But it was moving to San Francisco that really set him on the path to becoming a roller-skating devotee. Miles arrived in the late ’70s, when skating had exploded all over the city, especially in Golden Gate Park. According to the park’s own estimates, in the summer of 1979, anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 skaters would show up to cruise along JFK Drive on Sundays. Miles quickly became part of the scene.
The boom in skating also caused contention with city residents, who pushed for a total ban on skating in San Francisco. Miles joined the Golden Gate Park Skate Patrol, a skating ambassador group formed to keep skaters in the park safe and in designated areas. They skated all the way from San Francisco to Sacramento to make their case to the state of California that cities should be allowed to regulate, but not outright ban, roller-skating. They won.
By the late ’80s, Miles was making a living exclusively with skate lessons and events. In 2000, he attended Burning Man for the first time — it would become a regular occurrence for him. He’s part of the camp that builds the Black Rock Roller Disco, which they run 24 hours a day the whole week of Burning Man. There is clearly Burning Man influence in Miles’ skating outfits, too, and in the space that would become the Church of 8 Wheels.
David Miles skates back to his DJ booth at the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco on Sept. 20, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
From church to roller disco
The building that now houses the roller rink, at 554 Fillmore Street, is part of what was formerly the Sacred Heart Catholic Church complex, consisting of the church, the rectory, the convent and a school. The church was designed by architect Thomas John Welsh, who designed many other Catholic churches and schools in the Bay Area. Built in 1897, it survived the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church, on the corner of Fell and Fillmore streets in San Francisco, 1939. (Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library)
In 2004, the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced the church would be closed, due to the high cost of seismic repairs. The property was sold to a private buyer. The building has since been designated a historic landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.