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By Yilin Zhu

The double push is an inline skating technique, invented in 1992 by Chad Hedrick, where the skater thrusts both inward and outward in one smooth arching movement through each kick. At the time, it revolutionized the inline skating world. Hedrick himself won fifty world championships and six Olympic medals.

Today, mastery of the double push is a rookie’s baptism into the racing world. It nearly doubles the speed achievable by the straight classic push. The double push, harnesses every movement and translates it into forward velocity. With the double push, you double the length of your legs, the time in contact with the ground, and the force applied. But you also double the chances for knee injury, heel clipping, and tumbling into the gutter, so most people can’t do it. 

I can’t do it.

As a rollerblader from the age of two, I learned all the physics of form but knew nothing about speed. I only came to realize the importance of going fast when I began to research its potential. But when I went to the professional coaches, they had nothing to teach me because I had all the theory there was to learn yet I was not fast.

So they sent me to skate with the pros and within five minutes, the slowest members lapped me three times. I am weak, have poor skates, and lack training, but a difference that big is categorical. A difference that big is because of the double push.

Years have passed since I’ve abandoned the racing dream. And today, all the racing in my life is done on paper with pencil. But the double push still haunts me—that magical shifting from one side to another while always flirting the opposite balance, the centre of mass perpetually hanging outside of the conventionally acceptable zone, the flippant kick of the free leg that crosses all the way to the other side to restore the temporarily forgotten balance, and the graceful semicircle that the outside edge carves on its way back to safety.

Most dedicated amateurs know how to skate, how to shift their weight alternately to the left and right in a zigzag. But most amateurs believe that there is an outer bound gliding alongside like hand rails placed 4 inches on their left and right, that if they swung past it they won’t be able to come back, like a tightrope walker thrown off balance. Most amateurs do not know, however, that to go fast, they must send their supporting foot out from under them across the centre line, and lean far past the safety of those rails.

And so we struggle along at the wimpy speed of 15 km/h. But this matters little because we’re amateurs. Amateurs do not need to skate 30 km in an hour. Amateurs are pursuing something else in life.

Indeed, does not every professional know the double push? Aren’t we all trying to be a professional? Zigzagging between school and hobbies, between math and English, between mind and emotions, between left and right. To go where we want to go we always go a little left then a little right. To go fast, we always lean past the safety zone.

For our favourite hobby, our profession, we take the blithe leap of faith and throw ourselves more than 100% at each opposing side, throw ourselves off balance, and throw our supporting foot past the centre line. We throw ourselves into each opposite world and keep letting left and right collide. We trip on our own heels and slip if we aren’t careful. But in the end, we master it and the two world meld. Then the graceful curve carries us back to safety, into a new ordeal, and back, and again…

Then we are fast. Then we are skating by the pros.