A Skaters Paradise

16 Oct

For any of you who are in the DC/Maryland/Northern VA area and need to have your skates worked on you should definitely, without a doubt, visit Michael Cunningham of Waldorf, Maryland. Tucked away in the corner of a Recreation Center inside a hockey shop is Skaters Paradise. Skaters Paradise is just large enough for a small counter, a few chairs for customers to sit on and a small stock of figure skating merchandise. The real treasures are, of course, Michael Cunningham and his wife. Photo upon photo of skaters, young and old alike are scattered upon the wall, a testament to the duos longevity in the skating business.

I had made the appointment 3 weeks ago to have my blades permanently mounted on my skates. It was more than an hour drive for me and in my mind well worth the trip. My severe pronation on my right foot had made this trip a must. If anyone could at least adjust the blade under my right boot to compensate for that constant inner pronation, surely Michael Cunningham could. Well, that was my hope anyway, having never been there before.

After briskly examining my skates and how I placed my weight while wearing them, he immediately went to work. Adjusting and readjusting the blade, testing my weight on them and having me skate till they met his and my approval. While I waited for each adjustment in the small room of Skaters Paradise, I chatted with his wife, who was very pleasant. As we talked I admired the large photo of Tara Lipinski just beyond her left shoulder signed with a flourish. Quickly after I noticed another photo, this one of Dorothy Hamill (a testament to her Baltimore days) and then another with Sasha Cohen and Tatiana Malinina. Interspersed throughout these photos were colorful drawings from admiring kids of broken skates now “fixed”. I barely minded the wait, it was just fun to look around at the photos of incredible skaters young and old who had come here before me (I should say rather, their old shop in VA since they had moved to Waldorf just a few years ago).

I asked Mike, as he came back in the shop, the one burning question I had, “What was Tara Lipinski like?” He laughed and said he had worked on her skates leading up to the Olympics. “She was a kid, like all kids,” he explained. “I remember a birthday party with tons of other kids still in their skating outfits playing pin the tail on the donkey, or something like that.”

Afterwards he led me out on the ice once more, with a lollipop in his mouth. He told me that it looked like he had been able to adjust the blade at an angle and place shims underneath the boot to compensate for my inside pronation. Out on the ice, I felt a huge difference in my right foot. For the last 6 months I had felt like I was skating on a permanent inside edge. I tried a loop jump and it felt off, I barely landed it. Mike said, “You’ve been compensating by switching from an inside edge to an outside edge going into the jump, now you’re going to have to relearn it doing it the right way!”

Since the loop is my favorite jump that was a little disconcerting, but it was just so nice to feel centered over my right skate! No, inner drooping. I tried my horrible backspin. Amazingly while it was not even a good backspin I could immediately feel myself over my right side. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t all me!
I said to Mike, “This is so awesome! Even if I can’t do everything I usually do, it’s like I am actually balanced!”

He nodded and referring to my severe pronation, said “Well, while I can fix your boot, I still can’t fix you!”

When we went back into his shop his wife gave me their card with the number of a podiatrist in Wilmington, DE who dealt exclusively with skaters and their issues. Mike said, “He’ll be able to figure out how to correct or help the pronation and then that will help me fix your skates later.”

I smiled, because I was already planning my stopover in Wilmington on my way to see my family in Jersey. Finally! maybe I’ll make some progress and it wasn’t all just me! Later, after he finished permanently mounting my skates, I said goodbye and thanked both him and his wife.

I left “Skaters Paradise” thinking what if I had just come here earlier? It was only by circumstance that I had heard from other adult skaters that this was the place to go. I few others were recommended as well and it would have been easier to go to the others as they were closer and open week round. Skaters Paradise is only open three days a week and you must plan in advance by at least a week or two or even three for the appointment during the hours of 1-5pm.

I will tell you though, It was well worth it. I highly recommend stopping by Skaters Paradise (http://www.skatersparadise.com/) in Waldorf, MD if you plan on buying figure skates or need your blades mounted or even sharpened. Even if you have to wait, you should try here first and save yourself the trouble of going elsewhere.

Two days later I skated out in a public session to try out my new skates. For the first time ever I was able to do decent forward power pulls on my right leg with more ease than I ever could before. It could be the practice but I prefer to think that the blade adjustment had more to do with it.

I was centered, finally, by Skaters Paradise.

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