When she noticed several people had been roller skating alone at the height of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a UA student was eager to find a safe way to bring them together. She decided to harness her lifelong passion for the activity and unite the Northwest Arkansas skating community.
Clementine Simpson, a sophomore nursing major, founded Arkansas Rollerskate Crew, a social and athletic cooperative of skaters. Simpson, who started speed skating when she was four, made a roller skating Instagram account, @clem.skates, in June 2020, during an early pandemic peak.
“Whenever the pandemic hit, no one had anything to do and I was trying to create a safe space,” Simpson said.
The 80 active members in the crew convene twice a month to have themed skate days or nights, Simpson said. Masks are required at meetups. Simpson has arranged a “swimsuit rollout,” a “jam skate” and a “glow-up rollout” for members, as well as skate park sessions.
The members of the group, both inline skaters and quad roller skaters, have a range of experience and skill levels. Each member is a vital part of the crew, Simpson said.
Jessica Summersett, a member of Arkansas Rollerskate Crew, said her favorite thing about the group is the variation in the members’ styles, abilities and backgrounds. The members come from every career field and age group, with skaters as young as four attending the meetups and newcomers appearing each time.
Simpson likes when members help each other learn new skills and thinks the main issue new skaters face is lack of confidence, she said. Conquering their fears and having someone by their side for support helps most, Simpson said.
The supportive skating community plays a huge role in helping skaters achieve their full potential, Simpson said. She thinks the lack of a sense of community she felt when she started skating is less common now.
“I see skaters that are brand new and then they’re dropping in because there’s a whole community of girls right next to them cheering them on,” Simpson said. “The confidence was different when I first started skate park skating.”
Summersett said her skating skills have improved tremendously since she joined the crew.
“The group is great about educating everyone on all things skate-related,” Summersett said.
During the pandemic, the crew began working with local skate shops and brands to build a following. Simpson hopes the connections she made with people in 2020 last for the rest of her life, she said.
Carmen Carcamo, a member of Arkansas Rollerskate Crew and Simpson’s “right-hand woman,” handles most of the crew's social media presence, designs posters and graphics and takes photographs. Carcamo enjoys involving members in her designs, she said.
Simpson gets excited to see other skaters around town and loves how others appreciate the community, she said.
“I love seeing that there’s more skaters, especially in a place like Arkansas,” Simpson said. ”Like, that’s not something you’ve really seen before. Everyone has a smile on their face if they see roller skaters around.”
The crew attended the Hill City Rumble vintage chopper show in Fayetteville on Sep. 25, where it had a booth selling stickers and custom made t-shirts. The group is planning to host skate clinics in November and Simpson is also offering one-on-one lessons for anyone interested. She is ready to meet skaters at their level and assist them with tips, she said.
The group is also planning a Halloween costume rollout, in which members will dress up in costumes and skate around town Oct. 21, with members over 21 meeting at Pinpoint Fayetteville afterward. Simpson tries to think of themes people will be interested in and works with Carcamo to establish the meetups, she said
Simpson’s main goal for the group is to create a safe, inclusive and encouraging environment for all involved, she said.
“We’re all working together to make (the group) a great thing,” Simpson said. “It’s a team effort.”