When I was a kid in the early nineties, I remember saving up $9 to buy second hand white roller skates from my big sister's friend. I used the skates to coordinate amazing dances in my suburban Sydney driveway with my neighbours. It certainly wasn't in fashion at that time, as it was the advent of inline skating, but I never really worried about trends to be honest... Fast forward a few decades, and I find myself joyously back on eight wheels each Friday in Central Victoria, thanks to the innovation of inspiring Sunny Muse, Jo Christy.
Jo is the founder of Quad Fit in Central Victoria, Australia. A unique roller skating fitness program for adults. It incorporates an amazing aerobic workout, roller-skating skills, as well as artistic dance elements. A combination that seems to have huge physical and mental health benefits for participants.
Jo Christy grew up in the tiny town of Yea, in North Eastern Victoria. She had roller skates in her teens, but didn’t really take up skating until 2010, when she was invited by another Melbourne Mum to come to recreational skating. Her son was about 4 at the time, and she loved it from the outset. She was skating down in Melbourne a few times a week for about four or five years. "Being a solo mum, I was so isolated when I had my son Rueban. The tribe that I had before I had kids were still out partying, and I was out in the suburbs. So through skating I met women who wouldn’t normally have been my tribe. Different women from all different backgrounds. We sort of just established a friendship group through recreational skating on a Friday morning and that became my social group and my connection to other women in that area. I was hitting 40 around that time and I just wanted to be really fit. I loved it".
Jo moved to Castlemaine, Victoria in 2015 and started Quad Fit.
What is Quad Fit and how is it different to Roller Derby?
I was always thinking about Quad Fit being more fun and recreational than Derby. Roller Derby had a resurgence and it peaked in popularity about 6 or 7 years ago. At that time, for me, I was a bit past Roller Derby and contact sports. You have to commit to training three times a week and be prepared for injuries as well. And you have to be hungry and quite tough. I started the Quad Fit program in Castlemaine, because that was the program that SkateVic had available at that time which could be run outside of a commercial rink. It was originally designed for Derby players who were coming back from injury or for people who wanted an introduction to Roller Derby. Over the last 5 years Quad Fit has evolved to include more recreational skating, and is more Roller Dance focused.
In the early days sometimes I would be the only one who showed up on a Friday! At the moment we’ve been getting really big numbers. We did the This Girl Can Campaign (through VicHealth). and there was an article in the local paper. We did a Roller Dance performance at The Castlemaine Spring Ball last year too, and after both of those things the popularity took off. Now, I'm getting up to 20 people sometimes, but generally 10 to 12 skaters each week.
Why do you think increasing female participation in sport is important ?
Roller Dance in Australia has taken awhile to take off. Quad Fit in Victoria has really been at the vanguard [whilst running parallel to RollerFit in NSW]. Being active as you get older as a woman is especially important. I want to be strong and athletic, and it doesn’t feel like effort to skate. For me, Quad Fit is just as much about connecting socially and supporting each other as being physically fit. Most of us are mums, and some are a little bit older, and skating doesn’t feel like going to the gym. It feels more like fun, especially when the music's playing! It’s about sorority probably more than anything. We’ve built friendship through skating.
Who inspires you?
Estro Jen [Venice Beach based Michelle Steilen aka Estro Jen] she founded the Skate Brand Moxi . She is probably my greatest inspiration, and the best skater in the world. She is a Derby skater, Ramp Skater and Roller Dancer. She has taken recreational skating to a totally new level. I think she is the ultimate female role model.
What does living creatively mean to you?
I haven’t really seen myself as creative, but I guess Roller Dancing is creative. There is a creative undercurrent to what I do. I've always loved dancing, so skating and dancing go together wonderfully for me. And, in this town [Castlemaine] especially, everyone is doing such amazing things, it just feels natural to be creative.
Currently listening to?
Missy Elliot. I used to be a straight up Melbourne Rock n Roll girl, but I’m listening to more Hip Hop these days. I have this 80s song on repeat at the moment -Ain't Nothin Going On But The Rent by the late Gwen Guthrie.
What's your favourite Vintage find?
I have so many...I have a vintage wedding dress collection that I love. But, I would have to say that a plastic 1980s jumpsuit with epaulettes and rouching is a current favourite. It buttons up the front. It’s totally high waisted... baggy pants...full 80s style! That’s probably one of my more recent joys. Oh, I’ll have to see that with skates! (pictured).
Find out more about Quad Fit over on Jo's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QuadSkateCastlemaine/
And, Jo is keen to expand her classes throughout Central Victoria, hit her up if you're keen. Woodend might be next!