The first time I saw roller derby, I came home and wrote in my journal: I totally want to be a derby skater now. Of course, I don’t know how to skate. But I figure I could probably learn. Especially if it meant I got to wear a pair of booty shorts with ruffles and beat up on other women.
Three years later, I finally skated in my first bout. I remember hearing my derby name announced for the first time, lining up beside my teammates for my first jam, getting knocked down A LOT, and high-fiving the fans who lined the track at the end of the bout. It was amazing.
Six adult skaters and four juniors made their roller derby debut at PRG’s March 31st season opener. I asked adult skaters Sweet N Low, V. Va and Shurblock Holmes and junior skaters Star Burst and Slamster to share what led them to derby and how it felt to bout for the first time.
Surly: Why did you decide to play roller derby?
V. Va: I watched a bout at the old [Redwood City] rink.
Shurblock Holmes: I saw a bout in San Diego and totally fell in love. I’m pretty nerdy and “normal,” and the incredibly cool, empowered, kick butt derby women were like nothing I’d ever seen.
Star Burst: I was kind of inspired because of the book, Roller Girl.
Slamster: I love rollerskating and hate most sports and I saw a flyer at the roller rink that was advertising the team so I decided to join.
Sweet N Low: I decided to play because I wanted to reignite my passion for life. I wanted to exercise, become more mentally present and surround myself with positive people. I was tired of just barely showing up for myself every day.
Surly: What was your favorite moment from the bout?
V. Va: Everyone was so supportive! I was pretty anxious through the whole bout, and everyone was reassuring and gave great directions. There was one time when I was waiting at the jammer line, and Claw (who was not even on my team) told me I was doing great.
Shurblock Holmes: I hit one of the more experienced skaters out!
Slamster: When we got to high five at the end.
Surly: What is one thing you learned in your first bout?
Star Burst: It is important to be aware of your surroundings because you don’t know if somebody is coming behind you.
Sweet N Low: Everyone on your team has your back. You can talk and ask questions, allow yourself to be pushed and pulled around and, ultimately, if the jammer got by you, it was okay. It’s not only on you to hold the jammer. There’s a team you can count on, and it’s a team responsibility.
By the time I skated in my first bout, I had realized that the booty shorts were just the icing on the cake. There is so much sweat and pain that goes into roller derby. The endurance laps. The endless squats and planks and pushups and plyometrics. The slightly terrifying feel and sound your spine makes when it readjusts itself after an extra hard hit. And there is so much love that goes into it, too. The ridiculous things we do on skates would seem impossible if we didn’t love this sport—and each other—so much. Like Sweet N Low said, there’s a team you can count on to have your back.