Roller Revival celebrates 40 years of roller skating in San Francisco with series of events

Image 1 of 8

For David Miles Jr., roller skating is not only his passion, it's been his hustle for the last 40 years. 

Dubbed San Francisco's "Godfather of Skate,"  this local legend would have been damned if he didn't follow his passion. 

Since moving here from Kansas City, Missouri in 1979, he's been the colorfully-clad gentleman leading the faithful congregation of roller skaters in Golden Gate Park every Sunday.%INLINE%

The troupe has had a permanent spot situated at 6th Avenue and John F. Kennedy Drive since 1986, where they meet up to skate to this day. He's also in charge at the Church of 8 Wheels, a late 19th-century church converted into a roller rink on Fillmore Street six years ago. 

Speaking over the phone, Miles recalled the decision he made in 1989, 10 years into his marriage. It was a decision that his wife, Rose, would fully support. "My wife and I used to manage Kentucky Fried Chickens. I thought that was what I was going to do," he said. %INLINE%  

He'd pace, smoke cigarettes and sneak out of the restaurant to roller skate, something he'd do in the military when he served as a ballistic meteorologist, sending up balloons in the Army. "I said, I can't promise you riches, but we'll be very happy. She said ‘You can do whatever you wanna do.'" 

Things could have turned out much differently for him and Rose if they stayed on course, dedicating their lives to fast-food franchise management. As fate would have it, Col. Sanders and KFC wouldn't be their destiny. Theirs would be a higher calling.  

"I want my skating to be about a positive message," he said. Rose was in the background cooking barbecue meatballs as they prepared for Thursday's ‘Black and White Skaters' Ball,' the kickoff event of the four-day Roller Revival that celebrates San Francisco roller-skating history and culture with special events at various locations. 

"This is 24/7 for me," said Miles. "I don't have any other job. I have to hustle." And the hustle is real. 

It started with roller skating lessons. Miles, a certified instructor, would teach 30 to 40 people a week, but it has since evolved into so much more.  

"I'm building Pop-Up Roller Rinks for Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. I'm doing it in Burning Man," Miles said. The pop-up concept is exactly what it sounds like; a production company that brings a mobile roller rink to your facility.

He wants to work on getting a pop-up rink in Salesforce Tower. There's even a chance they may go to Coachella next year. And for the holidays, Napa County's St. Helena may do a mobile roller rink instead of an ice rink due to environmental concerns and the cost of energy to maintain ice. 

"My kids are into it," said Miles explaining he has three children and that it's a family affair. "If it weren't for my daughter, Tiffany, I wouldn't know what Electric Daisy Carnival is. I'm old." For the record it's music, carnival rides and art. Kind of like Burning Man, but in Vegas. 

The church, located at 554 Fillmore St. was decommissioned in 2008 and had sustained damage in the Loma Prieta Earthquake. More recently it gained notoriety as the location of the sword-wielding MAGA hatted attacker. %INLINE%

"We were calling ourselves the Church of 8 Wheels five or six years before we had that church," said Miles. "We love [roller skating]  like religion. I coined the phrase ‘rolligion.'"

When Miles heard of the empty church, he knew he had to meet with the owner. 

"The first owner took out the stained-glass windows. There were pews everywhere. No one was going to do anything with it." Miles ended up talking with John Pollard, the owner, who ended up giving him a chance. At the time, Church of 8 Wheels was throwing events at places like The Women's Building and Redwood City's roller rink. "We had a party. We set up lights. He was impressed." %INLINE%

As of November 2013, Church of 8 Wheels had a new permanent home. "We need places like this in every city," Miles said calling for the church's preservation. %INLINE% 

Although old-school funk and roller disco music pump new energy inside the church, it all comes back to the history of Golden Gate Park. The Roller Revival honors original members of Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol, the group responsible for keeping roller skating from being banned from the park 40 years ago. Miles and many of his friends were original members. 

"My whole life revolves around that park. I met my wife 40 years ago in ‘79. My children have been skating there. My mom lived here before me. She convinced me to come.  I didn't know nothing about Golden Gate Park."

Miles said when he first moved here he went by the Conservatory of Flowers on a weekday and saw some people roller skating. "They told me about Sunday. That Sunday I went out there. It was like the Wizard of Oz. You know how in the beginning it's black and white and then it's in color. Wow!"

Over the course of four days, Roller Revival includes a Light up the Night event at the Ferry Building, a music festival at Hunter's Point Shoreline Park (free to residents in the 94124 zip code) and a free Skaters' Showcase on Sunday at 6th Ave. and JFK Dr. in Golden Gate Park where it all began. 

"Skating is part of the fabric of San Francisco and the world, really. I'm not really looking for the Olympic level. I'm looking for the good people," said Miles  

So lace up your skates or break out the roller blades and join these holy rollers for some good time "rolligion." 

Roller Revival: Celebrating 40 years of Roller Skating in San Francisco 

Skate in Golden Gate Park: