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Recreational Sports

Emerald Coast Speed Club skaters fly on their feet

PORT RICHEY

These skaters have needs.

For speed. For curves and turns. For the pure rush.

That's why they speed skate, after all.

"I just love the feeling of skating — the feeling when you go around the corners," said Chrissy Pyles, 20, who has grown up around competitive skating. "I love to race. There's just no feeling like getting low and going fast."

Good thing Chrissy's dad, Steve, coaches the Emerald Coast Speed Club, which practices at Spinnations in Port Richey and skates in events hosted by the South Florida Speed League.

Pyles, 47, who has been skating since he was younger than his daughter, has 20 or so skaters from Hernando and Pasco counties. The team is mostly kids under 18.

"People who love to skate do this," Pyles said. "We get a lot of kids who've tried baseball, basketball, football, gymnastics, karate and they don't take to those for whatever reason. These guys are die-hard skaters."

Skaters on Emerald Coast, as well as any other skate team, train constantly and have to be in top physical condition.

Emerald Coast skates in a race about once a month during a season that starts in September. Then members skate in a regional qualifying event, and the one for the Southern Region is at Spinnations on May 23-24.

Skaters who qualify move on to the National Championships in July in Peoria, Ill.

"We train harder than a lot of other sports," Pyles said. "This takes dedication with all the practice and work — really takes true dedication."

Technique in speed racing is also important. Skaters may move each foot across the center line of travel, which is a double-push technique pioneered by U.S. skater Chad Hedrick, one of world's top inline and ice skaters.

Skaters tend to form packs or pacelines, where skaters line up behind a lead skater and then save energy by skating in his draft. An unwritten rule is that skaters share duties as paceline leader. Those who never move to the front of the paceline are often targeted by other skaters.

Pyles says a favored tactic is to stay in second until a few laps are left, then make a move for first.

Skaters also post some surprising speeds.

Beginners start off at about 15 mph, and the team tries to pace about 25 mph. Top skaters in the world can pace up to 35 mph, while they can sprint more than 40 mph.

"The faster you get, the more you perfect the way you skate," said Bobby Young, an 18-year-old skater for Emerald Coast who can hit 35 mph. "People get used to you and you become known for your (style) out there. There's the rush of going so fast, and as you get faster and faster, then that's how it becomes more and more fun.

"There's just nothing like speed skating when you can go this fast."

Let's not forget the wipeouts. Those may make great clips for those "shocking video" TV shows, but, believe it or not, teams such as Emerald Coast practice spills.

Pyles has a drill that has the skaters lie on the rink, then work on getting up and back in the race quickly.

"It is painful to hit the floor," Pyles said. "It makes you disoriented. You'll see people get back up, not have their legs about them and nearly fall down all over again."

However, Pyles points out the real secret to speed skating. It doesn't have to do with technique, equipment or even the build of a skater.

Turns out, it comes from inside.

"As long as I've been doing this," Pyles said, "it's always, always been about having heart. Really."

Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.

Fast facts

Emerald Coast
Speed Club

Where: The team practices at Spinnations, a skating rink at 8345 Congress St., Port Richey.

Coach: Steve Pyles

Etc.: The team practices up to four times a week indoors and outdoors. They participate in the South Florida Speed League, which hosts races and events throughout the year. Skaters ages 4 and older are welcome. Most of the skaters are from Hernando, but some are from Pasco. Skates aren't cheap, ranging from $300 to $1,500.

Call: For more information, call Pyles at (727) 798-7503.

Emerald Coast Speed Club skaters fly on their feet 04/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 10:08pm]
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