A blur of bright colours, thumping beats and hearty laughter, the Rolleristas are hard to miss. Known for their jazzy outfits, loud music and cool skating videos, this roller-skating group was founded by Hala Krunz, 34, last summer, when Abu Dhabi’s stay-at-home measures were starting to be lifted.
A socially distanced sport
“I really struggled with having to stay indoors,” says Krunz, a graphic designer. “So, when we were able to go out again, I formed a skating community to help people work out in a fun way that’s also socially distanced.
“Skating gave us back our freedom; it’s how we got our slogan, ‘Freedom on Wheels’. For us, skating is far more than just a sport or exercise. Whatever you’re stressed about, it all disappears when you skate.”
The group’s weekly meet-ups are free to attend, and are for people of all ages. While most are more suitable for advanced to intermediate skaters, some events are open to complete beginners.
Valuable mental therapy aside, skating is a super-intense form of cardio – especially when done in the UAE summer. It has helped several of the group’s members to lose weight and get considerably fitter.
From gamer to skater
One Rollerista in particular, Abu Dhabi resident Adam Benjenna, 25, has shed an admirable 13 kilograms since he returned to skating nine months ago. “The Rolleristas have changed my life,” he says.
“That’s no exaggeration. I used to be obsessed with gaming, so I ended up putting on a lot of weight. I didn’t like exercising, but one day I saw Hala and the others skating and I decided to join them just because it looked like so much fun. I bought my own pair of skates and now I skate every day.”
Benjenna has since ended up selling his gaming console.
“A year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that, but now I have no interest in gaming. I just want to keep learning new skating skills and tricks,” he says.
His active lifestyle has also encouraged him to start eating more healthily, and he’s found a new set of friends and a support network.
“The Rolleristas are like my second family,” he says.
“It’s a really welcoming and safe environment. Hala vets people before letting them join us permanently, so we know we’re all like-minded, friendly and relaxed. Even if it’s your first time skating, we’ll look after you and you won’t feel uncomfortable. We’re one big community.”
For the past year, Krunz, Benjenna and about 15 others have been meeting to explore Abu Dhabi’s picturesque areas, such as Soul Beach, Yas Island, the Corniche, Al Hudayriyat Island and Al Qana, among others.
Fancy dress plays a major part in the community. So far, the skaters have donned colourful headdresses (in tribute to the Rio Carnival), onesies, Hawaiian shirts and a number of other vibrant outfits.
These fun get-ups aren’t only intended to lift their own spirits. After all, seeing a group of luminous skaters covered with flowers and feathers, tearing around the capital’s landmarks, is enough to make anyone smile.
“People are always taking pictures, smiling and waving at us," says Krunz. "Once when we were in Saadiyat Island, we heard residents calling out to us from their balconies, asking us who we were and what we were doing. Some of them then joined us the next time we met."
The group’s vibrant demeanour, positive energy and Krunz’s background in social media and content creation also makes the @rolleristas Instagram page the perfect tool for attracting new members.
“Of course, there are other skating groups in the UAE and across the world, but I haven’t seen any that are exactly like us,” she says. “We have an individual identity that we love to express through music and dress-up. I want to cheer people up, make them dance and forget their worries.
“For each session, I tell everyone to bring a positive mindset. As long as you have that, and the proper protective equipment, like knee and elbow pads, then anyone can skate. You won’t get injured, either, if you’re wearing the right gear.
“We help each other, we support each other, we spread love. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Rolleristas will continue to meet throughout the summer, and the group also sell skates and have a few pairs available for first-timers to borrow. Those under 16 are welcome to join, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.