“Even in the past year the international derby community has just exponentially grown and, y’know, everyone has gotten a lot better.”
Chicks on roller-skates? Full body contact? Girls with names like Fisti Cuffs? Sure it sounds like porn, but it's really sport.
As Americana crazes go, roller derby is one of the most eye popping. With its mix of retro skate kitsch and extreme sport muscle, it has exploded out of the States and launched itself onto the arena spectacular scene. When Roller Derby Xtreme (RDX) hits the tracks here in November it will doubtless raise the razzle dazzle surrounding the high impact girl-on-girl action even further. Fresh off the plane from LA, rival derby dolls Gori Spelling and Fisti Cuffs are quick to add that the sport is an all ages attraction, although Spelling does allow a little AO latitude. “We primarily focus on the athleticism of it but, y'know, it is girls on roller-skates, so... think of that what you will.”
RDX fans are already au fait with the blockers and jammers that make up this sport, but newbies may well wonder what they are looking at (apart from the obvious). As Spelling explains, two teams of five go head-to-head on a banked track, with four blockers and one point scoring jammer per side competing sharp, fast sixty second bursts. As Fisti Cuffs recalls, “When I first started playing in 2003 I had no idea what I was getting into. I was, like, 'Oh cool, it's like bowling on roller skates'. At that point the rules were just a page long, so it was just a bunch of girls getting together and roller skating and then drinking afterwards.”
Since then the format has firmed, local and national leagues have formed and a World Cup event has been held. “Roller Derby is the fastest growing women's sport,” Gori Spelling declares. “I think that's because it's really addictive. Y'know, you start skating and then you tell your girlfriends and they join and they fall in love with it as well. Also, from a fan perspective, it's a really exciting game to watch.”
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The toughness of the sport is one of its big selling points, as Spelling clearly recognises. “It's a really aggressive sport, a full contact women's sport. There are lots of bumps and bruises and definitely knee injuries. But mostly it's just a lot of soreness. I have a pretty bad bruise on my butt right now and today on the airplane for fifteen hours was not pleasant.” For their Oz tour the girls of RDX will compete as the LA Derby Dolls and the NY Gotham Girls, featuring track stars like Bombshell Betty, Bonnie Thunders and Stefcon 1, along with Gori and Fisti. To help local punters get their heads around the action Betty Bamalam will provide on-track commentary.
With ten skater girls whizzing around a steep 35° banked track, roller derby might seem chaotic but as the sport has evolved it has become incredibly strategic. “We definitely practise specific moves, both in defence and offence,” Spelling says. “It's tough but it's also pretty smart.” No surprise then that when Gori Spelling and Fisti Cuffs return to these shores for their six match tour they will be playing to an ever expanding fanbase. “It's crazy,' coos Fisti. “Even in the past year the international derby community has just exponentially grown and, y'know, everyone has gotten a lot better.”
WHAT: Roller Derby Xtreme Tour
WHEN & WHERE: Wednesday 21 November, Allphones Arena