I teach and play ice-skating for a living

Dennis Lumumba

Dennis Lumumba in Nairobi on February 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo

With Sh7,500 in his pocket, Dennis Lumumba began his sporting journey eight years ago. His dream was to excel in a sport he was good at – rollerblading. He would later learn ice skating, which has now become his full-time career. Lumumba, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Statistics from Kenyatta University, has also tried his hand at rugby. Here is his story.

How did it all start?

I started with rollerblading in 2015 before taking up ice skating about five years ago. A friend of mine, Humphrey Mudanyi, inspired me to take up rollerblading. I really did not think I would end up ice skating. When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. I was actually so smart in class, but as time passed by, the dream faded off. In high school, I did a little bit of hockey in Form One under Coach Kevin Lugalia. I also tried rugby and football and even sprinting.

When I joined the university, I asked myself what I really wanted to do, and slowly, it dawned on me that skating was it. I had bills to pay at the university, so I worked as a waiter and also did some accounting on the side. I managed to save Sh7,500, which I used to buy my first rollerblading shoes. I honed my skills at Sunken Park in Nairobi, located between Taifa Road and Aga Khan Walk.

What challenges come with rollerblading and skating?

For ice skating, it is very expensive. Equipment alone, say a full ice hockey gear, might cost close to Sh100,000. This means that many people might not afford it. When the blade wears off, even though it doesn’t wear off quickly, you need to get another whole skate. Another challenge is ice time. This is the time you spend on the rink. It has to be paid for before training. You have to pay Sh1,000 to Sh1,200 per hour just to practice. We also don’t have so many skating coaches. We would really appreciate it if we had a solid platform for coaches who are on payroll to be compensated for their time and skills to keep the sport alive.

For rollerblading, a single 80 millimetres wheel costs Sh400. Speed skaters require a bigger wheel which costs Sh500 to Sh600 or even goes up to Sh1, 000, depending on the quality. Also, skating is not really recognised as a sport in Kenya. It requires more support.

Dennis Lumumba

Dennis Lumumba in action on February 12, 2023 at Sunken Park, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo

What does your family think about your job?

My parents are okay with what I do, but they feel that this is not something I have studied for, and therefore is not my profession. They do not have much faith in my involvement in sport, and so I work hard at it to prove to them it is worth a shot. On that note, I’d call on parents to support their children if they take up sports because it is a worthwhile profession. I’m going to push this all the way until I fulfil my dreams of becoming a top skating coach and professional skater.

How long does it take one to become a skater?

It depends on an individual. Some people take a long time to learn how to skate because they are scared of falling. Normally, it can take you around 20 minutes to learn how to balance yourself and then how to walk, move on ice or rollerblades. Ice hockey is a contact sport which needs a lot of co-ordination, so it might take you longer, say two to three months of skating before enrolling for basic ice hockey lessons.

How has skating changed you?

It has built my self-discipline and confidence since I interact a lot with people, and has widened my network. I’m a skating coach, one of my income streams. I invest the income I make in myself by adding onto my skills. I have also invested in a portable skating school.

Are there any moments that stand out in the course of your career?

My lowest moment was when I was doing a commercial sometime back. I fell while perform a trick and could not continue with the shoot because I hurt my legs. However, bad moments teach us to be resilient and keep pushing. I play for the national ice hockey team, Kenya Ice Lions, and my best moment is every time we win or reclaim a trophy.

What message do you have for aspiring ice skaters in Kenya?

They can visit to Panari Hotel on Mombasa Road where there is a rink for ice skating and begin to practice. Ice skating is not as easy as it looks, it is a skill that you have to master over time. Besides getting a professional to teach you, you can go a step further and watch YouTube for tips.