I Am a Roller Derby Girl in Honolulu
Injuries, drama, dedication, victory—associate editor Tiffany Hill laced up her skates to rumble in Honolulu’s fastest-growing sport.
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Rink Rash, Bruises and Broken Bones, Oh, My
Derby injuries: bruises, abrasions—rink rash—broken bones, hematomas, concussions. You will get hurt in the empowering, yet unrelenting beast that is roller derby. Serious, ambulance-ride-to-the-hospital injuries are a real possibility.
At a recent practice, Crystal Muzacz, Bricks Hit House, or Bricks for short, fell and suffered a compound fracture to her left forearm. “I knew what I signed up for,” she told me when I visited her in the hospital, a morphine drip numbing the pain. A fellow new skater like myself, she’s already impressive on the track. People go flying when she lands hits. Undeterred by the screws and metal plates in her arm, Bricks says she’ll be back on her skates as soon as she’s able. She stills comes to practice to watch and cheer us on. Calamity Crush, Kelly Thune to non-derby people, has been skating since 2007, including for the Minnesota Rollergirls, nationally ranked at No. 13 and for the Kauai league, before joining PRD. During her time on skates, Calamity has torn both shoulder rotator cuffs, and broken her right hand and left wrist. She’s worn down the cartilage in both knees.
It’s also common for skaters to injure others during bouts or at practice. Katie Burman-Stevens, aka Collideascope, is a powerhouse skater. Not only does she have the moves, she’s strategic. It’s a combination that results in wins for her team, and sometimes injuries for others. She’s the one who dislocated my shoulder, and she’s cracked the ribs of another skater. When she first started skating, she herself injured her lower back.
You get hit, hard, and you fall. But you get right back up. You are a badass. Roller derby is hard on your body; it’s not something every woman could handle. Those who skate, whether it’s been for six months or six years, are proud of what they’ve accomplished, including the bruises, scars, broken bones and more accrued along the way. You don’t take injuries personally. It’s part of the sport. The night my shoulder popped out? Collide hugged me and we drank beer.
Why do something so painful and dangerous? “Roller derby gave me the confidence to do what I want,” says Marissa Inhofer—Misfit Maiden—Misfit for short. “I had always wanted a mohawk, for years, but never had the balls to do it. But one day, I just did it, and loved it!” Misfit has been skating since 2005, and was teammates with Calamity with Minnesota Rollergirls. She later coached skaters in New Zealand and Australia. “I sold everything I owned and moved to New Zealand, by myself,” she says. “I was able to do that because of roller derby.”
She’s not alone; most derby girls, past and present, wherever they are, have similar sentiments. “It is my extended family and my support system. My therapy and my gym membership,” adds Calamity. “I look at derby as a lifestyle and an identity, not just a hobby.”
You get a rush of confidence and strength when you lace up your skates and round the track’s corners with precision and speed. When you land a hit, and even when you fall, you pop right back up. You get used to full-body contact, and revel in it. These days, I am always sporting at least one bruise. You even develop a perverse pride in them, your war wounds. Most of mine aren’t too bad, but there have been two times, so far, that I’ve had baseball-size bruises coloring my thigh. It hurt to lie in bed. I am a derby girl.
Roller derby is bonding over similar injuries (after I dislocated my shoulder, Axle gave me a hug and told me the same thing happened to her), or geeking out over skates. Mainly, it’s encouraging each other, on and off the track. Earlier this year, when Tadbit’s car was broken into and all her gear stolen, skaters came together and donated money and gave her their spare gear. The sense of ohana extends to visiting teams, too, whether it’s offering up your couch for a night, or bringing soda and chips for a barbecue.