Daytripper: Put your skates on

By Donna McIntyre

Donna McIntyre and kids glide across the ice at Mission Bay

Lauren Waugh and 2-year-old Jordan Waugh take a "learn-to-skate penguin" for a spin on the ice at the open-air rink at Mission Bay, which has been erected for the school holidays. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Lauren Waugh and 2-year-old Jordan Waugh take a "learn-to-skate penguin" for a spin on the ice at the open-air rink at Mission Bay, which has been erected for the school holidays. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It was fun. I've learned now that those three words are a teenage seal of approval. And that's how we describe ice skating at Mission Bay, juxtaposing a winter activity against a setting of sand, sea and Rangitoto.

We bus along the waterfront to the portable rink, in residence at Selwyn Reserve for the school holidays, with sessions starting on the hour from 9am to 9pm. We hire skates, similar to ice hockey skates with great ankle support, and take a "learn-to-skate penguin" (with handles where ears would be, if penguins had ears - odd, but effective) to hold for stability.

Today's noon session includes just 22 skaters, although the rink caters for up to 100. There are littlies and hovering parents, plus a few teens, all mainly novices staying close to the edge in case they need to grab the rails. Mornings are popular with young families, while the lit-up-at-night sessions attract teenagers and others who like to skate under the stars.

My son Jamie and his mate Louis are soon at ease, having skated occasionally when they were little, although Louis' long legs mean he has further to fall than me or Jamie. So he quickly becomes adept at self-correction.

Everyone is skating anticlockwise. Why, I ask Toni Stockham of Red Events, who's managing the rink. She says people automatically move anticlockwise at every session. "Maybe in the Northern Hemisphere they skate clockwise!"

Staff skater Isobel Ou Yang and Botany figure skater Vanessa Preston, 12, are head and shoulders above everyone else, with Vanessa executing hooks and mohawk moves. Both encourage ice etiquette, stopping to help anyone who falls.

Isobel gives pointers, "Start from a V and take little steps", and gradually skaters venture away from the edges and pick up speed and confidence. If you've rollerbladed, you'll find the technique similar.

Vanessa likes the seaside setting and finds the surface okay, but not ideal, for her tricks. "It's really different, especially with Rangitoto in the background," she says. "It's sad seeing people fall over but at least they're giving it a go."

And that includes cousin Teagan and best friend Brooke, whom she has brought along.

Parent Lauren Waugh appreciates having a penguin for Jordan, 2, "because I can lean on it as well! It's really fun and it teaches the kids balance. The penguin's a lifesaver to stop Jordan falling."

Lisa Cousins is surprised how long her children Kirra, 7, and Isla, 5, have stayed on the ice. "I think Disney on Ice is the driving force; Kirra knows she's going to it in June. This is great for Aucklanders because we don't see ice or snow here."

So, the verdict? Jamie: "It was fun." Louis: "It was good to be ice skating, I haven't done that since I was 3."

We return our skates, which Toni tells me are heated and dried out at night "but they are hire boots so we ask people to wear socks".

Luckily the appetite we've worked up can be catered for just across the road at Mission Bay's assortment of cafes, and some let kids eat free if accompanied by parents with ice skating passes.


What: More FM Mission Bay on Ice

Where: Selwyn Reserve. Limited to 100 skaters per session, sessions start on the hour and last 45 minutes.

When: Until May 5.

Price: Adults $20, children $16 (includes skate hire).

The rink: Measuring 17m x 17m, it features 5000 litres of water frozen inside 6km of refrigeration piping.

- NZ Herald

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