All you need is YouTube, skates and a slight sense of boldness. Ever heard of freestyle ice skating? This is what this new trend in Mechelen and around the world is about.

Every Friday, the Ice skating center in Mechelen, ISCM, fills with excited ice skaters. A live DJ is playing music from 7.30 p.m to 10 p.m and disco lights are making sure that you have arrived to a party on ice. Everybody is welcome to join, neither the age nor the skills matter but be sure to skate counter-clockwise to avoid crashing with other people. The evening culminates when the freestyle skaters start to battle dance in the middle of the ice rink. You can easily recognize the freestylers by the knee pads that they are wearing (and of course the extraordinary stunts they are performing).

Pablo (18) from Kontich, and Jano (15) from Brugge, got impressed by freestyle ice skating one year ago after watching a lot of YouTube and xeolifestyle videos. They started to practice freestyling in the corners of the ice rink and, bit by bit, they increased their skills. Now, they are coming every Friday to the disco ice skating in Mechelen to battle and practice with others. They are not afraid to show their moves in front of an audience and especially kids in the arena are amazed about this extreme sport. These guys are very dedicated to their hobby, even a two-hour ride from Brugge to Mechelen doesn’t bother Jano.

Pablo: ‘I was always interested in extreme sports. I practiced rollerblading on ramps before but never on ice. If you don’t feel like learning everything via youtube and want to share your skating experience, there is an Xtreme Ice Wings freestyle ice skating team here in Mechelen that you can join.’

What is freestyle ice skating?
For a long time, freestyle in ice skating has referred to private lessons for figure skaters that wanted to practice their moves and spins. Nowadays, the meaning of the word has become more than that, referring to a new kind of sport on ice that has developed over the past two decades. Started by just a few friends that were messing around on ice, freestyle ice skating has become more and more popular all around the world with some even proposing it for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Freestyle ice skating has some similarities to figure skating, yet, it is more aggressive and less classical. The new trend combines spins and dance moves with jumps, flips, stops, groundtouch, and even elements that you can usually find in parkour or martial arts. And all this – isn’t it already hard enough to do on normal ground – is practiced on ice. Just like in any action sport, freestyle ice skating includes specific sets of tricks. You can find a list of the most common ones including a tutorial for each of them on the website of Nagyerdei Korisok, a freestyle ice skating team from Hungary.

ISCM practical information:
opening times: open daily, have a look at the calendar for specific hours
extras: a brasserie from which you can observe the ice rink and an ice skating store
good to know: Wearing gloves is mandatory. Entrance and rent of skates are free for students with the Thomas More sports card, otherwise eight euros in total.
address: Spuibeekstraat 1, 2800 Mechelen

Text: Kukka Andersson and Alena Bieling, video: @Alena Bieling and Isabel Kuhn