It’s cold, involves sharp edges and falling over can hurt.
But gliding across a rink, say devotees, gives you a feeling of freedom little else can match.
It’s part of what keeps scores of skaters coming back to take their turn on the ice.
And with such a wide range of activities on offer, it’s little wonder the region’s only rink, Gosport’s Planet Ice, is always busy.
‘We’ve got figure skating, ice hockey and speed skating ,’ says rink manager Jill Grindrod.
‘There are also sessions for toddlers, roller discos and, of course, our Christmas shows.
‘We’ve also got synchronised skating teams that go to competitions up and down the country.’
The rink has just finished celebrating its silver anniversary, marking 25 years since it was opened in 1989.
Back then the country was still in awe of Olympic champion duo Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who helped give figure-skating an almost magical appeal in the national imagination.
Jill says she was among those who caught the ice-skating bug when she took it up 26 years ago.
‘I can remember watching Torvill and Dean when I was a child. I originally just went to watch a friend, and then I nagged my parents to let me have a go.
‘When I was between 14 and 16 I was skating five nights a week and then at 16 I got myself a part-time job in the rink.
‘It’s one of those places that’s in your blood.
‘It can have a big impact on people’s lives and it’s a good basis for making friends.
‘I suppose it was the social aspect that kept me coming back, as well as the fitness side of it.
‘I never really was a child that liked sport at school, so to find something I enjoyed was unusual.’
Young skaters are now taking advantage of a new ‘Skate Excellence’ course to get their start on the ice.
Courses go for six or 20 weeks and are designed to teach novices all they need to know to feel confident in skates.
‘It’s a completely new way of teaching,’ says Jill.
‘First you have to learn about the different edges on your boots, which are very important to all aspects of skating.
‘It gives a very good basis for moving on to other areas like speed skating, ice dancing or ice hockey.’
Hockey teams based at the rink include the Solent Devils, a National Ice Hockey League Division One team. The rink is open all year, although Jill says there is a dip in attendance over summer.
‘It’s just a question of where you would want to be,’ she says.
‘Some people would rather be at the beach, but I know I would rather be here.’
Jill says ITV’s show Dancing On Ice has helped.
‘If people can see something on the television, then they think: “I haven’t done that before, let’s give it a go’’.’
‘It does help when you’ve got something like that. And things like the Winter Olympics last year also give a big boost to the figures.’
Teaching others to skate
After spending time on the competition circuit herself, ice skater Eron Green has come back to pass on her skills to others.
The 36-year-old, who now lives in Southampton, first took to the ice as a child, and used to travel to Gosport four times a week to train.
Eron used to represent Gosport in ice skating events across the country.
She says her inspiration came from champion skaters such as Katarina Witt, who represented the former East Germany, and Russian Olympic gold medallist Evgeni Plushenko.
‘I got to meet him in Coventry in 2008,’ she reembers. ‘He did an exhibition and he was world champion at the time.’
Eron now coaches young skaters at the Gosport rink.
‘I mainly just want them to enjoy it. It keeps them active and keeps them healthy,’ she says.
Eron says children as young as five can get started on the ice, learning the basic techniques of ‘head up, arms up and posture,’ which can eventually lead on to more complex moves.
A passion for the ice
Since first strapping on a pair of ice skates seven years ago, Caine Jerone, of Bridgemary has learned a lot of impressive moves.
He can do spirals, loops and lunges, but says his favourite part about the sport is leaving the surface altogether.
‘My best thing is jumping,’ he says.
‘You get the thrill of being in the air.
‘You know that if you fall over its going to hurt, so you try your best not to.’
The 16-year-old Fareham College student has performed in figure-skating events in London, Basingstoke and Bracknell and has reached level seven of the 10-step National ice Skating Association programme.
That means his competition routines are an exhausting three-and-a-half minutes.
‘It can be hard to keep up with it for that long,’ he says. ‘It’s very high intensity.’
Caine says he practices four or five times a week, often starting at 6.30am and skating for two hours at a time.
‘You have to train hard,’ he says.
‘It’s one of those things where you have to constantly come to get better.
‘You have to wake up early because that’s the most quiet time and you can get the ice to yourself.’
Caine says the hardest move he can do is an axle, where you jump, ‘go around two-and-a-half times and land on one foot’.
He says he enjoys the social, as well as competitive, parts of ice skating.
‘I have a passion for being on the ice, and plus it’s a good place to socialise.’
At a glance
Where: Planet Ice, Forest Way, Gosport PO13 0ZX
Sessions: ‘Skate Excellence’ learn-to-skate courses last either six or 20 weeks and take place in the mornings and evenings. The next six-week speed skating course starts on April 23 at 5.30pm and costs £60.
Junior ice disco sessions are on Fridays from 4.30pm to 6.30pm and are recommended for children under 13. Following this are ‘sub-zero’ party nights for teenagers and adults which run until 10.30pm. Parent and toddler sessions take place several times a week and the rink has ‘penguins’ that the youngsters can push around to stay upright on the ice. The next family fun day at the rink will be on April 8. There are also birthday parties and a five-day skating course over Easter. Visit the website for more details.
Cost: Public skate sessions cost about £7, and skate hire is extra. Parent and toddler sessions cost less.
Co-ordination is everything
If you think staying upright on the ice looks difficult enough, just imagine trying to do it in time with a group of up to 20 others.
That’s the name of the game for Lara Stickler, 12, of Stubbington, and Sam Ellyatt, 11, of Whiteley, two members of the Gosport Shooting Stars synchronised ice-skating team.
‘We do synchronised moves to a piece of music,’ says Lara.
‘We’re only as strong as our weakest member.
‘It’s quite hard to get 16 people to do the same thing and it can easily go wrong.
‘You need a lot of co-ordination and commitment and you have to get up really early.’
Sam, the group’s only boy, says the team members practice their three-minute routines to a variety of music.
‘Our last programme was Hairspray,’ he says.
‘We do it on and off the ice.’
‘Sometimes there’s lots of blades all caught up in a block. It can be quite a challenge.
The Shooting Stars and a senior team, the Gosport Allstars, have performed across the country, which Lara says is one of the most enjoyable things about taking part.
She says: ‘We go away to Scotland and up to London and Sheffield and Nottingham.
‘It’s really fun, almost like a holiday.’
Both teams are coached by Claire Barker and Jenny Notley and all costumes are handmade.