Thank gods it’s Friday. Right now I’ve got Post-Slam Flu, a credit card with third degree friction burns and a pile of washing that smells like cigarette smoke and arse. It’s three days since I left Adelaide, the city of churches and massage parlours. It is also home to the Great Southern Slam, the largest Roller Derby tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. This was Slam the third and my second trip to attend what is undisputedly the biggest event in the Australian Roller Derby calendar.
Two years ago the number of teams attending had doubled from the first one bringing it to a total of thirty. This year that number had increased to forty five teams divided into two divisions which equates to over one thousand skaters getting their Slam on in 2014. Now, maths isn’t my first language but I can recognise a logistics nightmare on paper when I see it. And I won’t lie to you - many of us, myself included were making the Marge Simpson worried noise in the weeks leading up to the iconic tournament. Have the Adelaidies bitten off more than they can chew? Is there such a thing as too much Derby? I was to find out at the wicked long weekend in June.
DAY ONE: First Aid, Food Trucks and the Merch Village Ghost Town.
The first day at the
Slam is always one of over sensory stimulation.
Do I watch a bout? Do I look at merch? Where did you get those chips
from? Should I get new wheels? As it turns out, I did manage to sit still
long enough to catch VRDL’s first bout of the tournament against United
Brisbane on track one. This was Derby in
all directions. Three hundred and sixty
degrees of blocking that was a pleasure to behold. Of particular note was Perky Nah Nah, whose
arse was like a rotisserie chicken – turning to adapt to every juke the Jammer
Unfortunately, early in the first half we also saw Tui Lyon
go down with a leg injury. Refs and
skaters took a knee and we waited for First Aid. It was only after several minutes had
elapsed and one of the announcers said “Can we get some First Aid here?” that a stretcher and two attendants finally
appeared and helped Tui off the track.
This was not before the concerned crowd, who were mostly skaters themselves
had begun to wonder exactly how many First Aid crews were attending the event.
VRDL had a clean win and I disappeared into the vendor stalls to get down to the job of replacing a good half of my worn out protective gear. I did what my OCD brain thought was logical; find what I want and compare prices with the other vendors. This is a good idea if the gear you need doesn’t sell out one hour into trade. Luckily for me, Sydney Derby Skates hadn’t unloaded all their stock from the truck yet and hauled ass back to retrieve the sizes I needed.
After sorting out my
essentials, I wandered down to the other end of the pavilion to the merch village. Two years ago the merch village
had all thirty something leagues set up and trading for the whole three
days. Our fresh little league did a
roaring trade and enjoyed chatting to the other more established leagues around
us. It was a fantastic environment for
networking. However, this year for
reasons unknown it had been decided that leagues could only set up a merch
stand on the day they were bouting. This
did not work for two reasons. Firstly the
many leagues who didn’t get into the finals only got one day of trade. Our merch team (and many others) drove a
great many miles to Adelaide with a car full of merch only to sell a third of
what we did two years ago. Secondly with
only 10 odd tables going at any given time – what was once a bustling merchtropolis
became a ghost town. Each league’s
vendors looked bored and there was little traffic any time I passed. I believe there would have been enough room
for each league to have a small merch table running every day.
Now can we talk about the Food Trucks? Plural! We had Indian, Cambodian, Argentinian and a ChurrOz serving coffee, churros and Spanish hot chocolate. Although the hot chocolate ran out on day two before I got a chance to try it. The prices were unfortunately as my teammate Jamazon described “from the future”. It should also be noted that perhaps Indian wasn’t the best choice for a Derby tournament as I recall a few of my teammates commenting that the indoor toilets smelt like “curry and nervous poo”. All in all though, the variety was very welcome and a vast improvement on the last Slam.
DAY TWO: Happy Tears, the London Bridge and the Spirit of Roller Derby.
Day two was wheels down for Division two which meant it was rock
n roll for my team the Witches of EastVic.
In 2012 the Witches debuted in the match up section. So it was exciting
to be skating in the tournament proper this time round. This Slam we had Bunbury and Tweed Valley
with about an hour between them. And just like two years ago, we won our first
and lost our second.
But that first win was truly glorious. Personally, I had not skated on a winning side for close to a year and I’d honestly forgotten what it felt like to win. I was so happy I started crying with a big stupid grin on my face. Last Slam I cried because I was disappointed with myself. This time I cried because two months of mental and physical training had paid off.
After our two bouts we wandered over to track three to catch the Chiko Rollers take on Inner West from Sydney. If there is one thing I noticed that was different in this Slam from two years ago it is the support that the Victorian leagues gave each other. We wanted our sisters from Dragon City to win as much as they did. And the crowd showed it by chanting, clapping and comically booing when skaters went to the bin. In fact the crowd made so much noise that spectators from other tracks started to filter in and see what the fuss was about. The game stayed practically tied for the entire two halves and came down to the last jam in which the Chikos squeaked a three point win. Everyone flooded onto the track and created something I’d never seen done before - a double sided guard of honour called the “London Bridge”. Both teams then skated through to collect high fives in one of the most fantastic moments I’ve ever experienced as a spectator. If this isn’t the Spirit of Roller Derby, then I don’t know what is.
So with no voice left and bruising coming out, we dragged ourselves back to the South Terrace apartments for well-earned showers. After spending the entire day in a sports bra, I decided I couldn’t coax my boobage back into another one. Fortunately my teammates had also decided it was a “can’t be arsed getting dressed properly to go out” kind of night too. So we went one block up the street to Fasta Pasta, freeboobing in hoodies and pyjama bottoms.
Day three. The fanny packs are multiplying. If you haven’t worked it out from previous RAhticles, I am an enthusiastic wearer of the bum bag at Derby events. Before the Slam I managed to acquire a rainbow zippered three tiered Tokidoki knock off, thanks to my sister in fashion crime Jiraporn Star. Not only did it keep all my valuables right in front of me, it also came in handy for Derby hump and pump shenanigans later in the evening.
Finals day also had something unique to this year’s Slam. The Evacuation. At the Division Two grand final’s half time, a fire alarm went off causing the entire pavilion to be evacuated. I felt sorry for the poor Adelaidies who had to herd a thousand plus feral Derby skaters out the door and get them all the way to the designated emergency area. This wasn’t helped by Quadzilla and his buddies who took it upon themselves to entertain the crowd half way but had to be moved on and started again once the masses had reached the Ferris wheel.
We were eventually allowed
back inside much to the relief of South Side and Reef City who were half way
through their bout. Reef City who I
confess I had never heard of until this weekend took out the first ever Div 2
Division one’s grand final saw VRDL face off against their arch rivals Sun State again. This was a tight game which remained in either team’s reach for both halves. Although VRDL did manage to win again for a total of three consecutive Slams, it is the closest I have ever seen them come to losing. Sun State should absolutely consider themselves on par with this behemoth of a league. The grand final also featured a topless streaker who ran the entire length of the bleachers with tits and arms flying much to the delight of the majority of the crowd.
After the last four whistles of the tournament, we were ushered into the ajoining room for a Hawaiian themed after party of fantastical proportions. Party goers were greeted at the door with a lei and a raffle ticket and the food trucks had been moved inside to feed the hungry crowd. Aside from the epic lines for booze, the space was more than enough to house the event which was a huge improvement from the small pub that we squeezed into last Slam. Costumes ranged from the $2 shop grass skirts to human pineapples, palm trees and volcanoes. If I could give an award for best costume it would have gone to Cam Pain of Diamond Valley who came in her own handmade cardboard canoe.
So RAdelaidies you did it again. Seventy five bouts on five tracks over three days. All without any major issues. Congratulations on another successful and very enjoyable Slam, I tip my beanie to you and look forward to coming back in two years to do it all again.
The Great Southern Slam is on again in under a month and as it’s now my second Slam and fourth interstate trip, I thought I’d offer some packing advice to travel team virgins and the chronically unprepared. So, here’s ten things that will be in my suitcase.
It’s really damn cold in Adelaide. Good quality uggs will give you many winters of toasty legg-ed bliss. Also great for when your team mates are staying in adjacent rooms and you want to go and see who got the ‘good’ bed without having to lace up sneakers. I know, I’m lazy. I’m also comfortable and warm.
Here’s the scenario; you’re sharing a room which equals two phones and only one power point. A double adaptor solves the problem and if you put the chargers on your suitcase while they charge, you can also avoid leaving them behind when you go.
The ultimate OCD travel accessory. The packing cube is basically just a zippered compartment that has a mesh top so you can see what’s in it. They make packing and repacking small stuff a breeze. So great for when you want something at the bottom of your case and all you have to do is fling a couple of these babies out.
You’re a Derby girl. If you haven’t heard about the virtues of a bum bag at tournaments or conventions, then you’re behind the 8-ball. Keep your valuables on you and get to your dollars or your phone quickly. Also fabulous at after parties for hands-free shenanigans.
It’s really damn cold in Adelaide. A coat is great but two hoodies worn together gives roughly the same warmth as one bulky, hard to carry coat. And if you need to take one off, it’s much easier to roll it up and stuff it in your bag. Alternatively, take your league hoodie and buy another league’s hoodie while you’re there.
I know, I know it’s pretend food, but when you arrive at the hotel and you’re waiting for your team mates to arrive so you can go grocery shopping together, they’re the perfect snack. All you need is the kettle. They’re light because they’re dehydrated so they’ll add hardly any weight to your case. Then you can go get real food later.
These are great for a boost before a bout and they don’t require refrigeration to travel. They aren’t obviously anywhere near as light as 2min noodles – but once you’ve drunk them, you won’t be taking them home in your luggage so more room for souveniers.
Did I mention it’s cold in Adelaide? Ok so the whole ‘you lose 40-45% of your body heat through your head’ story has been busted by scientists. My Sherpa beanie with ear flaps was so toasty last TGSS. Get a wool one – it’s warmer than acrylic and if your allergic to wool like I am, make sure it’s got a polar fleece lining. You won’t regret it.
For some reason when I travel with my team, I eat like an arseclown. Last year we went to Tasmania and I ate a tin of beans, a sticky date pudding and a cider in one sitting. And then my stomach went ‘You know what RAh? I hate you’. So if you’re a bit of a gastro-stupido like me, pack some antacid tablets.
paint. It’s all fun and games until the
bout is over, you’re exhausted and sweaty and you need to ‘GET THAT SHIT OFF
NOW’. Make-up wipes (provided you’re
using water based face paint) will take off pretty much all your slap superfast
and get you to the after party smelling
like a cucumber. Get on it.
Last week on Roller Derby AU Kitty Decapitate gave us a great article on the 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sportspeople. In it she mentioned two kinds of perfectionism; adaptive and maladaptive. As an athlete who deals with depression, I unsurprisingly resonated with the maladaptive category. But I’ve also been bouting for nearly two years which means I’ve found ways to deal with this state of mind. So for those of you who find yourself in the same dark place, here are some ideas to help you function and progress in our kick ass sport.
If the reason you’re considering not going to training is depression based then you need to go to training. I repeat YOU NEED TO GO TO TRAINING. Derby is exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. You have to be there if you want to get better. You will always feel better for going.
2. Just keep skating, just keep skating . . . . .
I jammed in a scrim against the VRDL once and was beaten around like a rag doll for the entire two minutes without making an initial pass. Half way through I was exhausted and humiliated and wanted to leave the track very badly. Instead I kept skating until the four whistles, left the track and lost my shit in the corner. In hindsight, those two minutes weren’t about scoring points; they were about finishing the jam. And that one jam’s outcome gave me a personal standard that I adhere to, which makes me a better skater.
3. One roundabout at a time.
Multi-tasking pretty much goes out the window with depression. In the suburb where I live there is a crazy set of roundabouts called the five ways. If you look at it as whole it does your head in, but if you take one roundabout at a time it’s actually very manageable. Don’t look at all the things you can’t do at once, look at one thing and work on it till you have it. Then move on to the next.
4. Make the mistake.
Everybody fears failure to some extent. Maladaptive perfectionists let this fear prevent them from learning and getting better. You won’t do that new thing perfectly the first time. You won’t do it perfectly the second time. But if you are aiming for ‘super perfect’, you need to screw it up before you get it right.
5. You are not alone.
Contrary to the arsehats talking in your head, you are not the only skater who suffers from depression. I coach at my league and recognise the glazed eyes and tight lipped expression that comes from a mental battle going on inside. I’ve seen it in scrimmages, bouts and star tests.
6. Let someone else know.
If the demons have settled in for the night – tell your Derby wife/sister. Also if you’re scrimmaging you should also tell your bench coach. I know the more people that try to help me with positive comments, the less I am inclined to believe them. At the very least, let them know what doesn’t help you.
7. Get more sleep.
Exhaustion is bad for your body and your mind. It makes your fuse shorter, your reaction time slower and can make you clumsy and dangerous on the track. Get into a proper sleep regime and start by going to bed a half an hour earlier each night. Aim over the course of a few weeks to get an extra hour of sleep. You will see a difference.
8. Don’t skate on an empty stomach.
You wouldn’t run a racing car without fuelling it first so treat your body the same. The truth is we’re all juggling various combos of jobs, partners, children, dogs, chickens, whatever. Make the time to eat before you put the skates on. Except a McFlurry. Don’t eat a McFlurry before your first scrimmage. It’s bad. Trust me.
9. Thank your Lucky Stars.
So you skated like crap tonight. While you’re in the shower discovering bruises, count off ten things that could have been worse than one bad scrimmage. They can be ridiculous things that might have almost no chance of ever happening; the point is to make the comparison. Alternatively watch an episode of RPA or Amazing Medical Stories and get some serious perspective. This works for me. Every. damn. time.
10. Switch off, move on.
Not all of your scrims are going to be amaze balls. But they’re also not all going to be batshit awful either. After you have thanked your lucky stars, go and do something non-derby related and then get a good night’s sleep. Rinse and Repeat.
I’m not an athlete, I’m an active geek.
This is the line I have peddled for the last three years since discovering Roller Derby. But I’m not sure I can peddle it any longer. In 2012, I upped my training to three nights a week – one of which now includes an off-skate fitness session. I use an electrolyte powder in my water bottle and on nights when I have to go straight from work to training, I drink a protein supplement. I own sneakers and compression pants. My thighs have muscle tone and I seem to have developed an arse. A proper arse, you know, one that actually holds my work pants up without a belt.
Recently I bought dumbbells. A task only slightly less embarrassing to me than buying sanitary products for the first time. Whenever I stand near fitness equipment in a sports store, I am waiting for a sales assistant to tap me on the shoulder and say ‘excuse me, JB HiFi is next door’. I always feel like a total fraud. After being asked by no less than three staff members if I needed help, I picked up two 4.5kg dumbbells and made a beeline for the checkout. Even when I got out to my car, the guy parked next to me stared at me like I’d just loaded a nine kilo dragon into my hatchback. You know, one of those ‘they look far too heavy for you’ kind of looks.
Earlier last year, when I found myself standing in the sports food section of the supermarket, I was confronted with images of rabid pitbulls and hideously lumpy, oompa loompa coloured men plastered on the sides of tubs bigger than my head. Even though I knew that these monsters were a result of a million hours in the gym and shitload of testosterone, it still took some convincing from league members before I tried anything.
The thing I’ve realised with Derby is if you want something bad enough, you will actually do the things required to get it. I didn’t want to go to the sports shop. But I do want to be able to give a big mean whip, so off to the sports shop it is. And from someone who hated sport well into her twenties, that’s an amazing thing. I know I’ve got a lot further to go. I still come off the track from jamming, like an asthmatic imp about to hurl into her helmet. The road to great Derby is more than being active, it’s being athletic. It will make me a better player on the track and it’s worth it.
Roll-play; The allure of costume and the function of alter-ego in Roller Derby.
Megamind: You’re a villain all right, just not a super one.
Titan: Oh yeah? What’s the difference?
It’s half time at the Melbourne Showgrounds on a Saturday night. As we stand up to stretch our legs in the suicide seats, a soundtrack starts up; it’s Kiss – I was made for loving you. A dozen people materialise on the flat track wearing fluoro g-tards, legwarmers and mullet wigs. And in Lycra that has been living at Savers since the 1980’s, they thrust, pump and play leg guitar to the crowd. They’re not all quite in synch. There are muffin tops. It’s so bad, it’s good. Actually, it’s perfect.
They are the Real Hot Bitches and their deliberately amateur performance
made me laugh – a lot. And then they
made me think about one of the things that attracted me to Roller Derby in the
first place. As a geek girl who grew up
loving super heroes, the idea of getting my own costume, stage name and roller
skates was understandably irresistible
the stage name has become a hot topic. Aside from the genuine need to prevent
poor taste names slipping into the Derbyverse, why should alter-egos be
eliminated? The phenomenal growth of Roller Derby can be attributed to its
ability to attract women who would normally never play sport. Women who have
consciously avoided anything that even resembles sport for their entire adult
lives. It did not achieve this by looking or behaving like a regular
sport. If it had, I would not be writing
this, I’d still be in my room reading comics.
The Derby name is more than a cheeky nom de plume; it’s a title that has to be earned. Every roller girl who gets to bouting level has worked her arse off to have that name printed in big letters on the back of her boutfit. My derby name is pretty silly. But it’s silly for a reason. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously. At the end of the day, I’m not saving the world but I am saving myself and possibly inspiring other women to do the same.
The Sun State
Roller Girls, who are the number two league in Australia skate with just their
numbers on their backs in a stoic display of professional athleticism. But they all have stage names and every time I’ve
seen them, I hear people say ‘who’s that jamming?’ ‘Where are their
names?’ No one would think any less of
them if they had their names on their backs.
Their professionalism is shown in their skating. They could skate out in bumble bee onesies and
still smash practically every league in Australia. So, why so serious Sun State?
The ‘Boutfit’ too has started to look very subdued, morphing from an eccentric mash-up in appropriate team colours to something that is now starting to look suspiciously like a netball uniform. But every super hero has a costume and that costume serves a function. The fishnets, war paint and short shorts transform women into warriors. Derby girls love to wear it and the crowd loves to see them wear it.
The difference between Derby and other sports is presentation. Roller Derby is Rock ‘n Roll. If you don’t feel like a rock star (or a super villain) when you skate out on bout night – you’re doing it wrong.
Rollercon. It’s the Mecca of the Derby world. Holy Roller Land. Where all good roller girls go to get Derbyfied. It’s usually in Vegas, on the other side of the damn world. But this year it was also in Australia for the first time. Three days of bouts, bruises and bum bags. Let the games begin!
Welcome to Fabulous Caloundra.
I landed on the Sunshine Coast with my league sisters on Thursday afternoon and checked into Sails Resort. It was a short 10min walk down the road to the Indoor stadium that was to be our home for the next 3 days. Sign up involved queuing to get your ID checked, signing your life away and receiving a pass and a bag of Crazy branded freebies. Obvious advertising aside, the orange wheel weenie that holds a full deck of eight was uber useful and I put my outdoor wheels into it straight away. Strangely though, almost all the Rollercon merch was leftover Vegas stock. Considering there were 600 skaters coming to this event, I am baffled as to why Australian merchandise was not produced. The only merch created specifically for Down Under was a tee shirt/singlet. These sold out by lunchtime on day one when I haphazardly managed to buy the last singlet. I can imagine how many disappointed skaters missed out. Not to mention the fact that they were offering a grand total of nine Vegas branded fanny packs (yes, I know -bum bags Aussies) of which I also scored the last one thanks to a fast thinking league sister.
After sign up, we all went back to the apartments via Woollies to stock up on essentials and by the looks of it so did everyone else. The rest of the afternoon saw North street host to a constant stream of roller girls heaving lurid Crazy bags overstuffed with bottled water, Gatorade and beer back to their hotels.
DAY ONE: Tickets Please?
The sun comes up at arse o’clock in Queensland and then it obnoxiously reflects off the ocean front view that you thought would be a great thing to have. I swear I needed sunglasses to walk into the kitchen at 6am. Day one began, not surprisingly with an enormous line out the front of the building as skaters waited to rush in and snap up tickets for the first classes of the day. Rollercon’s classes are organised with a rather frustrating ticket system. Skaters line up for a ticket up to two hours prior to the class. Once you have a ticket, you can wander off and look at other things and come back for the class. Which is fine but quite often tickets would become available for a class you wanted while you were in another class, bout or seminar. As I discovered when I hauled arse from my first bout, only to find out that the tickets for Quadzilla’s Jam skate class had been handed out while I was bouting. What does help, is to have already studied the schedule and made your own personal itinerary. Being the anal list maker that I am, I had also tried to write down an alternative class for each time slot so that if I missed out, I knew which track to go to for my second choice.
Anyway, ticket grumbles aside I did manage to do two classes, a seminar and a bout on the first day. Demanda Riot’s War Paint 101 was amazing. The highlight was undoubtedly getting to watch her put her infamous black and white paint on, which included teeth blackout. And the wonderfully honest story of how she unsuccessfully tried out with Rat City in full war paint before she was later embraced by Bay Area. We were then encouraged to paint ourselves up and I threw on my Princess Mononoke war paint and sadly had to leave 15mins early to make my bout.
DAY TWO: Hitting the wall
Having missed out on my first class the day before, I got up extra early to front the line. While queuing with the early birds I met Sia Hurler of Murder City Roller Girls. She was sporting a very impressive gravel rash/bruise that she got scrimmaging outside with Demanda Riot on day one. I suggested that she draw a trophy circle around it (something my league sister Crystal Diva did to her black eye at TGSS). So I found myself drawing on a stranger’s arse which I believe falls into the ‘only at Rollercon’ category.
By lunchtime I think my body had calculated how many hours of Derby
and how many hours of sleep I’d had and decided to call my accountant. Although I was sorely tempted to go back to
Sails for a nanna nap, I muddled on through the afternoon determined to get a
ticket to It’s Tricky; Jumps, spins and whips by Dirty Deborah Harry. My Derby sisters had given me the tip off at
the BBQ the night before; ‘get to a class by Dirty Deb – she’s awesome’. What
they didn’t tell me was that she was also a comedian. Seriously.
Deb introduced herself and did about ten minutes of observational comedy
which included a call back joke. It was
funny but I did wonder how on earth she was going to get through all her
What I failed to realise was that we were dealing with a consummate professional. She got through the class; taught the techniques precisely and used laymen’s terms such as describing weight transference under your big or little toe, rather than talking about edges. She also reminded us to pay it forward when we got home and pass the skills on to our leagues.
When we had finished up with Deb, I wandered outside to discover my Queenslander sister Fifi Knuckles loitering in the car park in a tiger print snuggie, 2 bum bags and a pair of thongs. When I asked her why she was wearing a snuggie in Queensland she said she was cold.
DAY THREE: Just keep skating, just keep skating . . . .
After downing an aspro/ banana Up & Go combo, I got myself a ticket to Jammer Mind F*#k! with Trish the Dish. Unfortunately my epic headache pretty much turned it into RAh’s mind f*#ked. As it turns out, Trish was under the weather too so we scored a two for one deal with Ivanna S. Pankin teaming up to teach the class. Jammer intimidation techniques including ‘bitch face’ were covered, but the majority of the session involved pack techniques for making a Jammer lose the will to live.
By the end of the class my head had a distinct drumbeat and I stumbled into the toilets to change into a Steampunk costume for my second bout. In an uncanny turn of events our mash-up team worked together as though we’d been training for several months, rather than having met face to face five minutes ago. I donned the pivot panty (something new that I’ve been working on) and shouted at my Steam Rollers like I’ve never shouted before. They walled up, they regrouped and they hit on command much to my utter glee. The final score was 127-48. Our huddle war cry? 3-2-1 . . . toot toot!
The last thing I had on my list was Skate Maintenance with Trish the dish. Being a self-confessed gear geek, I was fascinated to hear her opinions on all things derby. Trish basically has my dream job. She tries out everything that comes through the doors at Sin City, recommending the shit hot and bagging out the shit not. In the seminar she delivered a lot of super practical, down to earth info on everything from identifying problems on your skates to what to keep in your Oh Shit Kit. I particularly liked the moment when she dropped her bearings into a cup of citrus cleaner, shields and all to the sound of an audible gasp from her audience. She then said what I had been thinking for a long time – don’t pull them apart, they’re a bitch to put back together’. Amen to that sister.
What happens at the Drop Bear ball . . . .
The ball’s theme was simple; wear black and/or
blue, don’t come nude and don’t cop out and wear jeans. Easy. This allowed for some fantastically creative
takes on the theme. The Drop Bear Ball
had gowns, xmas lights, bogan ballerinas, scary fairies, blokes in frocks, a
blue m&m and a Navi from Avatar. And
Fanny packs. Every girl and her quads
had a bum bag for hands free action. Seriously
Derby fashionistas - get on it, they are so hot right now.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
Would I do Rollercon if it returns to our shores again? Hell
yes. It’s an incredible experience. Realistically to support the number of skaters
that it attracts, it really needs a bigger venue with a lot more amenities,
space for vendors and places to chill when you’ve worn yourself out. I’ll admit that maths isn’t my first language
but 5 toilets for 600 people does not equate. By comparison The Great Southern
Slam utilized the spacious Adelaide showgrounds to great effect and I think a
similar approach to venue selection for the Con would solve many problems.
All things considered
though for a first go, Rollercon Down Under did a remarkable job – the
volunteers were great, the coaches were inspiring and the slushie machine was a
stroke of genius. I hope we see a sequel. Rollercon isn’t just a place to meet your
heroes. It’s a place to skate with them,
learn from them and then go home and pay it forward.
The Great Southern Slam is a truly amazing event. It brings together teams from all over Australia and New Zealand. It promotes league pride and networking within the wider Derby community. This year’s Slam was no exception, and I would go and do it again in a heartbeat. But tournaments, I discovered are also my demon’s playground – feeding off of stress, anxiety and self-doubt. In a place where you need to be made of steel, there were moments I have never felt more naked and incapable of controlling my internal dialogue.
After our two scheduled bouts (one in which we won), the demons got loud; You are not good enough. Everyone is better than you. You don’t deserve to be here. You are useless. And before I could hide myself from our league and deal with them alone – I was found by Leave No Trace and Morgatron, our benchies who had to watch me melt-down and burst into tears.
I hate crying in front of people. I find it intensely embarrassing. I hate it more than why I am crying in the first place. And there on the manicured showground lawn, with my war paint running down my face, all I wanted to do was disappear. Instead, I received feedback about my performance – something I would never have asked for.
Bonnie D. Stroir who visited our shores recently, had much to say to our skaters about self-esteem, with what has become known as her “puppy talk”. Her analogy goes that if you had a puppy and it fell over trying to learn something new, would you treat it the way you treat yourself? (I suspect if I did, the RSPCA would have my arse) Puppies/insert your name here respond to encouragement and positive reinforcement. This Oprah-esq speech was very popular and many puppy themed Facebook statuses by friends who also attended have since been made.
Stroke your puppy? I can hear my derby sisters saying. No. Sorry. The demons ate my puppy and wear her bones as a reminder not to keep pets. This is depression. I know how I am supposed to feel, but that’s not how I do feel. We supply medical aid to those who injure themselves, but what of the mental and emotional state of our skaters? Physical injuries while initially devastating will heal and allow the skater to eventually return to the track. But there’s nothing in the first aid kit for depression. Perhaps at tournaments, they should supply a melt-down cubicle. It could consist of a chair and a box of tissues and a derby girl to talk to when you start making sense again. And possibly some chocolate.
They say Derby girls don’t cry. But that’s bullshit. They do cry. And then they fix their make-up, lace up their skates and go back to kicking your arse.
30 teams, 5 tracks, 3 days of total, total awesome.
I’m sitting on a plane full of hung over Derby girls. I’ve nearly lost my voice, I’m covered in bruises and my hoodie smells like stale beer. It must be time to reflect on this year’s Great Southern Slam.
I can only imagine what the first Slam looked like on paper. In 2010, Adelaide Roller Derby hosted 15 teams from all over Australia and New Zealand. Two years on, this number has doubled, a clear indicator of the explosive growth of Derby in the southern hemisphere. The event is divided into three kinds of bout; tournament, match-up and challenge. This means you could see everything from the hard hitting big leagues beating the ink out of each other to up and coming rookie leagues getting their smashy smashy on for the first time. And when you got sick of that (as if), you could go and watch some mix-up costumed madness played purely for shits ‘n’ giggles.
My league’s brand new travel team the Witches of EastVic was entered into the match up bouts section. I’m proud to report we won our first match against the South West Sydney Rockets by 48 points and lost by a mere 7 points in our second to the Devil State. It is so great that rookie leagues like ours can come and legitimately bout in an event like this.
The merchandise corner was also a popular hang out and a great place to chat to people you would otherwise never meet. When you had all the merch you could manage, if you had any cash left, you could also wander over to the other side of the pavillion and visit the commercial vendors for gear upgrade too.
My only criticism of the entire event involves the f-word. Yeah, that’s right - the food. None of our girls, myself included were quite prepared for the sheer lack of places to eat. This frustration culminated on day three in which I discovered a vendor within the grounds selling toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. . . . for $7.20. They should have been ejected for culinary gross misconduct. For $7.20 it should have aged cheddar, ham carved off the bone and be constructed by Jamie Oliver. The exception to this was of course the fabulous Famer’s market on Sunday morning, from which I emerged with an $8.50 vegetable lasagne so large that it lasted me lunch and dinner.
At 4pm on the last day, all the leagues poured into the Wayville Pavillion to watch the Victorian Roller Derby League defend the golden thong from the Sun State Roller Girls in the tournament grand final. A fast paced battle played out in which the score remained close until VRDL adjusted their defensive stragegy to deal with SSRG’s super fast Jammers. Half time saw the crowd wowed by the Antiks of Quadzilla and his buddy Sweat with some Jam skate moves and Quad’s trademark ‘leap the ridiculous pile of derby girls’ trick. Truly spectacular and scary when I know I won’t socially skate without my knee pads and this guy launches himself about 2 meters in the air with nothing but his wheels on.
The Slam is an astounding feat of organisation on a par with professional level sporting events. Adelaide should be very proud of what they have achieved with this stellar event. I sincerely hope there will be a Slam the Third and if my bouting body hasn’t given up the Ghost Points by then, I’ll be doing my damnedest to get to that one too.
I love the smell of
burning gumballs in the morning . . . .
Last year on the EVRD blog I mentioned I was planning on reviewing Grn Mnster gumballs. This came about after a less than satisfying experience with my beloved but ultimately maligned Sure Grip ‘Grippers’ (See Sent to the Sin Bin. The Case of the Disintegrating Toe stops’) the review caused a minor uproar within the quad skating community much to my amusement. I hadn’t even wanted to write it as I truly loved those stoppers but three roller girls with the same outcome was enough evidence to the contrary.
So it was time to try something new. Grn Mnster’s Gumballs became the darlings of last year’s Rollercon, selling out just like Atom’s new Venoms. Glowing reports from roller girls soon followed but it wasn’t until I’d seen this YouTube video that I actually decided to give them a go. The video, depicting a gumball being tortured to the sound of department store jazz, left me in no doubt I would have to drop them into the fires of Mordor to actually destroy them.
Gumballs are uncoloured, natural rubber toe stops with lightweight aluminium stems. They are available long or short stemmed and straight out of the box they do feel like running on tennis balls. Which brings me to my only genuine criticism – the problem with gumballs is that they are shaped like gumballs. Initially there is only a very small, rounded spot that actually makes contact with the rink. This requires the skater in question to either be exceptionally precise on their toes or just bat-shit crazy enough to not care if they miss and end up on their face. I am neither of these two.
Even though a number of people told me to take them out onto a rough surface to wear them in, I stubbornly persisted in trying to mould them into a satisfactory shape on the rink alone. Several months of fail followed in which I wondered; If only I could have the indestructible nature of the gumball with the intelligently slanted design of the gripper. The answer is you can – you just have to take them outside and wear the shape into them. All you need is a bitumen surface, a sunny day and enough turn- around- toe -stops till you have the desired shape.
what I would call customisable toe stops in the sense that you buy them stock
standard and wear them into the shape you need.
Taking marks off for the fact that they have to be shaped would be like
deducting marks from a mouthguard for requiring moulding. As with anything
customisable, the end result is a product shaped the way you want it. They are damn ugly but in sacrificing colour
and novelty, Grn Mnster has created ridiculously tough, trustworthy works of
genius. And for that I give them 5 bearings.
People think I play netball. Mostly, they think this because they see me limping about my day job with a Thermoskin on my dodgy knee. Ok, so knee injuries are common in netball. But when I tell them I play Roller Derby, they look me up and down and say ‘Really? Aren’t you too small for that?’ My response resembles that of an indignant Yoda. ‘Size? Judge me by my size do you?!’ Apparently, a 5’4” bony imp doesn’t fit the “Derby girl” stereotype. I may not have the build to drop a bitch with a swing of my hips, but I can get through gaps in walls like a greased weasel.
My team mate Jamazon (so named because she stands at a towering 6’5” on skates) gets told she looks like a basketball player. It is of course her height that elicits this remark from total strangers. Her response to these Captains of Obvious; ‘No. Really? I thought you played mini golf’.
Bigger girls, on the other hand often tell themselves they’re too big to play Derby. This is a great shame because there is nothing more intimidating than a hulk sized blocker ready to smash you out of the venue. Don’t believe me? Check out the infamous YouTube clip ‘Rice Rocket takes a ride on Beyonslay’.
Perhaps these book cover judgements function as an elimination process, Project Mayhem style; ‘If the applicant is young, tell him he's too young. Old, too old. Fat, too fat.’ Those who can look their detractors in the eye and say ‘Screw you guys, I’m playing Roller Derby’, have passed their first and most important test. The only time your Derby family will ask for your dress size is so they can get you a boutfit. And when you skate out onto the track for your first bout, the spectators won’t see a size, age or sexuality. They’ll see a derby girl and they’ll think ‘Man. I wish I had the guts to do that’
There are no usual suspects in Roller Derby. The women that choose to play it are not one size fits all. In fact, Derby is the only sport where you will find women of all sizes, heights and weights legitimately playing in the same team. And the great teams know how to get the most out every player. Every size has its pros and cons and every size has the potential to kick arse. So the next time someone tells you don’t look like a derby girl, ask them if they’re heard of Keyser Söze. Because the devils in this sport are the ones you least suspect.
Reviewing quad wheels is kind of like reviewing perfume. One person will say ‘Oh! It smells like a walk through a wet forest on an autumn day’. And the next one will say the same perfume smells like stale dog pee. They smell different because people are different. The way a perfume smells depends on your skin which is a complex mixture of chemicals. Similarly, a wheel’s performance will depend on multiple factors; predominantly skate surface, body weight and skating style. And so it is with some trepidation that I offer you my first gear review.
Atom launched Venom at last year’s Rollercon and the pale green biters were quickly snapped up by every girl and her skates. Because of this I had to wait nearly 2 months for mine but I am pleased to report they were worth the wait. The Venom is a 59mm wheel that matches Atom’s other cut down creation – the Juke, my current wheel of choice. Previously, Atom’s only hybrid super softy was their Poisons, a wide wheel that couldn’t be mixed with the smaller Jukes due to the height difference.
I’m a lightweight and my skating skill had got to the point where I wanted to push harder on my cross overs but I was losing my shit at higher speeds due to lack of grip. Venoms hold me to the corners without stealing too much speed and can be happily mixed in with my Jukes for a great combo of grip and roll. I’ve also been known to skate on a full set of eight if the surface is really bad, but for most skaters I’d recommend a set of four to mix n match with other wheels.
If you use
cut downs and you skate surfaces that are super slick or uber dusty, a half
deck of these will make a big difference. I suppose I need to give them a rating and in
the interest of making this as Derbyfied as possible I have decided to rate it
out of bearings. So, I give Venom 4.5 out of 5 bearings. Where did that half a bearing go, you ask? A
purely cosmetic observation; the print
on the them wears off really quick which means they don’t stay pretty for long. But that being said, Atom Venoms are still a very
welcome addition to my skate bag.
This month I got an eleventh hour offer to take part in the VRDL’s bootcamp. Now I’ll admit, the last time I did one of their master classes I had my ass handed back to me, so I wasn’t particularly keen to go again. But sometimes the gods drop houses. And this one was a whole damn warehouse. So I said yes and braced myself for two consecutive days of pain and suffering. Only this time, I came much better prepared and actually enjoyed it. Thus for those who missed it and are planning to go next time, I offer to you these nuggets of bootcampy wisdom.
Bring an Esky. Summer bootcamps are a double whammy as far as dehydration is concerned. You need to take three times more water per day than you would normally take to a training session with your league. Cold water is absorbed faster by the body and will encourage you drink more too. You should also take EVERY water break they give you.
Is it Slippy or Grippy? You’re about to skate on an unfamiliar surface. I’ve become a bit of a wheel whore, so I take a selection of wheels and then pick the best ones for the job. If I’m sliding around like a soggy dim sim, I throw some Atom Venoms into the mix. Let’s face it, you’ve got enough things to try and learn at a bootcamp without worrying about slipping on the track.
Look after your feet. The VRDL often start with an off- skate warm-up. But I didn’t know that the first time I went to a master class, so I turned up in Ugg boots. Oh yeah, let’s hear it for a Bogan Fail. They were too warm to exercise in so I did the off-skate in bare feet, which was even worse. I swear I walked like Zoidberg for at least three days after that mistake. Wear some runners and bring two pairs of socks. Because sweaty socks are just plain nasty. On day one we spent four solid hours in our skates before we got a break, by which point my feet were ready to divorce me. Fortunately I had thought to put a gel ice pack in my esky. At lunch time I was the envy of my league sisters when they saw me chilling my feet. (I’d actually brought it in case I bruised my ass but hey - whatever flips your clips, right?)
Listen to your body . At the end of an exhausting day one I found myself half way through Kitty Decapitate’s Plyometric class with the distinct feeling that if I didn’t stop and rest, I wouldn’t be skating on day two. You should push yourself but there is sometimes a point where you need to decide – if I do a bit less here, I can do a lot more tomorrow. Also try not to take pain killers . If you can’t feel pain, you won’t know where your breaking point is.
If it scares you – do it. By day two I had a Skate or Death mantra happening. Any time you get two options; take the one that makes you wet your short shorts. You will always get more out of a class that is outside your comfort zone. Swish Cariboom’s ‘Aggressive Jamming’ sounded pretty scary to me, but it’s one of the reasons I scored points in the final scrimmage.
And last but
not least; wear the Star every chance you get. It’s a class. No one is going to laugh at
you if you fall down or get trapped by the wall-o-bitches. At the end of the weekend you can either
regret you didn’t try it or put on the panty and go home with some points on
the board and a smile on your face. I
did and now I consider myself a Jammer.
Sometimes in cartoons, you will see a character’s inner conflict depicted as an angel and a demon on each shoulder. The angel is forthright and supportive. The demon is corrupt and destructive. I get depression. Depression is having a demon on each shoulder and both of them tell you that you’re shit.
In some ways, I’m lucky. I have never got to the point where I’ve been put on serious medication. I struggled along for many years with the help of St John’s Wort and occasionally forced myself to go for walks. But what I needed was to wear the bastards out. To make them so tired they didn’t have the energy to drag me down. I needed a sport. But what I got was much more.
Roller Derby gets you fit. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins – a chemical that can kill pain, reduce anxiety and improve sleep. The demons don’t like endorphins. The beauty of Derby is that you are too busy learning, falling and laughing to even notice that you are getting exercise. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have come to their first class and declared ‘This is so much fun; I’m quitting gym tomorrow!’ Although getting fit is one of the more common reasons why women take up this sport, it’s only one of the benefits you will get from joining a league.
Roller Derby is a community. And a group of people who come together for the sheer love of their sport is one of the purest forms of community. When the skates come off at the end of the night, we have other jobs to do. Our community is made up of chairwomen, coaches, refs, treasurers, secretaries, league reps, graphic designers, fundraisers, merchandisers, fresh meat co-ordinators – the list goes on. When I pour my energy into derby, I don’t give myself an opportunity to listen to the darkness. The demons don’t like the league.
Roller Derby turns you into a super hero. Where else outside of a comic book can you take another name and wear your underpants on the outside? The demons don’t like super heroes. A lot of leagues are playing down the dress-up element in today’s Derby, preferring to wear a ‘We-play-a-serious-sport’ uniform. But I would argue that Boutfits are largely responsible for Derby’s resurgence, not to mention one of the reasons it’s so popular as a spectator sport. Besides which, skills speak for themselves. Our head zebra, Ref Splitz turned up to a recent event at the rink dressed as Banana Man. He looked really damn funny. But he still skated like a total pro.
My story is not an isolated case. There are a lot of Roller girls exercising their demons.
You may wonder why I used the word exercise, rather than exorcise in the title of this blog. The truth is that Roller Derby cannot permanently kill the demons of depression. But the dark days are now few and far between. Because I didn’t find a sport, I found a way of life.
Ironically even expensive skate boots tend to come with a totally crummy, paper thin sole. Replace them with a pair of Kiwi Sports Soles – they cost less than $20, cut down to any size or shape and will quickly mould to your feet.
2. Holeproof Explorers
I know, I never shut up about these damn socks. But if you’re trying to break in some new skates or your old skates are getting loose, a good pair of thick, tough socks will be your salvation. Get the Women’s Light Weight cotton blend in the crew cut. Roll them down to the ankle to stop tongues rubbing or ankles rubbing.
3. Frozen peas
The icepack of cheap skate champions. Do your bruised ass a favour and keep a spare bag of these in the freezer for your return home from training.
Remember; don’t put them directly on the skin. You should wrap the bag in a tea towel or an old pillow case first.
4. Gaffer Tape
Technically, you need to go to Bunnings for this one (hey - it’s a hardware supermarket) Spend a little more and get the good quality tough stuff, your skates will love you for it. I use it under my leather toe guards to stop side scuffs and on my cinch straps – keeps my new boots looking great. An absolute must have for any skate bag.
A lot of skaters like to clean their wheels with methylated spirits. I personally
prefer Windex (glass cleaner) - it gets rid of the crud, keeps the wheels grippy
and smells slightly less repugnant than Metho.
6. Décor Snack Box
Protech Dent mouthguards claim they come with a case. But it’s actually just the packaging it comes in, so you’ll need a container. The smallest Décor snack boxes are just the right size for the job. They come in a three pack and they’re also good for keeping spare contact lenses in.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was right. Towels are useful things to have. Wipe the sweat away after a hard boiled session or lay on it for sit-ups without getting a sore back. Get a dark coloured one that won’t show the dirt, you Hoopy Froods.
8. Permanent Ink Marker
These are so very useful. Write your name on your water bottle.
Colour in the scuff marks on your gaffer tape or write your number on your arm in a scrimmage.
9. Make-up bag
Keep all your loose stuff that usually floats around in your skate bag in the one place (spare laces/toe stops, mouthguard, skate tools etc.) The best ones have a zip around the top and a handle to make it easy to pull in and out of your bag and get to your bits n pieces.
10. Notepad & pen
Someone just told you something cool –a derby website, the address for a bout or the name of some new gear. If like me, you have the memory of a rusty bearing, keep a pen and paper in your skate bag and write it down.
You wouldn’t catch Tony Stark heading out on a mission without his Iron Man suit, so why would you play a contact sport without some serious protection? Let’s look at the compulsory gear you’re going to need if you want to play Roller Derby;
Good design features to look for:
Two splints kids. That’s two. One for the front of your wrist and one for the back. Any less and you are asking for trouble.
You can buy gloves and slide on wrist guards which will protect you fine. However, trying to wash them when they start to smell like road kill is another story. Wrist guards that wrap around your wrists and open out flat are easy to air out and wash.
RAh recommends: Triple 8 Wristsavers
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good set of wrist guards. Triple 8’s are tough, breathable and have a removable splint so they’re easily washable too.
A pull on sleeve doesn’t breath as well as an open strap design but they stay put and they don’t pinch.
Bent arm caps
My first Barbie had straight arms . . . she was useless. The caps on elbow pads should be shaped to fit a bent elbow. It just makes sense.
RAh recommends: 187 Elbows
I used the Triple 8 EP55’s for at least a year. They are well-made and saved my elbows more than once. But they were also bulky and difficult to bend my arms in. I have switched to the 187 for two reasons. They suit bent arms (as their website proclaims ‘designed to fit your arm, not a 2x4’). They also come in 5 different sizes, so I could get a really good fit.
Replaceable knee caps
If you manage to crack a cap, you can replace it instead of having to buy a whole new set of pads. The 187 Pro also make white replacement caps, which means no more duct tape or bandanas tied to your knees next time you visit an anal retentive rink.
Sleeved knee pads are a pain in the ass. An open backed design means you don’t have to remember to put them on before you lace up your skates. They are also much better for air drying between sessions to stop pad stink
Nylon webbed lock strap
The single most important design feature in keeping your kneepads exactly where you strapped them- fall after fall. Webbed straps don’t stretch like elastic ones so they won’t get loose over time.
RAh recommends: 187 Killer Pros
The Jumping Castles of the Knee pad industry. Yes, they are bulky. But I have an old knee injury and no desire to reinjure it. 187’s are expensive but extremely well made and worth every single penny.
Soft foam removable liner
All soft foam helmet shells are essentially the same size. It is the liner that makes them S, M, L or XL The liner will eventually compress, loosen up and start to smell – but you can pull it out (it’s held in with Velcro) and put in a fresh new one for around $20.
Terry cloth liner
Triple 8’s Brainsavers have a removable, washable terry cloth liner fitted above the brow which makes them comfortable and super absorbent for sweat heads.
NB: When you are trying on helmets, make sure it fits you snugly but not tight enough to press in on your head. A helmet should sit just above your eyebrows and not move if you shake your head.
Go for a known skate brand (e.g. Triple 8, Protec, 187) as these are designed for the kind of impacts associated with playing Derby. Don’t scrimp on this one – this is your head we’re talking about. A quality helmet keeps your grey matter inside your skull where it should be.
Decent mouth guards come with insurance, in case you manage to damage your pearly whites while wearing them (unlikely, provided it fits you correctly) but good to have none the less.
Tether (Gimp Strap)
Some girls like to have their mouth guard tethered to their helmet. The idea is if you accidentally spit it out, it won’t go flying across the track.
RAh recommends: Protech Dent
Sigh N Hide smiled at me one night and she looked like Guy Smiley from Sesame Street with a big white Game Show grin. What she had in was a Protech Dent. No gimp straps and you can and you can drink and talk to your team mates without taking it out of your mouth. I swear by these and can in fact, swear whilst wearing one. They fit perfectly because you mould them yourself. Watch the video on their website to see how to custom fit them. http://www.protechguard.com/
So when you buy your first set of gear, remember you wear armour to protect your body. It is not a fashion statement. That’s what your laces and knee highs are for. Buy it based on fit, quality and design – not because it comes in pink. And buy your gear like you’d buy your skinny jeans; super snug because neoprene (wetsuit material) will stretch and the foam in pads and helmets compresses over time.
Now, suit up and I’ll see you on the rink.
 In fact Mr Stark wears his armour to birthday parties too.
No less than three of our skaters (myself included) have had these toe stops literally split in half in the last two months. At first we were led to believe it was the bleaching process involved in making the white toe stops, as two of the three that have died were white. However a red pair has also joined the toe stop graveyard as well.
They deteriorate rapidly, often with the "gripper" raised bars chunking and dropping out first, followed by splitting away from the metal stem. It was also suggested to us that the toe stops were "old stock" and therefore no good. However they were purchased from different places and are highly likely to be from different batches, so this theory does not sit with me either.
As one of our resident gear geeks, my concern is one of safety. No one from our league has injured themselves as a result of these failing YET, but I worry it would only be a matter of time before someone does. Not to mention blowing your hard earned rupees on crap.
I was lucky enough to have Gert Rude find half of my toe stops on the rink before I tried doing a tomahawk without it (as I had no idea it had come off). I have written this article without joy as I was particularly fond of my Grippers - they have given me a lot more confidence in starts, stops and running.
Let’s just say it’s a matter of leverage . . . .
If you think the plates under your skates are just there to hold your wheels to your feet – think again. The right plate will help you turn sharper, skate faster and jump higher. So, what’s stopping you from upgrading? The skate jargon I suspect, which makes about as much sense as high school Algebra. As I recently discovered whilst trying to nut out my first custom setup, a lot of online shops will tell you WHAT you are buying but don’t explain WHY you should buy it. Therefore, in this blog I thought I would share what I have learnt.
Cushions (also called brushings) are the little coloured rubber/urethane rings you will see on your plate. These are your skate’s shock absorbers. Cushions come in different colours which indicate whether they are soft, medium or hard. Softer cushions will give you more manoeuvrability on corners while harder ones will offer more stability at high speed.
Single action (SA) Vs. Double action (DA)
A single action plate has one cushion at the top of each truck. A double action has two cushions – one above and one below each truck. Double Action makes your skate more predictable to handle and also offers more leverage to fine tune the plate to your skating style.
Short forward mount (SF) Vs. Standard/Heel mount
SF describes a plate that is deliberately one or more sizes smaller than the boot. The plate is then mounted further forward, away from the back of the heel. This allows the skater to turn sharper due to the shorter wheel base. It also forces the skater to place more weight on the balls of her foot which can increase push off for faster starts.
NB: A Short forward setup is not generally recommended for Fresh Meat who have never skated quads. This is because SF requires a greater degree of balance due to the wheels not being directly under the heel. However, intermediates looking to upgrade to something more responsive should find them most rewarding.
45 degrees vs. 10 degrees
This describes the angle of the kingpin. Kingpins are the big-ass bolts that hold your trucks (and wheels) to the plate. Essentially the greater the slope, the less energy is required to turn. For this reason 45 degree plates have become popular in Roller Derby due to the extra leverage it affords for quicker, sharper turns. This is power steering for your quads baby.
A Jump bar is a flat or twisted metal bar that runs between the two trucks. Jump bars assist to distribute a skater’s weight across the plate more evenly, preventing the trucks from spreading and causing extra stress on the kingpins. A Jump bar also tends to make the whole skate feel more solid and stable which is handy when you’re bouncing up and down on them like Tigger on smack.
Clip/ flip axles
A quick release design that utilizes a lever instead of a lock nut. This allows you to flip them and take the wheels off in a flash without getting your tool kit out. These are great if you skate more than one set of wheels on a regular basis but remember you will need 7mm bearings to go with them.
So there you have it. Whether you’re buying Fisher Price-My-First-Skates or upgrading to some Hell-Yes-On-Wheels, hopefully you’ll now have a fair idea of what they’re trying to flog you. Roll forth and consume with confidence kids.
 Quote stolen from Captain Jack Sparrow – but he’s a pirate, I’m sure he won’t mind.
To see or not to see, that is the question.
I discovered I needed glasses when I realized I’d started trying to squint neon petrol station signs into focus. Even though I was genuinely disappointed that I no longer had 20/20 vision, I had always liked the look of glasses. I particularly liked the kind of dark plastic frames that seemed to be the staple of intelligent, funny women like Janine Garofalo or Tina Fey. Not to mention that I am a self-confessed geek. Films, books and comics were my domain so glasses I reasoned, would suit my personality and hopefully my face too. I picked out a pair of tortoise shells and became one of the bespectacled ones.
Four years later, Roller Derby found me and I quickly discovered three things;
I figured I had two options; sports glasses or contact lenses. Now, before you email me and tell me about laser eye correction, let me say this. The idea of strapping me down to a table and letting Dr. Nick fire a laser into my eyeballs makes my skin crawl clean off my skeleton. The real problem was that the idea of anything floating on my eyes seemed abhorrent to me too. ‘No way’ I declared, ‘I am not getting contacts, bah!’ So I made the rounds of the local optometrists, trying to find a pair of sports glasses that would be suitable. In hindsight, 'glasses' is probably not the word for what I found. No Ma’am. They were goggles. And I don’t mean stylish brass and leather Steampunk spectacles. I mean foam and rubber get-yo-mad-ass-in-da pool goggles.
So I went back to the drawing board and asked a work colleague who wore contacts how she coped with them. ‘Easy’ she said, ‘they’re soft, comfortable, disposable, ones’ as she took one finger and pushed a lens just off of her iris to show me. ‘Huh? You mean they’re not hard chunks of glass?’ (Yes, I really thought that’s what people were putting in their eyes). So after that rather sheepish realization, I decided to bite the bullet and get fitted for contacts.
Aside from the initial difficulty of learning how to put them in and take them out, it was nowhere near the ordeal I thought it was going to be. Incidentally, the ‘pinch them out method’ doesn’t work for me. These days I put one finger straight on the lens and push it into the corner of my eye. As it slides, it rolls up and pops out painlessly. Girls, I’m told we are better at it than guys because we are used to putting mascara wands and eye pencils right near our eyeballs without flinching.
The result of this revelation is that I can be a mild mannered, bespectacled camera shop chick by day and a hard boiled, frameless roller derby chick by night. I don’t have the dreaded helmet/glasses clash combo going on and I have excellent peripheral vision which means I can see other members of the pack on both sides, including incoming Jammers.
Don’t get me wrong, you can wear glasses on the track if you need to. My hero, Rice Rocket of the Hotrod Honeys wears her glasses in bouts and kicks ass while she’s at it, proof it can be done. However if you are a contact lens fearing, glasses toting roller girl, take my advice and at least try contacts because you might be pleasantly surprised.
Additional: I am aware that Superman doesn’t wear contact lenses (if he did he’d melt them every time he used his heat vision) I just liked the visual contrast.
 Quote stolen from Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) of Beverly Hills Cop fame, as he attempts to entice his fellow police officers into the swimming pool of the house he is illegally squatting in.
Yes, these are bruises from Roller Derby.
Yes, I’m comfortable with that.
I am enlightened.
(Excerpt stolen from Fight Club, in an alternate reality where Tyler Durden is a chick)
It occurred to me on the day that Heath Ledger died. It was January 2008, he was twenty eight, accomplished and too young to die. So why at 27, did I feel as old as the Earth? What had really got to me was the idea that if I dropped dead, my tombstone would read ‘Here lies RAh, who wasted her life waiting for something cool to happen’.
Eight months later, I saw a doco on the ABC, called Roller Derby Dolls. It featured a group of Gold Coast girls (some heavily tattooed) strapping on quad skates and beating the ink out of each other. They dressed in punk, goth and rockabilly costumes, wore outrageous make-up and skated under names that sounded like crosses between porno queens and superheroes. My kind of weird.
A year passed. Then in October 2010 as if to prod me again, the movie Whip-it came out. ‘Oh yeah, there’s that awesome thing on skates I saw in that doco’ I thought as I texted my friend Viking (her nickname due to her blonde hair and imposing height) to see if she’d see it with me. She did. We loved it. And about a week later I texted her again to see if she’d come to an adult skate class at Carribean Rollerama.
Wednesday mornings at Carribean was like skating in a senior citizens lycra parade. The class saw us learning to skate to the sound of polka, power ballads and Michael Buble’ with a break for tea and cake in the middle. We wobbled around for several weeks on rentals (each pair boasting a uniquely stubborn quirk) before we decided that we’d get better twice as fast if we bought our own skates. A trip to Bayside Blades and several hundred dollars later and we skated onto the rink looking like the freshest meat this side of the Queen Vic.
Then Viking told me she was moving to London. ‘Ah, so that means you won’t be trying to get into the VRDL with me then?’ Nope. It was at that point my half-hour bubble coping mechanism kicked in – ‘I want to be a roller girl, but its waay too far to drive’. To which my pragmatic friend said ‘If you really want to do it – then just do it. Jeez RAh’.
So I joined the email list, bought a helmet and continued to go to the adult classes alone. And then a beautiful thing happened. The Derby gods took pity on me and a derby class materialized at Bayswater Rollercity, twenty minutes from my house. I turned up, put my brand new gear on and prayed to said gods to not fall over in front of the cool girls.
And the rest they say, is herstory. Since then I have learnt cross-overs, fallen down, learned plough stops and toe stops, fallen down, learned pivoting, slalom and spread eagles. Did I mention falling down? I’ve had bruises with more colours than one of Miss Ink’s tattoos. But, I’ve also made a hell of a lot of friends. I am fitter than I have ever been in my entire life. Roller Derby has made me realize I need to harden up, set goals and start saying yes instead of no.
I’m not here to tell you that it’s easy to become a roller girl because it’s not, it’s damn hard work. But it will change your life and it can save your soul, if you let it.