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The Short Version: Fun-loving people can have a ball roller skating on old-school quads. Even if decades have passed since they last laced up their skates, they can take part in this accessible pastime to create new memories. It’s an opportunity for couples who are young at heart to share some smiles, and it can be particularly enjoyable on a date. San Francisco couples can roll over to the Church of 8 Wheels whenever they want to party on wheels. With a great DJ and plenty of health precautions in place, a roller disco visit to the Church is a dynamic date activity for any couple.
Couples are lacing up their roller skates — some after decades — to take part in the latest exercise and party trend. For those in San Francisco, that means a date at the Church of 8 Wheels.
Roller skating has made a comeback that rivals acid wash and Brook Shields-style eyebrows. Sometimes it’s just exercising with long skates on smooth surfaces, or perhaps it’s free-form style dancing on wheels. Whatever it is, modern couples can’t help but smile when they’re doing it.
Traditional quad skates bring a more retro vibe to skating than do the inline skates of the 1990s. Many people find they’re a lot easier to get the hang of. Skating is also a nostalgic experience for those who grew up heading to the rink for birthday parties, holidays, and date nights. The atmosphere is colorful and fun, and you’ll see many couples holding hands and laughing as they glide around the rink.
While it’s certainly a blast to go with a large group of friends to recreate that feeling from childhood, roller skating is a perfect date activity for couples who are looking to work up an appetite before dinner or want to shake up their routines.
David Miles Jr., the founder of the Church of 8 Wheels and the house DJ, said he’s seen people from all walks of life come to the Church of 8 Wheels on a date.
“When you’re feeling each other out and on the date, it’s a process,” he said. “The roller rink provides that process to happen. You get to know that person and have a good experience with them.”
David said the origins for the Church of 8 Wheels grew from the fun he had skating at Golden Gate Park and his nearly 20 years attending Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert.
He loved bringing the artistry and whimsical styles of Burning Man to everyday life — and he discovered a community in San Francisco that sparked that same kind of magic while roller skating.
“One of the things about skating and dressing up, it’s ingrained in my brand of skating. I just like doing it, and we all do.”
In 2013, David found an indoor venue to bring the fun of skating to even more people. At the time, there were no roller skating rinks in the area. But one day, he said he met the owner of an old church on Fillmore Street.
“I asked if I could do a one-night roller skate party there. He let me,” David said. “First I had to clean it up. When the owner saw the party, he liked it. I asked him if we could keep doing it. He allowed me to keep doing it, and now it’s been seven years.”
Indeed not even a pandemic could slow their roll. David spent a lot of time during the COVID-19 pandemic skating outdoors at Skatin’ Place — old skating grounds where he had started making a scene at the end of the 1980s. Turns out, all that’s needed for a fun, healthy time was a good speaker booming tunes with an infectious beat, a smooth surface, and some old-school quad skates.
His son David Miles III took over Golden Gate Park Friday Night Skate last year and has kept the skating family tradition going.
Of course, roller skating is fun for families and groups of friends. But David said he sees couples on dates every night the rink is open.
“People find themselves bringing a date, and it sets the mood for the entire experience,” he said. “People are going skating on their first or second date.”
Skating together can be a good dating icebreaker because it’s a fun and easy activity. Couples have a reason to hold hands and laugh. It’s great exercise, and it can get the chemistry going before the couple heads off to dinner or goes out to the clubs for a more traditional date.
David said he often sees women leading dates to the rink — often because he thinks women are naturally better at the sport. But guys can be quick to pick it up.
“The guy wants to do good, so he goes. He’s cool and suave in other parts of life, but when you put wheels on his feet, now the girl has more of an advantage,” he said. “It’s a role reversal in a lot of ways. It’s fun to watch.”
He says couples of all ages arrive at the rink, but teens and 20-somethings tend to dominate the crowd. As the DJ, he helps beginner skaters get the hang of it and have a good time. What makes the date magic happen is when two people start to feel comfortable together, even if they’re outside of their comfort zone.
“Once the guy starts to get it, and the girl already has it or is starting to get it, they are sharing a really special moment,” he said. “I met my wife skating in Golden Gate Park, so our first date was Goldy Park skating on JFK Drive.”
Part of the fun of going to the Church of 8 Wheels is dressing up — and there are plenty of theme nights and special events that make for a fun and memorable skate date. David said they have hosted Star Wars nights, Pride skates, and other themed nights that encourage skaters to lace up and dress up.
“It’s like Halloween, but it’s once a month,” he said.
David said he plans on offering skate line-dancing lessons with Lester Farious, who is a regular skater in the San Francisco scene. Les already teaches lessons at the park, but soon he’ll be starting at the Church on Tuesday evenings. Skate line-dancing is a fun way to feel comfortable on wheels and express yourself in a group.
David said he prefers freestyle skating, but appreciates that there’s something for everyone at the Church.
“I’m an old-school roller skater. I let the music dictate to me what I’m going to do, and I can do a lot of different things,” he said. “I don’t really get to skate too much at the Church because it’s really crowded with beginners. When you skate like I skate, it can be a dangerous situation to go fast and move around, although some people still do it.”
David said he loves that roller skating is having a new moment, especially now that so many people are looking to get out and move in groups again. The skate rink has taken precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The team installed UV air scrubbers, and they follow the masking and social distancing guidance from health officials.
“The growing popularity of skating is really fantastic, but here in San Francisco it’s always been popular for us,” he said. “It’s always been something that will never go away.”