Every Night Is Eighties Night at South Florida Skating Rinks

Remember couples skate? Suede rentals? Cheap pizza? They all live on at the roller rink.

Miguel Carver looks devilishly happy as he rounds a corner of the roller rink. Bent slightly forward, lost in his own world, he skates close to the inside of the oval. The DJ spins a freestyle classic from 1988 — Stevie B's "Spring Love." It's one of Miguel's favorite songs. He shakes his tush to the synthesized beat.

At the next corner, the 51-year-old turns to skate backward. His shoulder-length brown hair, short on top and long in the back, flaps in the air. His black jeans, black T-shirt, and black country-western belt signal hell on wheels. Miguel likes to drop into rolling splits as he approaches skaters who might, for a second, think he's about to take them down.

But "Spring Love" is a romantic song. So Miguel channels his inner Don Juan. He rests his tongue between his lips in anticipation. It's time for his signature lambada-on-skates move, which consists of one hand fist-pumping the air, the other flat against his stomach, and hips wriggling in front of an imaginary dance partner.

Miguel Carver zips by skaters in a rolling split.
C. Stiles
Miguel Carver zips by skaters in a rolling split.
Joey Parilla dances on skates.
C. Stiles
Joey Parilla dances on skates.


Hot Wheels | Galaxy | Skate Groove | Jive Biscuit | Roller Skating Association International | Riedell

Click play to listen to some of the songs mentioned in the article:

“Spring Love” by Stevie B:
“Jealous Fellas” by Dimples Tee:
“Egyptian Lover” by Egypt, Egypt:
“Shake It” by MC Shy D:

Miguel, a receiving manager at a Home Depot, is one of the loyal skaters who frequent "Flashback Thursdays" at Galaxy Skateway in Davie. Adults here like the freestyle songs popular in South Florida during the Eighties — the skaters' glory days. The area was home to about a dozen rinks filled with skaters every day of the week; I know because I used to be one of them. Only a handful of rinks remain. Likewise, only a fraction of the folks who rolled in this uniquely South Florida fashion, to tunes recorded here, still hit the rinks.

Galaxy appears suspended in time. Three large disco balls whirl above the maple skating floor. A flashing light show incorporates every color of the rainbow. The rink walls are covered in black carpet with bold geometric shapes — hot pink triangles, lime green squares — that glow under black lights.

There's a faint musty smell, like gym shoes after P.E., which mixes with the aroma of piping-hot pizza. A sticker machine waits to swallow quarters; slide in the coins, and a sparkly animal-shaped surprise pops out. It still costs 50 cents to rent a locker. Arcade games such as Donkey Kong, Street Fighter II, and Mortal Kombat look like they haven't seen action in years.

All of this nostalgia occasionally attracts novice skaters in costume. Tonight they're college students too young to have experienced firsthand the styles they're mocking. Girls sporting crimped sideways ponytails and boys wearing short athletic shorts congregate at the rental counter. One girl is a dead ringer for Madonna in the singer's 1984 Like a Virgin video. "It's Eighties night," a guy in a blond mullet wig tells me.

A few Galaxy regulars are psyched to see fresh faces. A true skater, they say, relishes navigating a packed floor. Others cast sideways glances at the college kids, who baby-step on brown suede rental skates with four orange wheels. A serious skater would never be caught in rental skates.

Miguel, who began skating when he was 16 years old and met his now ex-wife at Galaxy, opts to sit out the rest of the session. He plops down at a royal blue laminate snack table across from Matt Claus, a 31-year-old speed skater who has torn it up at this rink since he was little. Piercings dot Matt's face, and his dark, shiny hair is long enough to be pulled into a ponytail. He rolls his pale blue eyes at the college interlopers. "It's always Eighties night when they're here."

Matt says he got kicked out of several high schools for making mischief. Apparently his mischievous streak is still strong. "All right," he announces. "I'm gonna go back out and see how many people I can run over. I've already taken out, like, 20 of them."

Miguel is puzzled as to why people would want to skate in costume. He guesses the young man dressed in the burgundy pantsuit is going for the gay cowboy look. And maybe, he ventures, those guys wearing fluorescent yellow construction vests as shirts are merely showing off their biceps.

But what about the business-up-front/party-in-the-back wigs? It was a popular Eighties hairstyle, I respond. He mentions hair bands such as Queensrÿche and Cinderella and coos, "God, I love that music!"

Miguel's hair used to flow down his back, all the way to his waist. But about seven years ago, he asked a barber to chop his hair like Billy Ray Cyrus circa 1992: short on top and superlong in back. But Miguel fell asleep in the barber's chair, and when he awoke, his locks reached only his shoulders. "I wanted to cry," he remembers.

Miguel's hair has been shoulder-length ever since. "I like it feathered on the top and long in the back. They call it a mullet," he says.

Miguel has to accompany his mother on an errand the following morning, so he ducks out early. As he exits Galaxy, 15 people begin to shuffle-skate. This involves a group of skaters performing synchronized movements: a slight bounce down the stretch of the rink; the right leg crossing over the left to navigate the corners. The aim is to achieve the same harmony as a swarm of bees.

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