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If you’ve seen Andrés Trujillo around the neighborhood, he was likely on wheels — the longtime Hell’s Kitchen Silver Towers resident and lifelong roller skater prefers it that way. Now, Trujillo is taking his passion for the sport on the road (literally) as he prepares to launch a 600-mile rollerblading tour from Manhattan to Toronto by way of the Empire State Trail this June.
The inaugural Manhattan-Toronto Tour will kick off from Pier 83 at W43rd Street and 12th Avenue on June 4, making stops every 45-100 miles at upstate destinations like Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, and Niagara Falls. The journey concludes on June 13 in Toronto, where participants will spend a few days networking with other blading and cyclist groups and enjoying the Canadian city before traveling home.
“I’ve wanted to do this for years — I love a challenge,” said Trujillo. “I’ve done long routes before, but never that far.” He’d heard great things about the Empire State Trail’s beauty and scenic views, and decided “I’m going to do it — with or without other people,” but after telling other skaters about his plan, “People were suddenly interested in trying — it became a personal challenge for them, and so we’ve had eight people already confirmed to go,” he added.
Despite the demanding route, Trujillo explained that “splitting the stops and breaking up the miles helps people complete the trail. We also decided to spend several days in Niagara, to enjoy the area. It will be the first visit for some people, and will give us a good chance to recover.”
The trip is open to both cyclists and skaters, and anyone who isn’t able to cross into Canada is welcome to join them for the US portion of the route. Once the group reaches Canada, those who stay plan to connect with local rollerblade groups for “a city-wide skate through Toronto,” said Trujillo.
If there’s anyone you can feel comfortable trailing for 600 miles on those little wheels, it’s Trujillo. Born in Colombia, he’s been skating since he was four years old. “I used to skate professionally when I was really young,” he said. “I skated professionally until I was 11 years old. I decided to pursue it on my own — and then when I moved to Spain as a teenager, I discovered urban skaters groups.”
Trujillo enjoyed the communal, social aspect of the more informal skater organizations, finding himself seeking the same dynamic when he moved to New York eight years ago. “When I moved here to New York, I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t have any friends. I’m going to be the newbie in the city.’ I spent time checking Facebook until I found different skating groups and started testing them out.”
Now, he is a regular fixture at a multitude of crews across the city, including Hell’s Kitchen. “Here in Midtown, we meet up at Romeo and Juliet Colombian Coffee by Riverbank. There are also groups that meet at 59th and 5th, Pier 76, Central Park, and skate dancing in Rockefeller Center,” said Trujillo. Some groups, like his Wednesday night Union Square meetup (Wednesday Night Skate) have grown from just a few people to “over 200 people skating together through the streets,” he added.
Trujillo partly credits the pandemic with the sport’s rise in popularity. “Because of social distancing, skating or biking was the best option for seeing people. And during the pandemic, you saw how popular it became in the city.” Aside from the stress-relieving elements, “it’s the best option to socialize. Skating is something that’s really open to anybody.”
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Bonding on the trail (or the sidewalk) is a great way to break the ice, said Trujillo: “You discover some people who normally would be shy are now able to show their personality — for them, it’s the easiest way to socialize.” Those who join him on the June journey will have plenty of time to bond. Building on this year’s program, he also plans to organize future meetups on the West Coast and to participate in a large gathering in New York this August.
Despite his wanderlust, Trujillo insists that he always finds a way to return to Hell’s Kitchen. “We love this area,” he said, adding that even when he’s skating locally, it allows him to go somewhere new. Reflected Trujillo: “When you go to these meetups, you meet different people. There are people from anywhere in the world, and it’s almost like traveling — you make friends with them and discover different cultural backgrounds.”
If you’d like to join Andrés and crew on their Canadian adventure, register your interest here.