Article Title:The roller derby revival
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:19th August 2010 - 08:23 pm
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Story ID:9212
Text:I walk into an over-a-couple-of-beers interview with two of the Pirate City Rollers girls with the dopey misconception roller derby is 'a lesbian sport'. I'm quickly set straight, well, so to speak. "It's not a lesbian sport. Although sport in general is a pretty lesbian activity," laughs Cat "Calico Smack" Boyes, one of the handful of lesbians in the Auckland league. "It's just cause we're girls and we hit each other, it's quite a violent sport – which makes it obviously like 'girls are hitting each other, it must be a whole bunch of lesbians', even though we're in fishnets and make-up." I have a feeling I'm about to get schooled in the ways of derby like some no-nothing nerd who wants to hang out with the cool kids.   The derby comeback Things have changed a bit since then ... Derby's had an incredible renaissance since the glamour and spandex days of the 70s. It was brought back by a group of women in Austin, Texas in 2001, with women on skates tearing up arenas across the globe with a new band of sexy balls-out brutality ever since. It's even sparked a feature film – the Drew Barrymore directed Whip It which came out last year. Closer to home, the Pirate City Rollers were formed in Auckland when American skater Dale Rio came to New Zealand for an extended stay in early 2006. Other leagues have popped up since in Northland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch. The Pirate City Rollers currently have two teams in their league, Dead Wreckoning and Mascara Massacre, but there's hope it the league will expand next year as derby fever continues to spread in this part of the world. A huge milestone will be passed this weekend for the Auckland league, which is moving from its Mt Wellington base to a much larger home right smack bang in the heart of Auckland city; the YMCA on Pitt St. And the hype the skaters are feeling is being felt across the community, with tickets to Saturday's bout selling at lightning speed.   Megan "Bruizilla" Burrows. Picture: Matalin Hatchard - Megan "Bruizilla" Burrows Megan "Bruizilla" Burrows started skating in Germany in 2006 and joined the Pirate City Rollers league when she came home in 2008. She now skates for Mascara Massacre. Recognisable to many Auckland music lovers through her job at Queen St's Real Groovy, Burrows says her derby life and the rest of her life all pretty much roll into one, with a single exception. "I only wear a skirt and stockings during a game, that's the only time. I never ever, ever, ever, ever … ever … ever, ever wear a skirt," she says, "only during a game." She doesn't have to wear a skirt, saying she only does because she realised all the skating had given her amazing legs. "You put the tights on and it's like, ohhh, I have mean as legs – you'll see them if you come to the game."   Cat "Calico Smack" Boyes. Picture: Matalin Hatchard - Cat "Calico Smack" Boyes Dead Wreckoning skater Cat "Calico Smack" Boyes is a relatively new convert who tried the sport in November at the insistence of derby-girl and lesbian about town Miss Phloss. The student didn't think she was angry enough to be a derby girl, but after going to two 'Freshmeat' nights she was hooked. "It was addictive as soon as I started. I saw the coaches skating around and I thought, "I wanna be able to do that." She speaks proudly about a time her dad came from out of town to watch her skate and came running up to her after the game shouting "oh my God, it's the best thing I've ever seen - it's better than stock cars!"           What is it about derby? "It's chicks in miniskirts smashing each other," says Burrow. "Yeah, that draws a crowd," agree Boyes. It's a relatively rough activity, there's no denying that. Boyes has made four ACC claims since January, while Burrows once broke her ankle during training. But does the danger faze them? Hell no! "We always get back out and we always get skating," Burrows says. They say it's a sport for people who aren't even sporty, with Boyes only having previously snowboarded and played a little soccer in high school, "and now I have muscles and shit," she says in amazement. "You get fit without even noticing." "You're doing something you really, really love, not going to the gym or something boring like that," Burrows chips in. "You do it three or four times a week and you just start getting fit." "That's another reason why derby's not like other sports. In other sports you have to be real fit, you have to be a certain build to do it, with derby, no matter how big or how small, literally it doesn't matter – you can play. Any body can play derby. Different is awesome." "Having a big ass can actually help you a lot," laughs Boyes. "Or being really small," Burrows adds. "You may not be a big hitter, but it usually makes you a lot faster and agile. But if you're bigger you may not be faster and agile, but you can hit harder." But it seems there's much more to the sport than the action on the rink. I get the sense from the pair that the effort and passion involved make derby something more like a lifestyle than a pastime. They train three to four times a week and say it's a massive commitment. "While it seems like a lot at the start, it turns into a case where you don't even care because you love it. And so, what might have been a negative at the beginning, is such a positive," says Boyes. The league is run democratically with a committee system and the skaters say they always go out after bouts and drink and have a good time rarking it up, as there is great camaraderie and sense of inclusiveness – never mind the sense of loyalty, as best summarized by Burrows "you fuck with a derby girl, you fuck with the whole league."   Get involved! The derby-addicts are dead-set on spreading the word, saying they want more and more women to get involved so they can play more teams. They encourage anyone who feels the desire to come along to the 'Freshmeat' events, which are held every Sunday from 4pm at the Papatoetoe Rink on Wallace Rd. "Everyone starts out and there all like holding the walls and learning how to do T-stops and stuff, so everyone's in the same boat when they start," says Boyes. "But I think it's encouraging having people who can skate there at the same time, because everyone's like 'I want to be like that'." "It doesn't matter whether you can skate or not," agrees Burrows. "Even if you're spazzo as on skates, some of the clumsiest people are totally sweet. It's funny when you see Freshmeat start and how they start – then see them in games and you're like 'whoa', I remember when you couldn't skate and now you're better than me you bastard." Burrows says many girls look at the sport and think it's really brutal and that there's no way they could ever join. "It's not that bad," she says. "People have this big thing – they don't want to join derby because they're too scared, too scared of getting hit – but honestly you have so much padding." "You don't get hurt that often. I just want the readers to understand that just because it looks brutal; honestly don't let that scare you. You are so well trained, super trained." Boyes says if you get hurt, all you can think about is getting back on your skates. "You don't realise how much you've got inside you. For six months I was like, I really wish I could do that, but I can't, it's not me. But it's kinda like in the Whip It movie where she's like 'you girls are my heroes' and the chick's like 'be your own hero, just come and join." If you don't want to skate but do want to get involved, get in touch with the Pirate City Rollers – they always need volunteers, from scorers to beer wenches. I'll give the final word on summing up the power of derby to "Bruiz" Burrows: "There are so many people I've heard about who started playing and then we hear from friends about how their self-esteem has gone up and how much more positive they are about themselves and they have so much more confidence – damn straight. Cause we're the shit. Derby brings people together. I shit you not." You better listen to what Bruiz says. I don't think she is someone you wanna mess with. God knows I'm getting my ass down to the bout on Saturday night. Just cause she said so. (Well not just because she said so, I also know I will have a bitchin' time, but there's a little part of it that's just because she said so).   Key things to know about derby: It's NOT a lesbian sport It doesn't matter if you can't skate at the start You get to pick your own derby name You CANNOT wear rollerblades It's not as brutal as it looks Derby brings people together The rules to roller derby, as briefly explained by Calico Smack: There's a maximum of 14 in each team, but only five allowed on the track at a time. There are four blockers in each team and one skater at the back called the jammer – they have a star on their helmet. The first whistle goes and the blockers go, the second whistle goes and the jammers go, at the back – and the jammers have to try and get through the pack. So the blockers are trying to stop the other jammer from getting through and help their own jammer get through. The first jammer to get through the pack becomes the lead jammer and they can call off the jam at anytime, but it will go for a maximum of two minutes. So they go through the pack once and on the second pass through the pack they score a point for every person from the other team that they pass. So the jammer will try and strategically call off the jam so that they can score the most points. Pirate City Rollers 2010: A Skate Odyssey- Round 2 Dead Wreckoning Vs Mascara Massacre YMCA Pitt Street August 21, doors at 7pm There'll be a derby after-party at Whammy Bar in St Kevin's Arcade on K' Rd. Jacqui Stanford - 19th August 2010    
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