Glossary of Skating Falls
March 25, 2008
Most humans learn how to walk by instinct sometime around the age of one. During this toddling stage they fall down regularly, slapping forward onto their little paws with their hindquarters in the air, or adorably plopping backwards onto their diapers. Of course, they don’t have far to fall and their competency with this new walking trick improves at an astonishing rate (especially in the case of my genius nephew). Aside from an occasionally slippery sidewalk, an ill-placed banana peel, or a few too many vodka tonics, once people get the hang of walking, they don’t fall down much.
Unless, of course they take up ice skating…in which case, falling becomes an occurrence almost as regular as blinking.
As skaters, we’ve fallen in just about every way imaginable. Backwards, forwards, sideways, and (sometimes, unfortunately) upside down. We fall so often that we get used to it. It’s often said that we “learn” how to fall, in other words how to fall in ways that are less jolting and therefore less damaging and, to an extent, this is true. That said, there are still the falls that take us utterly by surprise and are so strange they could never possibly be replicated. There are falls that make us wince, take our breath away, produce tears. And let us not forget the falls that make us laugh hysterically.
Everything else in our sport has a name, so in hopes of contributing to this clarity, I’ve decided to categorize some of the more common varieties of falls.
The Splat: In this fall, usually best performed from forward skating, you hit the ice like pancake batter hits the griddle. In the more sophisticated version, there is an involuntary flip at the end. Afterwards, it’s difficult to identify a body part that did not make contact with the ice.
The Sidesaddle: This fall is the one most highly recommended for adults and simply involves sliding off to one side or the other with grace and dignity. The affected hip and wrist will never be the same, but at least you’ll still have your teeth.
The Bellyflop: This is one of the more exciting falls, often associated with the entrance to a Camel Spin. If the skater has temporarily forgotten that she is at the rink and not the swimming pool, this will surely remind her. Likewise, it helps to demonstrate the important scientific concept that frozen water is far more solid than warmer versions. This fall is rendered even more breathtaking because it literally takes your breath, outsources it to a foreign place that may or may not need it more, in the meantime causing you to wonder if your lungs (and economy) have collapsed.
The Timber: This fall usually occurs from a backward entrance. The body falls to the ice stiff and perfectly straight, like a tree that has been chopped down. Afterwards, you’ll scan the rink for lumberjacks to blame it on, but all you’ll see are little girls dropping like leaves around you.
The Geyser: This fall is unique in the way it first shoots you up in the air, causing you to momentarily defy gravity before you plummet back down. In order to get your money’s worth, stick around for the exciting grand finale, which is usually a full-bodied whiplash.
The Jackhammer: In this vertical fall, your tailbone makes first contact with the ice with a velocity and force that shakes the entire building and causes the other skaters to cover their ears as they pass. Your spinal chord will continue to vibrate for days and the rink manager will wonder how such a large crater blemished his beloved sheet of ice. After examining the ceiling, he’ll rule out a meteor; but your absence for several weeks will make him suspicious.
The Pretzel: Many physicists have tried, but it is impossible to explain how skaters accomplish this complicated fall and likewise detangle from it. This human knot is twice as common and complex for pair and dance teams.
The Headbanger: This is a multimedia experience in that it’s accompanied by a very distinct sound effect. It’s a particular thud that can only be produced when a noggin knocks into the ice. The aftermath is also multifaceted: a welt of impressive dimensions immediately sprouts and birdies chirp while flying in dizzying patterns around your head.
The Slide: This is the fall that reminds you just how slippery the ice is. The biggest challenge here is steering yourself away from other skaters. In other words, you want to avoid impersonating a bowling ball hitting a strike’s worth of pins. If the rink is particularly wet that day, you may create an equally dangerous tsunami and experience an uncomfortably moist sensation in the seat of your tights (or pants) for the rest of the session. While this fall happens quite often on the ice, it happens even more often in nightmares. Usually (if you’re me), you eventually slam into the barriers and wake up with a jolt, certain you’re having a heart attack.
The Chin Splitter: This is arguably the most colorful fall and occurs most often as the result of bunny hopping or spiraling right over the toe picks. The good news is that there is something called butterfly bandages and their wings are very skilled at holding skin together. The even better news is that this is a skating rite of passage: as soon as you are initiated it doesn’t matter what your competitive successes or failures are, you are now part of the “in” skating crowd. Go ahead, look, everyone else has this scar of honor.
The Surprise: This fall is not your fault. There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent it and no way to see it coming. The ice quietly sneaks up on you, swiftly grabs you from below, and pulls you down. All of this transpires in a blurry nanosecond, so witnesses who were looking exactly in your direction will claim, quite honestly, that they didn’t see anything.
The Slo-Mo: This is the exact opposite of the previous fall. This one seems to take forever and you’ll see it coming from miles away. You’ll try to flap your arms in an attempt to fly out of the situation, but this will only put you more off balance. In the meantime, your life will flash before your eyes. You’ll have time to wish you’d done all those good things like taken better care of your childhood goldfish… tape-recorded your grandmother’s voice… spent more time laughing and less time working. Mostly, you’ll wish that you’d invested in a set of those hideous-looking butt pads.
What did I miss?
And here is a link to some very good pads of the more inconspicuous variety….http://skatingsafe.com/allproducts.html
And, yikes, here is a link to some very nasty skating falls caught on tape. But don’t watch these if you are prone to nightmares…http://www.bootandblade.com/news/2008/04/06/eight-of-the-worst-falls-in-figure-skating