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.