Eight Wheel Drive with the Denver Roller Dolls mascot

BY EIGHT WHEEL DRIVE

Many of you will know that I recently went to the US on holiday.  It was awesome, and one of the highlights of the trip was making contact with other flat track leagues leagues.  I went to a Denver Roller Dolls bout and attended one of their training sessions, and I also watched a scrimmage session for the Bay Area Derby Girls.

Denver Roller Dolls bout:

The Denver Roller Dolls-hosted bout, between Bruising Altitude of the Denver Roller Dolls and The Contenders from the nearby Ft Collins league, was fascinating – so different, yet so similar.  Obviously the rules are the same, and so are most of the tactics, but the venue and atmosphere weren’t what I’m used to.

It was in a medium-sized area which was only partly filled, despite the price being as cheap as it is here, and that in combination with the relatively quiet crowd made it seem somewhat empty.

Final score and the big screens.

However, they had big screens with the action on them and LED banners around the stands, which was exciting!

The sound system was terrible – I couldn’t hear a thing the MC was saying due to the reverb.

They sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning, and I was at a loss at what to do, so I just stood there, completely forgetting to take my funky red hat off.

At half time, the sponsors threw goodies into the crowd, like league t-shirts and other random items (see below), and there was a skipping rope exhibition.

Because I happened to be wearing a lot of red, I went for The Contenders by default.  They lost, but I always find it more fun when I’m going for a particular team.

The difference in the tactics that I noticed was a lot more skating backwards, anti-derby, than I’d seen in CRDL bouts.  It seemed to be mostly about getting back into position for plays, but I don’t think CRDL does that very much.  Good excuse to work on our backwards skating skills, I say!

I was there with my friend, her husband and their friends, and two of them were derby virgins and the other two had only been to one bout before.  I had fun explaining the rules to them, and they all enjoyed it. My friend Sharon caught a big foam ball that was thrown into the crowd at half time!

After the bout, some of the players were doing autographs, and I got talking to the lovely Kish of Death (her surname is Kish), who invited me to the after-party.  I met lots of other players and some of the trainers there, and was invited to come along to a training session the next day.  I also drank neat vodka (bad idea) and danced like an idiot.

Denver Roller Dolls training session:

The training session was like nothing I’ve ever done before.  It was on race-track, which is this odd surface of interlocking plastic tiles which have a tendency to bubble.

It was a mixed session, so it went from very basic skills to advanced skills as the session went on, and people were free to drop out when they felt the skills were beyond them.

Of course, skating at an altitude of 1600m (hence the common jokes about the Mile High Club) at the end of summer, I wanted to drop out straight away!  But, I didn’t, I just skated around looking like a tomato.

I borrowed skates and gear – they had boxes of spare pads and helmets, and they rent out terrible old Brownie skates but they found me a proper pair of derby skates.

They had pink flames and pink toe-protectors, and everyone who knows me know I’m not a pink kinda gal, but I was grateful all the same.  It was really weird skating in other skates though, especially considering they were a little on the large side and I kept sliding around inside them.

That, combined with the race-track surface, made for some unco moves.

Some of the terms they used were different, for example, crosses = crossovers and sculling = sticky skating, but I got used to it.

To be honest, for most of the session the skills seemed very basic, but I swallowed my frustration by reminding myself that form is everything, and the point of those practicing those skills was to develop good form.  The skills I found particularly useful to practice were:

  • Stepping sideways, using good crossover form
  • Crossovers using either the inside or outside leg, but not both – try it, the inside leg is really hard!
  • Sticky skating with good derby stance

Then the trainers set up an obstacle course!

It was made up of large and small cones, and involved crossover sticky skating around cones (eep!), jumping and then stepping over a series of large cones on their side, narrow and wide slaloms, t-stop to running starts and side-stepping through a narrow gap.

Some parts were easy but fun and other parts were quite difficult, but we got quite a few run-throughs and I got better over time.

I had a heavy fall, tripping over the raised track edge while crossover sticky skating, but no bruise, dammit!  I had to ice my butt all evening.

Bay Area Derby Girls scrimmage:

Elastomp and I were in San Francisco at the same time so hung out for a couple of days.  She had been to a Bay Area Derby Girls training session before I got there, and organised for us to go to a scrimmage.  We couldn’t join in (thank goodness!  Those girls really are B.A.D.-ass) but we watched and learned.

It was fun times getting there – the venue is in West Oakland, which is sketch city, so we had to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit – the train) to the general area and then catch a cab to the venue from the station.

At the station there were kids begging all over the place, which was sad.

Our taxi trip was interesting – a really old cab with a grizzled driver who proceeded to tell us gory stories about getting shot and other misadventures while proceeding to get lost.

But we got there in the end, and found we were really early because we’d been told the wrong time.  Good thing there was someone there to let us in!

It was a black and white scrimmage, which is what I imagine we will be using our new scrimmage tanks for. They randomly separated the league into two teams and went for it.

There were some visiting skaters, from Minnesota, New York and elsewhere in California, including a professional skate boarder who also skates on quads.

It was hard core! There were people flying everywhere and some awesome jams.

I was watching one woman in particular who reminded me of Shaggle Frock, because of her ability to just step through the pack when jamming.

There were some hard hitters as well, and I was watching their technique – hip then shoulder, from down low to upright.

Ela and I chatted to a relatively noob skater who was currently off wheels due to university commitments – she’s writing a paper on violence and sexuality in derby names.

She used to live in Sydney and took us under her wing somewhat.  Ela and I are now facebook friends with her and saw that she has gotten back on skates and just did her first all-league scrimmage.

No-one else really talked to us, which struck as a little weird, but I think they get visitors all the time and we didn’t go out of our way to talk to people, due to a little attack of the shy.

Everyone looked super professional and determined and I know I felt fresh behind the ears in comparison!  Afterwards people warmed up a bit and we had a chat outside the venue.

Awesome awesomeness

So peeps, if you’re heading overseas, I’d highly recommend linking up with leagues overseas, watching bouts or going to training sessions.  Everyone was friendly and helpful, even if they couldn’t let us skate with them, and I learned a lot.

International derby love!