I'm going to go right out and say this: I believe that riding flat helps you have better style. This might be one of my crazy theories in skating, but here goes the explanation.
You can tell what era someone started skating in just from the first few tricks you see them do. There is something about that oldschool style thats so rare today. I believe part of the reasoning for this is that there was a much larger percentage of skaters riding flat in the 90s.
Excluding powerblades, it's not common today to see street skaters with a flat setup. Personally, I've never been a fan of powerblades. I think they look a bit goofy, I don't like how tall they are and people always tell me they still get caught on grinds. I grew up skating the streets of New York, I cant be getting stuck on all these gritty ledges out here.
For years it used to be either flat or anti-rocker, and then freestyle became really popular in the mid 2000's. I've rode all three of these styles in the past 19 years, so I'm familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of each. However, the main reason one would make the change to anti-rocker or freestyle is to make tricks easier, straight up. But is taking the easy way out always the best? For me, I noticed it was hurting my skating. Here is where the logic in my theory begins.
It's simple, when you have a smaller split between your second and third wheel, you're forced to get lower on your grinds. Bending your knees and getting lower on your tricks typically mean better style (I'm talking style now, not steez. Steez is something different). There is little room for error, so you have to do your tricks right every time. You're more concerned about getting wheel bite on a rail or ledge so you have to think a little bit extra. For me, thinking a little bit more was a way of cleansing myself of all the careless and lazy ways I would do my tricks over the past few years.
I've been riding flat again for a couple of months now and the thinking is over and it all feels natural again, I don't even notice I'm not riding anti-rocker anymore. Most skates nowadays come with backslide plates. Use the shit out of them. Remember everybody's Lightings and Majectic 12s back in the day had boot grooves up the cuffs? Do you remember what unitys and backslides used to look like too? Dudes used to get super low then.
On a similar note, I'm riding the last set of 55s that I had from when I was on Eulogy a few years ago, and its almost impossible to get my hands on a wheel like that now. Luckily, the good people at Aggressivemall were able to hook me up with a set of Undercover Sydney Team Wheels, but they're pretty much the only 55mm wheels you can find today. Could more companies please put more 55s and other normal sized wheels back into production? Otherwise I'd have to go back to anti-rocker and this whole post would be hypocritical. Thanks.
I wrote this article a month or so ago and since then I've been on the Colorado Road Trip and got to skate with a ton of different skaters from all over the country. It looks like the powerblading fad is going away and I was surprised to see how many people switched to a more standard flat rocker setup. From what I've learned, it seemed like people couldn't get used to the tall frames but still wanted the smooth speed and agility of having 8 wheels down. It looks like old school flat rocker is making a come back. More of a reason for wheel manufacturers to start making 55s again!