By Bill Lascher
Skate backwards. That’s all Deborah Meyer-Morris wanted to do. She wanted to know how to ice skate ackwards.
Meyer-Morris set her sights in reverse on her 40th birthday. Seven years later, the self-employed civil litigator and insurance defense attorney from Ventura has skated right past that goal, having just aced the first in a series of amateur figure-skating tests that required leaps, spirals and, yes, skating backwards.
“When I started, my only goal was to go backwards,” Meyer-Morris said. “Then I thought ‘okay, well, now that I can go backwards maybe I can learn how to do a jump.’ Then it became two jumps, then three jumps, then four jumps.”
Two-and-a-half years ago, when her firm downsized, Meyer-Morris found herself without a job. For the first time since she picked up a newspaper route at 12 yearsold her time wasn’t consumed with work or school, or both (Meyer-Morris’s father died three days before she started college; beyond the tragedy, the loss of his income meant she had to find a job to pay for school). Though she still works part time from home, Meyer-Morris decided to take advantage of the extra time to hone her figure skating.
Meyer-Morris received the latest validation of this decision in November, when she passed her United States Figure Skating Association adult ice skating pre-bronze review, the first level in a four-tier USFSA ranking system. To qualify, Meyer-Morris needed to skate in specific patterns demonstrating the ability to spiral on alternating legs, turn, and display a series of edging and stroking techniques, and loop between forward and backwards movements. She has also passed seven levels of the less competitive Ice Skating Institute, or ISI, and she plans to keep moving up through the USFSA until she reaches its highest rank: gold.
“I’m going to be doing this until I’m 65,” she said.
Now Meyer-Morris skates three to four times a week, usually during a mid-day skate session reserved for adult skaters at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Ice Center, which also has the bad economy to thank for remaining open despite long-stalled development plans of its Wagon Wheel home. Though she grew up watching figure skating, Meyer-Morris had only skated twice in her life before she turned 40. Then she took one of her daughters skating (the girls are now 13 and 16 years old and, according to Meyer-Morris, skate better than she does). Meyer-Morris decided she wanted to learn to skate herself.
“I thought, ‘if I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it’,” she said. “It’s all about taking risks. Don’t think you’re going to look silly. It’s all about you and finding something that lights a fire in you.”
Skating is more than a hobby, Meyer-Morris says. Progressing in the sport requires a great deal of mental and physical energy. Skaters who compete have to train and condition themselves. She compares the sport to golf.
“It’s you against the ice,” she says. “It’s a rare day when everything converges and you get complete satisfaction. You’re constantly working on stuff.”
Though at one point a rotator cuff injury prevented her from skating for months, she feels much better than she ever did in two decades sitting at a desk.
“I’m in much better physical shape than I have been since I went to college,” she said. “It’s fabulous.”
Meyer-Morris typically solos, but she has also performed duets with other female skaters. At one ISI event, she and Santa Barbara lawyer Cathy Anderson performed a duet of “Razzle Dazzle,” from the musical Chicago.
“It was a totally tongue in-cheek version,” she said. “We dressed up as two slimy attorneys.”
Meyer-Morris will exhibit her ice-skating skills at a Dec. 9-11 show to benefit the Ventura County Children’s Services Auxiliary. The 10th-annual benefit takes place at the Channel Islands Ice Center in Oxnard. More information is available at https://channelislandsfsc.org/index.html.
Bill Lascher is a freelance journalist and writer raised by a pack of lawyers whose work appears in High Country News, Portland Monthly, Bear Deluxe Magazine and lascheratlarge.com. He currently lives in Portland, Ore.