Locals gather on Pacific Beach Boardwalk to honor rollerblading legend ‘Slomo’
Celebration was held to honor Dr. John Kitchin on his 80th birthday
If you were on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk the afternoon of Saturday, April 8, you may have seen a large group of people wearing blue shirts, bucket hats and khaki shorts.
The group, dressed to resemble PB’s very own celebrity, Dr. John Kitchin (aka “Slomo”), to show appreciation for Kitchin’s presence on the boardwalk for the past 24 years and to celebrate his 80th birthday.
Celebrants arrived on wheeled transport; some on Kitchin’s preferred rollerblades, others on roller skates, skateboards, bicycles and even “free skates.” Many others who passed by seemed to want to join in the celebration of what had been deemed “Slomo Day.”
Kitchin’s rise to fame began when he left his full-time job as a neurologist and began rollerblading the PB Boardwalk every day. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, he has appeared in local advertisements, on billboards and he’s been the subject of a New York Times documentary.
When the boardwalk was closed as part of the COVID-19 lockdowns, over 1,400 people signed a Change.org petition to reopen the boardwalk just for “Slomo” to rollerblade.
Many know him simply as the man who (slowly) rollerblades the PB boardwalk every day, but he led a much different lifestyle prior to moving to PB, all of which can be learned about by watching the New York Times documentary “Slomo: The Man Who Skated Right Off the Grid.”
Over his 24 years of rollerblading the boardwalk daily, Kitchin estimates that he has owned about 20 pairs of rollerblades. The only thing that can stop his daily blading is rain.
“Even if I get sick, I will still go, it seems to help it,” Kitchin said. “Other than that, I skate every day.”
In the documentary, Kitchin likened rollerblading the PB Boardwalk to a meditative state, or a state of divinity. In this interview, he added, “This is something that you can’t get everywhere.”
When asked how the boardwalk has changed over the past five to 10 years, Kitchin said, “There’s been a trend that everybody is getting more peaceful, nobody seems to be angry. I haven’t seen any of this bologna about the division of different groups.”
Kitchin explained that for him, the idea behind the nickname “Slomo” is that “people on the beach have insight that life is short. Since it’s short, it would behoove all of us to smell the roses and realize that what is worth something is your own subject of existence as a person. We might not come this way again.”
When he’s not skating, Kitchin said he spends “a fair amount of time with my son who is in his 30s.” He also cooks and reads.
“I just finished ‘Moby Dick’,” he said with a smile shortly after his birthday celebration.
Kitchin said he’s been “spending less and less time doing anything real constructive. My justification is, at my age, as age goes on, if you’re not gonna be here much longer, just being a human is something you’ve got to appreciate.”
It’s clear that his message resonates with the Pacific Beach community.
“If you run into Slomo, it’s always a good day,” said Jack (last name not given), who attended Slomo’s 80th birthday on freeskates, small platforms on wheels in which the rider steps on top and is not strapped in. “He’s super inviting to anyone on wheels,” he added.
Zack Goodin, a self-proclaimed “bike guy” or the “wall basher” because of the bike tricks he does that involve skidding stops and bouncing his bike tires off of walls, said he always has good chats with Kitchin and he “learned how to do a bike trick just for him.”
“I always tell him, ‘Hey Slomo, you gotta slow down!’” said Glenn Gentile, a Slomo Day attendee on rollerblades.
Cricket (last name not given), is a doctor who likes to roller skate. She said she likes to talk to him about neurobiology, since decades earlier he had a full practice as a neurologist and psychologist.
Slomo Day began like a game of “Where’s Waldo” on April 8, with everyone dressed alike and the real “Slomo” nowhere to be found. The initial group of about 20 people or so, tried to go to his house, but eventually got notice that he was en route to the boardwalk from Hornblend Street. They rode off on their respective wheels to excited calls of “the Slomo is coming!”
At 1:15 p.m., Kitchin arrived at the boardwalk and the eagerly awaiting group parted for him, chanting “Slomo” as he skated through. He was dressed in his traditional blue shirt, khaki shorts and bucket hat. As he slowly rollerbladed by, he had one leg lifted, kept his eyes on the road and smiled while flashing a peace sign.
“It’s hard to express the feeling when you yourself are the recipient of so much love and affection,” Kitchin said. “I can’t put words to it really because I haven’t had time to think about what it means,” when commenting about all of those who came out to celebrate and support him.
He added that one of the best parts of his day was when he was coming down the boardwalk near Emerald Street and saw a big group of people on old-school cruiser bikes “and they all started cheering for me like crazy, it’s like a dream.”
Slomo Day ended with a festive barbecue and live music on the boardwalk, just south of Pacific Beach Drive.
Kitchin rollerblades the boardwalk every day in the afternoon, so keep an eye out and listen for the excited shouts of “Slomo!” Soon enough, you will see him slowly rolling by in his signature pose, with one leg off the ground, arms outstretched on either side, a smile on his face, and you’ll know that it’s going to be a good day.