Roller derby and I have been going strong for almost 2 years. Within these years I have discovered that this sport, culture, counter culture, is quite similar to an iceberg. On the surface, one can only see about 10% of its actual size and the rest is below the waterline. Your average derby fan sees the sport as an aggressive, take no prisoners time with rough and sexy women on skates. Which is all true. But once you are in this sport and join a league, or join multiple leagues, you realize that it takes a lot of hard work and politics to be a roller derby skater.
Some may not know that there are many women’s leagues, a men’s league, flat track, banked track, junior leagues, no rules league all here in Phoenix. You name it and whichever level and location you want, is here. Many different leagues share the city, but we all share the love for roller derby. I will say first that derby pushed me out of my comfort zone. I mean this not only in the physical fitness sense, but also in the sociological sense. The skills tests, drills, off skates practices, all combined, can turn you into a great skater. As with any sport or goal, you have to keep at it and push yourself to get better. It is said with full contact sports, that it’s not about getting hurt, but more like WHEN you will get hurt. Which leads to the requirement of having your own insurance. Granted there are additional USARS and WFTDA insurance you have to purchase, but injuries are common and a risk of derby. Fortunately, I have not suffered any major injuries. Had my first sprained ankle ever, numerous bruises, sore spots, and road/rink rash but those are all minor.
Being in this 8- wheeled world has brought me countless memories, shenanigans, and wonderful people in my life in which I would have never encountered without it. I’ve shed sweat, tears, barf, and blood on the flat track pursuing this adventure, and I don’t regret any of it. I have skated as a pirate, a zombie, a space gangsta, a day of the dead chick, covered in airbrush paint and fake blood.. I’ve stuffed myself into corsets and fetish wear all for the name of getting attention to promote my league, my sport, and to educate the masses about roller derby at appearances and bouts. There isn’t any other feeling like the rush of a bout day. Having your family, friends, and coworkers buy tickets to come and watch you skate. Yelling your name, having your teammates at your side. To have giant signs with your skate name on it. To be a hero to every little girl and curious woman watching you, wishing she was out there too. The thrill of being on the pivot line waiting for that whistle and get your jammer through the pack. Nothing compares to those nights. Derby girls have shut down the after parties, mingled and skated with other leagues, and walked into places like the confident, bad asses that we are. And I love it.
Roller derby and the sisterhood that I made, boosts your confidence and self-worth like no other team sport I have known. You instantly have 20 + girls at the ready if you need them. This is an expensive sport and we help each other. Paying for pads, skates, monthly dues, traveling to locations adds up quickly. You need to borrow some outdoor wheels? Use mine. You need a ride to practice while you are in between paychecks? Here I am. You have a fight with your significant other and need your girls? Be there in 5. You need some furniture while you get on your feet? Here you go. Granted, there are those that fall on the other end of this spectrum and take advantage of the friendship and generosity.
In this community, I have met such a wide variety of people. Some have become best friends, others I want nothing to do with, and everyone and everywhere in between. You will come across people that will be covered in tattoos, wild hair, or big personalities, and can come off intimidating, but on the inside you discover that they can be sweet, understanding, and level headed. Roller derby is not for the meek and timid, however. Well, let me rephrase…you may start off quiet, but you won’t end your first year still quiet. You’re in a group with 50 other alpha females and you have to be able to speak up, lead, and use your voice effectively. Some girls have better communication skills than others and it’s difficult to get a point understood, but that goes with the territory. You run into the gawking creepers at bouts that linger a bit too long and can turn a handshake into a too long of a hug. You have those that smile and joke with you to your face but turn around and talk shit about you 5 minutes later.
The women I have encountered are from all walks of life and of every color. Single moms, office professionals, housewives, DINKS, college students, and grandmothers! Skaters and volunteers that are gay, straight, bi, trans, any of the above. Derby promotes and practices acceptance and a safe environment to be your creative and weird self. Sometimes at practice I just have to reflect how different we all are and how beautiful and what a freak show we look like to the outside. I met my derby wife, Fiona Snapple, after she hip checked me into our promotion table at a function one evening in 2013. She wanted to demo a hit to some girls that was interesting in joining, and she asked if I was ready but I wasn’t paying attention and BOOM! my ass landed into the table and the flyers, league signs, gear, everything flew into the air. She has been my derby crush, my biggest fan, and best friend ever since. She has made this journey all the better and is there for me like no one else.
Being fresh off the track from Rollercon 2014 (an annual roller derby convention that is held in Las Vegas) and witnessing the athleticism and knowledge of the men and women of roller derby, I have realized that I have only just scratched the surface of derby. Here I am at 35 years old wishing I would have discovered derby in my 20’s, but am very blessed that I have this experience now. I’m not sure where this world will lead me in the future, but I do know that I want to keep playing and learning until I can’t skate anymore. I feel like I want something more. I have a desire to grow, learn, to have more experiences, and make many new friends. Derby isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it is what you make of it. It is definitely worth the wild ride. Definitely.
AKA Ginger Root-Ya
Visit my fundraising roller derby show at Eye Lounge at 5th Street and Roosevelt
and go to the fundraising website to donate in the fight against cancer
Help Wil Munny Save Some Boobies