Roller skater who beat gravity returns

Iain Clark revisits the scene of his Baldwin St, Dunedin, roller-skating feat of 26 years ago.
Iain Clark revisits the scene of his Baldwin St, Dunedin, roller-skating feat of 26 years ago.
The feat sounds like a tall story, but Iain Clark still vividly remembers the day he roller-skated his way to the top of Dunedin's Baldwin St, the world's steepest street.

That was 26 years ago, when Mr Clark was a 27-year-old Dunedin jeweller, and a keen roller skater.

Not long before the first annual Baldwin Street Gut Buster Race was staged, on February 9, 1988, he had decided he would try to roller-skate to the top that day, rather than running up the street.

The Otago Daily Times reported at the time that spectators were shaking their heads in disbelief as Mr Clark slowly worked his way upwards in his successful ''do or die attempt'' to set a world record. At the time, he told the ODT his biggest fear had been rolling uncontrollably backwards.

''There were a few hairy moments when I stumbled and thought I was going to go down,'' he said.

When he walked back up the street this week, under much less pressured circumstances, and in his slightly slippery leather shoes, the experience ''brought back memories''.

Asked what he would have done if he had lost his balance 25 years ago, he joked that he would have fallen forward on his hands, ''probably just done a face-plant'', rather than speeding off down the hill.

His roller-skating achievement - one of many quirky moments in Baldwin St's history - was commemorated this week with a metal plaque donated by Mr Clark, through the Dunedin City Council, and unveiled by him at an afternoon function.

Mr Clark (53) has become one of the pioneers of the South Island's lively steampunk movement, and has been living in Oamaru for the past 23 years.

However, he was glad to be back in Dunedin for the unveiling.

''I'm very happy. It's just my little bit of history.''

• Sophie Barker, business development adviser, visitor industry, at the DCC's economic development unit, said Baldwin St had become one of Dunedin's most popular tourist attractions, visited by more than 100,000 people each year.

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