In the latter stage of the 1980s, the exercise and fitness industry was overwhelmed by a skyrocketing interest in inline skates.
In 1980, Scott and Brennan Olson created a company which they ran out of a Minneapolis garage. The company created inline skates which they called Rollerblades. The creation was based on skates that were initially developed in the Netherlands, where athletes used them to practice skating and racing on land. The Olsons decided to use them to practice playing hockey during the summer months. While their company, Rollerblades, Inc. enjoyed some early success, they gambled that the skates were more of a fitness product than necessarily a competitive sports product.
Figuring that California was the place where fitness trends (especially outdoor ones) exploded, they entered into special arrangements with Los Angeles area sporting good stores and skate-rental facilities, often giving them away to the stores in order to gain market awareness. The gambled paid off as they captured almost 70% of the market. The skates differed from traditional roller skates as they had the four wheels lined up one after another instead of in a rectangle. This allowed for greater agility, maneuverability and speed.
Inline skates were especially appealing to women in that they provided a low-impact outdoor workout which helped to tone the hips and thighs and could be done in groups. The skates also offered a lower likelihood of injury, especially due to the numerous safety accessories available such as helmets, elbow pads and knee pads. Because of this, inline skating rivaled jogging and bicycling as the number one summer exercise activity throughout the 1990s.
While the initial of popularity of inline skates was staggering, their use is still enormous and should continue to be well into the next decade.