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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 7 of 7)

Derby Gear

Quad skates. Protect them with duct tape. The more layers, the better. 

Helmet. Often decorated with your skater name and stickers.

Mouth guard. You quickly learn how to speak with your mouth guard in.

Knee pads. Make sure they fit well and are padded. You will rely on them like cars rely on gasoline.

Elbow pads. These last longer than knee pads.

Wrist guards. Air out your gear! Wrist guards can get smelly.

Suitcases. It’s what you lug around your skates and gear in.

I always get nervous before bouts, and even scrimmages, not because I might get hurt, but because I want to do well, for my team and for myself. “It’s good to be nervous,” says Collide, when I tell her. “You turn that nervousness into adrenaline.”

I still fall. Every practice, every bout. “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall,” says Calamity, also a Sirens captain. “It matters whether or not you get up.” All veteran skaters tell me this, and they mean it. I know it’s true. I’m still looking forward to when I’m more agile and controlled.

Patience is a must. “Greatness takes time. I am working on recognizing that, in derby, I am a work in progress,” says Armida Coughlin, aka Lucky Punch. Punch is Axle’s mom and got into the sport because of her daughter. How great is that? 

“OK, ladies, on the track! Tonight we’re doing burpies, squats, sit-ups and push-ups,” says Misfit, going over the night’s off-skates warm-up. Every Monday and Wednesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Papakolea Community Development Center is ours. We use chalk to draw our track, avoid the volleyball net poles—dubbed the murder poles—during drills and talk story on the bleachers afterward. It’s old, the roof leaks in a downpour, and bugs swarm the lights above, but we wouldn’t want to skate anywhere else.

We scrimmage, run hitting drills, build walls, recycle the jammer. As much as roller derby is physical, it’s equally mental. “I always leave practice feeling great even if I’ve had one of the worst days,” says Angie Kaufman, aka Vigilangie. “Yes, in order to play derby you have to be strong and tough. But the reason I keep coming back is because these are my kind of people.”

My newfound love of the sport and the people I share it with keep me coming back. It has been rewarding both physically and mentally. I’ve even learned to embrace being sore. Stand too close to me, and you might notice that I frequently smell like Icy Hot, a sort of eau de menthol. 

In the end, all this hitting, getting hit and falling has been great for my confidence. Yes, it can be frustrating to fall, over and over, during a drill, or in a bout. But I get back up, time after time. I remember my first practice, my first weeks in boot camp. I couldn’t plow stop, Mohawk stop, hip check, do a crossover. Hell, I couldn’t even roll forward five feet without slamming onto the concrete—remember the fractured elbow? When I get frustrated, I think of how far I’ve come. I’m still a rookie, but I’ve mastered a short list of skills, and that motivates me to keep adding to that list. Even better are the friendships I’ve made and the community in which I’ve immersed myself. Someday, when I’m old, I’ll look back on my roller derby days with pride. I am a derby player.

Click the link to watch our roller derby video.

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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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