Updated Friday, January 18, 2013 at 01:01 PM
I DON'T DWELL on my ice-skating past much. I mean, I'm glad I can stand on two feet on the ice without toppling over. Spins and jumps are fun party tricks. But I was not great, and I am rarely nostalgic for the years I spent getting up before school for practice, or the weekends spent at funky ice rinks to compete solo or on drill teams.
Then I took an adult ice-skating class at Castle Ice Arena in Renton. I left thinking every parent needs to put their child on ice skates, stat. Get the balance down early and they will have it for the rest of their lives.
As a former skater, I found that getting on the ice was familiar and reassuring. It didn't take long for basic jumps like toe loops and Salchows to come back.
The fascinating part was "learning" to skate. I took an adult basics class, which included a lot of moms picking up skating for the first time while their kids took lessons. Teacher Suzie Schutt taught them to skate forward, balance on one foot, swizzle and skate backward.
The idea of falling as an adult is not appealing. The more Suzie talked about edges, balancing our weight and telling us which direction to turn our torsos, the harder it was to do. My shoulders got tired from keeping my arms extended. But I admired the adults who said they took the class to learn something new.
I stayed for the adult "Edge" class too, curious about the more advanced class. We worked on dance steps, including three-turns and brackets, which requires turning from an outside edge to an inside edge on a curve. If that sounds like jibberish, know that it's hard. Suzie could always spot what was throwing us off balance, whether it was a hip thrust the wrong direction or arms not extended enough.
We closed our 30 minutes with a move that started on an outside edge, had us reverse on the same foot and end on an outside edge on the same foot. I remembered why I never took up ice dancing.
The Saturday free skate that followed was included. Unless you are good at maneuvering around children flinging themselves on the ice in front of you — occasionally sliding on their bellies across the ice like seals — it is not the best place to practice your moves. But it was fun to watch the kids as they figured out how to get their feet under them. A little figure skater in a rainbow skirt practiced her sit spin.
Ice rinks haven't changed much since I was a kid. The biggest difference was music — Psy's Korean rap "Gangnam Style" pulsed overhead. As I circled the rink, practicing my horse dance while listening to the thwack of hockey sticks, I suddenly got nostalgic. I missed the days of sparkly costumes and aching feet and a diet of soft pretzels with cheese.
Ice skating is a skill worth learning. Skating trains the clumsy out of feet, and once the delicate balance on ice is ingrained in muscle memory, it won't leave you. If you spend enough time on it, you learn to skate fast, spin and jump. Who doesn't want to do that?
Castle Ice Arena
12620 164th Ave. S.E., Renton
JIM BATES / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Jason Herzberg gets a hand from his wife, Kelly, on the slick surface at the Magic Season Ice Arena at Bellevue Downtown Park.