We caught up with the London Rollergirls to learn about the sport and their team.
Roller derby has been a sport since the 70's, invented in America and infamous for its aggressive skating and fast-pace. Today, the sport has gained a much more DIY aesthetic and is played around the world by hip, indie-rocker chicks. The London Rollergirls started out in 2006 and host regular flat-track bouts around the city.
"It seems to be a common thing among rollergirls, from all backgrounds, that we read about the sport and something just clicks and it becomes I MUST DO THIS. It speaks to us, somehow. I can't put my finger exactly on what appealed to me. It was probably a combination of the skating and the physicality - I've always been sporty and a tomboy, and very competitive - but I vividly remember bitching to friends about how there was no derby in the UK and how I'd do it in a heartbeat if I lived in America." explained Fox Sake, regarding her time before finding the LRG. Hula Gunn continued, "It took four years before RollerderbyÂ hit theÂ UK after I'd seen it in the US - I just thought it looked pretty awesome. A friend asked if I wanted to go and check out London Rollergirls training session in the real early days of the league and I haven't looked back since."
"They used to televise the roller derby from the US in Australia. My mum told me she wanted to be a roller derby queen when I was growing up, so the general gist is a lot more in my consciousness (though I wasn't alive in the 70's!), than I think it is here in the UK. Most English people's reference is the film 'Rollerball'. explained Kitty DeCapitate. "My friend found a roller derby fundraiser flyer and told me about it, as she knew I had been wanting to get back into skating. I had always loved skating, so I thought 'I can skate! I can hit people! Cool!'. I honestly didn't have any idea about the current incarnation of roller derby and the grassroots organization side of things. I just wanted to skate!"
How roller derby works: there are two teams of 5 skaters - four defensive players, known as pivots and blockers, and a fast skater called a jammer. When the game starts, the jammers skate behind the defensive players and have to break through to the front of the pack. The first jammer to make it to the front of the pack is declared the "lead jammer". No points are scored for the first time through, but each jammer will receive 4 points for each of the preceding laps they do around the pack and 5 if they overtake the rival jammer. The jammers continue racing around the pack for 2 minutes, or until the lead-jammer calls off the jam. The team with the most points wins!
As a power-skater, Sky Rokit is a jammer for her team. "I score points by dodging past all the blockers, who are all gunning for me! It can be a scary role, but it's a lot of fun, especially when you get "whipped" - a slingshot move where one of your blockers gives you all their momentum and cut straight past the rest of the pack."
In contrast, Hula Gunn usually plays the pivot position. "The #2 stands in the second row behind the pivots in the same line as the #3 players. Along with the pivots,Â itÂ is the last line of defence when the opposing jammer is coming through the pack, so it really is about stopping themÂ gettingÂ passed to scoreÂ points.Â My height and build really helps as I can stretch my legs and get in their way and annoy them until one of the power blockers comes along and takes them out." As a power-blocker, #4, it's Fox Sake's job to "be the first line of defence against the other team's jammer, and also to take other blockers out in order to clear the way for my own jammer. The position tends to be played by a "power blocker" or "tank" - someone who (like myself) hits hard and is capable of knocking a jammer or opposing blocker to the floor. It's also a great vantage point to see what's going on within the pack ahead and to alert and direct my team-mates from."
"If you can't handle the odd bit of ouch, then it's probably not the sport for you... it's a sport where you hit each other, of course there are going to be injuries."
"There's alwaysÂ going to be aÂ slam that takes your breath away from time to time,Â and you have to expect there are going toÂ be bumps and bruises with a full contact sport, so it's not something that I give much thought to anymore. I don't really bruise that easily, unlike some of the girls who have ended up with rather impressive hematomas on their thighs." confesses Hula Gunn. Fox Sake adds, "It takes a while for your muscles to get used to the exertion and I was always in pain after training for my first few months.Â The morning after a bout is always the most painful time for me now, especially if I forget to cool down and stretch properly." Sky Rockit concludes, "You stop being worried about getting hurt, and there's usually so much adrenaline that you don't notice all the bumps until you're counting bruises the morning after a bout."
The LRG are always on the hunt for new members. "There's no need toÂ be scared to come along and see what we do, we are a really friendly bunch and very supportive of each other. I would recommend this sport to any woman - we have a really eclectic mix of girls,Â who are all different shapes and sizes. It's great to hang out with girls who you might not meet in real life, it's brilliant exercise and most of all justÂ a lot of fun" states Hula Gunn, enthusiastically. "AlsoÂ if people are interested inÂ getting involvedÂ but don't fancy beingÂ a rollergirl,Â there are plenty of jobs within the league which arent justÂ for girls,Â such as refs, which we are always on the look out for!"
Auntie Terror continues, "With regard to learning the skills, we have a great group of girls on our Training & Athletics committee and they are all really good about breaking stuff down for new girls. They spend a lot of time teaching girls (including some who had never even worn a pair of skates) how to do everything and are supportive through-out the process so learning is a really positive experience."
Sky Rockit went on to give her advice. "Don't get intimidated if you can't skate, if it takes you a long time to learn, if you feel like you don't have the right build, or feel like you're not tattooed and punk enough. The best thing about roller derby and the London Rollergirls is that we're so diverse, and we were all scared s***less for our first practice!". Auntie Terror agreed, "Everyone learns at their own pace so I always suggest that rather than comparing yourself to another skater, you should keep track of how you are improving week to week or month to month... After I joined the London Rollergirls I found so many other appealing things - new friends, more confidence, and being part of a DIY collective making this amazing thing happen."
"Go for it! It's the best thing you'll ever do, but be warned: it will take over your life (and you will probably develop a bizarre obsession with striped socks)", claimed Fox Sake. On a final note, Kamikaze Kitten added, "It'll get you fitter than you've ever been, and provide you with some of the best friends you'll ever meet."
You can find out more about the LRG, find dates for bouts or sign up yourself as a rollergirl on their website.