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.
(page 6 of 7)
How to Play Roller Derby
Roller derby bouts are fast paced. It takes time to understand what’s going on, not only for spectators, but for participants, too. Derby is played on a regulation-size oval, flat track. Bouts are an hour long, broken into two-minute jams. There are two positions in the sport: jammers and blockers. Five girls from each team—one jammer and four blockers—are on the track at once. Jammers are the point-scorers; they get points for each opposing player they pass. A blocker’s job is to help her jammer get through the pack, while simultaneously blocking opposing skaters.
My name came to me by chance. I love popcorn and was making a late snack. Orville Redenbacher. It popped into my head: Redenblocker. Hmmm, Orville. Orville. Something ending in -ful. Scornful? Mocking, jeering. Yes, Scornful! I feverishly searched “Scornful Redenblocker” on the online registry. Score! No one had yet thought to pick a name using the popcorn mogul. I introduced it to the girls next practice. “Is it cheesy?” I asked. “No, but it’s corny,” said Handsome. I finally had a derby name, one that suits my personality. It’s Scorn for short. My number? 2:35, the amount of time it takes to pop popcorn in my microwave.
Leave the Heels, Bring the Leotard
As far as sports cultures go, roller derby’s is unique. Its participants are legitimate athletes, but you’ll also see some rocking fish net stockings with colorful knee-high socks. They coordinate costumes for after parties, which have been known to involve full-body leotards. Or you show up in uniform, your number, written with a black sharpie, still on each shoulder.
“My favorite part of the culture is that we get to dress ridiculously,” says Katie Garcia, aka Mêlée Antoinette. “After we’ve given our all on the track, we get to decompress and have fun. The whole community is full of hilarious, clever people.”
“Roller derby emerged from a counter culture,” says Bugreyev, comparing it to the underground punk scene. He would know; Bugreyev has hosted PRD afterparties at his bar, The Mercury, since 2009. “Skaters legitimized that counter culture by being good at what they do. What you see is what you get.”
What you get, in addition to a love for shorts and knocking people down, is a tight-knit community. “I [can] go anywhere in the world with a derby league and find a ride from the airport, a couch to sleep on and a practice to drop in on, ” says Miso, who transferred from Washington’s Ft. Lewis Bettie Brigade league.
“We’ve come a long way,” says Calamity about the sport. “I love that people are taking us seriously as athletes now, and not just looking at us as sexy babes in tutus.” Last year, roller derby players worldwide organized the first world cup. It’s also a possible contender in the 2020 Olympic games.
The South Shore Sirens
This year, Pacific Roller Derby debuted two new home teams: the Leeward-based Leahi Diamond Dolls and the town-based South Shore Sirens. I’m a proud Siren and couldn’t have asked for a better first season, dislocated shoulder and all.
That March bout taught me a lot: that dislocated joints look worse than they feel, but, more important, that roller derby has made me a stronger person, physically and mentally. After sitting out for 15 minutes, I told Andrew to put me back in. When it was over, Misfit handed me one of two gold, spray-painted wheels, her DIY player-of-the-bout awards. “Scorn,” she said. “Your shoulder freakin’ popped out, but you still skated.”
Make no mistake, it’s still completely nerve-racking. At this point, I may have learned most rules and basic strategies, but when those whistles blow signaling the jam start, it’s still a whirlwind. A jammer gets by me as I attempt to hold the inside line. I get called for a penalty. I forget to hit with my hip instead of my shoulder.