Rollerblading Versus Inline Skating

How One Company Claimed the Name of a Sport

Young woman roller skating during spring day in the park.
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Many skaters wonder if there is an equipment or technique difference between inline skating and rollerblading, or if there is actually a difference between the two at all.

Rollerblading is a name used for inline skating sports because of the large role that Rollerblade© USA played in making inline skating popular; however, Rollerblade© did not invent, design or manufacture the very first inline skates.

Instead, the company was so successful in marketing inline skates and equipment that the term "rollerblading" was and still is used when referring to inline skating sports. Inline skates are often called "rollerblades" regardless of which company actually built them.

Inline skating or inline roller skating is the official name for "rollerblading" or "blading" sports and "inline skates" is the correct name for "rollerblades" manufactured by any other company. If you actually use Rollerblade© brand skates, then you are really Rollerblading, otherwise, the correct description is inline skating.

The History of Inline Skating

The name "rollerblading" has become synonymous with inline skating for most people, overshadowing other manufacturers and leaving out a lot of the history of roller and inline roller skates.

Although the sport of ice skating—one of the predecessors of inline skating—has been around for since as early as 3,000 B.C., the origin of inline skates most likely dates back to 1743 when a London stage actor mentioned these in a performance. However, the original inventor has been lost to history and it wasn't until 1760 when John Joseph Merlin invented a set of skate with a single line of metal wheels—and no breaks—to wear as a publicity stunt to get people into his museum.

Over the next century, inventors from around the world continued to experiment with inline skate design, and in 1819 the first inline skate was patented; throughout the 1800s, inventors continued to improve on these designs, and 50 years later, in 1863, skates with two axles were developed (roller skating).

Although many improvements happened over the next 100 years, it wouldn't be until Scott and Brennan Olson established Ole's Innovative Sports (later, Rollerblade, Inc.), which produced and sold a set of inline skates with no brake that athletes used to train for hockey and ice skating sports in the off-season.

This invention sparked a global phenomenon in roller sports, propelling both the company and rollerblading into a worldwide success and leading the way for the modern inline skates people still use today.

The Success of Rollerblade, Inc.

Although the Olson brother's skating company started as a professional athlete's supply manufacturer, the brothers quickly rebranded their entire company to Rollerblade, Inc. and began producing comfortable skates with brakes by 1986, which they sold to regular athletes and fitness and recreation centers.

By 1990, Rollerblade, Inc. had gained so much international recognition that people had started using rollerblading as synonymous with inline skating, and as the company continued to develop cheaper, lighter, more controllable, and safer skates, the company dominated the market throughout much of the 1990s.

Although other inline skate companies have come to prevalence, especially after the invention of the offroad inline skate, the Rollerblade brand has continued to be the driving force behind the industry, a brand preferred by athletes around the world.

While people may have started referring to all inline skates as rollerblades, unless you're actually using a pair of Rollerblades, remember that you're really just inline skating.