Skating San Francisco’s Hills at 85

Octogenarians make the best sk8er bois.

Zigfried Stuhl (Photo by Mira Laing)

An 85-year-old man roller-skated down a steep, four-block section of California Street last Friday, to draw people’s attention to the Barbary Coast Roller Marathon along Ocean Beach.

Zigfried Stuhl, originally from Austria, rolled down California from Mason to Kearny streets, along with two others, David Miles, 61, and Ralph Boethling, 63.

“Man, 85-years-old!” Miles said of Stuhl. “He doesn’t just skate, he can skate well.”

Stuhl said he doesn’t think his age affects his skating. After 30 years on roller-blades, he’s only had one accident — and this time, he didn’t even wear a helmet.

“I feel too much self-confident that I will never fall,” he said.

Miles, however, did fall, live-streaming from his phone while rolling. Stuhl rushed past him and the two met at the end of the descent.

Google Maps estimates the steep drop to be around 240 feet, but that was not a problem for Stuhl. After skating down hill, he didn’t take off his roller-blades. Rather, he went up one block, climbed some stairs, and performed several tricks in the park.

Not unlike President George H. W. Bush, who went skydiving on his 80th and 85th birthdays, Stuhl only descended California Street’s hill for the first time last year, when Miles invited him to do it for his 60th birthday. When Miles saw Stuhl, a quarter-century his senior, overrun him without breaking a sweat, he knew they needed to skate this hill again.

The Barbary Coast Roller Marathon started on July 7 with night-skating along the city’s attractions. Stuhl went to the event expo the next day, giving free skate lessons, and later that night, hit the Marathon’s roller-disco party before racing along the coast on Sunday morning. He wants to teach people to keep their minds and bodies young, he says.

Boethling said he hopes he can be like Stuhl in 25 years, physically fit and doing the things that make him happy.

“Whatever you do, don’t live a life that you think someone else wants you to live,” he said. “’Cause you were put here to be you, and not somebody else.”

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