Rolling Around and Smashing Into People
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve set forth on yet another zany new adventure: roller derby.
I’m not sure what grabbed me about the notion of trying this sport. Until taking up Wushu in 2003, I had never been anything resembling an athlete. Even after taking up Wushu, I wasn’t a natural at physical pursuits, and spent a lot of time feeling like a hulking mass of clumsy. My limited knowledge of roller derby largely amounted to this: derby involves skating around a track, and slamming into your competitors. I still haven’t actually seen a derby bout, not even in the movies. (note: I have since added Whip It! to my Netflix queue)
For some reason, in spite of all that, I thought to myself, “rolling around and smashing into people? I’d be awesome at that! Let’s try it!”
My friend Marykae was also interested in derby, and had spent a good chunk of her childhood at her local skating rink, so she took the initiative and found that there was an Intro To Roller Derby class held at Oaks Park. There’s also the Rose City Rollers’ Wreckers program, for people who have their own skate gear, and want to play derby and learn skills on a more casual basis. We weren’t entirely sure that Derby would be as fun and amusing as we were expecting it to be, and buying your own skate gear? Not cheap.
So, we set a date to try on the Intro class, and oh my god. SO FUN. The first half of the class was already over before I could remember how to skate without falling all over the place, but once I did, I felt like I got the hang of things relatively quickly, and was pretty thrilled that I was able to skate without landing on my face or my ass! I could control my speed a bit with snowplows, and my brain at least understood how to do a T-stop, even if my legs didn’t quite grasp it.
After that first class ended, Marykae and I looked at each other, and knew instantly that we’d be buying our own derby gear that same day. We went to the Oaks skate shop, and were each set up with our own skates, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, and derby helmets, and got to try them out during the open skate session. Even the low-end racing skates I bought felt worlds better than the ancient, all-purpose rental skates they’d loaned us for the class. I felt invincible in my full complement of pads, and I found myself thinking about what to paint on my shiny new derby helmet, to make it extra-special.
Since then, we’ve gotten enough of a handle on our basics to feel okay about attending a Wreckers practice, and the RCR Hangar is a much different universe than the Oaks class. Wreckers accommodates ladies of all ages, at all skill levels, and as a newbie with two whole classes’ worth of skating experience, it’s equal parts amazing and intimidating. I feel pretty confident about the parts of derby that involve actually moving–crossovers, sticky wheels, etc.–but the parts that involve stopping? Uh, not so much. T-stops are going to be my mountain to climb, I can already tell.
Still, there may be something to be had here, on some deeper, emotional level. Maybe not for everyone, but there might be for me. I’m having a good time, and I can’t wait until the next practice. Hot damn.
Also, a venue at which to wear my various and sundry dorky t-shirts? SIGN ME UP. (photo courtesy of Sharkey)