Limited edition of 50
The past is not just the past. It has a connection to today.
Who are we? Roll Zine was a self-published online zine documenting the subculture of rollerblading. It started in 2007 as my graphic design thesis project at Ohio University. It was an attempt to shed light on an activity not understood by a general audience. The thesis was educational, using infographics to showcase how the skates work to perform tricks, and diagrams to show how tricks are executed like dance steps. It all culminated with a manifesto poster and a small printed zine featuring the skate scene of Athens and Columbus, Ohio. From there it was never really intended to be anything else until a design internship moved me to Berkeley, CA. Once there I was exposed to a whole new scene of rollerbladers from all around the Bay Area. I now had the ability to document new skaters and make another issue.
At a time when rollerblading media itself was having a stronger digital presence (and having no budget to print the zine) it made sense to move online. Following a second issue in 2008, Roll Zine started to include content from reader submissions. This broadened the scope of the zine across the country and even internationally. After several years and a total of nine issues, publication ended abruptly in 2012.
Where have we been? While working on the ninth issue, I moved back to Ohio. In the editorial, I claimed that I had lost focus on my priorities and was hoping to jumpstart a new run of content and get the project back to its roots. It was wishful thinking that I could not fulfill. The truth of the matter was I was deep in the throes of active alcoholism and my life was a mess. I couldn’t hold a job much less produce a zine. I didn’t move back to Ohio because I was homesick. Even in those dark times I never stopped skating, but I stopped being connected with other rollerbladers. I cared more about drinking than anything else.
After a few more years of denial, I finally realized something needed to change. And it did. I got help for my alcoholism and got sober. I started rebuilding my life, relationships, and career. Life happened: My job went from being a designer to a lead designer, and eventually creative director. I got married, lost my father to terminal illness, and helped others get sober. When it came to skating, I started becoming an active participant in a group of rollerbladers dedicated to filming sections and pushing the boundaries of our own skating abilities.
Making another issue of Roll Zine was always in the back of my mind—and I had plenty of material since I was skating frequently and shooting photos—but my heart wasn’t in it as a designer. I felt all my creative energies were expended on my job. In the years that passed, other self-published skating magazines rose up such as Wheel Scene and Haitian, and I didn’t feel like I had anything new or better to offer. There has also been the continuing shift towards social media content and podcasts. The old standards of print communication either disappeared or found a home as online content. Printed rollerblading content now tends to take the form of photo books, companion pieces to online publications, or tie-ins to video projects.
It did make me think that there’s still need for print publication in rollerblading that lets people express what skating means to them. I had always wanted Roll Zine to be a printed zine rather than online, and if I was going to do anything new with it, then it would be in this direction.
Where are we going? Leading into this year, the job that I found so creatively satisfying was starting to take a toll on me. Similar to when alcohol ran my life, I felt like my job was now running it. In the simplest of terms I was burned-out. I decided to switch to freelance work while I once again assessed my priorities. When the pandemic brought everything to a standstill, those lingering thoughts about Roll Zine became an urge to create something new.
I started by updating this website and properly archiving all the past issues which can now be downloaded as PDFs. This required me to go back through all the old files of each issue to reexport them. There were technological issues which required sifting through each page to repair incompatible fonts or replace missing links to photos. While mildly tedious, it allowed me to investigate the design and content with the gift of hindsight. What stood out for me was what the featured skaters shared about their methodologies and beliefs about rollerblading. That’s what I wanted to highlight in this special edition of Roll Zine.
Seeing them at a distance, there’s a unifying thread in these old features that connects to where we are today. I hope that you find these excerpts from featured skaters in Roll Zine issues one through nine as powerful and poignant as I did. If not, I hope you like the design and the springboard this offers to a renewed Roll Zine cadence. For real this time. Hopefully.
– Brandon Ballog
︎If you’d like to purchase an issue for $5 please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate shipping and Venmo. All proceeds will go towards the cost of printing and future issues.