Blood, Sweat, and Derby

Derby season is on!

I fell head over heels in love with roller derby when I saw a Gotham Girls bout back in my college days. I loved the DIY aesthetic, the riot grrrl spirit, and, as a college cross-country runner (the most passive and boring-to-watch of college sports—consisting of running into the woods, and then later running out of the woods), I was immediately attracted to the aggression and showmanship of the sport. I instantly became a lifelong fan, but it wasn’t until recently that I started on the road to achieving my dream of becoming an actual derby dame. I bought a pair of used skates from a flea market and signed up for beginner skate lessons from Skate City.

I spend my evenings skating around my neighborhood, pinwheeling my arms and falling a lot. Fear of skating into a busy intersection is a great motivator for learning those hockey stops. And on Saturdays, I hop into the Skate City rink with the rest of my beginner class (all children) and learn skating techniques under a disco ball, to the dulcet croons of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. Making a dream come true is hard and humbling work. It’s like what Miley says in her song “Party in the USA”:

“I hopped off the plane at LAX
with a dream and my cardigan.
Welcome to the land of fame excess.
Am I gonna fit in?
My tummy’s turnin’ and I’m feelin’ kinda homesick
Too much pressure and I’m nervous,

That’s when the taxi man turned on the radio
and a Jay Z song was on.
So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin’ my head like yeah
Moving my hips like yeah,
And I got my hands up,
They’re playin my song
I know I’m gonna be ok.”
See? My path to becoming a roller girl is exactly like Miley’s path to becoming a famous chanteuse! My ten-year-old skating partner tells me that I’m a lot like Miley. Not to brag, but I can totally see it.

For more information on the amazing sport of roller derby, Catherine Mabe’s Roller Derby: The History and All-Girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels is a great start. Not only does Mabe explain the rules and lingo of the sport, she also details derby’s history, from its beginnings in the the Great Depression to campy Roller Jam bouts, to the more recent riot grrrl revival. And there are interviews and lots of gorgeous photos of skaters past and present.

I would also recommend the documentary Hell on Wheels, about the roller derby revival in Austin, Texas. The recent derby movie and Ellen Page vehicle, Whipped, took a lot of its source material from Hell on Wheels, and the documentary is grittier, bloodier, and funnier than its fictional counterpart (and I say this as a person who has a special place in her heart reserved for Ellen Page should the day arise when Ellen wakes up and realizes that she should be bffs with me immediately).
For now, I’ll leave you with some sweet derby action:

About fulcrumpublishing
Founded in 1984, Fulcrum Publishing is one of the largest independent publishers in the country, with more than 450 active titles. The company maintains a high standard of quality and pride in its books, with the objective of encouraging readers to live life to the fullest and learn something new each day. Fulcrum Publishing specializes in general-interest nonfiction titles with focuses in public policy, education, Native American culture and history, travel and outdoor recreation, environmentalism, and gardening. Fulcrum is headquartered in Golden, Colorado. The Fulcrum Publishing blog is run and updated by Dani Perea. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, comments, or ideas by e-mailing her at Dani[at]fulcrumbooks[dot com].

One Response to Blood, Sweat, and Derby

  1. kendrablood says:

    Skating is amazing! We have a drop-in program of our own on Sunday evenings at our practice space. $10 for 3 hours of derby-oriented skating and drills.. hope to see you there someday!

    Kendra Blood
    Denver Roller Dolls

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