Roller Skating Magazine (August, 1979)


Jim Bray is one of the most talented young freestyle skaters in the USA. Though currently skating for instructors Chris Baerg (Downey) and Rick Weber (Simi Valley), he has lived in Ontario, California, for all of his 18 years. Jim has skated competitively for 12 years, having won every Artistic Singles event from Primary Boys to Senior Men's in his Regional competitions. In National meets, he has won in all divisions with the exception of Senior Mens (in which he placed second in 1977 and third in 1978). Altogether, this young freestylist has about 275 trophies to show for his skating efforts. Now entering the International level, Jim feels the added challenge. As he puts it, "it's nearly impossible to win an international title in your first season. I'm hoping to make third." He feels his strength lies in freestyle, though he is quick to point to the abilities of other skaters in that event. "Ricky Ellsworth will be my toughest competition. I think he's the best freestylist in the USA." Jim is working extra hard on his figures in hopes of building his strength in that exacting area of artistic skating.

To that end, he has studied with Omar and Delores Dunn (Bakersfield, CA), perhaps the Nation's leading instructors of the exacting discipline of artistic Figure skating. However, Jim--like many other freestyle skaters--feels that compulsory figures play a disproportionately major role in deciding Freestyle competition. or, at least, separate the two.

Having seen his brilliant and original performance at this year's God Skate Classic (although the judge's didn't seem to appreciate it), we feel that Jim Bray is one skater to keep your eye on. We're confident that his abundant talent combined with a very determined will to excel, will make Jim a force to be reckoned with in future Artistic competition.


How did you get involved in the sport of roller skating?
A couple of friends brought me down to the rink and I tried it out. It was kind of hard at first for me; but I learned pretty quick, I guess. So I kept it up and finally one of the pros at the rink told me to start taking lessons from him. I tried it out and like it a lot. After that is when I started to get into competition.

What's your major event?
Senior Men's International; I also skate Artistic Pairs. My Partner is Cathy Hallock. We just started skating together about 2 months ago. I skated Pairs when I was about 10 years old and I won Elementary 5 years in a row. I quit Pairs because my partner quit skating; and I didn't skate that event until two years ago when I started with another girl. We'd skate just for the Gold Skate Classic. I just row skated with Cathy for two months before the Gold Skate, and we are still skating together because we are going to try for the National meet this year.

What do you feel is you major strength as an artistic skater?
A lot of people tell me that showmanship is the big thing in my skating. I can jump really well. I guess I've done a lot of things that people haven't done before--a lot of jumping things that have been given me a lot of recognition. I've done pretty well.

Do you have a favorite jump?
Yeah. The one that no one ever tried before was a double Uler.

How does that work?
Well, you start on your right foot rolling backwards; as you jump up in the air and spin two and a half times around and then land on your left foot---backwards. You start on the outside edge and end on the inside edge. That's pretty rough! I'm working on other things that everyone else is asking about like triples flips and triple Lutz's. I can do that. I'm working hard on those.

You are strong and your acrobatic skills are strong, too. Do you ever do any gymnastic workouts?
When I first started out I did gymnastics. I'd run every day and I did a lot of other things. I lifted weights in high school.

I know that you are also a water skier and a football enthusiast. What other sports do you pursue?
I'm a snow skier.

Do you find that roller-skating is related to any of the other sports you do in anyway?
Just in trying to perfect it and stuff like that. Trying to be the best. Every sport's like that. Trying got be the best. You've got a goal and you've gotta try to reach it. That's what I do.

Do you find your skiing experience lends any insight to roller-skating or vice versa?
Just in balance and coordination. If you can skate halfway decent, you can ski. Like, when I first started out water skiing, I got up on one ski pretty easily. It's just like that in skating; if you can do that, you can do a lot of things.

So you think the balance and coordination you develop helps you with other sports?
I think it helps with everything.

Are sports your primary interest in terms of career?
Yeah, they are. I want to be a writer and then I want to own a rink and teach. I want to keep up skating, but it has to be fun. Once you lose interest, it's all over. I'm never going to do that because I like helping the kids. I coach baseball teams right now for Little League kids. I have fun. That's my occupation. But I want to write.

What type of writing are you interested in?
Sports writing. I'd like to go on and travel to different places and see other people. Sports like skating would be the main thing; anything else you could learn. It's a big thing. I've had that on my mind ever since I started skating. First I wanted to be the President---every kid goes through that! But I've always had skating on my mind and it never leaves my blood. It's always been in the family.

You told me you gave up skating for a year a couple of years ago. What was that like for you?
I was into other stuff. I did other sports like basketball in junior high--played football and stuff like that. I was doing other things so my mind was off skating. As soon as June came along (when the Regionals come), everyone was calling up and asking if I was going to do it (quit) because I didn't have a way to get to the rink. I couldn't drive then (I wasn't old enough), and my parents couldn't take me; my dad was working all the time. So, I never got enough time to do that. After that year I learned a lot. I grew up more, developed more and it helped me. The the next year, it was so much easier to skate! I think it's good sometimes to quit for a while. You have to because it takes too much out of you, it's a strain on your mind sometimes. If you're really dedicated, you've got to give it all you got. But there's got to be some time you can have a little rest; it's good for you I think.

But you came back to skating.
Yeah, I couldn't leave it for very long! You see, I never start skating competitively until about January. I never skate in October, November, December. There's no way, If I do that, I lose interest. I skate real hard and I practice, practice, practice. The once you practice and you know you've got everything looking halfway decent, you go and skate at the meet and you're feeling alright. If you skate all year you will always go in stages, every skater does. Even the kids; they'll skate good in September and then they'll come back up and fall down in January. The Gold Skate comes in February and they'll be up. Then they all down again and rise again. It's just that way; I guess you just lose a little interest between competitions. It's good to stay off for a little while.

The Gold Skate Classic sounds like it provides a pretty important part of the winter training, at least mentally maybe, for people to have something that fills in those gap months.
Yeah it does. Plus, they have contests every month, too; that helps but it gets boring if you've been skating many years. I don't skate those local contests much anymore. They should have Gold Skate events for every state--they don't know what they're missing! It's too bad they don't!

What does your training consist of? Do you skate every day?
When I do start skating, I practice after school, about 3:00 to 7:30. You don't get many hours during the day because they have sessions and all that, so its kinda hard. When Regionals come, what I do usually is come at 6:00AM to practice school figures until about 10:00. That's what I'm going to do this year because I need to practice. It's a big thing to get to the World meet this year. Then I practice my freestyle in the afternoon from 3:00 to 7:30, all freestyle. It's really hard training. You've got to keep it up, too, go through routines. My routines are five minutes long, and that takes a lot out of you, especially when you start jumping! Before I used to come to the rink at 9:00 till 1:00, then go back from 4:00 to 7:30. Once in a while we'd come back from 10:00 to 12:00. That took a lot out of you. That's for the Regional and National meets, to work yourself and get your stamina up. It takes a lot out of you, especially when you're all up there at the meet. They have practice days like that, and you really get into it. Everybody's watching you and you have to skate good. It takes so much out of you that by the time you skate you're almost ready to call it quits. You've really got to push yourself, and it's hard to do that.

Do you think that's why you fall off during the autumn months?
Yeah, you've got to take a break after it's all over. That's me, I'm a tightrope. As soon as Nationals are over, it's time to rest for about five months.

Do you think a lot of skaters feel that way, that the general activity level in competition goes down and not really too much is going on?
I don't know. A lot of skaters keep it up. There's not many skaters that do what I do. The main skaters I know think it's a must to start early. It it was more of an easy going kind of thing---like for some skaters, they go out there just to skate, not really to put themselves out--then it wouldn't really be too bad. But when I do go skate, I put myself out. A lot of people just take it easy, then they'll come in and gradually work back up. When I was little I had it rough because I had a pro that wouldn't let me rest. I took lessons from him or a lot of years and he just pushed me and pushed me and he wouldn't let me just come back in the middle of the year (until I got older and he knew it was time). Then I quit because I couldn't skate for him anymore. Now I skate for Chris and Rick. It's alright, they help me out a lot, but I guess a lot of kids can't do it like that. Maybe they feel that they can't go back and skate again if they stop for a while or something.

 Do you find that you get out of condition during the months you're not skating so much?

Are you pursuing other activities at that time which help keep you in condition, too?
Yeah, I run and I do a lot of school activities like basketball. I played on the school football team. With stuff like that you run and it keeps you in shape. But running alone just doesn't do it. I found that out, it doesn't help you directly. When you skate you don't use the same breathing, legs... it's a whole different story. You've got those ten pounder skates on, you know, and you've got to lift a little more. It takes a lot out of you. I you work too hard, too fast, that's when you get he injuries. I've done that a couple of times. I came back two weeks before the Regional meet. I didn't skate all year and I really pushed. I decided that I wanted to skate at the last minute. Right after Regionals I sprained my ankle, messed my back up and stuff like that because I pushed too hard and it took too much out of me.

What type of diet do you follow during training?
I pack up on vitamins heavily before and during competition season. It's hard work and takes too much out of you if you don't take care of your nutrition. Most important is my own mom's good cooking!

What kind of equipment do you use?
I have Snyder skates with Harlick boots. I use my Harlick boots for figures and freestyle too. I also use Riedell boots. I use Rannalli wheels for freestyle. That's what I stay with. I use those mostly except when the floor's bad. Then I put on two Rannalli and two White Velvets. I use All American Dreams, too, that's what I'm using right now, two of each because the floor's bad. I usually stay with the Rannallis because that's the better wheel. I think everybody's used that. It's nice, it's fast and holds together really well.

When you mix wheels like that, what do you do, put a softer wheel on a certain part of your skate?
Say you have your left skate. On the inside front you put, say, All American Dreams--on your spinning wheel--and the same on the back, on your left outside wheel. Then, for the other wheels you put the Rannallis on. You have to do this on a bad floor. The Rannallis are fast (they're not soft at all), so you put those on to help you get a little more speed. Then, you use the other two wheels just for grip when the floor's really bad and slick. It's been harder since they put plastic on the floor. That's why I do that sometimes.

Do you prefer a wood floor?
I like wood. I skated on wood for about nine years and then they changed it about three or four years ago.

Have you done much experimenting with different types of wheels?
Yeah. Mr. Rannalli gives me some wheels and lets me try them out. I tell him is I like them or not. So I've tried his wheels. The All American Dreams too. I've tried Labedas. I've tried a lot of wheels and the best one is Rannalli. That's my best wheel and I'll stick with that until the floor gets bad and you can't use them. I tried them last year at Nationals and got stuck so I put the White Velvet wheels on they were tight. I'm not a slow skater so I need a hard wheel that's fast. It needs to be fast because I skated fast. I need speed, it's the only way I can skate.

You need the speed for momentum, I would think, for some of the jumps that you do.

Yeah. I guess some of the other guys went to the White. The floor was like ice you could have put your ice skates on and skated on it! I did that and they stood up and I fell. That's the breaks! Maybe they'll fix the floor up, but that's really no excuse; cause that's the way it goes. I just have to skate better when I get up there this year!

You mentioned that you're friends with Natalie Dunn. How did that come about?
We've been friends for a long time.

Did you meet each other through skating?
Yeah. I used to take lessons from her dad and mom in Figures for a couple of years. He's [Omar Dunn] really a good teacher; and they're all good skaters. I was going to skate up there this year. I was going to move up there; but since my dad passed away, it was kind of hard to go up there and leave my mom at this time. So that's what happened, I was going to go up there right after the World meet. I'm going to need the Figures soon. I need a teacher and they're the best Figures teachers around. Butch and I are like brother and sister, I guess. We've talked a lot. We're pretty close, 'cause we talk things out. She helps me out with and I help her out. Well I don't help her so much, mostly she helps me! I always ask her to help me!

Is there a lot of exchange of ideas between skaters? Do you find a lot of your friends are skaters?
Yeah. You've gotta relate with your other friends, they help. There's a lot of things that you don't know and they do, so they can help you a lot there. I've found that out from a lot of friends that I have.

Even though they might be competing against you?
Well, there are some people who will help you, even though you are skating against them. Then some people will just despise you, they'll talk about behind you back and then will say something good to your face. So you have to know who your real friends are. I'm glad I have a lot of skating friends, like my closest friends. Friends like Butch [Natalie Dunn] and Donna LaBriola, we've been close. They're girls, but they're my best friends in skating. They always help me out, they always do things for me. I've never had to ask, they just do things for me all the time. It's neat.

Who are the skaters you most admire?
For the women its Natalie. Not just because she's a champion, but as a person she's a great person. I admire her as a lady. The male skater I admire the most is Michael Jacques. He's from a long time ago; I used to watch him all the time and he was my idol. He still is. I'll never forget how he used to skate. He might be sideways jumping and still land right. I always wanted to be like him. There there's Toller Cranston, he's an ice skater. I like his show. He makes every routine. He goes out and puts himself out. They're two different styles and if you put them together, just think what you'd have. I'm trying to work and make myself look halfway like them

You seem to be really interested in the expressive aspect of skating as opposed to just technical proficiency in doing maneuvers. That's something that's really important with showmanship and maybe one of the reasons why you're strong in that. You do bring a whole interpretation to a number, rather than just going through moves. There's a certain aspect of your personality that you put into your skating.
There are a lot of skaters who put themselves out, and that's why they're good. They go out there and really put themselves out with the music and the content (jumping and all), but some people just have problems. When they mess up in the content they blow their attitude towards their routine. I don't do that much, but sometimes it happens. I'll be skating badly and have problems in my routine. But you know, when you get out on that floor you can't quit. Even when you mess up, you've got to put yourself out. It helps out sometimes if you get the crowd going. I've worked a lot on that kind of stuff. With my content there's a lot of things I've done that nobody else has ever done. When we were warming up in Nationals last year, I had the crowd. It felt good cause they were cheering for me, I'd do things that we're really hard and they really expressed how they felt about it.

Do you think you get more pumped up getting in front of a crowd?
Yeah. I've got to have people there. If I don't have anyone there, I feel like I'm sleeping. If you go and maybe have a hundred people at a contest you're ready to go to sleep. I know I am that way and it's how a lot of skaters are. A lot of the skaters, if they don't have a crowd, they won't skate. I know that's true with a lot of my friends that I used to skate with.

You're skating for the crowd rather than against the other skater?
I want to beat the others. If I skate my best, I have a chance of beating them. But I skate for the crowd mostly, so they can see me. It means if I skate good I have a good chance of beating'em and I don't worry about them (the other skaters), that's all that counts. You've just got to work real hard to do those kinds of things.

Do you think maybe you're testing yourself against your own standards more than against other skaters, or do you pay a lot of attention to what they are doing and compare yourself to them?
When I skate, I skate for myself--beating myself. I don't try to skate against them, so much. When I see them skating, I tell myself, "He looks pretty good." I think he might beat me and if we skate together, we don't know, so I've gotta watch them, too. I don't let that out of my mind. But mostly I just think about myself.