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Sunday, February 05, 2023 — Houston, TX

Rice on Ice: club heads talk new skating club

Photo courtesy Anya Gu

By McKenzie Jameson     10/19/21 10:33pm

Over the midterm recess, a few hundred Rice students had the ice skating rink at the Houston Galleria all to themselves. This wasn’t by accident, but through an event hosted by the R-ice Skating Club, which holds weekly skates for Rice community members looking for a fun social activity or an opportunity to try a new skill, according to the club’s founders Brown College freshmen Anya Gu and Imaan Patel and Martel College freshman Alice Zhou.

R-ice Skating has hosted three events thus far: the pilot skate, the inaugural skate — a private Rice event called “Sunday on Skates” — and their most recent weekly skate, which took place at the Galleria on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 16. 

The club leadership said that they had expected 10 people to attend the pilot skate, but were surprised and excited to host 47 people instead.

The “Sunday on Skates” gathering proved to be even more popular, with approximately 370 Rice students in attendance, according to the club’s leadership. This inaugural skate was the organization’s first big event, and unlike in the weekly skates, the rink was reserved exclusively for the Rice community.

“Our expectation was if we have 100 people then we’d be happy with it,” Patel said. 

While the club has already attracted a considerable amount of interest in just a short period of time, the idea for the club originated with Gu, who was a competitive figure skater before coming to Rice. At first, she said all she wanted was a few peers with whom she could carpool to an ice rink.

“I skated a lot before and so I really wanted to continue practicing when I came here and get back into competing again. And then I never really found time to do that … obviously not during [Orientation] Week, but even in the weeks after,” Gu said. “And so I was thinking, I could go to the Galleria, but then I’d have to have people to carpool with me because it’s dangerous going by yourself.”

According to Gu, she decided to reach out to fellow Rice students on social media to see if there was any interest in forming a small carpool group that could go to the ice rink weekly.

“I just posted on my Instagram story, ‘Oh, if I made a really informal club, maybe just like 10 people who skated every weekend together, who would be open to that?’ Gu said. “And then I got a bunch of replies, and I was like, ‘Oh, this could be an actual club.’” 

Among the respondents to Gu’s post were Patel and Zhou, who helped her find ice rinks willing to offer affordable prices for a group of college students, according to Gu. Patel, who had gone ice skating for fun in Dallas the week prior to O-Week, said that she had already begun researching ice rinks around Houston before she started communicating with Gu and Zhou about the logistics of the new club. 

“I remember I was like, ‘I really want to learn how to skate properly and actually do it. It’s so much fun,’” Patel said. “And I was actually looking up rinks and I had a few in mind.”

The club leadership contacted the director of Ice at the Galleria, who was very helpful and very interested in Rice University, according to Gu. 

“We were really nervous going into this because we knew that ice skating is expensive and we want to make it as accessible as possible for everyone here,” Patel said. “And so we were like, ‘Oh, this is really kind of expensive for us students, and we want it to be a regular thing.’”

Patel said that the director of the Galleria rink was able to offer the group a price of $6 per person, which is inclusive of the rink’s $5 skate-rental fee. 

Most participants free skate during these events, but there may be opportunities for more experienced skaters to perform for the crowd, particularly when the rink is reserved for Rice community members, according to the three heads. Patel also said that Rice students who know how to skate are happy to help others out if it is their first time on the ice.

“Everyone who knew how to skate and was part of the club — [as] we had spoken with them beforehand — would just help people who didn’t know how to skate figure it out,” Patel said. “It’s pretty easy to pick up once you’re on the ice.”

The club’s leadership also coordinates transportation for participants on a first-come, first-served basis by recruiting students with cars as drivers — who are reimbursed for gas through a club-sponsored process — and then organizing rideshare trips, at no cost to students, if needed. 

Esther Fahel, a freshman at Brown College, said that she was excited to hear about R-ice Skating and the convenience of their events.

“I used to take lessons when I was really little, but I stopped doing it. I wanted to start ice skating again so when I found out there’s an ice skating club I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so fun,’” Fahel said. “It’d be kind of a hassle to figure it out for yourself. But if they arrange rides and figure out everything for you, you just sign up and show up.”

Khoi Nguyen, a freshman at Duncan College, said that he enjoyed both the pilot skate and the most recent skate on Saturday, Oct. 16. 

“I was just free skating around with friends and having a good time, but there were some really experienced people, like the [club] officers and some people who had skated before, practicing in the middle of the rink,” Nguyen said. “It was really cool just to watch them and was overall just a really good time.”

Gu, Patel and Zhou said that R-ice Skating Club will continue to hold weekly club skates, and given the success of their inaugural “Sunday on Skates” event, they hope to plan some big events once or twice a semester, particularly during the holiday season. Gu said that they are also looking to organize lessons during the weekly club skates for those who don’t know how to ice skate or want to improve their skills. 

Patel said that the club leadership is also happy to help residential colleges organize their own skating events.

“We’re open to helping them set up and all that kind of stuff just because we’re getting familiar with the process, as we do it,” Patel said.

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