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Ice Skating Inventor Nick Perna


Nick Perna - Skating Inventor

Nick Perna - Skating Inventor

Photo Courtesy The PIC® Skate Company

Nick Perna - Skating Inventor:

Nick Perna is an ice skating inventor. His inventions include "The 8-Mate," the PIC® Frame Skate, and the "Freedom Blade." He did not invent the pole jump harness, but has used the pole harness so often, that almost everyone in the skating industry thinks that he invented it.

Nick Perna - Figure Skater and Skating Coach:

Nick is also an accomplished ice skater. Nick skated pairs with his sister, Penny, in the 1970's. They passed their Gold Pair Test and were the 1980 Eastern Great Lakes Senior Pair Champions.

Nick has actively coached figure skating for over twenty-five years.

He writes,

    "I love every minute of it!"

Nick Perna - Mastered Rated Skating Coach:

Nick has taught skating at two rinks operated by the Weisiger family: Lakeforest Ice Arena in Maryland, and then Fairfax Ice Arena in Fairfax, Virginia.

He is a PSA Master Rated coach in both freestyle and pairs. His students have competed at the National and International levels for many years.

Nick has been a presenter at several Professional Skaters Association (PSA) Conferences, an examiner for PSA rating exams, and a guest coach for Team USA training camps.

He is currently conducting skating seminars around the country with Audrey Weisiger's "Grassroots to Champions."


Nick's wife, Michelle Miller Perna, is also a skating coach. He has two daughters, Brittany and Brooke. Both of Nick's children figure skate at a high freestyle level and have passed their Gold tests in moves-in-the-field.

Nick's First Invention - "The 8-Mate":

Back in the days of "patch," there was a device that figure skaters used to draw circles on the ice when they practiced figures. This device was called a scribe. The scribe cut grooves into the ice and was a bit like a gigantic compass. Nick Perna saw that skaters kept drawing deeper grooves into the ice with the scribe as they practiced, so he got the idea of attaching a black marker to the tip of the scribe, thus creating "The 8-Mate." Now that figures are not practiced by figure skaters, this invention has been forgotten, but it once was used by most figure skaters all over the world.

Nick's Next Invention - "The PIC® Frame":

Nick experimented with different methods of attaching a toe-stop to the front of a regular pair of inline skates. Once he had a working model, he skated on it on all different types of surfaces and had many of his students test it out as well.

Then he received a phone call from a man named John Petell. He was manufacturing a large, rubber toe-stop for the front of an inline skate called the "Pic-Stop" and he wanted to know if he would help "test" his product for him. Shortly after that, John and Nick decided to develop the "PIC® Frame" inline figure skate and they applied for a joint patent on it.

The "Freedom Blade" :

Nick found that he could do some amazing and fun maneuvers on Rollerblades and PIC® Skates that couldn't be done on traditional figure skate blades. Most of these moves consisted of skating on the back wheels or the "heels" of the skates, a feat that cannot be done on regular figure skates. He wanted to be able to perform the same tricks on ice skates, so he started designing a blade that would have a rounded, or turned-up heel portion at the back end of it. After several designs that did not work out very well, he made a version that actually allowed the ice skater to "skate" on the heels of their blades.

Nick Perna's Fantasy Dream for the Skating Industry:

From the time the PIC® Skate was first invented, it has been a dream of Nick's to see a world class Synchronized Skating Team perform their routine in a national or international televised spectacular like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or the New Year's Day Rose Parade.

Nick writes:

    Imagine, if you will, twenty beautiful, skilled skaters gliding (that's right, gliding...not walking or dancing or marching) in perfect harmony, wearing the wonderfully matching costumes of an Ice Capades kick-line, and they are all performing spins, jumps, spirals, spread eagles, choctaws, mohawks, rockers and counters...

Nick Perna - A Man Who Has Given Figure Skating a Tremendous Boost:

The Story of Nick Perna and the Pole Harness:

Nick writes:

    I did NOT invent the "pole harness." That, in itself, is an interesting story.

    I used to teach axels to little kids by using their sweatshirts as a sort of "harness". I would pull the back of the shirt above their head and use it to, essentially, "lift them up by the scruff of the neck". This allowed them to complete the rotation for an axel easily and with less chance of injury. They also found it quite fun!

    After doing this for some time, I got the idea to design and make a "hand-held" harness that looked like an adjustable vest, attached to a cable, that swiveled around on the end of a suitcase handle!

    Now, (here comes the incredible part)...I had just started to construct a prototype of this "hand-held harness" in my basement workshop when I took a break and went upstairs to get the mail and eat lunch. When I opened up the mailbox there was an issue of Skating magazine. I started to flip through the magazine and there, right in front of me, was an advertisement for a HAND-HELD HARNESS!!!!!

    I stood there in total amazement...it had already been invented!

    The inventor was a Canadian, male coach by the name of Jan Glerup. I immediately thought, "Well, I might as well just go ahead and buy one of these!"

    I purchased one right away, and used it in the rink on many different "guinea pigs."

    It took quite some time to figure out how to track the skater correctly and to time the jumps properly, but it most certainly DID WORK and the students benefited from it greatly!

    I have been using the pole harness now for over fifteen years(!) and have worked with the inventor on many cosmetic changes, safety modifications and specialized handling issues to improve the use of this teaching tool.

    I have had the privilege of coaching many of the top skaters in the world while they were on the pole harness including Sasha Cohen, (she even included me in her book!) Sarah Hughes, Emily Hughes, Michael Weiss (he was one of the first "guinea pigs"!) Johnny Weir, Elena and Anton (the first to do throw quad salchows and throw quad loops on the pole!), Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman and many, many others!

    All in all, it has been a wonderful invention that has contributed greatly to the progression of figure skating around the world.

    In fact, I have been using the pole harness so often, for so long, that almost everyone in the skating industry thinks that I AM THE INVENTOR OF IT!

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