Roller derby makes its debut at Oceanside Place this Saturday, and if this week’s practice was any indication, it should be interesting.
Just over 20 women turned out to test the floor at Howie Meeker Arena in preparation for the Saturday night showdown between the Harbour City Rollers from Nanaimo and the Alberni Valley Roller Girls (comprised of players from Port Alberni’s Rogue Wave Warriors, and The Black Pearls of Uclulet and Tofino) in the first-ever roller derby bout held in Parksville.
Both teams burst onto the flat track scene last year, and the second-year Nanaimo team is looking to strut their stuff. The Rollers are currently the 28th ranked travel team in all of Canada (top third), and are gearing up to hit the road for upcoming bouts this summer in Squamish and Victoria.
“It’s a great sport,” the Rollers’ Holly Go Blightly, aka Melissa Morrow, offered up when asked what people can expect if they come out to watch Saturday.
Blightly is in her second year with the Rollers and played for years in Kelowna before moving to the Island.
The Harbour City Roller Derby Association is a not-for-profit women’s roller derby league based out of Nanaimo.
“It’s very fast-paced, and you learn very quickly what the rules are,” she said easily as her peers stretched and kibitzed out on the floor. “Lots of hitting, so be prepared for that, but we try and keep it very family friendly. It’s not too violent — a lot of it is strategy. It’s a great atmosphere, lots of energy, lots of action.
“We take it seriously,” she said, “we actually train all year, we attend a lot of boot camps, we practice, we train we work out …”
Weekend warriors to be sure, she said women from all walks of life are drawn to Roller Derby, which has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world for a few years now.
“It’s a great community,” she said, adding “you meet people from all over the Canada from all over the world.”
Asked her take on the game, Raylene Budzell, 39, from Nanaimo, who goes by the derby name of RayK 47, was clearly in her element, which, in this setting included dozens of other women wearing fish net stockings and lace panties as outerwear, a style synonymous with the sport and clearly tongue in cheek.
“It’s amazing — I get to beat the crap out of a bunch of girls,” she laughed after her and a teammate finished putting tape down on the floor to mark the pretend track.
“Actually it’s a huge female bonding sport more than anything … I grew up on roller skates so when it came to town I joined. I’ve always wanted to do roller derby … I love it.”
“This is a nice floor,” one girl was overheard saying. “Nice and smooth … I’ve definitely skated on worse.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m, and opening whistle is 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.